Dunn will head to Shanghai next month
Mike Dunn’s biggest goal this season is to keep his tour card, so that he can celebrate 25 years as a player in 2016.
Dunn turned professional in 1991 and – other than one season on the secondary UK Tour in 1997/98 – he’s been on the main tour event since.
“It’s something I’m very proud of and I hope to celebrate it next year,” said the 43-year-old from Redcar. “I don’t think there are many players who have done 25 consecutive years.”
Like many of his peers – such as Rod Lawler, Joe Perry and Mark Davis – Dunn has achieved career highlights after his 40th birthday. At the 2014 China Open he reached his first ranking event semi-final, with Mark Selby among his victims before his run was stopped by Ding Junhui.
And last week in Barnsley he scored a trio of impressive wins to qualify for the final stages of the Shanghai Masters.
“I beat Craig Steadman, who is my room mate and travel buddy, 5-4 in my first match,” world number 45 Dunn recalls. “The weather was hot so conditions were sticky and we both struggled. I just scrapped it out in the end. Then I beat Jack Lisowski 5-2 and played some of my best stuff for the past few years – the other lads in the players’ room said the same.
“In the last round I played Xiao Guodong and I knew he was under pressure because he got to the final in Shanghai two years ago so he had all those points coming off, which was bound to affect him. Not to mention the fact that there’s £6,000 for getting to the last 32. I went 3-0 up then lost the fourth frame which changed the game. I collapsed after the interval and he got back to 3-3. After that I got myself together and won 5-4 in the end with a good clearance from the last red in the decider.
“I always seem to do better in overseas events. Maybe it’s because there’s less expectation there from family and friends. Perhaps it’s the same for Chinese players when they are trying to qualify for their home tournaments.”
Dunn, who made his sole appearance at the Crucible in 2002, was on the verge of retiring before his brilliant performance in Beijing last year, but now believes he is capable of competing on the pro tour for several more years.
“When I retire I want to go to China and coach players,” he said. “But it’s hard to let go of my playing career and I feel I can keep going into my late 40s. I have had health problems in recent years and I have a twisted spine which means I can only practise a couple of hours a day.
“But I can manage with that because I have never been a particularly heavy scorer. I can get by with my long potting and my experience – and I have always had decent bottle. I am better than half the players on the tour. Having suffered with illness a few years ago then nearly dropped off the tour, I appreciate what I’ve got more now.
Dunn in action against Mark Allen
“The biggest target each season is just to make money – it doesn’t matter much where you are in the rankings. Expenses are higher than they used to be but there are more opportunities and you can earn a lot if you get as far as the semi-finals. My run in Beijing was an eye-opener because I’d never really had the belief that I could do that. I’ve never been the type of player who says he thinks he can wins tournaments, I’ve always just got on with it.
“Next season we’ll have the new Home Series events in England, Scotland and Ireland so that will mean even more domestic events and chances to earn money. I want to be a part of it. Even when I do drop off the tour I’ll hopefully still play in the odd event and stay in touch with everyone. I’m sure I’ll play the ‘25-years’ card and try to get a few invitations!”