The U.S. Open is one of the world’s premier professional squash championships, featuring top players competing for its coveted title. The eight-day Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour Platinum event was first held in 1954 and has been hosted in partnership with Drexel University since 2011. In 2021, the event will be hosted for the first time at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center – which has been made possible in partnership with Drexel University and is located in the heart of Drexel’s campus and Philadelphia’s burgeoning University City. The event pioneered gender parity in prize money for squash professionals in 2013 and is a leader in the drive for equality in the professional game.
The U.S. Open Squash Championship began on New Year’s Day, 1954, at the University Club of New York City, and literally changed the sport of squash overnight. The event, first run as a hardball tournament for the top amateur and professional players in the world, crowned its first champion, Henri Salaun, a French-American amateur player. At the end of the four-day event, Open director Ned Bigelow presented Salaun the $500 grand prize. Salaun’s victory over Hashim Khan in the finals graced the front pages of major newspapers, including the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune, and the Washington Post, all of which were filled with photographs of the Open. New York was abuzz with the excitement.
The Open remained in New York for the next two years but, from 1957 to 1965, the event crisscrossed the country, quickly becoming a prominent tournament in the world of professional squash. It was hosted in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Indianapolis, and Atlantic City, and returned to the University Club of New York in 1963, only to be shuttled off to Buffalo and then Wilmington the following years. During these early years, the Open was dominated by the presence of the Khan family. Hashim Khan won three titles between 1956 and 1963, while his relative, Roshan Khan, also won three titles in the same decade.
In 1966 the U.S. Open merged with the Canadian Open, forming the North American Open, which remained a hardball event. In the 1970s and 80s the Khans continued to overwhelm the squash scene. Sharif Khan made fifteen straight North American finals appearances from 1968 to 1982, winning twelve of those titles. All in all, the Khan family owns a combined twenty-nine U.S. Open and North American Open Championships. The U.S. Open was reborn, once again as a hardball event (while the North American Open ran separately), in 1983 when Howie Rosenthal promoted the event. Both the 1983 and 1984 U.S. Opens were held at the Yale Club of New York with American great Mark Talbott winning in 1983 and falling to Jahangir Khan in the 1984 final.
In 1985, Tom and Hazel Jones, who were managing the title at that time, made the decision to switch the event from a hardball to a softball tournament. Jones moved the Open out to San Francisco and was one of the first to experiment with the 17-inch tin and 15-point scoring format (which was later adopted world-wide for softball events in 1989), where the Open was received very well.
In 1986, Jones moved the Open to Houston, and the following year the venue was switched to the Palladium Night Club in New York City where a brand new, imported portable court from Europe was set up on the dance floor. The Open achieved enormous success that year and has continued to thrive amongst an eager American audience, where players from across the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, and France have all claimed championships.
In the late 1990s, US SQUASH acquired the rights to the trademark and has been managing the championship into a world-class event ever since.