A mixed start to the season for Matt…
I won my first match of the season in the Wuxi Classic qualifiers, beating Sydney Wilson 5-4. I was in control at 3-0 up, then he came back to 4-4 and I was under pressure. But I played a good safety in the decider, got a chance and made a break of 111. It was nice to make a century and get off to a winning start. I’ve entered the Asian Tour event in Yixing as well so I’ll have two tournaments out in China. I’ll be playing the Asian Tour events whenever I qualify for the ranking events in China this season, and if I get off to a good start and I’m in contention for the top eight on the Asian Tour list to get into the Players Championship then I’ll probably play in them even if I’m not in the ranking events.
In the Australian Goldfields Open qualifiers I lost 5-3 to Allan Taylor. I’m gutted not to be going to Bendigo having got to the quarter-finals there twice before. A few things went against me in the match and Allan had a few bits of luck, but that’s snooker and overall I was pretty pathetic.
Personally I don’t agree with the idea of the Q School amateurs playing in professional tournaments. In my view, if there are not enough entries into tournaments then there should be walkovers, or we should just open the sport up for anyone to turn pro, as we did in the early 1990s.
Each season my target is to do better than I did the previous season. A couple of years ago I got to my first quarter-final, then last season I got to the semi-finals of the European Tour event in Poland. So my main goal this time is to get to a final. The likes of Aditya Mehta and Gerard Greene played in finals last season and there’s no reason why I can’t do the same. I don’t have a target in terms of my world ranking because unless you are around the top 16, it doesn’t make much difference. I just want to win matches and build momentum.
I have a proper practice base now in Nuneaton at the Atack Snooker Club and I have bought a Star table from the guys at World Snooker Services who are going to fit it for me as soon as I get back from Wuxi. That means I’ll be able to practise hard on my own, plus the likes of Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy will come for a game which is great as I’ve not had a set-up like that for a couple of years now.
I’m flying to China on the 15th with Emirates. I asked Stephen Hendry if I could have some of his millions of air miles, but he said NO! So I guess that’s the end of our friendship…haha. When I get back from the Far East I’ll probably go away for a week with my girlfriend Kylie as I’ve not been on holiday since 2008 and I’m certainly overdue.
The other day I played golf at Formby in Merseyside, which is a fantastic course. It was Hendry and I against John Parrott and Shaun Murphy, and we got destroyed. I was also having a singles match with Shaun to determine who is the best. I was three down after 13 then I hit my drive out of bounds on the 14th so I thought it was all over. But I hit three off the tee then hit my hybrid from 208 yards to three feet. I won that hole and the next three as well to go one up after 17. But Shaun won the last hole with a par so we finished all square. It was a great match, but I’m sure the rematch will be even better. And if I win, Murphy will never hear the end of it!
I’ve also started spending a bit of time back in the gym again as my physique is horrendous. I have let the diet slip over the last few months, lost a lot of muscle and put on fat, and that’s not the look I’m after.
I was devastated – as I’m sure everyone was – when I heard that Ali Carter has got lung cancer. He has been so unlucky with illness – firstly with Crohn’s disease which my sister has so I know how bad it is, then with testicular cancer, and now this. It must be world-shattering for him.
I knew Ali when we were younger because we’re both from Essex, and I practised with him a few times. I’ve never been that close to him, but after he beat me in the China Open last season, we had dinner together and he gave me some advice about my game. Then I won my first two matches in the world qualifiers and he texted me to say he was glad I had taken his advice. He went out of his way to help me and I won’t forget that.
There has been a lot of talk about whether his ranking position should be frozen while he’s away from the tour, and I believe it absolutely should be. Some players might question where you should draw the line in terms of illness and injury, for example if a player breaks an arm or leg, should the same apply? My view is that each case needs to be treated individually on its merits, but for something life-threatening like cancer, the player should have the chance to come back from illness without having dropped down the rankings – 100 per cent.
But the most important thing now is Ali’s health and I just hope he knows that every snooker player is behind him, we’re all talking about him and keeping everything crossed. Hopefully he’ll be back on the circuit soon and getting back to where he belongs in the winner’s circle.
All the best