Former World No.1 James Willstrop says that he is enjoying his squash after shaking off his injury woes to return to the upper echelons of the sport during the 2016/17 season.
Willstrop, the 33-year-old from Yorkshire, topped the World Rankings for 11 months back in 2012 but an extended period of illness and a troublesome hip injury saw him plummet down the rankings, resulting in him dropping out of the top 20 in the latter stages of 2015.
But the man known on Tour as ‘The Marksman’ returned to something approaching his very best last season, reaching finals at the NetSuite Open, British Grand Prix and the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals, while he was rewarded for his fine form with a move up to World No.6.
“I’m really happy with the season as a whole, I got through it and played a lot of squash and that’s what made me really happy,” said Willstrop.
“I’ve had good results and I’ve got a decent ranking at the moment, so I’m really happy with it. I’m enjoying it more than anything, that’s what matters the most to me.”
While Willstrop, a 19-time PSA World Tour title winner, is pleased to be back on court doing what he loves, he admits that the injury-enforced break may have done him good in the long term.
“The coping of it was alright because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“It’s a bit cliched but when the realisation happens that you know you can get out of it and hopefully play again then that’s a good feeling.
“I wasn’t restless or anything, I was quite glad of the rest and enjoyed it to be perfectly honest. It’s not easy and it’s taken a long time but I’m grateful that I’ve been able to get back to where I was.
“I never had that luxury of thinking that it would or wouldn’t happen, I just thought I would try my best and try to get to wherever I can. The point was to enjoy squash and that’s what I’ve done. Some success has come with it, which is even better, so my fingers are crossed for those people that are having those injuries now.
“I didn’t really mind being injured because I needed the rest anyway in my personal situation. With hindsight, I feel fresher from it. I didn’t want to be injured at the time but now I can see that it was actually a really good thing.”