Although Hashim Khan and then his son, Sharif, have dominated international squash for more than 30 years, only recently have they received recognition for accomplishments that may never be surpassed.
The Khans played an exhibition match last night at the recently opened, 10-court Washington Squash Racquets Club and displayed for 100 spectators the uncanny shots that have made their name synonymous with genius in the sport.
Hashim Khan took up squash 60 years ago, playing with international-caliber British Army officers stationed in India to guard the Khyber Pass.
Then, in 1949, Khan went to England and, at the age of 37, shocked the international squash community by winning the British Open in his first attempt to become unofficial world champion.
Khan successfully defended his title six straight years and by 1963 had won three North American Open championships and a slew of international awards. In 1964, four years after taking a job at the Uptown Athletic Club in Detroit, Khan finally yielded the North American open title to his nephew, Mohibullah, who now is the pro at the Harvard Club of Boston. Five years later, he lost to his cousin, Sharif.
Sharif Khan, 34, has won the open 11 of the last 12 years, his only loss in the tournament was in 1975 in Mexico City to New York's Victor Niederhoffer.
Sharif Khan, who defeated his father 10 years ago in their only tournament match, finds "it's always a thrill for me to play against my dad because I learn something every time."
Hashim Khan supplied his son with more spiritual and inspirational guidance than technical instruction.
"Just last week," Sharif said, "I was down, 2-0, in the first round of the North American Open in Salt Lake City. "My dad came down and told me that my strategy wasn't working. I was on the defense all the time and he advised me to attack and not be so tentative."
Khan won the third game, 15-1, the match, 3-2, and went on to win his 11th open title.
"I can't compare our games," Sharif Khan said. "His ball control was and is incredible. He could play at maximum speed and go all out for an entire match while maintaining his control." The son describes himself as more of a counter puncher who uses more finesse as the years go by.
But said Khan, "As long as I truly enjoy the game and have no serious injuries, I'll keep playing. Just look at my father."