Despite reaching the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the first time in his career at the Nirvana Turkish Masters, Oliver Lines walked out of the arena in despair.
A string of fine performances got him to that stage, but Lines was left contemplating what might have been, after cruel 5-4 defeat against Shaun Murphy.
In the deciding frame, Lines had several scoring chances, and led by 35 points with three reds left when he missed a tricky pot to a top corner with the rest. He could only watch from his seat as Murphy made a tremendous clearance to steal the match.
“If I had won I would have played Judd Trump in my first semi-final, in a big event. That would have been a dream for me,” reflects 26-year-old Lines. “I felt very calm during the match. Playing in front of a big crowd, I really enjoyed the experience and I played pretty well. I should have potted that red with the rest. It’s just one of those things that happen in snooker, you are bound to miss balls that cost you matches.
“I was devastated afterwards. But overall I feel I have taken a step towards fulfilling my potential and the way I know I can play. If I had the match again I would want to play the last frame differently, but it was good to put myself in that situation and learn something from it. Next time hopefully I’ll deal with it better.”
Even the all-time greats miss relatively simple balls at key moments – think of Steve Davis’ black in 1985, Stephen Hendry’s black in the Masters final against Mark Williams in 1998, Ronnie O’Sullivan’s pink against Mark Selby in the 2014 Crucible final. The key is to bounce back and not allow memories of crucial errors to affect the next frame, the next match.
And when it comes to the power of positive thinking, Lines has a fantastic cornerman. He and Trump are close friends, and the 23-time ranking event winner is generous in passing down some of the secrets of his success.
“After the Welsh Open, I had a really long chat with Judd and he gave me a few things to work on,” Lines explains. “It’s about being positive with myself and my own emotions and not letting the negatives creep in. Those negatives are bound to be there but he has given me ways to deal with that.
“Judd is a great champion and has a very strong winning mentality. He has passed on to me some of the information that helped him when he was younger and he has helped me to think more like him. That seemed to click in Turkey so I need to keep working with that advice. I’m very thankful to have a friend as good as Judd.”
Lines reached the last 16 of the BetVictor Shoot Out in January
Lines turned pro in 2014 after winning the European Under-21 Championship, and during his first season he reached the final of the Haining Open Asian Tour event in China, and was named Rookie of the Year. He has struggled to fulfil that early promise and remains in danger of relegation at the end of this season, though the £12,500 he earned in Turkey has given him a significant boost up to 59th place on the tour survival standings. He is now 42nd on the one-year list so a strong finish to the season will leave him well-placed going in to 2022/23.
And victories over the likes of Yan Bingtao and Xiao Guodong last week – particularly the 69 clearance he made from 50-0 down in the decider against Xiao – have given Lines a renewed sense of self-belief.
“The break in the last frame against Xiao was the best of my life because I had been 4-2 up then the match seemed to be slipping away from me,” said the Leeds cueman. “And to beat Yan when he barely missed a ball against me was another big win.
“I knew Turkey was important for my tour survival. Getting into the top 64 was the main aim for the week and I achieved that so I know it’s in my hands now over the last two tournaments this season. I’m nowhere near safe because the World Championship is such big money so I still need to win matches. If I could qualify for the Crucible that would be the perfect end to the season.”