THE BIG CANARY WHARF INTERVIEW:
LOCAL LAD PETER BARKER TALKS TO ALAN THATCHER
Peter Barker, runner-up to Nick Matthew last year, is aiming to go one better this year and win the Canary Wharf Classic for the first time.
England’s world number seven is itching to get back on court following treatment to a knee injury.
The 28-year-old left-hander said: “I had to withdraw from the North American Open a few weeks ago and that’s only the second time in my whole career that I have had to pull out of a tournament.
“I have had problems with my knee since playing in Hong Kong in November last year. It finally came to a head in New York in January when I played James Willstrop and the injury recurred. I had hoped that a break over Christmas would help but it clearly did not and so I booked myself in to see a sports doctor and have a scan.
“The diagnosis came back that I had a torn meniscus and was booked in for surgery on the following Monday. On the Friday I got a call to say that they had mixed up the scan results with someone else and the good news was that I did not have a tear.
“There were other issues that were treatable with physiotherapy, rehabilitation and strength conditioning exercises to realign my kneecap.
“Thankfully, that process now means that my knee feels better than ever. Hopefully I can carry that fitness forward.”
With many of the game’s top stars, including Canary Wharf top seeds Nick Matthew and James Willstrop, suffering recent injury problems, Barker added: “To be honest, everyone is aware of the dangers in playing a game like this. The priority has to be in managing your body. That’s a big factor all the time.
“You cannot be 100 per cent fit all the time but you are just trying to get as close to 100 per cent as you can. You aim to peak for certain tournaments and you know that you can’t play in every one. Like I say, you manage your body as best as you can.”
Barker was a member of the England team who finished runners-up to Egypt in last year’s World Team Championship in Paderborn and, like many of his team-mates, he was stung by remarks from the Egyptian camp. Their coach boasted that his nation would rule the game for years and added that England was failing to produce any stars of the future.
Barker said: “I still maintain that the success in Egyptian squash is nothing to do with coaching. It’s purely driven by competition and the number of players. That is where we can learn from them. The abundance of players they are producing creates healthy competition.
Barker, who lives with his wife Alex in Shenfield, Essex, is stoically resigned to the fact that squash will not feature in the 2012 Olympic Games taking place a few miles from his home.
He said: “Obviously, I am massively disappointed that squash is not part of the Olympics. But that’s the reality of the situation. I think the Games will be a fantastic success but we can only wait and see if it will be worth the massive financial investment in terms of medals.
“I have not got tickets and am thinking of getting out of town while it’s on because London is going to be pretty chaotic.”
Before then, Barker is looking forward to his comeback tournament and aiming to strike personal gold at Canary Wharf. He beat England and Essex team-mate Daryl Selby in a Premier League match on Tuesday and is now fully focused on a solid showing at Canary Wharf.
He added: “It was great to beat James for the first time last year and reach the final. This time I would like to go one better.
“Coming back from injury, I am determined to enjoy it. Sometimes, you can lose sight of the fact that we do what we do.
“The work I have put in during the last three or four weeks has put me in the best shape of my career. I have not had a great deal of squash in that time but I am hoping that as the week goes on I can get better and better.
“Looking at the draw, I am seeded to meet Nick Matthew in the semi-finals this year but I also face a tough quarter-final against the German number one, Simon Rosner, who is playing very well at the moment.
“As long as I am playing to my ability I will have a good crack at it and aim to go one better than last year. Canary Wharf is such a special tournament, one of the best in the world.
“I am hoping to get a lot of home support and would love to win it before I get too old.”