The 27-year-old from Surrey has not progressed beyond the first round of a PSA Tour event since the Qatar Classic last November and so has slipped to 28th in the world rankings, but he believes he is now on the right road to better results.
“I feel like I’m close to recapturing the form that I had around this time last year,” Richards said. “This season has been extremely disappointing for a number of reasons, but I now feel that I’m capable of producing some upsets and hopefully I can use the British Open as a platform for improving my ranking.
“I’m very grateful to England Squash for giving me the wildcard. Obviously I’d prefer to be in a position where a wildcard isn’t needed, but hopefully I can repay some of the faith that they’ve shown in me to produce an upset.
“Qualifying at the major events is always an extremely tough affair, often with two tough matches to reach the main draw. I wouldn’t say it has eased the pressure on me to not have to go through qualifying, but I will certainly be fresher and better prepared for my first round.”
“It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments on tour and the fact it’s in my home country adds a little extra importance,” he explained. “Along with the World Championship, the British Open is one of the pinnacles of every squash player’s calendar.
“Last year I’d trained for two months with the British Open, European Team Championships and World Team Championships in mind, so to miss all three was a hammer blow.”
The Open, which takes place in Hull’s indoor Sports Arena from May 12 to 18, will be Richards’ last tournament of what he described as “a poor season”, so there is an extra incentive for him to match his previous best performance of reaching the second round.
“Unless I do something very special, I won’t achieve any of my goals,” he said. “I’m hoping to use it as a platform to build on over the summer and to come back stronger for next season.
“I think if I stay fit and healthy, then I can start to claw my way back up the rankings. I don’t want to put any specific time frame on it, but as long as you win matches, then you’ll be heading in the right direction.”