By Simon Cromie
Peter Ebdon knows the indescribable feeling of lifting the famous World Championship trophy at the Crucible. In 2002, the player known as ‘The Force’ held his nerve to edge out seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry in the 35th frame and join the elite list of Sheffield champions.
The Force is strong with this one
It’s a feeling Ebdon still clings to 16 years later, and one that he’ll never forget. “To become a World Champion is a very special feeling,” Ebdon says with a smile. “It’s one of the greatest sporting challenges there is. I can look back on my career and say that in a World Championship final, I beat the most successful player in the history of the game. That’s not an opinion, that’s fact.”
While that memory still lingers in Ebdon’s mind, recent seasons have seen a gradual decline in his tournament results. The 47-year-old attributes this slide down the rankings to the many other ventures he has undertaken.
“I’ve been doing a lot of other things,” said the world number 49. “I’ve been training to become a professional healer, and I also set up my own professional pedigree consulting business for race horses. I’m juggling a lot of balls. It’s difficult to dedicate the time to snooker that is necessary to be a top player. It is important for me to prepare for my next career, whatever that may be.”
Ebdon was devastated when Ryan Day ended his Betfred World Championship campaign in the final qualifying round, bringing to an end a season where he has reached the last 16 of just one ranking event.
“It was disappointing not to qualify this year,” said nine-time ranking event winner Ebdon. “It would have been my 25th appearance at the Crucible. Ryan played unbelievably against me. It’s very difficult to maintain everything in a season and not burn yourself out. I always work hard for the World because it means so much to me to play here. I always want to peak during this tournament, so I’ll come back next year and try again.”
While his disappointment at not being able to chalk up at the Crucible is evident, Ebdon’s work with the BBC commentary team has meant he can enjoy the tournament from a different perspective.
“I enjoy working for the BBC, and I hope that continues for a long time,” said the London born cueman. “I was always looking forward to coming here and doing some commentary and bits and pieces in the studio. It’s a side of it that I really do love.”
Ebdon is often associated with a methodical approach to the game but insists that is not his natural style. “If I’ve got one regret in my career,” he muses, “it’s that I’ve never been able to play with the fluency in matches that I would do naturally. I think I’m more of a natural type than it might seem sometimes, because I try so hard out there. It’s almost like subconsciously I take more time on shots. I’m not doing that deliberately, it’s just what the pressure does, you’re trying so hard and you don’t want to make a mistake.”
Ebdon believes that the increased strength in depth of the tour makes it tough to survive for those of his generation who are still plying their trade on the circuit. He says: “Every snooker player who has played the game for a long time has asked themselves: am I good enough anymore? Have I got what it takes? There are no two ways about it, when you get older, your expectations do change. Some of that aggression goes when you get older.”
Despite that, one of snooker’s most determined characters still has ambition which drives him forward. “I’d love to win another tournament,” he says with a steely glint in his eyes. “I’m on nine ranking titles at the moment, I’d love to get to ten. There’s absolutely no reason why I can’t do it. I know I’m good enough, it’s just about putting in the hard work and having the belief.”