Jason Hicks on Squash > Del Harris: Always
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Harris – Turning a New Page in Public Service

Del Harris
and Jonathon Power in 1997 (photo © Stephen

By the
age of eighteen, Del Harris had become world Junior Squash Champion
and British Open Junior Champion for the fourth time in a row
and had already made significant strides up the World rankings.
Many observers were already predicting an English World #1 and
World Champion from this quiet, but talented performer.

was not one for the limelight, but as the decade was drawing to
a close, he was touted as the only contender to challenge Jansher
Khan, who went on to become the greatest player of the modern era.

with Australian counterpart Rodney Martin, Harris played with an
aggressive, attacking style which contrasted sharply with the attritional
approach followed by the established pro players of the 80’s.

represented England over sixty times in a professional playing career
spanning seventeen years. It could be said that this groundbreaking
style of play helped usher in the new "PAR" scoring system
and 17 inch tin. Additionally, Del Harris’ meteoric rise pull up
with him a new wave of English top five ranked planers such as Simon
Parke, Peter Marshall and Paul Johnson.

It is
perhaps fitting that there has been no official announcement Harris’
retirement from the game, reflecting the very modest character he
is, though his impact on the game was undeniability far greater.

Del recently
agreed to talk to SquashTalk:

Harris in 2003 (photo © Debra Tessier )

What are you doing now since retiring from the Professional circuit?
Are you still involved with squash in any way?

am now a firefighter working for the Essex County Brigade back home
in England. I am stationed at Hadleight and have been on station
for six months now after doing four months at training school. I
have no involvement in squash apart from playing now and again to
keep fit.

You will always be remembered as the quintissential attacking player,
did you choose to play that way?

guess it was just my natural game from an early age, I always loved
attacking and going for winners rather than the "up and down
the wall" style of play, which I found very boring. I always
tried to volley the ball and attack and play at a fast pace, which
was when I played my best squash.

The press tipped you as the rival to Jansher Khan and the first
English player to break the Khan dynasty and become World #1. Describe
what that was like. Did you feel under a lot of pressure?

was always quite a shy person and although the publicity was nice
at first, it did put a lot of pressure on me. Not only did it put
pressure upon me, I was also a little embarassed by it, especially
when playing in tournaments I was expected to win. I could feel
a lot of people willing me to lose, which wasn’t that nice.

Who was better, Jahangir Khan or Jansher Khan?

Harris and Jonathon Power in 2002 – two famous attacking
players who changed the game. (photo © Debra
Tessier )

DH: Very
hard to say on that one … !

I enjoyed
Jahangir’s style of play more and enjoyed watching him play more
than Jansher. They were both very different players but I think
Jansher had a more adaptable game, whereas Jahangir generally attacked
and played at a very fast pace. Jansher could play and beat players
with any style of play, he was very good at varying the pace of
the game and changing his style.

You enjoyed a very long and distinguished career. What were your
main achievements?

DH: Other
than representing Engliand on a regular basis (winning the World
Team Championships twice by the way!), I didn’t actually win many
titles as I didn’t play the smaller tournaments that a lot of the
guys play nowadays.

I won
the Peru Open, but my best tournament win was the Superseries Final
in 1995, beating Jansher, Peter Nicol and Brett Martin. I was also
runner-up in the 1995 World Open Final, losing to Jansher 3-1.

One other
odd thing that I am very proud of is that as far as I know, I hold
the record for the fasted recorded serve.

What was the lowest point of your squash career?

Harris – now in the public service. (photo © Del Harris

probably had a lot of low points during my career, as some of my
match results could be very up and down!

I suppose
it was when I was about to defend my British Nationals title which
I had won the previous year at the youngest ever age of 17. I got
a virus called Bells Palsy which affected the facial nerves on one
side of the face. It made one side of my face virtually paralyzed
for about two weeks. It was very scary and also meant that I could
not defend my title. Thankfully I made a full recovery and was fortunate
enough to win the title again the next year.

Lastly, how does your role as firefighter compare to being a squash

DH: I’m
really enjoying being a firefighter. I get up in the morning and
look forward to going to work. You never know from one day to the
next what you will be facing and have to deal with.

one good thing about being a firefighter is that we do shift work
which gives us a lot of time off to keep fit, see friends and enjoy
life. My shift is 2 days of 9 hours and 2 nights of fifteen hours
and then four days off before my next shift.

It’s obviously
verry different to playing squash full time, but the similar aspect
is the hanging around with your friends and having a laugh. It happens
at the fire station on a day to day basis and it happened in squash
on tour and at league matches.

I wanted
a different challenge and career after playing so many years of
squash, so I feel very lucky to have the one job that I really wanted
to do.

squash gave me many great years in my life and I am sure being a
firefighter will give me many good years in the future.

Thanks Del for talking to us, and we wish you the very best of luck
in your new career.

DH: Thank
you Jason.

Harris -fighting fires. (photo © Del Harris )


Hicks is a squash professional at the University Club of Boston,
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