This is the story of the 1975 British Open….
… when Pakistan’s former glory was restored thanks to Qamar Zaman, an extraordinary young man from Quetta who proved that ‘Stroke-making’ in Squash was still KING if executed well enough alongside great fitness and that an attacking game could still triumph on the greatest stage of all…
Preparation before the event…
The New Grampians Club in Shepherds Bush was to be Qamar Zaman’s training base in the months leading up to the event and under the watchful eye of the great Azam Khan he worked harder than ever before.
“In last 2 months I spent before winning the British Open I trained with the late Azam Khan in his club where myself, Mohibullah, Gogi Allaudin and Torsam used to practice and work hard and this got me very fit,” remembers Qamar.
“I did 2 hours solo practice and 2 hours with Mo Yasin plus playing and training with the other players. I added a 2 hour physical trainer session from 5am -7am in the morning a few months before the Championship to supplement the Squash training.”
His diet on top of his usual curry/ nan etc was Porridge, honey, fruit juices and eggs with the priority being the breakfast.
At this point its worth mentioning that although Qamar was an established name in the top flight, he was still an amateur and in all the press and magazine reviews leading up that year’s much anticipated British Open, his name was hardly mentioned as a potential winner … all eyes were on Geoff Hunt who was considered almost unbeatable.
And so the tournament starts
78 players took part with seven qualifier matches held on the Sunday (the 31th January) leaving a clean 64 draw for proceedings to begin in earnest on Monday the 1st of April…..
All 8 Seeds through without dropping a single game between them including a 9-5 9-2 9-1 clinical display by the one and only Jonah Barrington.
In that opening round, Pakistan’s Qamar Zaman play Egyptian Ali Aziz.
That day, travelling from his tiny room above a hostel in Knightsbridge, Qamar must have been impressed with the brand new Wembley Squash centre full of glassback courts (15 in total) including the grand championship court and a club buzzing with spectators all eager to see these superstars of Squash from around the World.
Being the 8th seed, Qamar’s match with Ali wouldn’t have been on the Championship court which seemed that day to be a showcase for the Aussies and the Kiwis and probably went fairly unnoticed…no pictures were taken…no match report written … just the score … a resounding 9-4 9-4 9-3 win from a player later dubbed ‘The Magic man from Quetta’.
Zaman was through against possibly one of the toughest non-seeds in the draw but the real magic was yet to be seen.
The match of this round was a bruising encounter between Kevin Shawcross and Bill Reedman..it was described as being like terrier setting about a St Bernhard…..Reedman was the fitter and took the fifth after an hour and 48 minutes.
Geoff Hunt, the Gentleman:
Egypt’s Mo Khalifa arrived late and was scratched against Hunt but Geoff insisted he be reinstated as he was desperate to play … Hunt won 3-0 against the Egyptian Army young boxing champion.
The Zaman / Hunt quarter-final on Monday February the 3rd 1975 was to become one of the greatest and most celebrated Squash matches of all-time and i think its at this point i’ll let Rex Bellamy take over….this is his actual report on this iconic game.
Zaman’s 4-9 8-10 9-3 9-2 9-7 in 2 hours 17 minutes was the finest match of the Championships and produced the best individual performance. Qamar’s splendour was as much a question of character as skill and was all the more astonishing as it came from a man who was having treatment to reduce the pain and swelling from a huge abscess on his wisdom tooth!
Zaman had a game ball at 8-6 in the second game and won the 5th from 5-7 down which no one could reasonably have expected him to do against such a seasoned and tough competitor as Hunt.
What a trembling thrilling climax that was.
Neither would yield. The rallies were long, straining nerves and patience. Hunt was playing it cool, hoping to encourage error but Zaman refused to commit competitive suicide. A fantastic cut backhand drop took Zaman to match point.. then a heavily cut crosscourt backhand kill finished it.
Zaman had volleyed beautifully… But what made his artistic virtuosity so gloriously effective was the self-discipline with which he sweated for his openings while never neglecting a chance to increase the pressure.
Zaman turned to the whooping crowd , raised his arms in triumph and was literally carried away on the shoulders of his delighted compatriots who had invaded the court.
We would find out later that this was no one-off win over Geoff Hunt….but Qamar Zaman still had work to do….waiting for him in the semi-final was fellow Pakistan player Hiddy Jahan who had just beaten Mohibullah Khan who at that time along with Gogi were the players tipped to be the more likely players to rise to the very top.
