Leading Pakistani squash player Aamir Atlas Khan is confident of putting in a strong performance in the upcoming British Open and improving his international rankings in the process.
Khan’s aspirations could come to fruition, provided he first puts in the hard yards in the some-time-tricky qualifying round of the prestigious event which Pakistan dominated from 1982 to 1997.
His recent record, though, has been topsy-turvy, and the fact that he has faced little international competition in the last few months may stack the odds against him.
The Peshawar-born player, a nephew of squash legend Jansher Khan, last played in an event outside Pakistan in January – the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York – where he fell in the first round. This was followed by another first-round exit at the Motor City Open 2012, in Detroit. Khan fought back well to finish as a runner up in the Pakistan Circuit No 1 before winning the COAS International PSA World Tour Challenger 10 title by the defeating unseeded defending champion Nasir Iqbal in the final in straight sets.
The current world No 34, though, is keeping his goals small and is focused fully on the qualifiers.
“I am hopeful of making it to the main rounds of the tournament. But my further progress in the tournament would depend on who I would be meeting in the first round as the qualifiers often pit you against the top five players of the world,” Khan said.
The draw-of-32 in the qualifiers will see only eight players progress to the $150,000 main draw.
“It may just be that I play the world No 1 in the first round of the qualifiers. But I will be putting in my best. I have defeated top international players before and I believe I can do it again,” he added, mindful of the significance of the British Open for Pakistan squash's struggling fortunes.
Khan will leave for England on May 10, and will play his first qualifying match two days later.
The main draw for men begins on May 14, while the women’s event kicks off on the May 15.