“Best squash court in the world”

  • “The best squash rackets court in the world, as far as size and atmosphere.” – Geoff Hunt, world squash champion.
  • The world’s largest squash spectator gallery with a capacity of 800.
  • More squash courts in Rhodesia than in any province of South Africa.

These are the main facts of one of the fastest growing sports in Rhodesia.

 

Spectators' view of the Salisbury Sports Club squash court. Geoff Hunt is playing Jonah Barrington.
Spectators’ view of the Salisbury Sports Club squash court which has the largest gallery in the world, seating 800.

 

The first match court was built at the Salisbury Sports Club in 1966, with a maximum accommodation for 180 spectators. Eight years later, thanks to the sponsorship of a financial institution and a far-seeing, ambitious Rhodesian Squash Rackets Association, a R$56 000 court was built which has attracted every year the finest squash players in the world for Rhodesia’s own international tournament (the first in the Southern African professional circuit – the richest in the world).

 

Geoff Hunt (right), world professional champion, playing Jonah Barrington, six times winner of the British Open, in their final at Salisbury in 1976. Hunt won 3-1.
Geoff Hunt (right), world professional champion, playing Jonah Barrington, six times winner of the British Open, in their final at Salisbury in 1976. Hunt won 3-1.

 

The 1976 line-up, in September, included Geoff Hunt, of Australia, world champion; Jonah Barrington, six times winner of the British Open and the founder of the professional game; Kevin Shawcross, the current world amateur champion, now also a professional; Egypt’s Aly Aziz; Australia’s Doug Stephenson and Cam Nancarrow; Britain’s John Easter and South Africa’s Roland Watson.

The court has a unique construction, with cut-away wings to allow optimum viewing from the sides. The glass back wall allows spectators to see from the back. The court has the largest gallery in the world and some 800 spectators watched Hunt beat Barrington in the final.

A view of the back galleries at the Salisbury squash court. Spectators may also sit above the sides and front of the court.
A view of the back galleries at the Salisbury squash court. Spectators may also sit above the sides and front of the court.

 

About 100 courts have been constructed in the past eight years, involving an outlay in the region of some R$600 000. This is indicative of the confidence that both administrators of the game and clubs have in the advancement of the sport.  Sponsorship has played a very important part in promoting the game in Rhodesia.

Rhodesia is affiliated to the South African Squash Rackets Association and in recent years Rhodesians have played for South African sides. Mrs. Gay Erskine and Mrs. Sue Paton represented the Springboks in Australia in early 1976 and Steve Sherren has also played for South Africa.

(Multiply 1970s values shown x 10 to get today’s values)

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The Australian player Geoff Hunt was born in 1947 and is widely considered to be one of the greatest squash players in history. Between 1967 and 1981, he won the International Amateur Individual Championship three times, the British Open (precursor to the World Open) eight times as well as the World Open four times and a runner up in 1981 after which back problems forced his retirement.  All told, he won no less than 178 out of the 215 tournaments he entered.

Anglo/Irish player Jonah Barrington (b 1941) won the British Open six times between 1967 and 1973, twice beating Geoff Hunt.

 

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In 1974, following the injury of Geoff Hunt’s opponent, “Mo” Yasin, in the British Open final, Jonah Barrington stepped in to provide an exhibition match which was recorded. The same two players as are shown above playing in Salisbury in 1976 may thus be seen in action together below in this 20 minute clip.

 

 

And here below you can see Geoff Hunt winning his 8th, and last, British Open squash title, which was his sixth in a row, against rising star Jahangir Khan of Pakistan. After this a damaged vertebra led to Hunt’s retirement.

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To end with, here is a short biography of Geoff Hunt who had so praised the Rhodesian squash court.