Graeme Dott admits he had to overcome agonising pain to take to the baize in the final round of Cazoo World Championship qualifying last season, but the Scot is back to full health and determined to start challenging at the top again.
Ahead of Dott’s Judgement Day showdown with Matthew Selt, he discovered that he was suffering from a calcification in the bone on his shoulder. Despite being advised by doctors not to compete, he took to the table to face Selt, where he fought valiantly in a 10-6 loss.
Glasgow’s 2006 World Champion is still pursuing his first piece of silverware since the 2007 China Open and although he feels it gets harder with age, he still believes he has it in him to capture a big title. He faces an intriguing first round encounter with Shaun Murphy at the BetVictor European Masters in Nuremberg.
We caught up with 46-year-old Dott to reflect on the climax of last season, look ahead to his clash with Murphy and discuss where his game is in general…
Graeme, first of all tell us how your injury came about at World Championship qualifying?
“I had two days off before the game, I got up and it was really sore. The day before the match it was to the extent that I couldn’t lift my hand up. I went to the hospital and the minute the doctor touched the part of the bone, I jumped out of my shoes with pain I’d not felt before. He knew straight away it was a calcification of the shoulder. I asked him what it was and he told me I just needed rest. When I told him that I had a match the next day, he said there was no chance.”
What was it like when you got out there to play?
“Well, I waited until the day of the game to make my decision. It was a nightmare, but I went out to play. There was a shot in the first frame that watching back, I can see I was actually in tears. It was just impossible. I won the second frame and lost the third. At 2-1 down, I thought if I lost the fourth before the interval I would just pull out. I won it. I couldn’t bring myself to pull out. Before I knew it, I went 4-2 up. I still knew that if Matt played well, he was going to beat me. The pain wasn’t easing and it was getting worse. It was horrific. I shouldn’t have played the match, but I’m stubborn. If I only had one arm, I would probably have tried to play. When you think of it all, it was a miracle I managed to get out there and compete. It has healed now and it was just rest I needed. It is frustrating it happened when it did.”
How do you feel with your game at the start of this new season?
“I’ve been on the tour for a long time as a professional now and you can’t really tell how well you are playing until the season is properly underway. It is a bit like football. You don’t know until you are the first six or seven games in. Last year was a bit of a washout. The worst season I’ve had for a long time. I can’t afford to have a season as bad as that. I will need to wait and see.”
Do you still have the belief that the game is there to lift silverware again?
“It depletes the longer you go without doing it. Last year I took a big dent to confidence. There were a lot of games I wasn’t winning and there wasn’t much to write home about. I was obviously devastated the World Championship happened when it did. I’ve never had to nearly pull out a game for injury before. When you do win some games you need to harness those nice feelings. It is hard to think about that when you’ve not been winning.”
Is there any regret of only having won two ranking crowns to date, or does being a World Champion make up for all of the near misses?
“There are people that must have won a lot more tournaments than me that haven’t won the World Championship and they would swap them for that. It is just a fact. At the end of the day in another 100 years, they won’t remember the other tournaments, but they will remember the World Championship.
“Lots of the finals I’ve lost are against some of the toughest players you could face. I’ve lost finals to Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan. If it was a different generation, I would probably have won more tournaments. It is the same in tennis with Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray. There must have been plenty of good tennis players that didn’t win as much as they could. The two finals I did win were Jamie Cope and Peter Ebdon. They are great players, but not the same as those other names. There is a good reason I haven’t won more than two. I wasn’t favourite in any of those other finals.
“It would be great if I could win another. It would be like when Anthony Hamilton won his tournament in Germany. It has been a long time since I won, but it hasn’t been that long since I had chances to win. I was in the final of the German Masters against Mark Williams and the final of the World Grand Prix with Neil Robertson. If I hadn’t been close, you’d think it will never happen. I know my game is there when it all comes out. It is just that the older I get, the harder it is to do it for a sustained period. You need it all in the one week. I’ve no doubt that if I start off well, then all the feelings will come back.”
That generation you have come from is also highlighted by a golden period for Scottish snooker. How proud are you to have been a part of that?
“I’m very proud to have been involved in it. We aren’t a big country but we didn’t half bring some really good snooker players. Those guys are the player who have won things so they roll off the tongue the easiest but there were other really good players too. For such a small country we did produce a lot of good players. Stephen Hendry kicked if off and was followed by another of the best players ever in John Higgins. Other great players then came along like Alan McManus. It seemed to snowball on with more and more players. It is starting to grind to a halt which is sad. Hopefully players can kick on though, like Dean Young, Scott Donaldson and Ross Muir.”
How much are you looking forward to going up against Shaun Murphy in Nuremberg next month?
“It is a good match to be involved in. Shaun will know he’s in a game and I know I’m in a game. It is probably a bit early in the season and I’d rather play him later when I’m more warmed up but it will be enjoyable. I’m looking forward to it as I like playing Shaun. He is very attacking. Generally we have good games. Hopefully we can have another. It could have been a better draw for either of us. At the end of the day I’m sure Shaun would rather have someone easier and so do I. If I beat Shaun then all of a sudden it kick starts my season. I will wait and see how it plays out.”