Team USA’s Shahjahan Khan and Todd Harrity rose to career-high rankings of world No. 34 and 35, respectively, this month, becoming the first top-thirty-five-ranked U.S. men in a decade since Julian Illingworth, while Olivia Fiechter celebrates a new career high world No. 11 ranking.
Khan cracked the top forty for the first time in December at world No. 37, propelled by a quarterfinal appearance in November’s $50,000 Malaysian Open. The twenty-six-year-old then reached the final of the Wakefield Open last month to help jump up three more places in January’s rankings.
“I feel really happy, I’d like to thank god to bless me with the opportunity,” Khan said. “It’s been an amazing journey so far and I feel proud, but not satisfied just yet. It’s been an up and down past year, but I’ve taken a lot of positives. It’s been an amazing first season so far representing the Team USA and having the support of US Squash.”
Illingworth became the highest-ranked U.S. men’s player in the softball era in 2012 when he reached a career high world No. 24 ranking in January 2012, and remained in the top thirty throughout 2012. Khan, who grew up in Pakistan and Seattle, changed his international affiliation from Pakistan to the United States in the summer of 2021. Khan was set to represent Team USA for the first time at the 2021 World Men’s Team Championship, which was cancelled.
“We have big shoes to fill, Julian was world No. 24, and we’re starting to get pretty close to that,” Khan said. “The next target is to break into the top thirty and twenty-five in the coming years. One step at a time. It’s been exciting training together at the Specter Center, having Coach Beng Hee, Coach Bridget and a full team behind us to help push all of us together. It’s all about teamwork. Having my Dad support me as a coach and mentor has been really helpful. I’d also like to thank my sports Psychologist Bader Khan. With lockdowns and covid, being by yourself, it takes a toll on you mentally so it’s been so helpful working with him whenever I’m down. Those things really matter and impact our performance as athletes.”
Harrity now sits one position above Khan at world No. 35, his debut in the world’s top forty with a jump of seven places from world No. 42. A semifinal appearance in November’s $20,000 CNS International helped Harrity’s positive movement.
“It was really exciting for me to wake up on January 1st and see that I had jumped in the rankings,” Harrity said. “I have been working and training very hard. I’ve had good wins during my career, but I’ve found it’s difficult to make big jumps up in the rankings once you’re inside the top 50. You really have to start winning matches consistently at the big events. It’s really exciting for Team USA to have two of us ranked in the 30s now. Our women have been so strong for a while. We have a very dedicated group of men too and I think the Team USA men have a bright future now as well.”
The U.S. women maintain three players in the world’s top twenty, including the new world No. 11 Olivia Fiechter, who jumped ahead of teammate Olivia Blatchford Clyne at world No. 12. Amanda Sobhy dropped one position to world No. 4, and Sabrina Sobhy maintained her position at world No. 26.
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