SQUASH IN AUSTRALIA, GERMANY AND ROUND THE WORLD
Squash spread rapidly in its early days and the major growth areas were wherever British forces were stationed. South Africa, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries learned their Squash from the military and soon adopted it as their own. Probably the most successful Squash nation of all time, Australia, had its Squash seed planted through contact with the military.
Although the first Squash courts in Australia were established in 1913, at the Melbourne Club in Victoria, there was no official Squash association until 1934 although top players had been engaged in ad hoc club tournaments since 1927. During 1934 a group of players decided that local administrative pressure and the need to liaise with interstate and overseas organisations demanded an official body and the Squash Rackets Association of Australia (SRAA) was founded, although its main tasks remained locally orientated in the Melbourne area. Even when the first Australian Championships were held, for men in 1931 and women in 1932, they were, in reality, State Championships for Victoria. The SRA of Victoria was formed in 1937.
In New South Wales the first court was built just after the first World War, by Mr. Bjelke-Petersen, the uncle of the former Queensland Premier, Sir Joe Bjelke-Petersen. The New South Wales SRA was formed in 1937 and the first pennant competition in Sydney commenced in July 1939.
But it was in the 1960s that Squash started to really take off in Australia. Greater commercial development came into the sport and public Squash centres were built all over the country, bringing the game to a much wider audience. This growth brought amazing international success with many of the world’s best players coming from the Australian Squash scene. Heather McKay, Ken Hiscoe, Geoff Hunt, Vicki Cardwell, Steve Bowditch, Rhonda Thorne and, more recently, Michelle and Rodney Martin all become World Squash Champions at senior level and Peter Nance, Chris Robertson, Robyn Lambourne, Sarah Fitz-Gerald and Rachael Grinham achieved the same distinction at junior level. Hunt was World Champion 7 times and won 8 British Open titles while Heather McKay was the most successful Squash player of all time, being undefeated in international competition for an astounding 19 years.
In 1976 the headquarters of the SRAA were transferred to Queensland and merged with the Australian Women’s SRA to form the ASRA in 1986, its name being changed to Squash Australia in 1990.
In Germany Squash was born twice! Its first cradle was in Berlin in 1930 when the first four courts were built by Dr. Ernst von Siemens, head of the technology department of the electronics company which bore his name, and he started regular company staff activities and even foreign competitions on the “wall-play-halls”. Other courts followed, but during wartime they were all used for a variety of other purposes and it was not until 1978 that the Siemens courts were again used by the “Berlin Wallball Game Club”.
The initiative for the rebirth came from Christhof Viscount Vitzthum who had discovered the sport in Australia, heard about the Siemens courts by accident and started to promote Squash and bring the courts back into use. But an even earlier start had been made in Hamburg by a merchant, Henning Harders, who erected three courts following an infection by the Squash bug in Australia and it was a group of Hamburg players who founded the German SRA in 1973 and sent a team to the European Team Championships in Stockholm in 1974.
Two years after the German SRA was founded the first National Championships were held and within a few years there were over 6000 courts and 2 million players in the nation – the most spectacular growth of Squash anywhere in the world.
German Squash celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1998 by bringing the Women’s World Championships to Stuttgart.
Many other nations experienced tremendous growth in Squash, starting slowly in the 1960s and 1970s, but then gaining momentum over the past thirty years. In each country the basic story is the same: a group of enthusiasts starts to play and promotes the game which, because of its inherent qualities of intense exercise coupled with all-absorbing competition, grows rapidly and becomes a major sport in the land. The formula which made Squash grow in its traditional homelands is now being seen again in the Czech Republic, Poland, Malaysia, Japan, Brazil, Colombia, Korea and many new Squash nations, worldwide.