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SquashTalk>Features>Player
of the Month
>July 2001 Hiddy Jahan

Hiddy Jahan :

July Player of the Month

Hiddy Jahan, an international
star from the 1969 through the late 80’s, picked up his second British
Open Over 50 Title this June. Martin Bronstein talked to Hiddy at
the Bath and Rackets Club, and asked him about his lifelong love
affair with squash.

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July 8, 2001, London. ©
2001
SquashTalk
file photos: © 2001 SquashTalk

By Martin Bronstein

Never mind
your Hashims

and your Jahangirs and your Janshers; when it comes to British Open titles,
Hiddy Jahan is king.

Hiddy
(l) against Maqsood Ahmed

He has amassed 16 British
Open titles: Six over 35s, five over 40s, three over
45s
and two over 50s.
Nobody
in squash comes close to that total. The
giant
Hiddyat Jahan Khan, now 51 years old and still winning titles, is also known
for his longevity. Considering the fuss that was made when 34 year old Chris
Walker reached this year’s British Open final, we should
remember
that Hiddy pla
yed
Jahangir in the final of the British Open when he was 32.

He was still ranked in
the world top 16 when he was 39 years old, the year he reached the quarter-finals
of the British Open and won the over 35’s. In 1991 he went one better when
he won both the over 35 and over 40 titles after losing to Jansher in the
second round of the main draw.

The famous Jahan
temper was aroused the next year when the SRA changed the rules and would
not allow a player to enter more than one draw. Since then he has been
entering one draw and winning the titles with comparative ease.

I
spoke to him at the Bath and Rackets Club in London, one of the plushest,
best equipped clubs I have ever seen — Persian carpets on the floor
of the gym and green marble in the showers. Hiddy is there three days
a week from noon, giving high-priced coaching to members who pay $4,500
a year for the privilege of membership – and still have to pay court fees.
He has two assistants to deputise on his days off. Hiddy is cutting down
to two days a week to concentrate on his golf. With his reputation as
a hard hitter in squash, what are the bets on 300 yards?

WHAT IS THE STORY
ABOUT YOUR DREADFUL ACCIDENT WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?

Hiddy
(r) against Mohibullah Khan (younger)

It was in1967, I
was 17 years old and the best junior in the country: I was stuffing all
the others. I went to the Pakistan team trials in Peshawar but was not
invited to the final trials that were in Karachi. There was a lot of politics:
you were a Pathan or a Punjabi. Suddenly I got a phone call to report
to Karachi the next morning, a 24 hour train journey away. I had to borrow
the money and got a third class train ticket. I got out at one station
to stretch my legs. It was 3:00 AM and then the train started to leave
the station. I couldn’t get in because of the crush… So I am hanging
on and the train is moving… And a signal hits me on the back of the
head and a steel rod went into my thigh. I was thrown on to the track.
Luckily it was the last carriage –
otherwise
I was gone. I didn’t know what hit me. The next thing I knew I was in
hospital in an area I did not know. Luckily the police Inspector General
was a friend of the family, he put out a search party to find why I had
not arrived in

Hiddy
(top, far right) on Pakistani Squash Squad, 1969

Karachi. When I was found
I was taken to Karachi for the trials! I have a passport picture of me with
the bandage around my head. I still played in the trials and lost to Gaugi
Alaudin 9-6, 9-6, 9-6. And when I got home I contracted typhoid fever. I had
105 penicillin injections. The injury had affected my eyesight and I got more
into playing badminton. Eventually the eye cleared up. And the second time
I should have been in the Pakistan team I was dropped because of politics;
the chairman of the organisers had a son, whom I had beaten, so he was selected
and I was told ‘You are young enough to be selected next time.’ That sort
of thing.

WHO WERE YOUR
INFLUENCES?

My father and Hashim were very close, they had grown up together; my father
had learned squash from Hashim and was reasonably good player. He had got
to the finals of the Pakistan professionals tournament. My father was my first
coach and then my brother Shah Jahan, who worked in Paris. They were the two
people who influenced me the most.

NOW WE COME TO
YOUR SIZE. MOST PAKISTANI PLAYERS WERE ABOUT 5’8″ AND 120 POUNDS. YOU’E SIX
FEET BUT YOUR BROTHER ZARAK IS A FOOT SHORTER

That’s true. My elder brother Shah wasn’t as big as me but Zubair, my
youngest brother is as tall as me. My father was 5ft 11″. My mother was
big and tall – I look like her. It’s funny, I almost had a fight in Australia
about my size. I’d just come off the court after beating Geoff Hunt and
somebody made a remark about me being more like a rugby player. Torsam
held me back and said don’t say anything. But I trained and watched my
weight so I was only 12 stone (168 pounds) which for my height, 6ft, was
perfect. I have kept myself below 180 pounds for the last ten years. I’ve
been lucky with injuries, just one hamstring injury in all

Hiddy
joins the England team – 1983

those years. That injury
put me out for six months. I was about 39 years old and I said ‘That’s it,
that’s enough it’s time to quit’. I told my brothers that if I had to qualify
for a tournament, I wouldn’t go. I don’t have to prove anything anymore. I
enjoy my squash now, being in the seniors and seeing old friends and old faces
and having a good laugh. I play in the German seniors league. This weekend
I had a match in the evening and lost 10-9 in the fifth to an over 35 player;
next morning I beat another Over 35 player 3/0 and was tired as hell. Then
the same day I had to play Uwe Peters [the losing finalist in this year’s
British Open Over 35 tournament] and lost. Three matches in 24 hours is hard
at 51.

