Betfred World Championship runner-up Kyren Wilson says reaching the final in Sheffield is another step on the journey to achieve his ultimate snooker goals.
The Warrior scorched a path to the Crucible final this year, beating Martin Gould, Judd Trump and Anthony McGill, before succumbing to an 18-8 defeat against now six-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Wilson’s run to snooker’s biggest match got underway with a false start, with first round opponent Anthony Hamilton deciding to withdraw from the event due to concerns about the coronavirus.
That left Wilson in the unique position of receiving the first bye in Crucible history. However, despite the fortuitous implications of being gifted a place in the second round, it left the 28-year-old harbouring concerns about his match sharpness ahead of his tie with Martin Gould.
“I was absolutely all over the place when I found out that Anthony had pulled out,” said three-time ranking event winner Wilson.
“In the days leading up to the event my practice form was really good. You get your game in shape and ready to play for a certain time. You know exactly when you are ready to put yourself under pressure and play well. I thought the biggest part of this year’s world Championship would be about match sharpness.
“I tried to manufacture that through hard work and staying up in Sheffield and playing games against the likes of Noppon Saengkham and Lu Ning in the academy. I hit the ground running against Martin and was pleased with my performance in that game.”
Wilson then faced the task of inflicting the Crucible Curse on World Champion and world number one Judd Trump, who won a record breaking six ranking titles during last season. It was a challenge which he relished.
The pair have engaged in a keenly contested rivalry, which stems back to 2015, when Wilson triumphed 10-9 over Trump in the Shanghai Masters final to pick up his maiden ranking crown. As things stand, he holds the upper hand in meetings between them. A 13-9 win at the Crucible this year now sees Wilson lead 8-5 in their head-to-head record.
“All eyes were on him. He was defending his title and was world number one and had won six events in the season. He is the best player in the world at this time. It was nice to have that challenge put in front of me over a long period of time in our biggest event. I saw it as good fun and just enjoyed playing him. It is a shame there was no crowd as it was a really good match.
“I just think it is good for the game for us to be going up against each other. Judd has been there, done it and won everything now. I’m striving to achieve the same things. I have to beat him to be able to get there. If I ever want to achieve what I believe I am capable of doing, I need to convert those wins. I’ve managed to do it a few times against Judd. We have had some really good matches in the past and I think it is great for snooker to have two young lads battling it out like that.”
Following that victory, came one of the most dramatic days of snooker in Crucible history. For the first time ever, both semi-finals went down to deciding frames. The evening session would see Ronnie O’Sullivan conquer Mark Selby 17-16 in an enthralling clash. Earlier in the day 2.98 million viewers were transfixed by the action on BBC Two, when Wilson and Scotland’s Anthony McGill were locked level at 16-16.
They did battle in an epic decider, which lasted 61 nerve-shredding minutes. In commentary, seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry said: “This has been the most incredible frame ever seen at the Crucible.”
With McGill leading 52-47, Wilson laid a tricky snooker on the last red. Scotland’s McGill missed it ten times, leaving himself requiring snookers. Astonishingly, Wilson then went in-off twice to leave the frame back in the balance. Eventually Wilson fluked the green to once again leave McGill requiring snookers. Holding back the tears, the Warrior got himself over the line by the margin of 103-83.
Wilson said: “I’m annoyed at how it panned out for myself. I didn’t want it to go like that. Throughout the whole match, I thought we played some really good snooker and the standard was so high. Then it turned in to a typical decider, which everyone else wants to see, but you don’t want yourself. I’m sure it made for great viewing. One single shot can change the mood of the whole game. You can work as hard as you want on your technique, but a single shot can take the game into a different place and change everything.
“Out of nowhere I double kissed the red and the white went in the middle. I never could have envisaged it happening like that. Afterwards that was it, I was absolutely gone. Anthony probably sensed that as well and it may have impacted on him in the same way. I could hear the production team backstage screaming out when we were coming up and down and trying to flick a red in the middle. It added to the nerves and it was all a bit crazy.
“My first reaction after the match was that I didn’t want it to be over the way it was. I’ve grown up with Anthony and we have been playing in tournaments together since I was 11 years old. It was great to be playing in the semi-finals together. After such a good match, I didn’t want it to end on a fluke. That was my initial reaction and I was gutted it went that way. He reacted fantastically and spoke very well in his interview. He wished me all the best of luck for the final and it showed what a great professional he is. Looking back, for me to get over the line was fantastic. It’s another step closer to what I eventually want to achieve.”
Wilson’s first World Championship final saw him go up against legendary opposition, with O’Sullivan aiming to secure his sixth Crucible crown. In the end it proved to be a bridge too far for Kettering’s Wilson, who succumbed to an emphatic 18-8 defeat. However, the final and the tournament as a whole was an experience he believes will be crucial going forward.
“Waking up the next morning after the semi-finals, you realise you have to go again. As soon as you arrive at the Crucible everything is flowing, there is a crowd and you get up for it. When you go through such a high amount of emotions, like the semi-finals, it is hard to come straight back down. I believe you need to try and go through a level amount of emotion throughout the event. When you spike, your adrenaline goes and it is hard to come down from that.
“It was brilliant there was a crowd for the final. I’ve been playing since I was six years old and have dreamed of being in a Crucible final since then. The dreams were of walking out to the cheers and applause. To have not had that wouldn’t have been nice. To get applauded down the stairs was great and even though there weren’t that many in, it looked and sounded full. I’ll learn an awful lot from the experience. I’ll take into consideration what happened, what went wrong, how I could have improved. Hopefully the next time I’m in that position it will hold me in great stead.”