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Barker Bounces Back For Canary Wharf Classic

Peter Barker, runner-up to England team-mate Nick Matthew last year, is aiming to go one better this year and win the Canary Wharf Classic for the first time.

The PSA World Tour International 50 squash event, in its ninth year in Canary Wharf in London, gets underway at East Wintergarden on Monday following two days of qualifying at Wimbledon Racquets & Fitness Club.

Londoner Barker, England's world number seven, is itching to get back on court following treatment to a knee injury - and a shocking mix-up over scans that almost resulted in him undergoing surgery.

The 28-year-old left-hander, the event's number three seed, 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 is looking forward to his comeback tournament and added: "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 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!"

With Matthew seeded one and Willstrop two - a reverse of their positions as world No2 and world No1, respectively - followed by Barker, Daryl Selby and Adrian Grant, home fans will be hoping to cheer an England victory.

However, number four seed Mohamed El Shorbagy leads a quartet of young Egyptians into the draw at the spectacular East Wintergarden venue, which is heading for another sell-out next week.

Tickets have been snapped for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but a few dozen are available for Monday and Tuesday's first round action.

Shorbagy meets English wild card Joe Lee and his younger brother Marwan El Shorbagy faces Tarek Momen in an all-Egyptian clash - with the winner seeded to meet Willstrop in the quarter-finals.

However, Willstrop says he is not thinking about his seeded clash with rival Matthew in next Friday's final. "I know squash fans like to talk about our rivalry but all I think about is being able to beat the best players on a consistent basis," said the 28-year-old from Leeds who overtook Matthew to top the world rankings this month. "First of all I have to plan for a very difficult first round match against my training partner Saurav Ghosal, the Indian number one.

"I feel rested and rebooted following a nice three-week break after winning the North American Open and I'm looking forward to Canary Wharf. It's one of my favourite tournaments, with a great crowd and one of the best venues in the world."

World champion and top seed Matthew meets Egyptian Mohd Ali Anwar Reda on Monday as he launches his bid to win a hat-trick of titles. The 31-year-old from Sheffield beat Barker in last year's final and Gregory Gaultier of France the year before - following a two-hour epic semi-final against Willstrop.

1st round draw:
[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v Qualifier
Simon Rosner (GER) v Qualifier
[3] Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
[4] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Joe Lee (ENG)
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Qualifier
Tarek Momen (EGY) v Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY)
[2] James Willstrop (ENG) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)

Official event website: www.cwsquash.com

Wasz Squash Net Team :)