Matt reflects on a semi-final run in China and looks ahead to York.
Last month at the Haining Open Asian Tour event in China I had a good run to the semi-finals.
Neil Robertson told me that one of the keys to going a long way in tournaments is to win your early matches easily and quickly so they don’t take much out of you. That’s especially true when you have to play more than one match in a day. I won my first four matches 4-0, so I had plenty of time to rest in between. I beat Ian Burns, who had been one of my bogeymen as I’d never beaten him before, as well as Jimmy White and two Chinese players. In the quarter-finals I beat Peter Ebdon 4-3 in one of the highest quality matches I’ve been involved in. I had five breaks over 50 in the first six frames and it was 3-3! The decider was a bit scrappy but I made a nice 46 to win it.
I was gutted to lose 4-1 to Stuart Bingham in the semis. In the first frame I potted the pink and went into the pack, but a red dropped in. Stuart cleared to go 1-0 up, otherwise it could have been a different story. I was flying at the time and I felt I could win the tournament. All credit to Stuart because he beat me and went on to win it.
It was great to see Oliver Lines reach the final, even though he lost to Stuart. His dad Peter is one of my best friends on the tour. Oliver has got great fundamentals, a great background, he’s got the technique and the work ethic and a lot of potential. The ranking system is tough now because he’s got to get into the top 64 by the end of next season otherwise he goes back to zero. But there’s no doubt he’s good enough to go a long way. He’s a really nice kid as well and his dad – who lives and breathes snooker – will give him the right advice. The only thing that might stop Oliver might be the attention from females, he’s already very popular in China!
From Haining it was on to the International Championship in Chengdu. I played Neil Robertson in the first round and made six breaks over 50 but lost 6-3. He nicked up a couple of frames on the black, and in another I made 70 but he came back to win in. Overall I felt as if I was the better player, but the result says I wasn’t.
Last week at the Ruhr Open European Tour event in Germany I played well in my first two matches, beating Alex Borg 4-2 and Kyren Wilson 4-0, but then lost 4-2 to Judd Trump. I didn’t make many mistakes, and only missed one ball – a red to the middle in the last frame. I felt physically sick afterwards because I really felt it was one I could have won, against an in-form Judd.
Overall I’m feeling a lot better about my game than I was a year ago, and I’m going into every tournament knowing I have a chance to go deep. I suppose it’s a good sign that I’m disappointed not to beat players like Judd, Neil and Stuart – and that I feel comfortable playing them on TV tables. I’m not worried about competing against them – I’ve beaten Judd before as well as the likes of John Higgins and Stephen Hendry. The reason I’m down at 40th in the world is because I messed around too much last year and it’s only been this year that I’ve worked hard and prepared properly for tournaments. I’m ready to kick on and do some damage.
One of my goals now is to get into the top 32, because that makes a massive difference. In the flat draws in ranking events, top 32 players don’t meet each other until the third round. There’s no two ways about it, the draws are easier once you get into the top 32. I feel I can achieve that this season, and then it’s good times ahead. My other targets at the moment are to qualify for the Players Championship Grand Finals and the World Grand Prix. I’m in a decent position to qualify for both but I need to keep winning matches to make sure.
I’m heading up to York now for the UK Championship and really looking forward to it as it’s one of the Triple Crown events. I’ve got Hammad Miah in the first round on Wednesday. Hammad should have beaten Mark Allen in the first TV match in Germany last week, he lost 4-3 but had a phenomenal chance in the last frame. Hopefully I can beat him and get another run going.
All the best until next time,