Ben Woollaston believes he is a better player now than he was when he reached his only ranking final four years – but realises he has to prove himself.
The 32-year-old from Leicester got to the final of the Welsh Open in 2015, beating the likes of Mark Allen, Ali Carter and Mark Williams before losing to John Higgins. But since then he has struggled to hit the same heights and has not reached another ranking semi-final.
Most of last season was disappointing for Woollaston, though he rescued the campaign with a run to the quarter-finals of the China Open, then won two matches in Betfred World Championship qualifying before losing to Li Hang. And he has started the current campaign by winning his qualifying matches for the Kaspersky Riga Masters and International Championship.
“Hopefully I can make a step forward this season,” said the world number 39. “I want to get back into the top 32 and win a tournament. I have seen the likes of Jimmy Robertson do that and feel that I should be doing the same. Last season was a nightmare, my worst for seven or eight years, until the last couple of events.
“I’m a better player now than I was in 2015, but it’s all about winning matches. You don’t have to be consistent, it’s better to have deep runs in big events and take advantage of those weeks. The China events are very lucrative, I have learned to enjoy playing in those. The money is very good now although I haven’t earned £100,000 in a season yet so that’s another of my targets. I need to score more heavily and that’s something I’m working on.”
Ben on Centre Court with wife Tatiana, who is a referee at many of snooker’s biggest events
Woollaston has plenty of practice partners nearby as Leicester has become a snooker hot-spot, with Mark Selby, Tom Ford, Rookie of the Year Joe O’Connor and new pro Louis Heathcote all based in the city.
“Joe did really well last season and I was pleased to see Louis come through Q School,” said Woollaston. “They have both got a lot of potential and it’s good to see young British players coming through because most of the new talent is Chinese.”
Away from snooker, Woollaston’s main interest is tennis, and he enjoyed a day at Wimbledon earlier this week with wife Tatiana.
“It was a brilliant day, the first time we had been on Centre Court,” he said. “We saw Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and then Serena Williams and Andy Murray playing doubles. My favourite player is actually Novak Djokovic, he doesn’t seem to get the recognition that Nadal and Federer get. I probably watch tennis as much as snooker, if not more.”