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Gilbert Relishing China Return

Last month’s Yushan World Open in China was a tournament of highs and lows for David Gilbert – and finished in farcical scenes as he nearly missed his flight back to the UK.

Gilbert came so close to his first ranking title, leading Mark Williams 9-5 in the final only to lose 10-9. The best week of his snooker career ended in bitter disappointment. And things went from bad to worse the following morning for the 37-year-old from Tamworth as he attempted to make the short journey from his hotel to Yushan train station.

“The taxi I had booked didn’t turn up,” he recalls. “I knew that if I missed my train to Shanghai there wouldn’t be another one for a few hours and I’d end up missing my flight. After waiting for about 15 minutes I went out into the street with Hugo, who works for one of my sponsors, and we tried to flag down a taxi. We ended up getting into a little tuk-tuk and the driver assured us he knew where the train station was.

“He drove along the main road for about 15 minutes until it became obviously he was lost. Then he just dropped us in the middle of nowhere with my luggage. It was panic stations by this stage so I just got out a wad of cash and waved it at a car going past. Luckily he stopped and helped us out. We drove at about 200mph to the station and I got on the train just in time.”

Despite that scare, Gilbert is looking forward to getting back to the Far East for next week’s Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou. He faces Hossein Vafaei in the first round of the £725,000 tournament, which runs from September 24-30.

“I’m not deluded, I’m not going to say I’m going there to win it,” said the world number 20. “I’ll just hope to win my first match, get into the tournament and see where it takes me. Yushan was a great week for me because at the start of the season I wasn’t even sure if I could keep playing. Stephen Feeney and the SightRight method really helped me turn my game around. In the second round in Yushan I beat Ali Carter 5-3 from 3-0 down, and that just put me on a roll.

“I felt great in the final, the only time I thought I would lose was right at the end. It has been a life goal of mine to win a ranking title so I was devastated at the end. I was pleased to have played well for most of the day, there are just a few shots I would love to play again. The match just changed from 9-5, Mark showed what a great player he is and how good he is under pressure.”

Once back on home soil, Gilbert headed straight to Preston for the qualifying rounds of three ranking events, and sheer determination carried him to a trio of wins, booking his place in Guangzhou as well as the Indian Open and European Masters.

“I was knackered and I got very lucky in one of the matches,” he said. “But I was very pleased to get back into the winning habit. One of my big goals now is to get into the top 16 in time for the Masters, that would be a dream come true.”

Gilbert’s runner-up prize in Yushan, £75,000, was the biggest of his career so far, though victory would have doubled that to £150,000. “The cheque came through the other day,” he said. “The wife wants a new bathroom so we’ll spend some of it on that and keep her happy. If I had won the tournament I was going to get a new set of teeth – that’s on hold now until I win something.”

Gilbert will be playing in the English Open in Crawley next month alongside top stars including Judd Trump, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Jimmy White – for ticket details click here