The next year will be make or break for Joseph Watts' budding professional career.
The 21-year-old is competing at the SquashGym Palmerston North's Summer Open this weekend. He was to have his final Massey University exam today, so he can focus solely on squash.
"The next 12 months are where I'm going to decide whether I keep going or not," he said.
Ranked 187th in the world, Watts has just returned from two professional events in Australia - the Queensland Open and the Mackay Open.
Even though he lost in the first round of both, the New Zealand No 10 is confident he will be able to cut it on the professional tour.
"Definitely - the last six months have been some of the biggest improvements I've made. I've had a mental improvement.
"I feel as though I can be that good now. I never really had that feeling of actually beating these players that are in the top 50 in the world."
He would usually compete at tournaments in January and February, but will take that time off to have extended training and then will get into it in March.
Just finishing his sports and exercise degree, he believed he was in his best form, and felt he could push into the top 100.
"It all takes time and certainly now where I am, I have to have some quite big wins to start making my progression . . . it's going to come down to a bit of luck and getting some good draws."
One factor that has helped him improve this year, is Auckland professional and former world No 36 Kashif Shuja, who was brought in to coach in Manawatu this year.
"He made a big difference," Watts said. "Not only to improve my squash and game technique, just mentally to win these matches.
"On the professional career, it's a different environment. Mental preparation is a lot different."
SquashGym's Summer Open starts tomorrow, with finals to be played on Saturday night.
Watts, the No 1 seed, is likely to meet No 2 seed Scott Galloway (Wellington) in the final, but he wasn't too stressed about facing the talented youngster.
"Having these professional tournaments under my belt the last few months, I'm feeling relatively confident."
- Manawatu Standard
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