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.
British Open Title Wins: 1
British Open Final Defeats: 5
An all-round racket sport specialist, England’s Jim Dear triumphed in the finals of the racquets world championship, the real tennis world championship and the British Open Squash Championship during a glittering 30-year sporting career that also saw his successes restricted due to World War Two.
After finishing as runner-up to F.D. Amr Bey in the 1935, 1936 and 1937 British Opens, Dear finally clinched the title with victory over Bert Biddle in the 1938 event to establish himself as the sport’s finest player before the outbreak of World War Two prevented him from defending
With the event cancelled due to war until 1947, Dear was unable to add further titles to his name during what were arguably his prime squash-plying years.
When the Open returned in 1947 the Englishman found himself on the losing side of the final to another Egyptian, this time Mahmoud Karim – a man he would lose to again in the 1948 British Open final, in what was his sixth and last British Open final appearance. That same year Dear triumphed in the final of the Racquets World Championship for the second consecutive year, beating John Pawle to follow up his victory over Canadian Kenneth Chantler in the 1947 event.
Two years later Dear was named the 1949 Sports Journalists Association’s Sportsman of the Year and he would go on to win the Court Tennis – or Real Tennis – World Championship in 1955 at the age of 45.
Dear’s victory in the 1938 British Open would go on to be a significant moment in the history of the Open as it was over 60-years before another Englishman won the prestigious title – with Peter Nicol finally ending that drought in 2002.
Matthew Farhang Mohtadi
British Open Title Wins: 0
British Open Final Defeats: 0
Matthew Farhang Mohtadi isn’t a name that immediately comes up when discussing the greats of the game of squash during the sport’s early days and while his on-court successes were limited, his role as a trail-blazer and overall sporting pedigree make him a name worthy of consideration.
An all-round sportsman, Mohtadi was Iran’s national table tennis champion and travelled to England as a member of the Iranian Basketball team that competed at the 1948 London Olympic Games.
A year later he made his debut appearance at the prestigious Wimbledon Tennis tournament – where he would compete each year from 1949-1955 – before becoming the first Iranian ever to compete at the British Open Squash Championship when he appeared in the 1953 event – taking on Indian trail-blazer Abdul Bari, the 1950 runner-up, and pushing him close in a tight three-games.
One year later Mohtadi faced eventual winner Hashim Khan in the first round and in 1955 lost a five-game epic to England’s Roy Wilson.
That proved to be his last year as a competitor as, after obtaining a degree in Chemical Engineering at Birmingham University, he moved to Canada to teach at the University of Canada.
British Open Title Wins: 3
British Open Final Defeats: 2
Cecily Fenwick made her first appearance at the British Open Squash Championship in 1924, reaching the semi-finals before losing to eventual winner Nancy Cave. One year later she again lost to Cave in the semi-finals.
But in 1926 she avenged those two defeats to beat Cave in the title-decider and claim her first British Open crown, becoming the fourth champion in the event’s short five-year history. Fenwick then repeated that performance again in 1927 to become the first female player to successfully defend the British Open crown.
In 1928 Fenwick appeared in her third consecutive final, this time losing to Joyce Cave – sister of Nancy. After failing to make the final in 1929, Fenwick reached her fourth final in 1930, losing to Nancy Cave once more.
In 1931 Fenwick made her fifth appearance in the final, beating Joyce Cave to reach the finale and then overturning her defeat in 1930 to beat Nancy Cave 3-1 in the title-decider and claim her third British Open crown.
Fenwick then bowed out of the game at the top as she retried from competition.
British Open Title Wins: 1
British Open Final Defeats: 1
Winner of the second women’s British Open Championship in 1923, Silvia Hunstman ripped through the field to reach the final without dropping a game before then defeating defending champion Nancy Cave 2-1 in the title-decider in what was he first appearance at the tournament.
That would prove to be her only appearance in the Championship title-decider as she fell at the semi-final hurdle for nine consecutive years, losing to the eventual winner on six of those nine occasions.
Huntsman continued to compete in the British Open in the 1930s, reaching the quarter-finals in 1933 and bowing out in the early rounds in 1934 and 1935 before making her final appearance at the event in 1938 in what was her 14th British Open.