‘So excited I was training at midnight!’ Hamza Khan on preparing his World Juniors title defence

One year ago, in Melbourne, Hamza Khan made history.

After coming back from match ball down in the semi-final to reach the championship match, the 17-year-old ended 37 years of hurt as he became Pakistan’s first WSF World Junior Champion since Jansher Khan in 1986 as he fought back from a game down to beat Egypt’s Mohamed Zakaria 3-1.

This week, in his last year of junior eligibility, Khan is heading to Houston, Texas, to defend his title, with the 18-year-old seeded second, behind last year’s beaten opponent Zakaria.

To learn more about Khan’s preparation for his title defence, we spoke to the Peshawari shortly before his victory at the 31st Asian Junior Individual Championships in Islamabad.

Hamza, thanks for speaking with us today. Looking back to last year’s win in Australia, can you talk me through the moment you won it?
“When I beat Zakaria, I fell on the court and gave thanks to my God and my parents; especially my father Mr Niaz Ullah Khan, who was my first coach too and every single time he advised me how to avoid mistakes and told me every day ‘you can win, you have a lot of skills’

“When I won the title, I couldn’t believe what I had done. My first thanks was to God and I was too happy, the win made me feel really good.”

Pakistan is one of the great squash nations, but until your win had not had as much recent success. How much pressure did you feel in Australia?
“When I left Pakistan for the championship, I was travelling alone and all I was thinking about was winning the championship. I did my training at midnight because I was so excited!

“In 2022 in Nancy, France I reached the semi-final so this time, in Melbourne, I decided I had to win.”

What was the reaction like when you won the title?
“After I won the title, the Pakistani community gave me so much respect, and the Pakistan Squash Federation and Army Sports Directorate gave me a lot of respect.

“All the news channels showed my win so I was very happy and satisfied.”

How has training been since winning the World Junior Championships?
“I have learned and been very punctual in my career. I will try my best to defend my titles in Houston.

“I have been training regularly and was feeling confident against Nicolas Mueller [Khan made his senior World Championship debut this year with a first round defeat to Swiss No.1 Mueller in Cairo]. I was fully satisfied that I will beat Nicolas but one day after reaching reaching Egypt, I had fever due to throat infection and so I lost and also missed a good chance to improve my ranking.”

Which sporting heroes will be inspiring you in Houston?
“As I mentioned before, my father is my big supporter and also the Army Sports Directorate and Pakistan Squash Federation, they all support me. Then, [Pakistan squash legends] Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan and [Egyptian former World No.1s] Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana, I like them all very much.

“I am very thankful to the whole Pakistani community, Pakistan Army Sports Directorate, Pakistan Squash Federation and my parents who support me every single time.”

The 2024 WSF World Junior Squash Championships are taking place at Houston Squash Club, Texas, from 12-23 July. Find all the key information here. 

Keep up with all the action at wsfworldjuniors.com.

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