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Pool Adventure Offers Wilson Fresh Impetus

Credit – Taka Wu

World number 15 Gary Wilson has enjoyed success and a change of environment over the summer by taking on the finest in the pool world, now he is aiming to kick on in the new snooker season.

The Wallsend cueman made the last 16 of the nineball pool UK Open back in June, when he was eventually beaten by world number one Francisco Sanchez Ruiz. He also competed in the Spanish Open, where he beat some big names before losing in the last 64.

Although snooker very much remains the day job, Wilson believes winning a pool tournament in the future isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

After a slow start to his snooker season at the BetVictor Championship League, Wilson is now keen to start putting in the hard graft to get his game in shape for next week’s BetVictor European Masters qualifying. He faces Ben Mertens for a place in the final stages.

We caught up with Wilson to look back on his maiden ranking title triumph at last season’s BetVictor Scottish Open and hear about his ambitions in the pool world…

Gary, what was the motivation behind you getting involved with nineball pool?

“It is a different atmosphere. It is relaxed, you can talk around the tables and there is a bit of background music. I like seeing that other side of things. I have been on the snooker tour for a long time and I was looking for something different to freshen things up. There is also that little dark side and a competitive side to me where I’m wanting to show them, not in any kind of arrogant way, that we can compete with them as snooker players.

“I do feel snooker players can compete at nineball pool. Let’s have it right, principally pool is a simpler game. It just takes, like any other sport, a lot of hard work. We have the cue actions to be able to do what they can do. We just have to learn the rest of it. You have to respect all of the flair shots and the jump shots, it takes a lot of skill. I don’t think it is a skill a snooker player can’t learn. I would like to have a really deep run to show that a snooker player, that has a bit of time at it, can actually do something.”

What would it mean if you were to win an event and do you think that is achievable?

“Snooker is what I’ve worked hard to do and it is the hardest of the cue sports in my opinion. I am more proud of winning the Scottish Open, than I would be winning a pool tournament. I would still have proud feelings winning a pool event. It is something totally new to me and I’ve just jumped in. If I did win one, I would have accomplished something I didn’t think could be done.

“It is a new environment, so it will be difficult to win one. Against Sanchez Ruiz at the UK Open, it was a bit like playing in your first couple of TV games as a snooker player. You’ve come that far and you know you are so close to doing what you really had set out to do, which is to get to the business end of the event. Playing the world number one, I knew I had the chance of winning. There was that bit of expectation on myself and a bit of nerves knowing I could do it out of nowhere. That is what the experience is. Maybe I need to play for a year or two to have that in pool. It was new territory for me in that sport. It is achievable to win an event but it takes time. I need to get myself into those latter stages more often.”

You beat Joe O’Connor 9-2 in the final of the Scottish Open last year to claim your maiden ranking crown. Did the feeling live up to your expectations?

“Yes and no. Deep down I am really proud that I eventually did that. I think as you get older the razzmatazz of winning a tournament is less. Maybe if it had come earlier in my career, I would have felt differently and had a lot more excitement about it. I have got so used to being in arenas with crowds and that sort of thing. It was a good feeling and it is a monkey off my back that I’ve had for a number of years. After winning, my thoughts moved onto trying to win the next one. You wish you could be on a massive high for weeks on end but that’s not really the case.

“It will be different if I get to another final, because I’ve done it now. There won’t be a lingering question about whether I can actually get over the line. I have done it now. Every game has pressures, but nobody can take away what I’ve achieved. If I lost in another final it won’t be as disappointing as it would have been when going for my first title. It will alleviate a bit of pressure in that sense.”

It took you 18 years after turning professional to secure that maiden win. What would be your advice to O’Connor, who is in the early stages of his quest for silverware having earned his professional status in 2018?

“I had a good junior and amateur career. I was used to winning quite a lot and then turned professional and won nothing. Joe will have to be aware of that and get used to it. As much as we all want to win tournaments straight away and be highly regarded from early on, most players have to persevere and work hard. You have to hope one day it does come. I said to Joe after that final that I think it will come for him. He has the right attitude and the right kind of head to play in those big matches. Whether it is in the next couple of years or ten years I think he will get one, so the only advice I could give is keep plugging away.”

How are you feeling about your game with the new season just getting underway?

“The Championship League was a wake up call. I had a nightmare and everything went wrong. It is time to knuckle down now and work as hard as I can. The season is really getting going and I want to stay in the top 16. I’ve got goals in my head and I want to try to fulfil what I can do. I need to put in the graft this week and get back into that headspace of being prepared and ready to play.”