Sam Craigie admits his career was in the balance after suffering an unexpected relegation from the tour following the World Championship, but the 24-year-old bounced back immediately at Q School last month to claim a fresh two-year card.
We caught up with the former World Under-21 champion, as he continues his preparations for the 2018/19 season…
Sam, well done for regaining your professional status straight away. You went into the World Championship looking as if your place on the tour was comfortable. However, Lyu Haotian’s run to reach the Crucible knocked you out at the last minute. How tough was it to get into the right frame of mind for Q School?
“It wasn’t a very nice time. If I hadn’t got through Q School, then I didn’t really have a life. The new Challenge Tour is brilliant, but it isn’t a job. If I hadn’t turned pro again then I would have just quit snooker, because I need a job. I have two daughters at home and don’t have a year to spend trying to qualify again
“When I fell off the tour I decided that I would start practising for eight hours a day in the lead up to Q School. I thought I was already treating practice as a job, but that was obviously not the case and I hadn’t worked hard enough. That has been proven by falling off. If I work hard then I believe I can achieve something.”
Seven of the 12 qualifiers dropped off the tour last season. Do you feel that extra experience shows through in the pressurised environment of Q School?
“Once I had qualified it felt a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. There are quite a few players there that are good enough for the tour, but some of the others didn’t understand that you can’t afford to give away two or three chances a frame and expect to win. You probably need to be on the tour to learn that side of things.”
“I played well in every match. That is probably why it felt easier than it could have. I had three or four breaks in each game, which I hadn’t been doing enough of last season. That is my own fault. I know it is there, it’s just about working harder.”
What are your main objectives for the next two seasons?
“My target is to be in the top 64 after the first season. I don’t want to be scraping around for a year. I’m going to try to get there as quickly as possible and kick on.
“The last two seasons have turned out to be about building experience for me. I didn’t think that was what they would be about, I expected to achieve more and I think other people thought I would as well. There is no reason why I can’t jump up the rankings. In the second half of last season I started getting some really good results and pushing top players hard. I now know that there aren’t that many players on the tour that are significantly better than me. I can give anyone a game. I know I’m good enough.”
Craigie wore glasses for the second half of last season.
You started wearing glasses while you were playing half way through the season, but got rid of them at Q School. Have you settled on whether you are going to use them next campaign?
“I started wearing them because the muscle attached to one of my eyes doesn’t work as quickly as the other one. That can make safety shots quite difficult.
“The glasses really helped at first and I had started getting better results. The problem is that the more I play and the more I practise, it starts to become quite painful. I have to wear them tightly and that puts a strain on my head and eyes. I took them off a few weeks before Q School and have played well since. Wearing glasses made things clearer and things aren’t as crisp when I’m not wearing them, but I don’t mind because I can play for longer now.”
What are your plans between now and the season getting underway?
“I am going to keep working hard and I might also be heading down to London to base myself out of a club called JP’s for a while. It is really good when I go down there as I play against some of the higher ranked players. I’ll try and get games with the likes of Joe Perry, Barry Hawkins and Stuart Bingham. A week or so down there is never empty and it can really help my game.”