Barker eyes title tilt on home turf
East London ace Peter Barker returns to his own backyard for the Canary Wharf Squash Classic bidding to maintain his impressive recent form
By JONATHAN CLEGG
East London ace Peter Barker returns to his own backyard for the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic on Monday bidding to maintain his impressive recent form and lift the title for the first time.
Barker, from Limehouse, has risen to number 10 in the world rankings this year following a series of tournament wins, including last week's singles title at the $50,000 Kuala Lumpur Open championships.
The 25-year-old top seed defeated fellow England international Adrian Grant 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 to claim his 13th PSA Tour title after his opponent tumbled over in the first game of the final.
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Grant was trailing 4-2 in the first set when he slipped and suffered a knock to his knee, which Barker later revealed had contributed to his training partner's straight-sets loss.
"I definitely noted a bit of a change in his movement after he fell. But I tried to carry on playing my own game - being steady and boringly British," he said.
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Now Barker is aiming to translate his victory in Malaysia into further success closer to home.
The eighth seed will take on a qualifier in his first-round match at the East Wintergarden on Tuesday, ahead of a possible quarter-final meeting with France's world No 3 Gregory Gaultier.
But Barker is confident of improving on last year's last-eight exit at his local tournament.
He said: "I feel in good shape. That was my first win in Kuala Lumpur and I am very optimistic about the next few months.
"I'm really looking forward to playing at Canary Wharf - it's a brilliant tournament and lots of friends will be coming to cheer me on."
Barker will need to be at his best to triumph at a tournament that features eight of the world's top 10 players, including former world champions Amr Shabana, David Palmer and Thierry Lincou.
Three-time winner James Willstrop will also be back to defend his championship, though British squash legend Peter Nicol admits the reigning champion will face a difficult test to retain his title against a stellar line-up.
"This is the best draw we have ever had," said Nicol, who is a promoter for the tournament.
"It is a top-quality entry and we are sure to see a week of fantastic squash.