Eight years since first turning pro, Sanderson Lam believes he is ready for a new phase in his career, having gained maturity on and off the table.
With only one appearance in the last 16 of a ranking event, world number 72 Lam is yet to shine on snooker’s main stage. But after a strong start to the season – reaching the second group phase of the BetVictor Championship League and winning his qualifying match for the BetVictor European Masters – the 29-year-old is sure he is building momentum.
“Something has clicked,” said the Yorkshireman. “For the first time in my career, I feel I am ready to move to the next level. This season I want to get into the top 64, improve my best run in a tournament and qualify for the Crucible. No disrespect to some of the players I have seen having deep runs in events, but I know I am as good as them.
“I know I can play. My problem in the past has been negativity. If you go into a match with negative thoughts then most of the time you’ll lose. I was giving up too easily when I went behind. I have been working with a mental coach called John Farnworth and my mindset has really improved now. I am controlling my emotions and feeling really good in matches, even when I am losing, not letting my head go down. It’s just about giving myself the best chance to win.
“I’ve changed a lot in my routine. My practice is much more focussed. I work on my weaknesses. My scoring hasn’t been consistent in the past but that has got better because of the work I have put into practice. I’ve had two matches already this season where I’ve made four breaks over 50, and that wasn’t happening before. I am treating it more like a job, and if you don’t do a job properly you’ll get sacked. I know that if I don’t practise properly then I’ll lose matches.
“I have also changed the way I prepare for practice and tournaments. In the past I would get up late, and go straight to the club. I was living close to the Northern Snooker Centre , it was just around the corner. In a way I was spending too much time there, without any structure to what I was doing. These days, I go to bed early, get up early, go for a three mile walk in the morning and then I have a 30 minute commute to the club. Then I have structure to what I am doing each day on the table. I am also reading a book called Atomic Habits which is all about getting into good habits and making gradual improvements. Overall I am just taking a much more professional approach to my job. Then when I get to tournaments I have a sense of freedom and I am enjoying it.”
Lam’s girlfriend Aimee, a marketing executive, has helped him to change his attitude. Last year they moved away from his native Leeds to a flat in Harrogate. “It has been good for me to get my own place,” he said. “Aimee knows when I need a kick up the backside, and when I need motivation and support. If I was on my own, I would have struggled to make these changes. My friends have noticed that she has been a really good influence on me.”
A qualified coach, Lam helps players to improve their skills at Harrogate Conservative Club. But the ‘Northern’ in Leeds is still his home from home and he realises how fortunate he is to have one of the biggest and best snooker clubs in the UK as his practice base. “The Northern is fantastic because it’s a great atmosphere and there are always players to have a game with,” he adds. “There are four pros: myself, David Grace, Oli Lines and Liam Pullen. I have played a lot with Liam, he’s a nice lad with a lot of potential. Plus we have a lot of the best amateurs. Peter Lines has also been a big influence on me, in terms of changing my attitude and giving my all to snooker. Hopefully there are big things to come for me.”
Lam will be playing in the BetVictor European Masters in Nuremberg this month. For ticket information click here.