WHY DO YOU KEEP
WINNING?

It is experience, but I am very competitive. Doesn’t matter who I am going
on court with, I’m putting my name on the block. I have the racket skills
which I think were better 20 years ago than the players have now. I did better
with my wrist work using a wooden racket than I can with the graphite rackets.
I play the game like chess now. Squash is a physical chess. I play my shots
and I know where my opponent is going to put the ball and I’m there before
he’s played the ball. Qamar Zaman was the same – when he was at the top he
was standing, waiting for the ball to come to him. I look at my opponents,
their swing, their style and just work it out.

IS THERE GOING
TO BE A CUT-OFF POINT?

I still enjoy seeing Hunt and Barrington at the British Open and all the other
players and it brings it all back. It’s part of my life and I owe it to the
game
because I earn my living from it. I would love to see all the other guys do
the same thing – show their faces. I would like to Jahangir and Zaman playing
in the seniors. The public would love to see these great players, to be reminded
who they were. I had Jahangir play an exhibition at the Cumberland Club. In
fact Jahangir was in London for a sportsman’s award, couldn’t stay until the
exhibition, flew back to Pakistan for a meeting and then flew back to London
and played a beautiful exhibition match with Zubair. And the people loved
it, just loved it.

I remember two or three
years ago Jahangir was trying to put together a Seniors tournament but couldn’t
get the sponsorship.

WHEN YOU WATCH
A TOP PRO MATCH NOW, DO YOU SEE A FASTER GAME OR A MORE ATTACKING GAME?

It’s a different type of game from my era. They seem to be telegraphing each
other which shot they are going to play; ‘I’m gonna play a drop shot, you
play a lob’ kind of thing. They way I see it, in my time it was more bang-bang-bang,
it was quick. Jonathon Power is different from the rest, he plays like we
used to do, quick, quick, bang-bang.

HOW DO YOU FEEL
ABOUT THE TWO SCORING SYSTEMS?

When American, point-a-rally scoring came in, I thought it made life easier
for me, you got more chances
to take the point as a stroke player. And I laughed when they made the
tin lower. I said if a player never hit a nick stroke in his life, it
doesn’t matter if they take the tin out, they are never going to hit a
nick shot. I remember when I was refereeing a match between Jahangir and
Jansher, they played for twenty minutes and hadn’t scored a point using
American scoring and the lower tin. Neither of them wanted to take a chance
and in a way, it made it negative. With hand-in scoring, you’ve always
got a chance. If you serve you go for the nick knowing you can’t lose
a point, you just lose serve.

WHO WAS THE BEST
SHOT PLAYER YOU EVER SAW?

Qamar Zaman was the best and then Rodney Martin. Zaman was a touch player
and a stroke player whereas Martin used to smash the ball more. And then there
was Mohammed Yasin; he made Jonah Barrington cry on the court when he beat
him.

WHAT ABOUT ROSHAN
AND NASRULLAH?

That was a different era and their style of play was completely different.
It was more of

Hiddy
(r) in one of his battles with Jahangir at the PIA Centre in Pakistan

a feel. When I teach
I say: ‘when you are going for a drop shot, you don’t hammer it. Put feel
into it, like you’re cuddling your girl friend. That’s what Roshan and Azam
used to do. Another great stroke player was Mohibullah Senior, the one who
died in Boston. He could hit that ball! I was known as a hard hitter, but
he could really hit it. And he was quick. He was playing a final against Roshan.
He would hit the ball, drop his racket on the floor deliberately and somersault
and then get the ball back no matter where Roshan put it.

YOU MUST HAVE
BEEN UPSET THAT THERE WAS NOT ONE PAKISTANI PLAYER IN THE BRITISH OPEN MAIN
DRAW.

That was sad, very sad. The Pakistan administrators did not concentrate on
what would happen after Jahangir and Jansher. Pakistan has got a lot of juniors,
but there is no unity there. Zaman’s son, Mansoor, can be a very good player
but someone has to take him in hand and take control. If that doesn’t happen
to Mansoor within a year, it will be too late.

GOING AROUND THE
CLUBS AND WATCHING HACKERS LIKE ME, WHAT IS THE COMMON ERROR?

They like to play the shots and they forget about the basic things like
good length. I teach my players that if they can hit the ball ten out
of ten in the middle of the racket, they can play any shot. I f your basic
stroke is no good, you’ve got problems. At the basic club level, if you
hit a good length, you’ll win the point.

© 2001 Squashtalk