David Gilbert was runner-up at the Yushan World Open and German Masters last season, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship in a sparkling run.
David Gilbert enjoyed a career best campaign last year, which saw him break into the world’s top 16 for the first time. That means the Tamworth cueman has earned a place at the elite invitational Shanghai Masters next month
Gilbert’s memorable 2018/19 season, saw him reach finals at the Yushan World Open and German Masters before making the semi-finals of the World Championship at the Crucible, where he was eventually pipped in an agonising 17-16 loss against John Higgins. We caught up with Gilbert to reflect on his ascension to 12th in the world rankings and look ahead to his trip to Shanghai…
David, it was an incredible and emotional run to the semi-finals at the Crucible. Especially considering that it wasn’t long ago you dropped off the tour and were struggling financially to the extent that you were sleeping on a friend’s sofa.
How proud were you to act as an inspiration for those struggling to make their way when chasing their dreams?
“The World Championship was quite weird as I’m not on social media or anything like that. I just had some great mates with me. It was like we were on holiday, we were all having a great time. They totally chilled me out. I didn’t realise how much I was getting spoken about and what was happening.
“A lot of people have said that they have been inspired. I have been through all of the struggles and had many downs. It was really good to hear some nice words. I was crying my eyes out at the end of that semi-final. It was very emotional. I wasn’t devastated within myself, I just really wanted the buzz of walking out in the final because I felt like I could have handled it and competed well out there.”
Were there times when you no longer believed that you would turn around your game and be in the position you are now?
“It isn’t even that long ago that I was in a really bad place in the game. I didn’t qualify for the World Championship in 2018 and that was very disappointing. I teamed up with Steve Feeney and SightRight and he has managed to help me out and get me enjoying the sport again. We have worked hard and it is paying off. Obviously last year was fantastic and it is the most money I’ve ever earned, but this is still a work in progress and there were still a lot of disappointments and near misses. I just hope I can build on things.”
The Shanghai Masters has become the most lucrative invitational event in snooker, with £751,000 in prize money. Does the potential riches the circuit now offers increase the pressure of playing at the top level?
“I am not a money orientated guy. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been on the floor and had nothing. I’ve been out there and worked for a living. I’ve done it all. You can’t say the money isn’t there because I have a family and a wife now. I will go out with my cue and try to win matches and if I do that the money will come. However, my biggest goal in life is to be a winner one day. If that ever comes true I don’t know what I would do. It would mean everything to me.”
How much are you looking forward to heading out to the Shanghai Masters for the first time since it changed to the 24-player invitational format?
“I’m really looking forward to it. The first time I ever qualified for a tournament in China was the Shanghai Masters in 2013. Back then you had to win three or four games just to qualify so I was just really excited to be there. It was brilliant to see what a different sort of place China was and experience being there.
“I played against Ding which was obviously a big experience for me, although it was quite a hard time as my mate had just passed away. I didn’t really play that well in the game. I had never really experienced anything like that at the time. It was the main arena, under the TV lights against someone who is an absolute superstar in China. I am very grateful for what Ding has done for the sport. I hope he sticks around for many years to come and wins the World Championship one day.
“I think playing in the Shanghai Masters this year with the new invitational format will give me a bit more experience being around the world’s top 16 and help to be a bit more comfortable in that environment. This is now very much like the Chinese version of the Masters in the UK. I have had some big experiences playing over the last 12 months, from the Yushan World Open final, the German Masters final in front of 2,500 people and obviously the Crucible. It doesn’t really get any bigger than that. I have handled myself quite well in those events, so I feel ready for a tournament like this.”