Kyren Wilson discusses the challenges of playing at the World Championship after he lost a stone in weight at last year’s tournament in Sheffield
Kettering cueman Kyren Wilson says he is prepared to lose another stone in weight in order to reach his second consecutive World Snooker Championship final, with the tournament kicking off in Sheffield this Saturday.
Just eight months have passed since Wilson lost 18-8 to Ronnie O’Sullivan in his maiden Crucible final, but, having had the taste of the gruelling 17-day slog in going the distance, the 29-year-old wants more of the same as he prepares to make the trip up to South Yorkshire.
The former Masters runner-up has been pitted against Gary Wilson, a former semi-finalist, in the opening round of this year’s tournament but he will have to fend off stiff competition if he is to reach a second successive final, with the likes of Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Mark Selby and six-time winner O’Sullivan all vying for the ultimate prize in snooker.
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- Ronnie O’Sullivan: Genius of the baize
Speaking to Sky Sports, Wilson said: “The Worlds is by far the most difficult tournament we have on our circuit and it’s 17 days. I think Stephen Hendry famously quoted that by the time you reach the semi-finals you’re actually only halfway through the tournament with the number of frames still to go.
“I certainly found that out on the day of the final. It certainly takes a lot out of you. I actually lost a stone in weight with a little bit of the lead up to it and during the tournament, so I know how difficult it can be. I’ve also experienced how close I can get to winning the title, so hopefully it holds me in good stead for many years to come.
“The worst bit for me is hanging around in the hotel and waiting to play matches. Playing matches is the fun part, so it’s probably the stress of what-ifs and getting yourself ready. I think you need to give your body the best chance possible.”
1:12 Wilson says playing Ronnie O’Sullivan in last year’s final was something he had always dreamed of
Wilson had already knocked out reigning champion Judd Trump, before winning an epic semi-final encounter against Anthony McGill to reach last year’s final, where O’Sullivan was in a class of his own to move to within one title of Stephen Hendry’s all-time record.
“Ronnie is the best of all time and to play him in a final is what you dream of doing, but at the same time you have to put that respect to one side and try your best to achieve your dreams. We all dream of being a world champion as a snooker player and I was obviously very close, but I’ve learned a lot from that final,” said the world No 6.
“The standard of play just seems to get better every year and even the first round of this championship is really tough. You’ve got 2015 champion, Stuart Bingham, and two-time former finalist, Ali Carter, having to go and qualify for it.
“It just shows you the calibre of players around on the snooker tour nowadays.”
Wilson, who went from barman to the baize when he dropped off the professional snooker tour from 2011 to 2013, says he has learned from his Crucible debut in 2014 where he felt like a “rabbit in the headlights” during his opening-round defeat to Ricky Walden.
‘The Warrior’ insists he does not feel any extra pressure on him this year, but has backed himself to produce another solid run.
“Maybe there will be one or two extra eyes on me this year because of the final last year, but that doesn’t add any extra expectation on my shoulders,” he said. “I know what I’m capable of and I’ve worked very hard to try and achieve that.”
World Championship in numbers:
7 – Stephen Hendry still holds the record for most world titles, with O’Sullivan one behind going into this year’s event
11 – Crucible 147s in history, from Cliff Thorburn in 1983 to John Higgins in 2020. Hendry and O’Sullivan have three apiece, with Jimmy White, Mark Williams and Ali Carter the other players to achieve the feat
5:08 – O’Sullivan set a record for the fastest ever 147 break, five minutes and eight seconds, against Mick Price at the 1997 World Championship
100 – The record for centuries in one edition of the tournament’s main stage, set in 2019. The final between Judd Trump and Higgins featured a single-match record of 11, seven of them from Trump
11 – Winners of snooker’s ‘Triple Crown’, comprising the World and UK Championships and the Masters. Ding Junhui would join that group with victory in Sheffield
980 – Capacity of the Crucible, which is scheduled to be used in full for this year’s final as part of a trial into the easing of coronavirus restrictions. The venue will be a third full for round one, with the available capacity gradually increasing throughout the tournament
1977 – The first year the event was held at the Crucible
3 – Paul Collier will referee his third World Championship final, having previously overseen the 2004 and 2016 matches
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2:12 Wilson admits to spending a night out with Kettering-born darts star Ricky Evans
Wilson may not be pulling pints down his local snooker club in Northampton any more, but he is still going down there for practice.
“They’ve been brilliant to me and at a time when I didn’t have a penny to my name they gave me all the facilities to practice in, and obviously letting me have lunch in the club free of charge and little things like that,” said a grateful Wilson.
“When local clubs do that for the community and a young talent, it can really go a long way. I’m very thankful to Barratts for that.”
0:38 Evans goes from 304 to zero in under 20 seconds, as he hits a 180 and a 124 checkout, either side of Rowby-John Rodriguez’s maximum
Being from Kettering, Wilson is a big fan of golfer Charley Hull, as well as being good friends with darts player ‘Rapid’ Ricky Evans.
“He’s brilliant,” smiled Wilson. “His dance moves are fantastic. I’ve been out with him on a night out!
“I go to Alexandra Palace for the World Championship every year so (PDC chairman) Barry Hearn kindly sorts me out some tickets. I love the darts.
“I obviously want Ricky to break through and win a big title and I think once he does that, he’ll be in the upper ranks and in the Premier League. He’d be a fantastic addition to the Premier League.”
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