The newest member of snooker’s 147 club looks back on his run to the Indian Open final last year and ahead to the rest of this season.
The 2014 Indian Open will be in your home town of Mumbai for the first time, how special would it be for you to play there?
The pressure will be on in the qualifying round because there is so much to play for. The venue is 20 minutes from my home. Everyone who is anyone in Bombay, who I know, will be there. If I make it then it will give them the chance to watch me play, and that’s what makes it so important for me to be there. It would be a very proud moment for me.
What are your memories of your run to the final in Delhi last year?
Looking back on it now, it’s hard to believe the run that I had and the players I beat. The crowd, the atmosphere, it was just incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Maybe one day when I get to the Crucible it might beat it. But so far Delhi was the best thing that has happened to me – to have such a good run in front of my family, friends and home fans. Over the last couple of years a lot of history has been made by Indian players, and now I’ve made another piece with the 147. I’ve achieved that now so I can look towards other targets.
How do you feel this season is going for you?
I’ve had a couple of bad matches in the main ranking events, which I’ve had to get over. I’ve played well in the European Tour events. My game is good and I’m sure the results will follow.
What are your targets for the season?
I started just inside the top 50 in the world so my first target is to get into the top 40. That will be tough as I moved up last season because of my run in India, so now I need to be getting results consistently.
You have been suffering from pain in your neck and shoulder, how bad is it?
It’s a standard problem for many snooker players. Recently it has been a bit sore. In Germany last week it was acting up and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through three matches in a day. In my third game against Stephen Maguire, I was 2-0 down and I just wanted to get on with the match, and that’s when I made the 147. It’s just a matter of getting the right treatment and getting enough rest – which is not always easy with such a full calendar, but I have a few weeks now before my next event so hopefully it will improve and I will come back strong for the Indian Open qualifiers.
You recently moved to London, what were the reasons for the change?
I was in Sheffield for six years and it was amazing, but it was time for a new challenge and something to motivate me. I’m also closer to family and friends now. I’m very happy with the move. I’m practising now with Alfie Burden, who I have known for a long time, and Anthony Hamilton who was one of the best players in the world and has incredible knowledge. It’s great experience to play with them on a daily basis and seeing what they are like on and off the table. I had that as well in Sheffield with Ding and a lot of other top players. But in London it’s a different atmosphere, it’s more fun and that has helped me enjoy my snooker more. In Germany I felt as if I was really enjoying the matches.