World number 36 Ryan Day is hoping to cap off a difficult 2019/20 campaign by qualifying for the Betfred World Championship and going on a run at the Crucible.
Prior to the lockdown, the two-time ranking event winner had struggled this season, reaching the last 32 on only one occasion.
However, he enjoyed a resurgence at the recent behind closed doors Championship League. Day beat the likes of Judd Trump and Kyren Wilson on his way to progressing to the final group.
The Welshman will be hoping to carry that form into next week’s Crucible qualifying, where he has been placed in a section of the draw which sets up a potential final round clash with Iran’s Hossein Vafaei.
We caught up with Day to find out how he has coped with lockdown and get his thoughts ahead of Sheffield…
Ryan, first of all how have you found the lockdown period and how much did you enjoy returning to competitive action at the Championship League?
“My wife and our family were a bit cautious at the start and we went into lockdown before it was actually set in place by the government. I think at the start, with the weather being so good, everyone enjoyed being at home with the family and in the garden. After eight weeks of being cooped up and not able to do a lot, everyone was looking for something to get their teeth back into.
“It has been the longest break I’ve ever had from snooker. The Championship League was a bit of a blessing, it was a couple of days playing competitively. It was nice to get there and compete. I think after the success of that event and the Tour Championship, everyone is optimistic about the World Championship. There were big doubts as to whether it could be pulled off.”
Has the lockdown re-energised you for getting back going on the circuit?
“It has a little bit. I found the travelling very difficult this season. It was only a couple of days that I was away for the Championship League, but it actually brought home what we all play snooker for. We play because we all loved it as youngsters growing up. It is the way we make our living and a job, but the reason we all play it is because we love the game. It is great to be back going again.”
It was a difficult season for you prior to lockdown. Can you put your finger on why that was?
“It has been a funny season, as I think I have been playing alright. I lost a few matches in qualifying events, over the last few years that had been my strong point. You need to be in the tournament for any chance of a decent run. That, coupled with the fact that I think something went wrong with the weight of my cue. That was a niggle in the back of my mind. I played with a new cue at the Championship League and I think I have been alright practising. If you lose one or two close games, confidence wavers and you are desperate to get wins. When you are desperate it becomes very difficult.”
Given you had a bit of a resurgence of form at the Championship League, how confident are you of carrying that over to Sheffield?
“You don’t know. The World Championship is a funny event. You can have a great season building up to it and you can fluff your lines at the end of the season. You can have a disaster of a season, gather your thoughts and finish really well. It is the biggest tournament we play in. Some of the games I have lost this season, I feel have been because I was caught cold and not up for the matches. That should never happen at the World Championship.”
Did you fear at times that there would be no World Championship at all this year?
“There was a big chance of it not happening. I think I was a bit more optimistic than a couple of the players I’ve spoken to. Barry Hearn is a ballsy person and I’m sure he has been moving heaven and earth to get the tournament on. When he gets his teeth into something, he normally pulls it off. I’m over the moon that we are going to get the opportunity to play.
“There are going to be 128 players teeing it up and only 16 happy people leaving at the end of the week. I just hope my name is in the hat for the draw. It would be a great way to finish what has been a very weird three or four months.”