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Wakelin Hoping To Cash In On Shoot Out Triumph

BetVictor Shoot Out champion Chris Wakelin believes that securing his maiden ranking crown earlier this year can inspire him to further success this season.

The Warwickshire cueman has made a strong start to the campaign and a group victory on Monday means he is still in pursuit of a second ranking title, forming part of the lineup for Friday’s final day of the BetVictor Championship League.

Wakelin first turned professional back in 2013, but it was earlier this year that he finally captured ranking silverware for the first time. He claimed the title in the fast and furious environment of the Shoot Out, ending in style with a tournament high break of 119 in the final against Belgian Julien Leclercq.

The 31-year-old believes that his experience in the cauldron like atmosphere of the Shoot Out is invaluable and has prepared him for most eventualities going forward. However, he is well aware that he needs to make the most of it.

“I just have that belief that I can do it when it matters after winning the Shoot Out. Even getting through to the latter stages of that event, in front of all those people shouting and screaming, was very intimidating. Looking back on those memories, winning the event was almost inconsequential in terms of how I grew as a person,” said world number 31 Wakelin.

“When I come to a big match or a big moment now, I just draw on that experience and know that I pulled it out of the hat. It’s something I didn’t do in the early stages of my career, but I’ve turned that around and I believe that when those moments come again I will be able to stand up and do what is necessary.

“You need to make the most of the position you are in. I qualified for the Players Championship off the back of the Shoot Out, but I went out 6-2 against Ryan Day in the first round. All of a sudden, it was a massive disappointment. I need make the most of these opportunities. Dig in, grit your teeth and get it done. I’ve been guilty in the past of being intimidated by big moments or not wanting to fail. The top players don’t have that mindset. They go out there and prove why they are winners. That is where I’m trying to get myself to at the moment.”

Wakelin battled past close friend Kyren Wilson 3-1 in a group decider on Monday to earn his place in the final day of the Championship League. He recognises that Friday represents an early opportunity to add to his newly opened trophy cabinet. Wakelin believes that the key to success this week and beyond is attitude.

Wakelin said: “It is the kind of opportunity that you strive for. To put yourself into the latter stages of tournaments, when you are in reach of the trophy. It is going to be a tough battle on Friday for sure. There are some of the best players in the world still left in the tournament. I’m just glad to be in there. I’ve never got through to the last group before, so this is new territory for me. I just find myself feeling a lot more relaxed about snooker in general now. Going into Monday’s group, I would have been very disappointed not to qualify. In a lot of people’s eyes, that will be silly because Kyren Wilson is one of the best players in the world. He is a good friend of mine and we’ve learned a lot from each other. I know when I’m on my game, I’m a match for anybody. Getting through was my aim. I played some good snooker and managed to do it.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of seasons. I’ve come out of my shell in many ways. I’ve learned that if you want more out of this sort of career, you have to put more into it in the first place. I went down the route two years ago of losing loads of weight and getting really fit. I was in the shape of my life. I have put a bit of weight back on over the last year, but I’ve now decided to cut back on a few of the finer things in life and really focus over the next 12 months. I had the springboard of winning my first tournament, but it is just a springboard. You have to make the most of the opportunity. The confidence, belief and ranking are only there for so long. Being as physically fit as I can will help me if I can get through to the latter stages of tournaments as I plan to.”

Wakelin had to deal with the sad news recently of the passing of his long time coach and friend Gary Morris. He had worked with Morris from the age of 12 and through the amateur ranks into the professional circuit. Wakelin wished to pay tribute to his mentor and friend.

“His words still ring true to this day. He said many years ago that you never know how good you can be until you get there. It is a long journey with this game and we went through a lot of good times and some bad times as well. He stuck with me through thick and thin. It was sad to hear he wasn’t very well in the early stages of this year. He only passed away a few weeks ago. I went over to the funeral and the wake last week. It was a good send off and an amazing turn out. Everyone you speak to about Gary has amazing stories and memories. It was nice to be at the ceremony and hear about the stories of his life.

“He’s been such a big part of my life. Not in a father figure way, but much more that he was my best mate really. If I ever went through tough times I would be on the phone to him. He will be sadly missed. He was one of the really nice guys and a big part of snooker in Rugby. Hopefully his legacy will live on and I can do him proud throughout the rest of my career.”