40-year-old David Lilley has returned to his job as an insurance claims controller, after a fairy-tale run at the Indian Open in Hyderabad.
Competing in his first ever professional event, Lilley produced giant killing heroics by defeating Mark Williams on a run to the quarter-finals. He was eventually beaten by world number four Shaun Murphy. The man from Tyne and Wear was in reflective mood when we spoke with him…
David, congratulations on your performance in India. Being your first attempt at the final stages of a ranking event – does this give you confidence for future tournaments – or do you wish you had competed in one sooner?
“I think there is a little bit of regret not getting there sooner. It was also a real thrill to do so well in my first ever professional event so I have mixed feelings. I entered Q-School because I didn’t want to look back and think about what could have been. I played really well and surprised myself, I was disappointed to lose in the final round to John Astley.
“I’ve got a good job and that’s why it would be such a big step if I was to turn pro. I would want stability before I do that. For the moment, as soon as I get asked to events as a Q-School top up, I’ll look at each one and try to enter. If I have holidays left, I’ll take them. I may even look at buying holidays back from my work. It’s quite scary really because after getting a taste of the tour, all I can think about is playing snooker. It was an incredible experience.”
How special was it to beat a two-time World Champion in Mark Williams?
“It was all a bit of a blur to be honest! I was over the moon to beat Mike Dunn in the first round. I know Mike well as he is also from the North East and he is a strong competitor. I saw the draw and knew there was a chance to play Mark Williams in the next round, and I was just desperate to get over the line in any way I could to get through and play him.
“Against Mark, I just wanted to get into the mentality that I was playing the table rather than my hero. I actually felt relaxed in the match and played really well, I was just trying to focus on knocking balls in. After the match, everyone in the hotel was stopping me saying what a great result it was. I was speechless.”
You played Shaun Murphy on the TV-table in the quarter-final, where you lost out 4-2. As well as the pressure of facing Shaun, how did you find playing in such a different environment?
“I got off to a rough start against Shaun. It’s different playing on the TV table. The lights above are so bright. I also had one shot to the middle pocket, where the camera was literally touching me. You just have to go back to basics and look at your technique, keep the head still and cue straight. Shaun is used to playing in that sort of environment, he does it week in week out. The odds were stacked against me and I’m pleased I managed to put up a fight. Shaun Murphy and Mark Williams are two of the best players to hold a cue and I competed with them.”
Do you feel that there are now more opportunities for players to break through on the World Snooker Tour?
“There are loads more opportunities for young players. Had the game been like this 20 years ago, then I wouldn’t have hesitated from going for it and turning professional. When there were just seven or eight tournaments a year and you had to win three or four games to make money, it was far too much of a risk. I’d take the job every time. Now, if you win one game you’re guaranteed money. If I could turn back time I definitely would.”