Matt looks back on the 2013/14 season and gives his views on the Dafabet World Championship.
I am in Sheffield at the moment and it is hurting to be here and not to have qualified to play at the Crucible.
Last month I went to Haikou for the World Open and lost to Barry Hawkins 5-4 on the black, having come from 4-0 down to 4-4. I have been working hard and felt my game was in good shape, so going over there I thought playing Barry would be a good test. I was absolutely heartbroken to lose on the last black. I missed the green to win and the journey home was probably the worst I have ever had. It was pretty painful to be honest.
After that I went to Beijing for the China Open, and beat Ryan Day in the first round. I lost 5-2 to Ali Carter in the second round but felt that I played quite well, I just didn’t take my chances. He said pretty much the same after the match and he gave me a helpful bit of advice, told me I have a good game but I am looking for things to go wrong rather than right.
I took Ali’s advice on board and when I got back I played in the World qualifiers. I got through the first two rounds of qualifying, beating Rhys Clark and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. I felt my game was in good shape, so I was absolutely devastated to lose to Michael White. I was 6-3 up and in control, but didn’t take some of my chances. That pretty much sums up the last six weeks; not taking the chances I have created.
I went back to Sheffield for the main event. It is disappointing not to be involved but I have come up to watch the snooker and also play a bit of golf. Every year myself Dennis Taylor, Stephen Hendry, Willie Thorne, Ken Doherty, John Virgo and John Parrott all go out and play a bit. Parrott is the best of the lot, he has a sub-two handicap. I would say I am probably second best but it is always very competitive and good fun.
I think there is one man to beat at the Crucible, and that is Ronnie O’Sullivan. Everybody who is already out of the tournament would say the only way Ronnie won’t win it is if he breaks his leg. I think the most likely time to have seen him knocked out would have been the first round, first to ten. He got a tough draw against Robin Hull, who was a great player ten years ago and would definitely have been in the top 16 if he hadn’t had his illness.
I was really impressed by Michael Wasley’s win over Ding Junhui. Michael settled early and that is crucial; I didn’t settle early last year and paid the price. Even at 6-3 down he seemed like he was enjoying it. I saw the second session of the match and Michael looked the better player. I thought he held himself together tremendously and I would say that was the biggest shock I have ever seen, and it was thoroughly deserved. He went out and beat the player of the season from 6-3 down.
The new invitations Barry Hearn announced has caused some debate. Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry should have an invite, of course they could. We were told at the start of the season that there would be no wildcards, so to say that and then introduce them at the end of the year is a bit of a liberty. But for me, any World Champion should be able to play when they want. Other people say the invitations should be for ambassadors for the game, but how do you draw a line on that?
Looking back on the season, I have played badly and it is hard to pick a highlight. Even though I lost in the world qualifiers, it was nice to finish on a bit of a roll. The season starts again at the end of May, and that is much better than having three months off.
For me, Ding has been the player of the year. He has done something nobody has done for 23 years – winning five ranking titles in a season. If Ronnie wins the World it will be three years running, a fantastic achievement, but Ding has done something no other player has done apart from Hendry. If Neil Robertson was to make 100 centuries he would be a candidate too. But Ding winning five ranking events is a great achievement.
All the best