“Hi I’m Robert Downer. I’m 22 and I am a Hampshire based Professional Squash Player competing on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour, as well as a Full-Time student at the University of Winchester where I study Sports Studies with Sports Psychology. With my blog, I’ll be giving you an insight into my life and my quest to reach the World’s top 20 and beyond and more importantly win PSA Shot of the month at least once, as well as the wacky, wild and at times downright bizarre world of professional squash.”.
I first took up squash when I was 4 years of age when my dad introduced me to the sport, having taking it up the year before. He was set on keeping me away from football and he really encouraged my interest in squash. His external motivation wasn’t required for a lengthy period though as I became forever hungry to be on that squash court, a hunger that has carried me right the way through my junior career and beyond. I honestly believe I’ll play on the tour until my body has had enough, as my mind will never say; ‘that’s enough’.
I currently move between my home town of Portsmouth, my university base of Winchester and Lee On The Solent where I train with a group of Pro’s including Oliver Pett and Steve Wykes under the guidance of my coach Tim Vail. The travelling does make it tough to fit everything in.
Combining professional squash and education is something I never imagined myself doing and a challenge which is testing my mental limits! The University of Winchester have been fantastic though and given me a full scholarship in partnership with Winchester Racquets and Fitness Club in return for me promoting squash and the university. Not a bad deal all round with the prices of Student Loans in England now but it can be difficult combining my studies with my training and a tournament schedule which sees me compete in over 10 International PSA events and several UK Based ones a year.
I exploded a few times in my first semester of university, as I was just not finding time to train. I really didn’t understand how to manage my time efficiently. I have that disease known as procrastination and I struggle to motivate myself to get on with work unless I can see the deadline looming, which is certainly something I am working on, as I’ve had to put down the racquet for a week before due to the studies building up too much. I spend lots of my life studying on planes, trains, buses and sometimes even the beaches of Dubai!
Career so far
As a junior I won six Hampshire Junior County Championships across all five age categories and was Senior Champion at 16. I also reached number 1 in England at U17 level, before reaching number 1 in Europe at under 19 level. Perhaps my greatest achievement though was reaching the final of the U19 British Junior National Championships, where I toppled number 2 seed and current World No. 67 Charles Sharpes in the semi-final. I may have lost out in a close 3-0 to top seed Ben Coleman in the final but that the semi-final win over Charles meant the world to me. I was an emotional wreck the night before playing Ben due to the disbelief that I had actually beaten Charles. It had been six years since the previous win!
During that season I won the Senior County Championships, I also made it into the top 8 in U17 European rankings which gave me free PSA World Tour membership for the next season, which lead me to entering my first PSA tournament, the Meersquash Heroes Open in The Netherlands. I snuck in a week before the tournament was to due be played and so hurriedly booked my flights and arranged to crash on a friend of mine’s sofa in the heart of Amsterdam. Not only was I unseeded, I also had to play a round of qualification as I was the lowest ranked player on the entire PSA Rankings, which I guess made me officially the worst player in the world. However, I shocked everyone including myself by taking out 4th seed Phil Nightingale and 6th seed Bastiaan Meulenbelt, before edging out Northamptonshire’s Mark Fuller in the Semi-Final. That match was one of the most gruelling matches of my career so far, as I came through 12-10 in the fifth after I had saved a match ball at 10-9 down in that fifth game with an incredible 4 minute rally that even the referee noted. It meant the world to me and also made me eligible for the prize of facing Top seeded Dutchman Piedro Schweertman in the final – on the same day! I lost 3-1 but that tournament still remains my first and only PSA final appearance to date, though I’ve made three Semi-Finals.
Just recently I gained entry into the Dubai Squash Cup ($25K) in November 2014 which will be the largest event I have not had to qualify for so far in my career, which is a nice sign of my progress on the PSA Tour.
Rob will continue to blog for The Squash Company on a regular basis.
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