A rest day followed this incredible victory….Qamar had to come back down to Earth quickly and prepare for the semi-finals.
Semi-Finals day…Wednesday the 5th of February…Hiddy Jahan v Qamar Zaman.
After his monumental victory on the Monday over number one seed Geoff Hunt Qamar, I have no details how he spent that day recuperating…did he go on court to practice or just relax and stretch…..would love to know.
One things for sure…whatever he did must have worked.
Here again is the awesome match report that appeared in ‘Squash player’ .. take it away Rex Bellam :
Zaman, who by now had the presence and authority of a natural champion, lost only one game to Jahan, who might reasonably have been expected to offer him a more severe test.
Zaman swiftly took control leading 9-4 and 9-2 after only 20 minutes on court.
Jahan’s frustrations were aggravated by his relations with the referee Dick Hawkey who was making the right decisions but quelling jahan’s fiery appeals in such a peremptory way that the hot-blooded Pathan was soon boiling with rage.
At 2-7 down in the first game Jahan was told that argument would not be tolerated. At 2-6 down in the second he was threatened with disqualification. Jahan wanted the referee changed but when Zaman was asked if he agreed he observed in his unblinkingly deadpan way that he thought Hawkey was a very good referee…a reaction that was hardly surprising and brought splutters of muffled laughter from the packed crowd.
To Jahan’s credit he put all that behind him and in the third played his best Squash of the match hitting nine winners and briefly threatening to regain the form that had subdued Mohibullah in their quarter-final match.
In the fourth game after leading 4-3 Hiddy was submerged by a stream of winners, most of them from Zaman’s versatile and deceptive backhand … a brilliant overhead reflex volley into the nick and Zaman was through to the final…
.waiting for him was Gogi Alauddin..the wonderful fellow Pakistan player who had made the final without dropping a single game and not many points.
The final of the 1975 British Open Squash Championships was held on Friday the 7th of February on the new showcourt at Wembley Squash Centre.
Qamar Zaman was up against fellow Pakistan player the very gifted Gogi Alauddin.
The dream of a second Pakistan dynasty to rule the Squash World was now guaranteed … could the favourite Alauddin carry on his fabulous run arriving at the final with dropping a single game or could somehow the now well-appreciated magical racket skills of the mercurial Zaman win the day? Take it away Rex.
The last two Khan champions Azam and Mohibullah had turned up to watch from Shepherds Bush and Massachusetts for the occasion.
It was a charming match and none of the Khan winners surpassed the bubbling virtuosity of Zaman’s performance. He transformed this basically straightforward game into an ARTISTIC DELIGHT.
Of his 37 winners 13 were winners because their nature was so artfully masked. Against a player of Alauddin’s stature this was an ASTONISHING proportion.
Zaman was always up to something, varying his game with an imaginative flair that made its tidiness all the more admirable. Alauddin had to twist, sprint and stretch to keep things going as best he could in the hope that Zaman might lose his head and start throwing away points but that never happened and Zaman had an almost impossible range of winning shots.
Alauddin, dressed in Canary yellow for the benefit of television, made a close match of it. His anticipation was sharper and this had the effect of making Zaman look like the quicker man but for two games.
He recovered from 3-7 to 7-7 in the first game. Zaman needed three game balls before a masked forehand did the trick.
In the second game Alauddin led 6-4 and was playing very well with his lobs and backhand angles notably effective in teasing Zaman into trouble. But Alauddin was to score only one more point. SUDDENLY Zaman struck GOLD, turning the rest of the match into an EXHIBITION..
Again we admired his effrontery in foxing his opponent, his delicacy of touch on the volley, his ability to increase the pace suddenly by punching the ball to a length..it was a gorgeous spectacle for everyone except Gogi ….
The biggest prize in World Squash was Zaman’s…from 8th seed outsider to Champion of the World achieved in a style that brought smiles from the adoring crowd…
Now a Pathan regained the title at the expense of a Punjabi. Zaman beat Alauddin 9-7 9-6 9-2 in a 66 Minute final.
Next day Air marshal Nur Khan, chairman of PIA arrived in London and interrupted his lunch so he could watch the match on television and consider what it meant to Pakistan…PIA and his private dreams that a great Dynasty had been restored….