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Squash: From History to the Present Day

It isn't unlikely to find that the object of most sports activities is centered on a ball; be it basketball, hockey, tennis, and even squash. This general concept was around even during the earliest of times and has existed ever since in multiple forms.

Looking Back Through the Years

The history of squash probably began centuries ago in France, where children played games in the open streets and created makeshift balls (usually it was a mixture of dog hair and moss, squished and tied together) which they slapped into door openings and windows. Overtime, this game started being called 'jeu de paume' which translates to 'the game of the palm'.

With such humble beginnings, it evolved from simple local street game and seeped into other formal areas. During the 15th century the Dutch invented the racquet, and proper courts for such gaming purposes soon followed throughout all of Europe and eventually even Britain had a version of the game. It became very popular during the Tudor Dynasty in the 16th century where such courts were built in all palaces for most kings, marking it as an established, reputable sport.

In the early stages, as squash underwent experimental changes and came into its own, as the game that we are familiar with now, it was actually only played in particular elite circles, like renowned private schools and colleges, or exclusive men’s clubs; so much so that when the Titanic sank in the year 1912, a squash court went down with the luxury ship.

The Racquet's Importance

Racquets slowly spread all around the world in the 18th century in places like Canada, Australia as well as India, and it was this increase in racquets, that sparked the squash origin. It's early stage began at an established English public school just outside of London — The Harrow in the 1860's. The students used a small rubber ball and racquets which were used to hit the ball off the walls of their school's courtyards and alleyways. The origin of the word 'squash' also came from Harrow as it probably refers to the sound that a rubber ball made when it smashes against a stone wall.

In 1884, squash then spread to the United States, due to a private boarding school in New Hampshire (St. Paul's School), that built open-air squash courts with Harvard soon following suit and building 2 courts of their own in 1908. From there it spread very rapidly to private men’s clubs in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia - And 50 years later, squash racquets and the game itself had spread across the entire globe.

Aftermath of War

The game of Squash reached a tipping point in the aftermath of World War 2 and wherever courts were built and accessible, they flourished.

Egypt is an example of adapting to the game while being an ex-British colony, because after the war, more and more Egyptians joined expatriates on court in Cairo and in Alexandria, and participated in the 'British Open' where champions like Mahmoud Karim and A. A. AbouTaleb continued the winning tradition well into the 1960's.

Pakistan is another sleeping giant that awoke because of Hashim Khan's win in 1951 in the British Open and becoming a national hero, prompting the opening of Pakistan Air Force Squash Centre in Peshawar in the 1960's with clubs and complexes popping up in Lahore and Karachi as well. Hashim Khan paved the way for 2 generations of Pakistani legendary squash players who followed his wins in the British Open.

The Big Leagues

'Pro squash' began with minor tournaments and two-men challenge events with the first professional tournament taking place in Philadelphia in the year 1904, with just six entries. Needless to say, pro squash took a long time to solidify and attract serious competitive players, among its other more popular sports.

After World War 2, things started to shift for the better. The Australian Open was once again revived after the war in 1947, and following that, the Scottish Open was also launched in the following year. Pro women’s squash came into existence in the 1970's and it has continued to grow up till recent years.

In just the 21st century, squash completely changed and it now has become a show because of technological advances and due to the all-glass, portable court technology, tournament promoters are able to arrange an event in iconic or communal places.

Courts have now appeared in every possible country and squash that had been played for over 130 years — has grown sensationally in the last several years and is now poised to become one of the largest and best loved games. Squash sports went from being a private game that was exclusive for few at elite clubs to an accessible public sport that is widely loved, and one that has amazing health benefits and helps keep the body in shape.

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