After an eventful holiday in which he avoided three earthquakes and got engaged, Gary Wilson is excited about the new season and the chance to fulfil his biggest ambition.
Wilson enjoyed the best moments of his snooker career so far at the Beftred World Championship in the Spring, reaching the semi-finals with memorable wins over Luca Brecel, Mark Selby and Ali Carter. He made seven centuries in those three matches, playing with confidence and flair. His Crucible run was ended by eventual champion Judd Trump; Wilson led that match 6-5 at one stage but lost 17-11.
The £100,000 prize money, by far the biggest cheque of 33-year-old Wilson’s career, vaulted him up to 20th in the world rankings and also allowed him to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime holiday with fiancé Robyn.
“We went to New Zealand, Singapore, Hawaii and Los Angeles and the whole trip was amazing,” said Wilson. “To see so many different places was fantastic.
Gary and fiancé Robyn in Hawaii
“We got engaged in Hawaii on a sunset boat trip. When I went down on one knee, everyone started clapping. There was a band on the boat who played a song we like, from a Disney short film called Lava, so we had a dance to that.
“When we were in Los Angeles there were two earthquakes. During the second one, which was the biggest one measuring 7.1 (on the Richter scale) we were only around 20 miles from the epicentre, which doesn’t sound much but in fact it was safe. We were in a bar when the lights and TV started shaking. I was more excited than scared, it was only afterwards we found out from the news we were quite close to the epicentre. We flew home the next day so we were’t worried about aftershocks. Funnily enough there was also an earthquake in New Zealand while we were there, though it was so small we didn’t feel it.”
Wilson’s bumper six-figure pay-day – which would have taken him years to earn in previous jobs as a taxi driver and frozen food factor worker – has also gone towards extending his house in Wallsend. “With that and the holiday the money hasn’t lasted very long,” he said “But it certainly hasn’t been wasted.”
Reflecting on his Crucible experience, the former World Under-21 Champion said: “I was very happy with the way I handled the occasion and the way I played up until the semi-finals. I couldn’t have done anything different against Judd or prepared any better, I just didn’t play well enough for those three days. But I have proved to myself I can play well at the biggest tournament – I always knew that deep down but to actually do it gives me a lot more belief.”
Since he first turned pro in 2004, Wilson has reached just one ranking event final – at the 2015 China Open when he beat Ding Junhui in the semis before losing to Mark Selby.
“I won’t be happy until I win a tournament,” he said. “That has always been my biggest goal. I have been through the process now of getting to the later stages more often and playing well on TV, so the next step is to win something.”
Wilson’s technique has always been unorthodox and he has made attempts to adjust his cue action, though he is wary of trying to fix something which isn’t necessarily broken.
“Sometimes I feel as if I’m going around in circles,” he said. “I am always striving for the extra one per cent, to become a better player. But I know that can do more harm than good and maybe it’s better to stick with what I know. It can be better to just play, without thinking about how you are doing it. I’m always going to have flaws in my action , it’s just the way I play.”
Wilson will be competing at the Kaspersky Riga Masters in Latvia later this month – for ticket details click here.