A former World number one professional squash player, Jahangir Khan is considered to be the greatest player in the history of squash. During his career he won the World Open six times and the British Open a record ten times.
A former World number one professional squash player, Jahangir Khan is considered to be the greatest player in the history of squash. During his career he won the World Open six times and the British Open a record ten times. From 1981 to 1986, he was unbeaten in competitive play. During that time he won 555 matches consecutively, the longest winning streak by any athlete in top-level professional sports as recorded by Guinness World Records. He retired as a player in 1993, and has served as President of the World Squash Federation from 2002 to 2008, when he became Emeritus President.
Jahangir was coached initially by his father, Roshan, the 1957 British Open champion, then by his late brother Torsam. After his brother's sudden death he was coached by his cousin Rehmat Khan, who guided Jahangir through most of his career. Jahangir was a sickly child and physically very weak. Though the doctors had advised him not to take part in any sort of physical activity, after undergoing a couple of hernia operations his father let him play and try out their family game.
In 1979, the Pakistan selectors decided not to select Jahangir to play in the world championships in Australia, judging him too weak from a recent illness. Jahangir decided instead to enter the World Amateur Individual Championship and, at the age of 15, became the youngest-ever winner of that event.
In November 1979, Jahangir's older brother Torsam, who had been one of the leading international squash players in the 1970s, died suddenly of a heart attack during a tournament match in Australia. Torsam's death profoundly affected Jahangir. He considered quitting the game, but decided to pursue a career in the sport as a tribute to his brother.
In 1981, when he was 17, Jahangir became the youngest winner of the World Open, beating Australia's Geoff Hunt in the final. That tournament marked the start of an unbeaten run which lasted for five years and 555 matches. The hallmark of his play was his incredible fitness and stamina, which Rehmat Khan helped him build up through a punishing training and conditioning regime. Jahangir was quite simply the fittest player in the game, and would wear his opponents down through long rallies played at a furious pace.
In 1982, Jahangir astonished everyone by winning the International Squash Players Association Championship without losing a single point.
The unbeaten run finally came to end in the final of the World Open in 1986 in Toulouse, France, when Jahangir lost to New Zealand's Ross Norman. Speaking about his unbeaten streak, Jahangir said: 'It wasn't my plan to create such a record. All I did was put in the effort to win every match I played and it went on for weeks, months and years until my defeat to Ross Norman in Toulouse in 1986.'
The pressure began to mount as I kept winning every time and people were anxious to see if I could be beaten. In that World Open final, Ross got me. It was exactly five years and eight months. I was unbeaten for another nine months after that defeat.
With his dominance over the international squash game in the first half of the 1980s, Jahangir decided to test his ability on the North American hardball squash circuit in 1983–1986. (Hardball squash is a North American variant of the game, played on smaller courts with a faster-moving ball.) Jahangir played in 13 top-level hardball tournaments during this period, winning 12 of them. He faced the leading American player on the circuit at the time, Mark Talbott, on 11 occasions and won 10 of their encounters. With his domination of both the softball and hardball versions of the game, Jahangir truly cemented his reputation as the world's greatest squash player. His success in North America is considered by some observers to be among the factors which led to growing interest in the international softball version of squash in the continent, and the demise of the hardball game in the late-1980s and 1990s.
At the end of 1986 another Pakistani squash player, Jansher Khan, appeared on the international scene to challenge Jahangir's domination. Jahangir won their first few encounters in late-1986 and early-1987. But Jansher scored his first win over Jahangir in September 1987, beating him in straight games in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open. Jansher then went on to beat Jahangir in their next eight consecutive encounters and capture the 1987 World Open title.
Jahangir ended Jansher's winning streak in March 1988, and went on to win 11 of their next 15 encounters. The pair met in the 1988 World Open final, with Jahangir emerging the victor. But by that point it had become clear that squash now had two dominant players. The pair would continue to dominate the game for the rest of the decade. Jansher and Jahangir met a total of 37 times in tournament play. Jansher won 19 matches and Jahangir 18 matches.
Jahangir did not win the World Open after 1988, but continued a stranglehold over the British Open title which he captured a record ten successive times between 1982 and 1991. He retired as a player in 1993 after helping Pakistan win the World Team Championship in Karachi. The Government of Pakistan honoured Jahangir with the awards of Pride of Performance and civil award of Hilal-e-Imtiaz for his achievements in squash.
In 1990, Jahangir was elected Chairman of the Professional Squash Association, and in 1997, Vice-President of the Pakistan Squash Federation. He was elected as Vice-President of the World Squash Federation in November 1998, and in October 2002 was elected WSF President. In 2004, he was again unanimously re-elected as President of the World Squash Federation at the International Federation's 33rd Annual General Meeting in Casa Noyale, Mauritius.
Time Magazine has named Jahangir as one of Asia's Heroes in the last 60 years. Jahangir Khan was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy by London Metropolitan University for his contributions to the sport. Due to his immense and absolute dominance in squash he was nicknamed 'The Conqueror'.
Jahangir and his family originate from a village near Peshawar named Nawakille. He currently lives in Karachi with his wife Rubina, and their two children Mariam and Omar.