David Grace claimed his first silverware of the 2018/19 Challenge Tour season with victory at Event Two in Preston.
The Leeds based potter, who reached the UK Championship semi-finals in 2015, suffered a surprise relegation from the World Snooker Tour at the end of the 2018/19 campaign.
Grace is now aiming to get back on the main circuit through the Challenge Tour and has kick started that quest with a 3-0 win over Mitchell Mann in the final in Preston. We caught up with him following the victory…
David, how pleased were you to get your first Challenge Tour victory yesterday at the Guild Hall?
“I got beat in the semis from 2-0 up in the first event. I was a bit gutted about that, but it was good to finish the job off this time and see it out to win a tournament.
“I’ve embraced the Challenge Tour. I’m lucky it there is one, because otherwise I would have just been kicking my heels until Q School came around again. I am pleased to be playing and pleased to have won.
“I know how tough Q School is. Not just in the players you face, but the amount of time you spend away. I think that is the longest I’ve ever been away from home for any single tournament. It is really tough to keep it all together. If I can avoid that in any way shape or form by qualifying through the Challenge Tour, then that will be the goal.”
How important to you to try and make sure you return to the main circuit as quickly as possible to prove that is where you belong?
“I’d like to think that is where I belong. However, on the flip side, nobody has a right to be on the tour. Unless you are up in the top 30 or 40 in the world rankings, then you are always going to be battling for your place every year. Sometimes you are going to get on the right side of things, but I just fell short of the line this time.”
When you reached the semi-finals at the 2015 UK Championship, I don’t think many people would have expected you to find yourself relegated from the tour three years later. What was the main cause for you falling off the circuit?
“It’s just how the rankings work. You keep your points for two years. I was well aware of my position last season, despite appearing to be safe in the top 40. I knew where I stood in the provisional list and that I would be right on the border.
“I didn’t ever find that magical consistency. There are some guys that can always be relied upon to win their qualifying matches .They are the most important part really. I’d have a little spell where I would win three or four of them in a row, then have three or four first round losses. The players that stay safe in the top 64 find a way to get through those matches.”
You have been a big proponent of amateur snooker, setting up tournaments at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds. Do you think that the inception of the Challenge Tour this season is the beginning of a new era for the amateur game?
“The Challenge Tour is an absolutely fantastic addition. I can’t believe the flak it has been getting from some of the players. The conditions are fantastic. We are playing in professional conditions. The professionals are playing one day and we go on the next. Nobody has changed the tables in between. Yes, best of five is a short race, but I have always been a believer that the best guy on the day is going to win. You still have to get yourself up for the match, you still have to play well and you still have to get over the winning line. That is the same whatever the race is. I think it will be proven over the ten events, that nobody is going to win one without playing well.
“The fact that we have tournaments across Europe in places like Latvia will also help players get used to the travelling side of the professional game. They have to find a way to get from A to B and get themselves in position to play a snooker match. That is part of the tour nowadays. There is a lot of travelling, so that is something you have to learn. As long as the players have the right attitude, then this tour will be very good for them. But if they have the wrong attitude they won’t get anything out of it. People complain that matches are only best of five and that we don’t have referees. We aren’t entitled to referees. We are amateurs. We all know how to use a scoreboard, it’s not rocket science.”
How long do you think it will take for us to see the fruits of the Challenge Tour in terms of new players coming through and being successful in the professional ranks?
“It might take two or three years. However, things are 100 percent better than they were before. Players were putting so much emphasis on Q School. I know a few young lads who have been there for the past three or four years. They put so much pressure on that event, that they just can’t function. They cant hold the cue when it comes round. All their eggs are in that basket. Now they can measure their development over a year and see where they are at on a regular basis.”