Since joining the PSA World Tour in 2014, 18-year-old Patrick Rooney has made great strides as a developing professional, and has risen to prominence as a real rising star in his native England.
Rooney, who hails from St. Helens, has demonstrated his considerable potential over the past year, with a series of semi-final finishes on the PSA World Tour enabling him to rise to a career-high World No.191 ranking in February.
Now ranked 206th in the world, Rooney’s form has also extended onto the international scene, with a silver medal at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games complimenting his title win at the European Junior U19 Championship two months ago – and he lists both of those accolades as the standout moments of his burgeoning career.
“The highlight of my career so far is probably representing England at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa,” said Rooney.
“Being able to travel to such an amazing place where not many people get to go was such an awesome experience. Bringing home a silver medal made it a bit more special as well.
“I was really happy to take the European Championships, it was my last tournament in juniors so it was a good way to finish. It gives me a lot of confidence going forward, but the Tour is a completely different level to juniors so I know I’ll have to keep pushing to improve.”
Rooney first became interested in squash when his father took him to a Saturday morning junior training session, and he paid tribute to the impact that his father has had on his career so far.
“I went once a week and it took off from there, I started playing more and more,” he revealed.
“I didn’t have many idols growing up because I didn’t watch much sport, especially when I first started squash because I was more into football. So I would have to say my dad is my idol.”
For many young players, their first professional match is a key moment in their career. Rooney, who made his PSA World Tour bow at the 2014 London Open, admits that, while he did feel some pressure, he tried to channel it positively.
“My first professional match [against Egyptian Karim El Hammamy] was quite relaxed because I was an underdog and had nothing to lose, so I just went on to play as well as I could, which is when I think I play my best,” he said.
“It’s when I come up against a close opponent that I start to feel some pressure.”
Rooney in action during last week's Select Gaming Kent Open (picture by Kim Roberts)
While being a professional player on the Tour can be a demanding task, Rooney likes to spend his down time wisely and catch up with his family and friends.
The teenager is mindful of the sacrifices that professional athletes have to make, but he tries to make time away from the court so he can escape from the pressures that competition brings with it.
“Full time squash takes up a lot of time with training and matches, so you have to sacrifice some things like going out with friends and socialising in other aspects, but that doesn’t mean there’s no time at all for that stuff,” Rooney explained.
“Away from the courts, I like to watch movies and I listen to a lot of music. I like going out with friends from time to time. Travelling is something I enjoy but that usually comes from tournaments.
“I also like running and going to the gym around the on-court training I do.”
With the likes of English duo Nick Matthew, who Rooney shared a court with in last year’s British National Championship, and James Willstrop entering the twilight of their illustrious careers, the time is ripe for another Englishman to claim a berth at the summit of the World Rankings.
Rooney admits his goal is to eventually break into the top five in the world and, as the highest ranked teenager in England, is one of the leading candidates to rise towards the upper echelons of the sport.