The former World Champion talks cues, ferrules and his ambition to get back to the top.
Peter, how would you assess your start to the season?
I’ve had two very tough matches, both against Barry Pinches. He beat me 5-4 in the Wuxi qualifiers then I beat him 5-3 to qualify for Australia. I know people accuse me of slow play, but the Wuxi match lasted six hours and I was probably sitting down for four of those. He is a very hard match player and I thoroughly enjoyed both matches. The match to get to Australia was in the balance at 3-3 then I made a very good 51 clearance in the seventh frame, from 49 down with three reds left. It reminded me of the way I used to play in about 1986.
You started using a new cue last season, what made you change?
It has taken me a while to get used to it, after using my previous cue for nearly 30 years. Our playing conditions have changed in recent seasons and I wanted a cue which was more suited to today’s conditions. I used to play with a tip which had a massive over-hang, in order to control the amount of spin I put on the cue ball. With the new cue, I can play shots which I had never played before, and I get less deflection. In that 51 clearance against Barry I played a delicate screw shot on a red, to get position on the black, which I just couldn’t have played with my old cue. I’m still hitting the odd shot wrong, but overall the signs are very encouraging. I was practising with Rory McLeod the other day and made a 147, which was the eighth maximum I’d made since I started using the cue eight months ago. Last season was very frustrating for me. It was the first time in my career that I’d put a lot of hard work in and not got the results. But that was mainly down to the fact that I was getting used to the cue, and I believe that in the long term it will make me a better player. I played a few shots with my old cue the other day, just as an experiment, and the difference in deflection is so much that I was missing balls by 18 inches – which is about 13 inches more than I usually miss them by!
You’ve also changed the ferrule on the cue, what was the thinking behind that?
The cue was made by a guy called Paul Roberts, the father of the former pro Lewis Roberts. He’s a great craftsman and one of the best cue makers in the world. When I spoke to him about the modern playing conditions and what I wanted, he made a black ferrule for me which he calls the Zenith ferrule. It was a step into the unknown for me because I had always used a brass ferrule, but I believe this is a game changer. I can actually pot balls that physically don’t go – which causes a lot of amusement to some of the lads at the Star Academy where I practise. But it is so different and takes a long time to get used to. Steve Davis experimented with a similar ferrule and he was over-cutting shots by a long way. If you are going to swap it has to be part of a long term plan.
How much are you looking forward to this season?
I’m getting fed up of people asking me if I have retired because they don’t see me on TV any more. I want to get back to where I should be at the top of the game, and I believe I am capable of winning tournaments again. I am working hard on my game, my fitness and my diet to achieve that. So far this season I have really enjoyed competing.
You reached the final in Australia in 2012, losing to Barry Hawkins, so will you enjoy returning to Bendigo?
Yes I like it there. In one respect it’s hard to leave the UK in the middle of summer and go to Australia during their winter. But the plus side is that there is very little humidity in Bendigo which means that the playing conditions at the tournament are among the best in the world. It’s the complete opposite of somewhere like Thailand where the humidity is very high and that makes for sticky conditions. I was pleased to get to the final two years ago but the match against Barry didn’t go to plan. Nearly everyone in the crowd wanted him to win because he was going for his first major title whereas I’d won a lot of tournaments before. It was almost like playing against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible. It was a difficult atmosphere for me – I was shocked by how biased the crowd were and that’s something I have to learn from.
You played at the Crucible 22 consecutive times before losing to Robin Hull in the final qualifying round of the World Championship last season. How big a blow was that?
I was devastated. To be honest I found it difficult to concentrate in the open plan arena because there are people moving about on other tables and that is distracting. It’s fine at the European Tour events but in my opinion we should be playing in cubicles in the World qualifiers, and I have explained my views in emails to World Snooker. Robin played very well and every credit to him, and I didn’t play as well as I can. To lose a long-standing run like that was heart-breaking.