WATERVILLE — When he returned to the Waterville Senior High School boys tennis team this season, Ilyas Khan had to reacquaint himself with the game.

“The first few days were a little rough,” Khan, a senior, said.

The rest of the days, though, have been pretty good.

As the Purple Panthers’ top singles player, Khan went 11-1 in the regular season. His play helped Waterville improve from 6-6 in 2014 to 11-1, and when the team tournament begins next week, Waterville will likely be the No. 3 seed in Eastern Class B, behind just Camden Hills, the lone team to beat Waterville in the regular season, and Ellsworth.

Before that, however, Khan will represent Waterville in the state singles tournament Friday at Colby College. Khan is scheduled to play his first round match at 1 p.m. against Ben Somes of Washington Academy. If Khan wins, he’ll take on No. 2 Isaac Salas of Waynflete at 5:30 p.m.

“It’s going to be tough,” Waterville boys tennis coach Sandor Nagy said.


While Khan’s return to the Waterville tennis team has gone well, his main sport is squash. Khan’s absence from the Panthers last season was to focus on squash, which he’ll play collegiately next year at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.

“My whole family has a history with squash,” Khan said.

Khan puts it mildly. Khan’s family is squash royalty. His great uncle, Jahingir Khan, was a world champion. His grandfather, Hashim Khan, was a world champion. Khan’s father, Sahki Khan, is the squash coach at Colby. As a college player at Tufts, Sahki Khan was a four-year All-American and reached the National Collegiate Squash Championships. Sahki Khan also competed on the World Professional Tour for seven years.

There are family photos, Khan said, of himself as a child, with a squash racquet bigger than he is.

“Squash is where I get all my fundamentals for tennis,” Khan, who remembers picking up a squash racket at age 3, said. “I play as often as I can. Since sixth grade, I’ve played every day.”

Squash is played inside on a court, and is similar to racquetball.


“Squash is very wristy. You’re confined to small spaces. Being able to move is very difficult,” Nagy said. “It’s still a racquet sport. (Khan) has some tricks he can bring to the tennis court, and those are always fun to see.”

One of those tricks is a keen ability to hit the ball between his legs, Nagy said. Another is a return shot Nagy describes as a sideways slap. On this shot, Khan doesn’t follow through on his stroke in returning the ball. Rather, he stretches and just slaps at it.

Khan feels the strength of his tennis game is his hard serve, which he’s able to use to rack up points in the form of aces.

“It is a good feeling when you get a point just off one shot,” Khan said.

Khan’s only individual loss of the season came to Austin Pohlman of Camden Hills in Waterville’s only team loss. Pohlman is the No. 12 seed in the singles tournament. When Khan competed in the singles tournament as a sophomore, his run ended against Pohlman is the quarterfinals.

As the top singles player and a captain, Khan is a Waterville team leader. He said he hopes his attitude is what rubs off on his teammates.


“I tell guys to keep their heads on straight,” Khan said. “If I go into a match confident, everyone feels better.”

Added Nagy: “Tennis isn’t like a typical team sport. It’s a very individualized type of game. Everyone respects (Khan’s) superior abilities. They recognize he knows how to hit the ball properly.”

• • •

Along with Khan, a number of central Maine players will take part in Friday’s state singles tournament at Colby.

On the girls side, Hall-Dale’s Nicole Pelletier will take on Leslie Sandefur of Lincoln Academy at 8:30 a.m. Eryn Doiron of Mt. Blue will face Mt. Desert Island’s Sarah Phelps, also at 8:30. Emma Cristan of Waterville plays Alexa Pelletier of Fort Kent at 10 a.m. Hall-Dale’s Clio Barr and Katie Vannorsdall of Camden Hills play at 11:30 a.m.

Vasilisa Mitskevich of Skowhegan is the No. 12 seed, and will play a second round match against either Hilary Boucher of Presque Isle or Kelly Martin of Hampden at 2:30 p.m.


Bethany Hammond of Belgrade and St. Dominic is the No. 2 seed. Hammond will face the winner of the first round match between Sophia Chen of Georges Stevens Academy and Mary Morrison of North Yarmouth Academy in a second round match at 5:30 p.m.

On the boys side, Mt. Blue’s Alex Bunnell will play Portland’s Peter Barry at 8:30 a.m. Andrew Peterson of Hall-Dale plays Brandon Ameglio of Waynflete at 10 a.m. Sullivan Abbott of Mt. Blue faces Matthew Jarmusz of Morse at 11:30 a.m.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242


Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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