Pakistan’s dashing young squash player Muhammad Hamza Khan became the first player in the last 15 years for his country to reach the World Junior Squash Championship final after he defeated France’s Melvil Scianimanico 11-8, 11-4, 10-12, 9-11, 13-11 in a gruelling clash at the Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre on Saturday.
Hamza, who had also bagged a bronze medal at the 2022 World Junior Championship, took 83 minutes to overcome Scianimanico in the semi-final. The contest had several fluctuating moments where both Hamza and his French opponent went neck and neck.
But Hamza held his own with resilience to eventually overcome Scianimanico.
Hamza will now face Egypt’s Mohamed Zakaria who became the youngest player to reach the final.
Zakaria defeated Salman Kahlil 11-7, 11-6 ,11-6 in his semi-final.
The World Junior Squash Championship final highlights the tradition of two nations that have produced many squash legends over the years.
This is a huge moment for the country as Hamza can become the first player to win the event after Jansher Khan, who bagged the title 37 years ago.
Hamza has been on the national circuit since 2016 and the 17-year-old has been constantly on the rise. He also won the U-19 title in the US back in 2021.
His father Niazullah, while speaking to The Express Tribune, said he felt really proud, but he could only watch his son play in the semi-final on TV.
“I am unfortunately in Peshawar and could not be there with him. Hamza is alone, without his coach or anyone else but he has really made me proud.
“I want to see him become the junior world champion and also the world champion in the future,” said Niazullah, who also played squash and trained Hamza initially.
“Hamza always loved squash, even when he was very young. He would play at our home, hitting the ball against the walls. He is now living his dream.”
Though Hamza stole the limelight at Melbourne, he did not get to speak at the presentation ceremony as a Pakistan Squash Federation official took over the microphone from the teenager.
However, The Express Tribune asked his father if Hamza had any message for the followers back home.
“Hamza told me that he is confident, and he is positive about winning the title,” said Niazullah. “He said that he will give his all but at the end of the day, winning and losing is part of the game.
“I am happy that no matter what the result in the final, he has assured a silver medal for Pakistan.”
Former champion Amir Atlas Khan was ecstatic at Hamza’s win. “This is a great moment for Pakistan and I am so happy to see Hamza reach the final,” he said while speaking to The Express Tribune.
Amir was the last Pakistani to play in the final of the World Junior Championships which 15 years ago.
“I feel Hamza have a real chance of winning the title. Jansher won it more than three decades ago. I also had the chance to win it, but could not do it. So I really want Hamza to lift that trophy.
“I feel this will also inspire the other youngsters to do better as well.”