Another Squash Champion Rising from Peshawar, Pakistan?

November 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm (Pakistan)


Aamir Atlas aims high after shocking world No 1 in Doha

By Khalid Hussain

The News, Pakistan

KARACHI: Aamir Atlas Khan achieved the biggest breakthrough of his professional career yet when he scalped world number one Gregory Gaultier of France in what was a stunning upset to reach the quarter-finals of the Qatar Classic in Doha on Friday night.

The 19-year-old Pakistan number one from Peshawar then declared that he has finally shrugged away his stage fright and will now be gunning for the status of world number one — a crown that his uncle Jansher Khan owned for a record ten years.

“I’ve probably been lacking the confidence to beat the top guys in the past but now that I’ve beaten a player of his (Gaultier’s) class, I should be doing it more often in future,” he said after toppling the Frenchman 11-6, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9 in 53 minutes in the second round of the $147,500 PSA World Tour Super Series squash event at Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex.

“I’m confident that one day I’ll reach the number one position, and world champion, I’m working very hard for it, and one day Inshallah I’ll get there,” stressed Aamir, seeded 16th in the tournament.

Aamir, the son of British Amateur Championship finalist Atlas Khan, was recently nominated for the Young Player of the Year Award by the Professional Squash Association (PSA).

He was in the best form of his life against Gaultier, who was visibly unprepared for the calculated aggression unleashed by the Pakistani youngster.

Gaultier, who has reached eight Tour finals in the past 12 months, moved to the top of the PSA world rankings at the beginning of this month.

The 26-year-old from Aix-en-Provence recovered from losing the first game to draw level — then dropped the third game in a tie-break.

But Aamir maintained his focus to record a morale-boosting victory by clinching the fourth game 11-9.

“This is easily the biggest moment of my career,” he said. “I really didn’t expect it, because Greg has been playing so well recently — he is such a great champion.”

Aamir, who reached a career-high No 13 spot in the world rankings last September, said that he was inspired by the words of his father, with whom he spoke just before the start of the match.

“My father told me, ‘listen, you can win this — you’ve got the talent, you’ve got the stamina’. I kept focusing on that during the whole match, and thinking how lucky I was to belong to such a squash family. And that really carried me through.”

Aamir, who gave indications of his good form by shocking England number one Nick Matthews earlier this season, now faces eighth seed Peter Barker for a place in the semifinals. The left-hander from London defeated unseeded Finn Olli Tuominen 11-4, 11-3, 1-11, 11-3.

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