Khan, Jansher


Khan, Jansher
▪ 1998

      For many years the name Khan had been synonymous with success in the game of squash. In 1997 it was Jansher Khan who dominated the sport, winning his sixth successive British Open in April, his eighth Hong Kong Open in August, and his sixth Pakistan Open in October.

      Khan was born June 15, 1969, in Peshawar, Pak. Unlike his older rival, Jahangir Khan, Jansher did not emerge from a squash-playing dynasty. His father was a storekeeper on the Pakistan Air Force payroll. Two of his older brothers, however, excelled at the sport. Mohibullah, a top touring professional, and then Atlas, a highly rated amateur, competed in the 1970s. Where Jansher and Jahangir showed real similarity was in their acquisitiveness of squash titles. Before he retired in 1993, Jahangir had won the World Open 6 times and the British Open no fewer than 10 times—consecutively. Jansher's tally of British Open titles reached six in 1997, but the measure of his domination over the sport could be starkly seen by his eight World Open triumphs.

      Jansher first came to prominence when as an unknown he won the world junior championship in Australia in 1986—a feat he repeated at the next junior tournament in Scotland two years later. Yet such was his maturity that he sandwiched his first men's World Open victory between them in May 1987. That was also the year when he sidestepped the popular principle of deferring to seniors by beating Jahangir three times. Jansher moved to the top of the world rankings and thereafter shrugged off his challengers.

      Jansher's wiry frame, lightning reflexes, and speed were complemented by great racketwork and a relentless training regimen that outstripped those of his contemporaries. Although his goal was to win each of the four major tournaments at least 10 times, his pathway into the history books was also strewn with a few public incidents, embarrassments, and arguments. Occasionally in unimportant matches he gave the impression of not playing as hard as he could, but Jansher dismissed his critics, "I am the world champion, but I am not a machine that always wins and gets it right." His high, clipped way of speaking also made it difficult for him to project himself, which thus earned him a label as unfriendly to the media.

      The most significant of several off-court issues were the problems caused by the separation from his Malaysian wife, whose family mounted public demonstrations to focus attention on their settlement discussions. The legal wrangle he faced on Malaysian soil prompted Jansher not to enter the World Open staged in Kuala Lumpur in November 1997. Although Jansher's marital dispute delayed his attempt to reach a double-digit figure in World Open titles, and even if he never reached it, this Khan had already earned his place on the shortlist of the world's great squash champions.

ANDREW SHELLEY

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Universalium. 2010.

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