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G.O.A.T: The Contenders Pre-1960s - Part 2

Over the next few weeks, we’re giving you the chance to decide the greatest players in squash history as we take a look at the achievements and legacy of some of the most recognised names ever to take to a squash court.

This week we begin by looking at some of the outstanding squash players to have graced the courts before 1960 in part one of our public vote.

Each day we’ll highlight the feats of different players to have competed during the era before asking you to determine the top players of that era in a public vote at the end of the week.

Read part one here.

Don Butcher
Nationality: English
British Open Title Wins: 2
British Open Final Defeats: 2

Don Butcher was the first player to actually win the British Open men’s title in 1931.

The Englishman was a professional squash player based at the Conservative Club in London when he played in the first British Open final in December 1930. His opponent, Charles Read, a former English professional champion was designated Open champion at the initiation of the event, which was a ‘challenge’ event without any preliminary rounds (the final was played under a best-of-three format, which continued until 1947).

Butcher defeated Read in the first match at the Queen’s Club 9-6, 9-5, 9-5. He then won the second match at the Conservative Club 9-3, 9-5, 9-3 to claim the title and make the third match unnecessary.

In 1932, Butcher successfully defended his title against Charles Arnold, winning the first match at the Conservative Club 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 and the second match at the Bath Club 9-3, 9-0, 9-5.

However, Butcher was unsuccessful in his defence of the Championship in 1933 against Egyptian F.D. Amr Bey and similarly unsuccessful in his challenge against Amr in 1935.

Butcher was considered a very innovative player in his time. He deviated from the conventional up and down the wall style adopted by most players in his era, making full use of boasts, lobs, drop shots and reverse angles, as well as cultivating the serve. His lack of stamina during long matches was considered to be one of his main weaknesses, however, and this gave the athletic Amr Bey a key advantage over Butcher on the occasions they played.

Mahmoud Karim
Nationality: Egyptian
British Open Title Wins: 4
British Open Final Defeats: 2

Mahmoud Karim won four straight British Open titles from 1947-50 to write his name into the squash history books.

He was seen as a player of unique talent, who brought completely new qualities to the game.

Karim first played golf and tennis at the Gezira Sporting Club in Cairo before discovering squash at the age of 15. He enjoyed it so much that he came to dedicate all of his time to the sport.

In 1946 he started a four-year reign of the British Open only to be stopped when Hashim Khan made his historic debut in 1950. The squash world was stunned when Karim was beaten 9-5, 9-0, 9-0.

In 1947, Karim captured the British Open title for the first time. The 1947 final was the last occasion on which the British Open was decided in a best of three format between the two finalists. Karim beat Jim Dear 9-4, 9-1, 9-3 in the first match and 5-9, 7-9, 9-8, 9-7, 9-4 in the second match.

In 1948 Karim again faced Dear in the British Open final, this time in a single match to determine the champion which Karim won 9-5, 9-3, 5-9, 1-9, 10-8. Karim then beat Brian Philips in the 1949 final 9-4, 9-2, 9-10, 9-4. In 1950, Karim beat Abdul Bari of India in the final 9-4, 9-2, 9-7.

Karim was also runner-up at the British Open in 1951 and 1952 losing in the final on both occasions to Pakistan’s Hashim Khan.

He never competed in the Open again and back in Cairo he felt he could not support his large family – he had six sons and two daughters – and so moved to Montreal as the squash pro at the Montreal Athletic Association, an exclusive club with American courts.

When he was 72 he wanted to return to Cairo – it was an emotional homecoming and they made him director of squash at the Gezira club.

Roy McElvie, a contemporary, once said: “Karim was a joy. If I had to play the eternal match, in heaven or hell, I would play Karim. Just for the fun.”

Janet Morgan
Nationality: English
British Open Title Wins: 10
British Open Final Defeats: 2

Janet Morgan was an English squash player who dominated the game in the 1950s. She won the British Open on ten consecutive occasions and was the sport’s most famous player until the rise of Heather McKay in the 1960s.

Born in Wandsworth, London, Morgan was originally a tennis player who played for Britain in the Wightman Cup in 1946. She quickly turned to squash and in 1948 and 1949 was a losing finalist against Joan Curry.

In 1950 she won her first British Open title, beating Curry in the final. She went on to win the trophy for the next ten successive years through to 1959.

Before the 1959 British Open Morgan announced that she would retire after the competition due to medical advice because she had suffered from persistent back injuries.

Following the tenth victory and retirement she was awarded an MBE in 1961, became the first chairwoman of the Women’s Squash Association and was also inducted into the Squash Hall of Fame.

Morgan also competed as a tennis player in the Wimbledon Championships from 1946 until 1957. In the singles event her best result was reaching the third round on four occasions (1946, 1947, 1954 and 1955).

Joan Curry
Nationality: English
British Open Title Wins: 3
British Open Final Defeats: 3

Joan Curry was an English squash and tennis player who won the British Open three times in a row from 1947-49.

Her first win came in 1947 against compatriot Alice Teague who she defeated 9-3, 10-9, 9-5 before going onto win two titles against Janet Morgan in the years to follow at the event.

Her toughest victory came in 1948, when she beat the legendary Morgan in five games, 9-5, 9-0, 9-10, 6-9, 10-8. She was also the runner-up at the championship three consecutive times from 1950-52 to Morgan during her nine year unbeaten reign at the tournament.

In tennis, she won the singles title at the British Covered Court Championships in 1950 after a two sets victory in the final against Jean Quertier.

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