Classy Century! | Joe O'Connor 127 | 2022 Cazoo British Open Qualifiers

Dott Seeking Complete Tournament Performance

Scotland’s 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott remains on the hunt for a first piece of ranking silverware in 15 years, but after two deep runs at the end of last season, he feels he isn’t far from the sort of snooker required to hold a trophy aloft on the final night of an event.

World number 35 Dott had looked to be on course for the title match at last season’s BetVictor European Masters, when he earned a last four tie against China’s 750-1 pre tournament outsider Fan Zhengyi. However, Fan upset the odds and defeated Dott 6-4, before securing a stunning 10-9 defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.

Dott followed that up with a run to the quarter-finals of the inaugural Turkish Masters in Antalya, before compiling the second 147 break of his career at World Championship qualifying. That earned him a £10,000 bonus, but he was forced to settle for a £7,500 share of the high break prize, after Neil Robertson compiled a maximum at the Crucible. The Glaswegian missed out on the Theatre of Dreams after a 10-8 loss to Jamie Clarke on Judgement Day.

We’ve spoken with Dott to hear his reflections on the end of last season and find out his thoughts on ending his silverware drought…

Graeme, first of all what how good did it feel to compile the second maximum break of your career at Crucible qualifying?

“It was good. I obviously don’t do that many 147 breaks, so it was nice to get one. There is a certain buzz you get with making a maximum and it’s completely different from winning matches or tournaments. The fact it was in the World Championship was great as well and I will always remember it.

“I used to have a lot more of them when I was younger. I think one of the things is that I used to stop even trying after I got past 70. I just wanted to get on with the next frame. Once stats came into the sport, I realised it didn’t look very good so I would always push for the century.

“It was obviously a little bit annoying that Neil made one at the Crucible, but it was also very hard to think there wouldn’t be one. It was actually looking as if somebody would make one almost every frame at one point! Each time I turned from one table to the other there was a player on a maximum. I accepted in my mind that somebody would make one, I was just hoping there wasn’t two made.”

How disappointing was it to miss out on a place at the Crucible after your defeat in the final qualifying round?

“It always hurts. I’ve not been to the Crucible for a few years and not playing there is difficult. Every time you miss out it hurts. He fluked the black to win 10-8, but I got what I deserved and I didn’t play well. I understand he fluked it and everybody talks about that, but I was rubbish for the two sessions really. He deserved to win and I don’t have many complaints. I was feeling alright and in a decent rhythm at the end of the season. I played well in the first match. I maybe felt the pressure too much, I’m not sure why. I didn’t hit the ball well and it was probably testament to my B game that I managed to get as close as 10-8.”

How do you reflect on that run to the semis at the European Masters and what do you think Fan’s victory says about the talent levels within the current crop of young Chinese players?

“I fancied winning it. I certainly fancied winning the semi-final at least and beating Fan. Again, like at the World Championship, he played well and I didn’t really show up. It is just the way it has been in recent years. When my game is there I can beat anybody and I know that. It disappears a lot more than it ever did before though. I just don’t know what I am going to get when I show up.

“You can try to slice it any way you want, but the young Chinese players are very good. He had his week, where everything fell right for him, he played well and felt good. Those are the kinds of weeks we are all striving for, but they are difficult to get. You couldn’t dismiss any of the young Chinese players from doing that.

“By the time I’ve finished playing, the tour will be full of Chinese players. They are just so much better. The amateurs are night and day from those from Britain at the moment. They aren’t streetwise, but they will eventually learn and at that point they are hard to stop. They are all so good.”

What would it mean to you to win another big tournament?

“My game is there and I can beat any player, but it is trying to do it for a whole tournament. If I could win any trophy it would mean everything. It would be amazing considering how long I’ve been playing. I’ve been here quite a while and I’m still managing to compete despite lots of players my age dropping off the tour and falling away. I’m still here and I’m still playing well. It is very hard though, each year it gets harder. It has nearly happened but I’ve not quite had everything fall for me to win an event. You need that bit of luck. All I can do is work on my game and hope it is in decent shape when that chance turns up.”

Your football team Rangers went on an amazing run to the final of the UEFA Europa League, which they lost on penalties. Where did you watch the semis and the final?

“I actually had Covid during the final, so I was just in the house. When we lost on penalties, I was quite glad to be stuck in the house as it was gutting. I had a few sleepless nights after that. I am still proud of what they did and how they pushed it to penalties. It is hard to see them do all that and fall short on penalties though.

“I was at the semi-finals against Leipzig at Ibrox and words can’t describe how loud it was. I’ve never heard a stadium like it. I’ve been going to games for a long time, but that was the loudest ever. The stadium was actually rocking and moving. I’ve never heard an atmosphere as good as that. I was with my son and I said to him that it was something he will never top as an atmosphere. It was a brilliant night. There was so much tension in the air and it was such a release when Lundstram scored the third goal and we knew we had won.”