From HOWARD HARDING
After sustaining an injury which has put him out of action for the past four months, rising English squash star Tom Richards cannot wait to make his Tour comeback at next week’s XVI Abierto Colombiano De Squash Club El Nogal inBogota.
Many of the world’s leading players will be lining up in the PSA International 50 Colombian Open, the first major PSA World Tour event of the second half of the year, at Squash Club El Nogal in the Colombian capital from 6-11 August.
“I don’t think I’ve been looking forward to a tournament as much as I am for this one for many years,” said the world No17 from Surrey (pictured below) who suffered a hamstring injury in the opening round of April’s Grasshopper Cup in Switzerland, where he was seeded to reach the final.
“While injuries are devastating, they do give you a chance to take a step away from the game and refresh yourself mentally. It’s an old cliché, but I suppose people don’t realise how much they enjoy something until they are forced to stop. I feel fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been before and so I’m just looking forward to getting back into competition.”
Richards was playing Swiss number one Nicolas Mueller, with the score standing at nine-all in the first game: “As I went for a normal lunge deep in the backhand corner I slipped on some sweat and my heel kept going until my hamstring gave way. I knew it was bad as I could feel a ripping sensation followed by a lot of pain,” explained the 27-year-old England number five.
“I could barely walk (something that lasted for a while) but managed to get the first flight out in the morning so that I could see physios and figure out what was wrong. Initially the prognosis didn’t seem too bad: In the tests that get performed to give an idea of the level of injury, I performed OK and the pain seemed to be subsiding. But I got a scan just in case and after a few crossed wires here and there, it was eventually discovered that the injury was a lot more severe than first feared.
“This then effectively ruled me out for at least three months and potentially more. So I was to miss the Europeans, British Open and Worlds.
“To say I was gutted was an understatement! I’d spent the previous few months getting myself as prepared as possible with those three events in mind. Missing the world teams was probably the toughest to take as I haven’t ever been involved in the event before.
“This meant I now had a long rehab process in front of me – nothing new to me after my knee injury – but mentally and physically tough none the less,” Richards continued. “For six weeks, I had to do the same rehab every day (a severe test of motivation!) but I treated the time off as a chance to get myself as fit as possible and to take whatever positives I could.
“Luckily I have fantastic support from EIS Physios, so I was closely monitored the whole way. So the past three months have basically been spent in the gym, on the track running, or on a bike.”
Richards, who will be making his debut in the Colombian Open main draw, faces a qualifier in the opening round – and is expected to meet his first higher-ranked opponent, third-seeded Egyptian Omar Mosaad, in the quarter-finals.
Fellow England team-mate Peter Barker is the event favourite. The London-born world No7 is returning to the event after a five-year absence – and after winning the prestigious South American Tour title for the third year in a row in 2007.
Barker, who begins his latest Colombian campaign against Egypt’s former world junior champion Marwan Elshorbagy, is expected to face another Egyptian in the final.
Cairo-based Tarek Momen is ranked three places below Barker – and arrives in Bogota as the defending champion after winning the title in his maiden appearance in the event last year.
But the No2 seed has a tough initial battle against local hero Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the Bogota-based world No19 who is the second highest-ranked South American of all-time. The match will be a repeat of the 2012 final.
Rodriguez, 27, is celebrating the tenth successive appearance in his country’s most prestigious tournament – and boasts four appearances in the final, including two on the winner’s podium, in 2008 and 2010.
1st round draw:
 Peter Barker (ENG) v Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Qualifier
Alan Clyne (SCO) v Qualifier
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Ong Beng Hee (MAS)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) v [WC] Nicolas Valderrama (COL)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Qualifier
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v Qualifier
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
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For use of image above, please credit SquashPics.com