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Joe Perry – My Greatest Match

Perry with parents Peter and Judy

Our Greatest Match series features some of snooker’s biggest names, who we have consulted to find out what they deem to be their most significant encounter on the baize. Today we hear from Joe Perry, who landed an emotional first win on UK soil back in March by defeating Judd Trump 9-5 in the final of the BetVictor Welsh Open

After 30 years on the World Snooker Tour, Perry enjoyed his finest moment with a stunning win in Newport. The Gentleman’s only other ranking victory came in Thailand at the 2015 Players Championship, where he defeated Mark Williams in the final. None of his family were present that day and to Perry’s surprise there wasn’t even a trophy to lift.

Fast forward seven years and Perry embraced his parents, Peter and Judy, after potting the winning balls against 2019 Crucible king Trump and held the Ray Reardon Trophy aloft.

The emotions were amplified for Perry due to the fact that his father suffered a health scare last year, which left the family fearing for his life. Thankfully Peter recovered and the experience both put snooker into perspective and heightened the sense of joy at the winning moment in Wales.

Perry said: “It was everything I’d ever imagined it would be after the final. The winning moment is such a big thing in a snooker tournament. I’m sure every player watches the TV and thinks that they would love to experience it at least once. Everyone has issues and personal things, but the way it worked out for me was absolutely perfect. My dad is very lucky to be here, so having nearly lost him a year ago, it was very special to share that win with him and my mum. I will never be able to pay back what my parents have done for me, but it was a really special moment. Hopefully they will remember that day as fondly as I do. No matter what happens now in my snooker career it has all been worth it. That was the icing on the cake.

He explained: “My dad had a massive heart attack just before the 2021 World Championship and was basically brought back to life. It was a horrible time and it came out of the blue. It was like a scene out of a movie. There was a helicopter in the carpark over the road, there were ambulances and four paramedics. He had to be shocked back into life four times, before he was taken to the hospital.

“We were lucky that a first responder came round before all of that and managed to resuscitate him. First responders are volunteers and we were told had he not been there to help before the paramedics arrived, my dad would have died. We owe everything to this man. It was a mad day and the best phone call we have ever had was from the hospital to say that my dad was alright. The fact that he came through all of that and we could share the Welsh Open win together made it all the more special.”

Following his father’s recovery Perry went through a difficult season on the table, where he endured one of the worst runs of form in his career. He headed for Newport having already suffered five first round exits during the season. However, a win over David Gilbert in qualifying and promising signs with his game in the run up, meant he had a renewed sense of optimism. Perry feels that the mental upturn was in part due to the fact that he had just started coaching in his local club.

“In real terms the coaching made a massive difference, not on the physical side of me playing snooker but the mental side. I started to get a lot more enjoyment out of being in the snooker room and helping other people. By helping others it gave me enthusiasm to do better myself. I don’t think, when you get to this stage of your career, form is the thing. You are what you are by this point, it is more to do with your state of mind at the time. If you are confident and feeling good about your game then that is what matters.

“I didn’t turn up in Wales with expectations of winning the tournament, I have to be honest. However, I did turn up feeling good about myself. Things were starting to look up so I was in good spirits and it snowballed from there. I played well in the first round against Cao Yupeng, before a really good match against Mark Allen. Once I’d beat someone like Mark it gave me a lot of confidence going forward.

“I don’t know how people like Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins go about events and whether they have a moment  where they think it is going to be their week. I’ve personally never been able to do that. I haven’t won enough to say that a really good last 32 game makes it my week. I had such a tough draw that there was no stage until the final that I had visions of winning the event. I knew each time I played a specific match that I was playing well enough to win the game.”

Having defeated Gilbert, Cao, Allen, Kyren Wilson, Ricky Walden and Jack Lisowski on the way to the final, Perry had already turned over top class opposition in each round. However, he faced an even more distinguished opponent in the title match against Trump. The Ace in the Pack had racked up an incredible 11 ranking titles across the previous two seasons, but he was seeking a first ranking crown of the 21/22 campaign in the final against Perry.

There was no doubt that Trump was favourite to land the title, although being underdog was a role which Perry was quite comfortable with. The 47-year-old’s previous final appearance pitted him against Jimmy Robertson at the 2018 European Masters. Despite being favourite to lift the trophy, Perry succumbed to a 9-6 defeat. Looking back he admits that the burden of expectation was a difficult one to shoulder. However, with the roles reversed against Trump he produced a superb showing to blitz to the finishing line. The scores were locked at 4-4 after the first session, but Perry had no intentions of allowing a tight finish. When the final session got underway, he claimed five of the next six frames to emerge a 9-5 victor.

“I was beaten soundly by Jimmy in that final, but I felt under so much more pressure to win. Sometimes its better to be the underdog. People don’t expect you to win and if you lose it will hurt, but not as much. I’m not being disrespectful to Jimmy, but we both went into that final feeling it was a great chance to win and it impacted me more than him. It means everything to win, but the pressure for the underdog is different. I was really relaxed playing against Judd. He may tell you he was under a lot of pressure, as by his standards he was in a barren spell and a long time without winning. He would have thought this was a great chance to put that right and win.

“It just seemed like it was going to happen for me in the evening. Sometimes I win a couple of frames in big matches and start to get ahead of myself. I didn’t this time, I just got stronger and more confident as the game went on. I was 100% focussed and concentrated. I’m sure the top players flip into that zone very regularly, but it isn’t very often that it all that it all comes together on such a big occasion for me. It was probably as well as I have in a big meaningful match in front of a crowd like that in a long time. I felt really confident.”

Following the match Perry finally got his hands on a trophy, which held extra significance to him with it being named after a player who he had admired for many years. Although he did eventually receive a trophy for his Players Championship win, Perry says that this is the one which means the most. He already has one eye on his title defence in February and is keen to put up a strong fight to keep hold of his title.

“Jason Ferguson was true to his word, he promised I would get a trophy for the Players Championship and I did get one. It sits in my snooker room alongside the Ray Reardon Trophy, but that is the one as I got it on the night and I have the pictures to prove it,” said the Chatteris cueman.

“Ray Reardon was actually the first professional snooker player I came across. He used to practise at Camden Town Snooker Club when the Masters was on. That was where I played as a young kid and one day he was nice enough to give me a game. He gave me a 40 point head start when I was about 12, so the fact I have his trophy is a nice little touch.

“I’m really looking forward to the Welsh Open this season. Hopefully I can put up a good defence. Not many players seem to defend titles these days so it is going to be a hell of an ask. I am really looking forward to being introduced as the reigning champion. Whatever happens that will be a really great moment.”

You can be there to witness this year’s Welsh Open, which takes place at Venue Cymru in Llandudno from February 13th to 19th. Click here to book now.