Twenty-five years ago England’s Del Harris stepped onto court in Nicosia, Cyprus to face the great Jansher Khan in the final of the World Squash Championship.
In the form of his life, the Englishman matched Khan through three gruelling games, taking the third after squandering game ball in the second. But ultimately, after an epic 101 minute clash, Harris came up short as Khan claimed his seventh World title – a feat that saw him supplant fellow Pakistani squash immortal Jahangir Khan as the most decorated World Champion of them all.
Now a Firefighter in his native Essex, 50-year-old Harris – who remains the only should be only Englishman to win the PSA World Series Finals – reflects calmly on an historic match, which could have gone differently.
“I remember it being tight for the first three games,” said Harris. “I was playing well and matching Jansher. I had game balls in the second but missed out on that game to go two down – if I’d nicked it that would have made a big difference.
“I managed to win the third – I think I saved three match balls to win a tie break – but in the fourth game I started to tire a bit and I think the previous matches finally took my legs.
“That week was probably the best squash I’d played. I went in and gave it my best shot as the pressure was all on Jansher with him trying to break Jahangir’s record of six world titles.
“Maybe the one frustration is that Jansher got quite a lot of very soft lets and some very dubious calls at big points and that took some momentum from me at key times but overall I was pleased with my performance.
“At the end of the day you have to take your hat off to Jansher. He beat me and became the first seven-time World Champion before eventually going out on eight. But I wasn’t far away from him that day and he knew he’d been in a match!”
Despite losing out in the World Championship final, Harris bounced back just a few months later to gain revenge on Khan at the 1996 PSA Super Series Finals, defeating the Pakistani in the semi-finals before securing the title with victory over Brett Martin in the final – a win that saw him become the first, and still only, Englishman to win the title.
“Again, that week I was playing some of my best squash and as well as Jansher I also beat Peter Nicol earlier in the tournament,” recalled Harris, who also claimed two British National titles and was a key part of the all-conquering England team that won the world team championships in 1995 and 1997.