Ryan Day ended a 19-year quest for his maiden ranking title at last season’s Kaspersky Riga Masters, now the Welshman is looking forward to returning to the Latvian capital to defend ranking silverware for the first time in his career.
We caught up with Day before he jets off for this weekend’s curtain raiser to the season…
Ryan, the victory in Riga last season somewhat opened the floodgates for you. There were subsequent wins at the Gibraltar Open and Romanian Masters. How much of a boost did that win in Latvia give you?
“To start the season with a win in Riga probably did wonders for my confidence going forward. I then had an issue from September for a couple of months after my cue was broken. Once that was sorted and I’d settled on a new one, I managed to win two tournaments back-to-back in Gibraltar and Romania. That was unthinkable really and was an amazing feeling. Although, it did come to a bit of a crashing end at the World Championship, losing in the first round.
“Winning the Riga Masters freed me up a little bit. You tend to wonder what kind of career I would have had if I managed to convert one of the four ranking finals I was in prior to last season. It wasn’t to be and I am still working hard now. I have to take inspiration from the likes of John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan who are into their 40’s and are still the best players on tour.”
You narrowly lost out 10-8 in the first round at the Crucible to Anthony McGill. Given your form earlier in the season, did you see that as an opportunity missed to go all the way and win the World Championship?
“If you look at the players that have done well at the World Championship, they are usually ones that have done well throughout the season and then go to Sheffield and carry on. I think the qualifying matches didn’t really do me any favours when it came to trying to go on a good run at the Crucible. I don’t know whether it was maybe one match too many or the wheels just coming off, but it was a disappointing end to the season.”
Having broken that ranking event duck, is the next step for you to try and win a Triple Crown title?
“Of course. Any tournament you enter is tough to win, but that is the goal. I suppose the Welsh Open is another one which is always a target for me, but it has been a bit of a barren hunting ground over the years. I want to up it this year and really push for the latter stages of that and the Triple Crown events.”
Looking back at last year’s victory in Riga. You probably had the hardest possible route to the title, beating Barry Hawkins, Robert Milkins, Kyren Wilson, Joe Perry, Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire. Did that make the win even more special?
“It certainly was a tough route. I know that with the flat draws that sometimes you can get a quarter which opens up and you then feel you have a good chance to do something. This section certainly didn’t open up. On this occasion every player I faced was either in the top 16 or had been at some point in their career. It was a really hard slog to get to the final and I was just delighted to beat Stephen once I had got there and lift the trophy.”
It was a fine 5-2 win over Maguire in the final. Was the overwhelming emotion relief after you finally managed to secure that maiden ranking win?
“Yes of course. The tournaments I have won since then have been the same, it was just relief to have got over the line. You then move forward and onto the next one, but it is nice to look back on.
“In Riga, I started the match well against Stephen and went 4-0 up at the interval. At that stage you start to think you will just ease over the line, but he came out after the break and made a big century. He got it back to 4-2 and the next frame was nip and tuck. If it had gone 4-3, then you never know what could have happened. Thankfully it didn’t and I got the win.
“Anybody will tell you. When you have a big lead and you think you are going to win at any moment and the advantage suddenly starts to be eroded, it is the worst feeling as a snooker player. At 4-2 you still have that little cushion. But lots of matches have been lost from two ahead with three to play. If he had won one more frame then I could have been in trouble.
“I’m looking forward to being defending champion, because it will be the first time I have ever experienced that. Hopefully I can play well and give it a real go this weekend.”