|The Next Big Thing
(by MINA KAZMI)
The promising, convincing and amazing Saad Shahid is the next big thing on the block, who with his phenomenal performances has taken the glories to his credit. Young, vibrant and athletic, Saad has etched his name already as a victor in the world of squash. With classy shot selection merged with exhilarating energy, he has religiously served the lovers of squash with a perfect package to watch. He has fetched five European titles in a row which include Polish Open, Italian Open, Portuguese Open, German Open and Spanish Open. He has experienced the fortuity of being World No.5 U-19 (Under 19), World No.2 U-17 (Under 17) and Runner-up of the Welsh Junior Open. The 17-year-old feels there's a lot yet to achieve.
Tell us about your participation in Pioneer Junior Squash Cup which was held in Cologne Germany. It was the first junior event you participated in, how did it turn out?
It was my first experience so I was very much excited about it but nervous at the same time! I stood 5th in the event and it was a great achievement as I was an unseeded player at that time and luckily made it to the quarterfinals after beating top ranked players. I was lucky that I was awarded a trophy and since then I haven't looked back.
Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) is not very supportive to the players who play at the international level. What is your take on this matter?
The Federation rarely sponsors junior players who are getting laurels for the country! Selected players have to be continuously sponsored on a long term basis if Pakistan has to get back its lost glory in the world of squash.
PSF has disappointed players by depriving them of the resources required by a player at an international level. How much does a player suffer due to lack of sponsorships?
Players, who are talented but do not have a strong a financial background cannot even think of playing internationally, which is sad but true. The more the players participate from Pakistan in international tournaments, the more are their chances of getting titles for Pakistan. Fortunately we have the most talented lot of sportsmen in the country, but sadly we are wasting the opportunities to grab those laurels back for the country just because of dearth of sponsorships.
Before representing Pakistan internationally, you proved your worth on national level. Tell us about your national achievements which you have secured up to date.
I have missed many national tournaments in the country as I have been playing internationally and focusing more on the international ranking. Previously I have been the runner-up in two consecutive national junior championships held in Karachi and Peshawar. I've mostly grabbed semi final berths in National Junior Championships all over Pakistan. I've been a part of the Provincial Senior Sindh team for National Games, Gold medalist in Sindh Games, runner-up in Karachi City Games Senior Category, bronze medalist in Inter Provincial Games Senior category and hoping for many more in the near future InshaAllah.
Securing top places in Dutch Junior Open 2008 held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Hamdard Delton Open 2008 in Delhi India, German Junior Open 2010, 2nd place at Welsh Junior Open 2011 in Cardiff Wales are other electrifying achievements you have earned. How important is it for a player to get recognition for his achievements?
It is very important for a player to receive the deserved attention from the Federation, fans, fellows and most importantly, the media. When there are people to encourage you for your efforts and hard work, you get motivated and set goals and targets for the future.
Do you feel media has not acknowledged your achievements to the extent which you deserve?
Media has supported me and I am grateful to them. I think a lot more could have been done as I earned the No.2 rank in the world which is a pride for Pakistan.
How was the experience of upsetting the top seed Martin Svec of Czech Republic in German Junior Open?
As I had lost my first European event final at the Welsh Open the week before I was flying to Munich for the German Junior Open, I was very ambitious to get to the 1st place no matter how hard I had to push. So I was very confident and did not lose hope. I reached the semi finals with ease and was supposed to play Martin, who was the No.1 in the world and top seed of the tournament. I was successful in beating him in straight sets. The draw was open for me and I had the chance of getting my first European event title for my country. Before the event I was ranked 45 and I knew if I could win this event, I would jump 41 places up and be world No.4. I tried my best and God granted me with what I had wished for. I won the final as well in straight sets.
You are a real player who has learnt to fight till the end. Who have you enjoyed playing against the most?
I've had really close encounters in many tournaments. The best match I played was the final at Polish Open championship in Warsaw, Poland in which I was sick, and was 10-6 match ball down in the 5th game and I won the match with 6 consecutive points. I secured the championship. It was a great experience for me, the hard work and never giving-up attitude paid off.
You do not belong to a family of squash players. Do you feel you have managed to perform better than those who have squash as a legacy in their family?
Alhamdulillah, I feel very blessed when I compare myself with those who belong to the famous Khan families. I am studying as well for graduation and still winning so many titles for the country and particularly without any support from the government, plus in very limited training facilities too. I have managed very well and I have great plans for the future. Looking forward to it!
Where do you see yourself in the next five years from now on? Which upcoming tournaments are you aiming at?
I am working very hard to make my place amongst the senior players in the upcoming years. My next goal is to get to the No.1 international rank in the Under-19 and I am just 4 ranks away from that.
1) French Junior open in France February, 2012
2) Austrian Junior open in Austria February, 2012
3) Welsh Junior Open 2012 Wales March, 2012
4) German Junior Open 2012 Germany March, 2012
And the rest are tournaments where I will defend my titles in June and July in Poland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
Any message you would like to give out to our readers?
I am playing for my country and I need your prayers to make Pakistan proud whereever I represent Pakistan in the world. My message to everyone is be patriotic and love Pakistan as much as you can. Work hard in whichever field you opt for and do whatever it takes to highlight the name of your country on international grounds. Show the world that we are second to none!