Ricky Walden is training his sights on a return to the elite of the sport after overcoming serious injury to rebuild his career.
Walden looked to have a massive future in the game after reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship in 2013.
He hit a career-high ranking of eight in the world the following season, but he began to suffer from back problems and his form dipped as a consequence.
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Walden fell out of the world’s top 16 in the 2016/17 season as a bulging disc in his back took a serious toll on his health.
A series of cortisone injections and a tailored programme of physiotherapy relieved the problem to the extent that Walden says he is now pain free and focusing on returning to the top 16 in the world.
“In my mind it is completely a thing of the past,” Walden told World Snooker. “I’ve got no pain in my back anymore and I don’t have any problems.
“I think I’m over it and I’m playing a lot of hours. Time brings the confidence to know it is behind me.”
Walden said mental anguish was as big a problem as the physical pain, as he could not see any light ahead.
“The biggest thing wasn’t the pain, it was the mindset," Walden said. "My mind was so broken with it all. I just didn’t know what I was doing.
I knew that I was offline on the shot because of my back. I could just see my ranking slipping and I was losing to pretty much anyone and everyone. It was a horrible time. My mind was thinking that I was done.
“It was all pretty frightening, but I feel I am over it now. Even though my ranking suffered from the outset, considering what I have gone through, I think it is pretty remarkable that I’ve actually stayed on the tour.”
Walden opened his season by topping Group 7 of the Championship League, and he is looking forward to climbing back up the rankings from a current position of 32.
“I really do feel I am ready for another title, but I’m looking at it in an even more positive way,” Walden said. “The big picture is the next five years. If I can stay fit and healthy and keep putting myself in position, I believe I can begin to perform consistently again.
“I feel that at 38 years old, I’ve seen pretty much everything there is in the game. I’ve won tournaments, I’ve played in the one table situation at the Crucible, I’ve been successful abroad, but I’ve also had a dog of a time. If I can win another ranking event that will be the best tournament I’ve ever won.”
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