Having dropped off the circuit at the end of last season, Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher was staring down the barrel of a potentially career ending exit at Q School. However, the 23-year-old held his nerve to secure a fresh two-year card on the World Snooker Tour.
Now 2017 English Open semi-finalist Ursenbacher is aiming to introduce an enhanced work ethic to his training regime in order to achieve his potential and solidify his place on the World Snooker Tour. We spoke with the Swiss star to find out his plans for the season…
Alexander, congratulations on coming through Q School. It was obviously a very close call thing and you required a deciding frame to beat Peter Lines 4-3 in the last round of event three. Was that the most pressure you have ever felt on a snooker table?
“The most pressure was actually in the round before that when I played against Fang Xiongman. I was 3-1 down and I just started thinking in my head about what I would have to do for a job in Switzerland if I didn’t get through. I was completely starting to panic. I wasn’t really sure what I would do if I failed at Q School. Somehow I managed to make a break of 80 at 3-3 in the decider and go through. I was then a lot calmer in that final round against Peter. I can’t explain why. It was just one of those things.
“It is just a completely different feeling to playing a big match on the tour. If you lose at Q School that is it. You are done and your season is over. If I had lost one of those deciding frames I would have been analysing it over and over and thinking about how I had missed my chance. The whole Q School process is brutal. I wouldn’t wish that pressure on anybody. I don’t want to end up there again. I will be doing everything in my power to make sure that I stay on the tour. I just need to get back to working hard and I can get back to playing my best.”
Is there anything in particular that you want to change to your practice set up to improve your chances of success this season?
“If I do well in the next few tournaments and earn a bit of money, then I am going to buy a Star table to play on in Switzerland. I am just practising on club tables at the moment. You can’t keep playing on a club table and expect to compete. Essentially all I am doing when I am practising is keeping my arm going, but you need a bit more than that. I can adjust pretty quickly to tournament conditions, because I have been playing on the circuit for two years now. But it is important to have the right practice conditions and that is what I am going to have to aim for.”
It was a superb run to reach the semi-finals of the English Open in 2017. However, after that your form suffered and you lost every match for the remainder of the season apart from one at the Shoot Out. In hindsight do you think you changed your approach after that English Open performance?
“The thing is that after I reached the semi-finals in Barnsley, I thought to myself that I was a different player. It felt different. I lost sight of the fact that what I did well in that tournament was take each ball at a time and not get ahead of myself. I forgot about all of the hard work I had done to get to that stage and presumed it would just always be like that. After I lost the semi-final against Kyren Wilson, I said to myself that I didn’t want to take it for granted and to not have achieved anything else six months further down the line. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened. I have learned so much from that experience and I will be able to handle any similar situations a lot better going forward.”
You beat Shaun Murphy during that run in Barnsley and defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Welsh Open last season. How much confidence and belief do you take going forward having beat players like them on the big stage?
“I think those sorts of results just give me confirmation of what I already knew deep down about myself. I have seen what I can do outside of the tournament arena and I know what I am capable of. I do feel like I am capable enough to have won a tournament already. It is different when you are out there in front of the cameras though. What beating top players like Ronnie of Shaun does is show me that I can win in that big match environment when there is something on the line. Before you beat a top player you can never be fully sure if you are even able to do it. This just gives you that affirmation in your mind.”
Now you have a fresh two-year tour card is your target to work your way into the world’s top 64 over the next 24 months?
“To be honest my opinion is that if I don’t get in the top 64 after two seasons then I will have been doing quite a lot of things wrong. I feel like I should be at least getting there by the end of next season. I want to be quite a bit further up than that. However, I know I will have to work very hard to get where I want to be so that is what I’m going to try and do.”