Barry Hawkins hopes that an improved attitude towards playing in overseas events will give him a better chance of winning titles in the coming season.
Hawkins has been one of the most consistent performers on the pro tour in recent years, a regular fixture among the world’s top eight. But he admits his record in China – where at least five tournaments will be staged this season – is poor by his standards. Hawkins made a breakthrough last April when he got to the final of the China Open in Beijing – his first ever ranking final in the Far East. And though he lost 11-3 to Mark Selby, the 39-year-old now believes he can play to his potential at the long-haul events.
“I am not the best traveller, I get homesick and there have been times at overseas tournaments when I have just wanted to go home,” admits the father-of-one. “So Beijing was very encouraging because I kept a good attitude throughout the week. That was massive for me and it’s an attitude I want to keep in the future. In the end I was outplayed by Mark in the final, he is a class act.
“My main ambition for next season is just to stay motivated, keep my mind on snooker and enjoy playing. If I can avoid getting down on myself, even when I’m away overseas, then I’ll give myself a chance of winning titles. I have spells where I get fed up with snooker, but then the love always comes back.”
The first half of last season was particularly tough for Hawkins as he came to terms with the tragic death of his brother in law. It wasn’t until the last few months of the campaign that he was able to concentrate on snooker, and the results were impressive, as he reached the final of the Welsh Open (losing 9-7 to John Higgins) and China Open, and the semis of the World Championship.
At the Crucible he knocked out Stuart Carrington, Lyu Haotian and Ding Junhui; Hawkins has now won more matches at Sheffield’s Theatre of Dreams over the past five years than any other player. But the title that every snooker player craves the most continues to elude him. A classic semi-final against Mark Williams featured five centuries and 15 more breaks over 50 between the two players, but Hawkins finished on the wrong end of the 17-15 scoreline.
Hawkins led Williams 14-12 but couldn’t get past the winning line
“I was ahead most of the way through the match and felt great right up until the last couple of frames,” recalls the Londoner. “Then the occasion got to both of us and the wheels came off. We were both completely gone. Obviously Mark just held himself together a bit better than I did. It was disappointing because until then I felt very confident. If I had got to the final – then who knows? John Higgins is a great player but I felt comfortable against him in the Welsh Open final earlier in the season and I think I would have given him a good game and had a chance of winning. But you can’t spend too much time wondering what might have been, otherwise you’ll drive yourself mad. It was still a great experience to get to the semi-finals.
Matches won at the Crucible since 2013
Barry Hawkins 18
Mark Selby 17
Ronnie O’Sullivan 15
Ding Junhui 13
John Higgins 11
Judd Trump 11
“Last season was very tough for me in more ways than one,” said the three-time ranking event winner. “On the snooker side I had to stay patient. Sometimes you put the work in and you just don’t get the results. You have to keep practising and wait until something clicks, or the bit of luck you need goes your way. I was really pleased with the way I played in the second half of the season.”
Hawkins’ last title came at the 2017 World Grand Prix when he beat Ryan Day in the final
Despite not adding to his collection of silverware, Hawkins earned £376,137 in 2017/18. “The money at the top end now is more than we could have dreamed about a few years ago when we were just trying to pay the bills,” he said. “I’m not one for flash cars, I wouldn’t get a Lamborghini, but I have just bought an Audi Q7 because I thought…why not? We have built an extension to our house which is nearly finished now – I’m actually doing some of the DIY myself at the moment like bathroom tiling. And it’s great to be able to go on nice holidays.
“The opportunities are huge now and if you can have a few good years you can make yourself financially secure. It helps to keep you motivated and to keep playing as long as you can.”
Hawkins has enjoyed the summer break and admits finding it “very difficult” to get back to practice while the sun is shining. Family holidays have been spent with wife Tara and nine-year-old son Harrison. The three of them also took part in a charity fun-run called Gung-Ho! at Brand’s Hatch. Hawkins is an ambassador for Kent Sports Trust, alongside the likes of Dame Kelly Holmes and Lizzy Yarnold, and supports the trust on various initiatives when he has time outside his snooker commitments.
But the day job is taking over now and Hawkins is building his practice regime with the new season already underway. He won his qualifying matches for both the Riga Masters and Yushan World Open, beating Andy Lee and Alfie Burden.
“I was rusty at the qualifiers but managed to get those wins under my belt,” he said. “It’s a long season and I don’t want to use up too much energy early on, but I am spending more time in the club this week.”
Hawkins won the title in Riga three years ago, beating Tom Ford in the final, and always enjoys the trip to Latvia. “It’s a lovely place and an enjoyable event,” he said. “I can’t expect too much but we’ll see what happens. It will help me build towards the World Open which is a really big event.”
His most memorable moment in Riga was his introduction into the arena ahead of the 2015 final by charismatic MC Armands Simsons.
“He’s a bit different that’s for sure!” Hawkins laughed. “I didn’t see him last season because he’s only there for the last few rounds and I got knocked out early. So if I get far enough to have an introduction from him this time I’ll be doing well.”
The Kaspersky Riga Masters runs from July 27-29. For ticket details click here and for details of TV coverage click here.