Barry Hawkins is looking to claim his first ranking title in two years at the tenth anniversary Shanghai Masters next week.
After a slow start to the campaign, the Hawk is looking to spring into form as the tournament calendar steps up in intensity…
Barry, how do you feel you’ve played so far this season?
“I don’t really feel as if I’ve got going to be honest. I lost to Stephen Maguire at the Indian Open and he played really well. Then out in China my back went and I was in complete agony.
“It seems like quite a few players suffer from it at my age. I think it’s mainly just from the years of practice and bending over. I’ve seen an osteopath and I think it’s just a case of managing it. I feel fine now and will need to make sure I do my stretches and keep an eye on things.”
With the Shanghai Masters next week, how much are you looking forward to the season calendar really beginning to pick up pace?
“It’s one of the few tournaments that being in the top 16 really matters. Although, having drawn Robert Milkins I couldn’t have got a harder opponent for the first round. He’s a dangerous player, so I’ll need to take my chances. This is also the first event abroad that I’ll be taking my wife Tara to, so it will be nice to have a bit of company. It can get quite lonely sitting in a hotel room on your own, especially when everyone is jet lagged. I see this as where my season really begins. I’m looking forward to properly getting underway.”
In terms of your position in the world rankings you currently lie 16th. Does that increase the pressure, or focus you to remain there?
“It would obviously be nice to be in the top 16 for the Masters and World Championship. The way the system works, having had a really good season a couple of years ago, I have a big chunk of money coming off. That’s the nature of the ranking system. It can be quite hard to keep that consistency going, you need to win tournaments all the time to stay up the top like Mark Selby has. My aim is to win titles and move up the rankings. However, if I start playing well, then the rankings will take care of themselves.”
Last year’s World Championship was a pretty eventful one for you. What are your memories of the win over Ronnie O’Sullivan and nearly pulling off an impossible comeback against Marco Fu?
“Oh it was probably the biggest win of my career actually. To beat Ronnie, over that distance, in the World Championship was fantastic. I thought he played pretty well, he certainly wasn’t struggling. I had to hold myself together at the end, I had a lead but he came back at me with some big breaks. Winning tournaments is big, but to beat Ronnie in a long race bearing in mind my track record against him, it was probably the biggest moment of my career. I felt pretty demoralised after losing the Masters final 10-1 against him, so it was great to get that off my back.
“I didn’t sleep well at all the night after that match. It showed in my quarter-final performance against Marco. I just left myself with too much to do. After being 9-1 down, I had an opportunity to go into the last interval at 10-10. I missed it, but if we pulled level I think I would have won. Even at 12-11 down, I thought I had a great chance. He pulled off a great clearance at the end and I think I just left myself with too much to do.”
Next month the Home Nations Series kicks off with the English Open. How important is it to have more events in Britain, as well as promoting the game around the world?
“I’m over the moon about it personally as I feel like I tend to play well in events closer to home. I’m not the best at travelling and it will be nice to be able to get to the tournaments easily. It is also very important to build the popularity at grassroots level. To be able to do that we need to have more tournaments over here like the Home Nations Series.”
Have you got your eye on the £1 million bonus that goes with winning all four events?
“Well I think you could have a £10 million bonus and it wouldn’t make any difference. I think it is virtually impossible. I’d love to be the one that proves myself wrong! However, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Having said that, it’s a great idea and gets people talking. If someone wins the first three events then things will really get interesting, but I can’t see that happening.”
See Barry in action at the 2016/17 Home Nations series.Tickets on sale now- for details CLICK HERE
English Open – Event City, Manchester, October 10-16
Irish Open – Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, November 14-20
Scottish Open – Emirates Arena, Glasgow, December 12-18
Welsh Open – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, February 13-19