Ricky Walden is set to become a father for the first time within the coming days but intends to keep that to the back of his mind as he heads to the Paul Hunter Classic.
Wife Natalie is due to give birth to their first child – a boy – on September 3rd. The couple have been together since 2010 and married last year in New York.
“It’s a really exciting time, I can’t wait for the baby to arrive,” said world number ten Walden. “I was in two minds about entering the tournament in Germany but it’s only a short flight so if I had to I could get home. I’m not going to the Six Red World Championship in Thailand, then after that it’s the Shanghai Masters. Hopefully my son will be born well before then and I’ll be able to spend some time with him. I’ll just have to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.
“Obviously it’s going to be tricky for the first few months as we do travel a lot but that’s the nature of the job. There are gaps between events where I can be at home.
“I’ve been quite a handyman over the past few weeks, getting the nursery ready and making sure our house is baby-proof. I’ve spent a lot of time with my nephews so I know a bit of what to expect and we feel ready for it.”
The Paul Hunter Classic has a new trophy this week, created by Waterford Crystal
The last 128 of the Paul Hunter Classic – the season’s second Kreativ Dental Clinic European Tour event – starts on Friday. Walden plays his opening match on Saturday against Dechawat Poomjaeng (click here for the match schedule).
Chester’s Walden got to the semi-finals last year in Fürth, beating Mark Selby in the quarters before losing to Judd Trump. “It’s always been a great event and it has got bigger and bigger over the years,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s definitely one of the best European tournaments and gets cracking support.”
And it’s a week which always focuses the minds of players and fans on the memory of Paul Hunter, who died in 2006. “I admired Paul from a distance when I was growing up,” recalls Walden. “He was a bit older than me but I met him a few times after I turned pro. There were a few nights out and he was always great fun to be around. The likes of Matthew Stevens still talk about him often.”
Last season’s clear highlight for Walden was victory at the International Championship – his third career ranking title with all three coming in China. “Each season for me it’s just about trying to get my hands on some silverware,” added the former World and UK Championship semi-finalist. “I haven’t really got going yet this season but my practice has been going well and I’m hoping to land trophies.”
Watch the Paul Hunter Classic on Eurosport – click here for the schedules. Or to buy tickets click here