Newly formed Houston Squash Club hopes to generate interest locally by hosting the 2022 Houston Open

On Wednesday night, small, dense spheres shot out from the glass walls of an industrial warehouse along West Sam Houston Parkway in northwest Houston. It’s the second night of five that the all-new Houston Squash Club hosts the Houston Squash Open, an 11-country, 24-player tournament with a cash prize of $ 110,000.

Yet the real prize the event organizers are looking to win from this year’s tournament is developing a larger audience in Houston for squash – a sport historically linked to Britain and that country’s former colonies.

Jahanzeb Khan, co-owner and coach of the Houston Squash Club that hosted the tournament, said the sport has come a long way in the decade since moving to Houston.

“When I first came here ten years ago, I joined another club where we legitimately only had two players,” Khan said of his journey. “This event here is a moment of great pride for Houston and for all of us.”

For Khan, the presence of a large Pakistani community in Houston set the stage for the sport to develop locally.

“Squash is a huge thing in Pakistan, like the NBA or the NFL here,” he added. “So when people find out we have squash here, it’s a great thing. Now, in this club that we have just opened, we have 90 families and 200 regular players. I am very confident after this event, we will grow massively.

According to Khan, the club opened in early November to celebrate the sport of squash by providing experienced players and beginners alike with an open space to improve their skills.

Ten official size squash courts are located inside the industrial space where members can come for a variety of events. Adult and youth leagues are available on weekdays, social nights every Tuesday and Saturday, and happy hours with courts open for every Friday.

With the COVID-19 infection rate rising in the United States, Khan said, there are questions about whether the Professional Squash Association should cancel or move this year’s event and whether international players will travel to Houston.

“Right now, with the arrival of the new variant (omicron), the international board was very concerned that we were hosting the tournament, but our rules are not as strict here, which helps to organize these big events, ”Khan said. “It’s a big thing for Houston to have an event of this caliber. We welcome the number one player in the world.

This top-ranked international player, Egypt’s Ali Farag, thanked Khan and the new club for hosting the event after beating Germany’s Raphael Kandra in straight sets.

“I want to thank them for bringing us here. We know it’s not easy to organize something like this during these times, but they do a fantastic job, ”Farag said in a post-game interview. “.

According to Khurram Siddiqui, co-owner of the Houston Squash Club, the club hope to use this year’s event to put young people in touch with the opportunities that squash has to offer.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that there are a lot of colleges that offer scholarships for squash. We have a few children who make full trips to a few schools. One just went to Yale and another just made a full turn to Princeton, ”Siddiqui said. “They don’t realize that if the students try to play basketball, baseball or soccer, the competition is huge. While squash is still an untapped resource with a lot of money for kids if they apply for these scholarships.

Siddiqui added that the club is also a place where local students can earn physical education credits.

“A lot of schools are starting to get involved,” he said. “Schools in the area offer an option where students, instead of doing physical education or gym at school, can come out of that class to come here after school.”

In 2022, Khan – who has coached and coached some of the best internationally ranked players – hopes to make the new club a hub for international squash in the region.

“I’m trying to make this club the hub for international squash players,” he said. “When they come here and train here, it can inspire the local community to join them and see them. “

Matchday 3 will resume Thursday at 5 p.m.

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