Two-time ranking event winner Dominic Dale narrowly ensured his tour survival last season, now the Spaceman is relishing the opportunity for a clean slate and a two-year tour card. We caught up with Dale to get his thoughts on the season ahead…
Dominic, the fact you kept your place on tour via the one-year list means that you have a new two-year card which starts with no ranking points. How do you feel about the challenge of trying to rebuild your position in the world rankings?
“I think virtually dropping off the tour and having to start again has been refreshing in a way. I’ve got no ranking now and have two seasons to try and get back in the world’s top 64. That is an interesting challenge. I will be getting my table redone in the next few weeks and then I will start practising for my next event.
“Having said that, I don’t mind letting my career drift off and I’m not sure if I will be playing in two or three years. I’ve been a professional for so long that my personal life is more important now really. I’ve got a lot of hobbies and there are a number of other things I would like to do in snooker outside of playing as well. I’d be very interested in trying to become an official snooker historian. I have a large amount of knowledge about the artifacts of the game.”
What are the main hobbies that you are up to away from the baize at the moment?
“I’ve got quite a lot. Antique clocks is one of them. I like opera music and I’m a massive fan of 60s television programmes. I really like shows like The Avengers and The Saint. I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time visiting the locations where they were filmed and met lots of interesting people. Both those programmes were filmed at Elstree Studios and I went there for a visit. The thing I like so much about British TV from that period is that there isn’t the blood, guts and violence you get in things like American blockbusters. Those sort of things which denigrate society, I like the older stuff.
“I’m 47 now and I’m not getting any younger. It is time I enjoy myself by putting personal things first rather than putting my sport first, which I have been doing for the past two decades.”
Does the fact you are starting afresh in terms of your tour standing and you are putting a greater emphasis on other things, take a bit of the pressure off when you are out in the match arena?
“It is absolutely true that it takes some pressure off, but make no mistake I still want to win. Nobody likes losing. At the end of the day if you don’t win your first match then you don’t get any money. My game is actually alright at the moment. I feel quite refreshed having not played that much last season due to my performance and having a break over this summer, including a holiday in Portugal. I will definitely start practising more now going forward.”
With only four players under the age of 30 currently in the world’s top 16, what do the younger generation of players have to change to break through at that top level?
“I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this generally speaking. A lot of the young players now come from Europe and Asia especially. We as British players had a terrific grounding in the amateur set up. We would learn our trade the hard way against tough players and make the odd mistake that would cost us matches. Because the Chinese are relatively new to the sport they don’t have the amateur grounding. The British elder statesmen of the game like Alan McManus, Ken Doherty and myself can sometimes win matches purely from knowing the game better. I think a lot of the young players coming onto the tour at the moment are learning. However, as we get older we start to get a bit more circumspect and won’t take on the sort of shots we used to. That is where the young Chinese players come in. They are so full of confidence, take shots on and are normally good break builders. The sure-fire way to win a match is to finish off frames in one visit.
“Judd Trump against John Higgins in the World Championship final is the perfect example. Judd comprehensively beat one of the hardest matchplayers there has ever been in snooker. John is a terrific potter and break builder himself. Judd demolished him. I think Judd is the modern day Alex Higgins in a way, but much better. I mean that because he is slightly unpredictable. However, he isn’t as reckless as he once was. His style of play as a World Champion will bring a lot of new players to the sport. I think that is proof that snooker is a young person’s sport now and that it will go towards that style of play.”