Victory for Laura Massaro and Gregory Gaultier at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals last month brought an end to what has been one of the most remarkable and memorable seasons ever in the history of professional squash – a nine-month spell that saw records made, rivalries ignited, careers forged and history made.
Over the next few weeks we're looking back at the major moments that lit up the PSA World Tour during 2015/16, starting with the breakthrough performances, to the most outstanding performers and performances, shock moments, and rising stars that ensured the 2015/16 season – the first full season of combined governance since the PSA and WSA joined forces in a historic merger back on January 1st, 2015 – will go down in the sporting annals as one of the best ever.
For this part of our season review, we’re focusing on more of the up-and-coming players who have demonstrated some serious potential over the past nine months, and could be set to have a big impact next season. Check out part one here.
New Zealand’s Paul Coll built up a reputation as an exciting young player throughout the 2015/16 season – culminating in one of the most stunning rallies ever to grace the SQUASHTV screens during March’s Canary Wharf Classic.
The 24-year-old began the season ranked 41st in the world after a strong summer that saw him upset current World No.14 Cameron Pilley to win the Australian Open last August.
After failing to make an impact in either the US Open or the Men’s World Championship over the next few months, Coll lifted silverware at the London Open in November after coming through a brutal five-game contest with Ben Coleman.
A disappointing first qualifying round exit in January’s Tournament of Champions followed two months later, before he took World No.8 Karim Abdel Gawad all the way to the wire in a thrilling Windy City Open clash, eventually losing 3-2 to the Egyptian.
Next up came the Canary Wharf Classic, where his incredible ‘Superman’ dives against former World No.1 James Willstrop went viral – a video that has now been watched around 950,000 times on social media alone, in addition to being shared by the likes of the BBC, Fox Sports, Bleacher Report and more.
A succession of first round exits then followed at the British Open, Grasshopper Cup and El Gouna International, before a semi-final and a runner-up finish at the Open de Paris and HKFC International, respectively, served as reminders of Coll’s burgeoning talent.
The first professional player ever to come through the urban squash programme, Reyna Pacheco is arguably one of the most hard-working and mentally tough players to ply her trade on the PSA World Tour.
Pacheco, a Mexican immigrant who moved to the United States at the age of just four years old, found it difficult to adapt to life in a new country, but everything changed when she was introduced to squash, and she has worked extremely hard over the last few years to hone her considerable talents.
Now 21, Pacheco began the season ranked 105th in the world, but the last nine months have seen her gain experience at a number of high-level events, including appearances at three World Series tournaments.
From September onwards, Pacheco appeared at solely US-based events, and followed up a first round exit at the NetSuite Open with a quarter-final finish at the Livestuff Open.
Pacheco struggled to pick up wins for the remainder of the season, but qualifying stage berths at the US Open, Tournament of Champions and Windy City Open helped her rise to a career-high World No.78 ranking, and gave her valuable experience as she looks to take the next step in her career.
European Junior Champion Patrick Rooney is a hugely exciting Englishman and made great strides throughout his first full season on the PSA World Tour.
The 18-year-old is the highest-ranked teenager in England, but was ranked outside of the world’s top 200 at the outset of the 2015/16 campaign.
A strong quarter-final finish at the Charing Cross Classic after battling through qualification was an early indicator of Rooney’s promise, before he bowed out in the opening round of the Bexley Open.
The Mancunian returned to form at the Sutton Coldfield International with a creditable semi-final finish though, and rounded out the year with first and second round exits at the Xmas Challenger and IMET Open, respectively.
Rooney found success hard to come by at the beginning of 2016 and suffered three first round defeats on the bounce, but did triumph away from the Tour as, in March, he powered to victory at the European Junior Championship in both the individual and team event, helping England to lift their seventh title in a row.
An impressive campaign was brought to an end with a last four placing at the Ipswich Open, and then a quarter-final finish of the Kent Open – leading to a rise to 192nd in the world, which is just one below his career-best ranking.
Rooney is eyeing up a place in the world’s top five in the coming seasons, and you can find out his take on his season by checking out our Player Spotlight interview with the Englishman.
Few players have had as sharp an increase in their World Ranking as 16-year-old Egyptian Nada Abbas who, at 67th in the world, has risen up over 100 places since this time last year and 49 places since the beginning of the season.
The precocious Egyptian talent began her campaign with a first round exit at the Prague Open in September, before reaching the quarter-final stage of the Val de Marne shortly afterwards.
A maiden World Series appearance then beckoned in October as she lost out in the opening qualifying round to England’s Millie Tomlinson and another quarter-final finish, this time at the London Open, rounded off 2015 for the teenager.
Giza-born Abbas displayed her prodigious ability at the turn of the year where, after bowing out of the Tournament of Champion in the qualifying stages, she reached the semi-final of a PSA World Tour event for the first time at the Edinburgh Open, falling to Tomlinson again.
A round one defeat at the Bahria Town Championship halted her rhythm momentarily, before she made it to her first Tour final at the Paderborn Open, losing out to Belgium’s Nele Gilis.
Abbas wasn’t done there though and, in her last tournament of the season, she triumphed at the Lion Cup in Ukraine to capture her maiden Tour title at the age of just 15 – beating Austria’s Birgit Coufal in straight games to demonstrate her considerable potential.