Squash star James Willstrop is looking forward to an emotional return to Canary Wharf, seven months after a hip operation threatened to end his career.
The former world number one has won the Canary Wharf Classic title four times and spent several months in rehab before he made a tentative return to the World Tour earlier this year.
The 31-year-old’s planned comeback at the spectacular Tournament of Champions, held inside New York’s Grand Central Station, had to be cancelled.
But he played the British Nationals in Manchester, the Swedish Open and the Windy City Open in Chicago before setting his sights on Canary Wharf and the British Open in May.
Willstrop admitted that, as a professional sportsman, he found it difficult to cope with being out of action for such a prolonged spell.
He also revealed that his injury problems began to surface the morning after he lost in last year’s Canary Wharf final to long-time rival Nick Matthew.
Willstrop said: “It’s not unusual to wake up the morning after a week-long tournament and find that walking is hard work.
“On the Saturday morning, after the final at Canary Wharf, the difficulties were slightly more pronounced than usual, but I still wasn’t thinking the problem would be significant enough to change the whole outlook of the next year of my life.
“In June I took the call from a doctor who delivered the news that my career could well be over. The layer of cartilage in the hip had worn thin and was arthritic.
“Arthritic? At 31? I wondered if I should visit the local Job Centre.
“I feared I might miss the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but thanks to pain-killing injections and six weeks of stretching exercises I was able to play. To have arrived there was special in itself. To win two medals left me exhausted and thrilled.
“People asked if I was disappointed to lose to Nick Matthew in the gold medal match and the answer was no. I was so thrilled to have been a part of Glasgow and that final was so special in view of the whole process.”
Willstrop went under the knife on September 15 and was on crutches for several weeks before being able to resume training.
Now he is looking forward to appearing at Canary Wharf for a 12th consecutive year. He faces a qualifier in the first round and a tough quarter-final is looming against Germany’s Simon Rosner, who has recently climbed to a career-best position of nine in the PSA world rankings. The Classic runs from March 23-27.
5.30pm: No.6 seed Daryl Selby (England) v qualifier
6.15pm: No.3 seed Borja Golan (Spain) v Laurens Anjema (Netherlands)
8.15pm: No.1 seed Nick Matthew (England) v wild card Eddie Charlton
9pm: No.8 seed Fares Dessouki (Egypt) v Adrian Waller (England)
5.30pm: No.7 seed Max Lee (Hong Kong) v Mazen Hesham (Egypt)
6.15pm: No.2 seed Peter Barker (England) v Qualifier
8.15pm: No.4 seed Simon Rosner (Germany) v Qualifier
9pm: No.5 seed James Willstrop (England) v Qualifier
Full details: www.canarywharfsquash.com