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How Gary Wilson’s career took off on the tour

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How Gary Wilson’s career took off on the tour

Meanwhile, it’s Gary Wilson who’s being driven around. These days, the 38-year-old billiards whiz from England’s northeast just needs to get into a shuttle vehicle to get from the hotel in Telford, a small town in the West Midlands, to the International Center.

Inside the arena, his competitors treat him with a lot of respect. After all, he is a highly rated player who, according to experts, could go pretty far in the Players Championship that started on Monday. Especially now, after he won a ranking tournament on the global Main Tour for the second time this season with the Welsh Open on Sunday – and at first felt as if he was “over the moon”, over the moon, or rather in German: “on cloud nine”.

The satisfaction is great because this is anything but self-evident for him. The man with the strawberry-blonde beard and shaved head can still remember “those uncertain times” when he had to leave the global professional series due to a lack of success.

For seven years, from 2006 to 2013, he had to survive with temporary jobs and the hope of qualifying again at some point. But that was an audacious goal when someone has to earn money in mundane ways at home in Walsall, near Newcastle upon Tyne. For example, in a bar, in a frozen food factory or behind the wheel of a Blue Line taxi, which Wilson used to chauffeur customers around for years.

First “Century Break” at the age of nine

Some people would probably bury their sporting ambitions quietly under the circumstances. But the early gifted lone fighter, who achieved his first “Century Break” (recording with 100 or more points) at the age of nine, continued to dream – even in times “when I needed money and was thinking about what job I could take on,” like him the Northern English “breaking latest news” once revealed.

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And gradually his persistence was rewarded. In 2013 Wilson was able to return to the main tour. Two years later he reached his first final at the China Open and the semifinals of the World Cup in 2019. He won his first title in a ranking tournament and won 80,000 pounds (around 93,000 euros) fourteen months ago at the Scottish Open when he clearly defeated Joe O’Connor 9-2.

These were milestones that allowed Wilson’s somewhat unorthodox game and his self-confidence to become more and more stable. So much so that he was now able to take twelfth place in the two-year ranking plus a total of 375,000 pounds (around 438,000 euros) in bonuses. The sudden rise is also beneficial for the decision-makers of the leading World Snooker Tour (WST). It confirms them in their course of making the top level of the competition more open to successors through modified rules and more dates. You will now have significantly more chances to climb the ladder for 128 professionals from all over the world – whether they come from the Kingdom, mainland Europe or Southeast Asia.

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In Telford, where the top 16 of the one-year rankings are playing for 385,000 pounds (around 450,000 euros) in bonuses, there are less well-known faces at the green table alongside the usual suspects. Like 32-year-old Zhang Anda alias “The Mighty Mouse” from the Chinese People’s Republic. Or 29-year-old Hossein Vafaei, who was the first Iranian to break into the world elite. Or Wilson, who met Vafaei of all people on Tuesday afternoon.

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It was a close game for a long time, in which Vafaei initially got off to a better start. In the end, however, his British opponent pulled away from 4:4 to 6:4. Wilson was clearly still buoyed by his success in Wales, where he had not only delivered a maximum break of 147 points but, according to commentary legend Jimmy White, generally delivered “incredible stuff”.

“So many lows over the years”

Wilson is convinced that such experiences make you both calmer and more snappy in crucial moments – especially if you have experienced “as many lows as I have over the years”. Nobody knows how long the short series of seven wins in a row will last. The only thing that is certain is that the “Tyneside Terror”, as he is more often called, has never experienced a longer one in his turbulent time on the tour.

He will take this uplifting feeling with him into the quarter-finals this Thursday after the so-called “lunchtime” (2 p.m. on Eurosport and Discovery). There it’s against the Northern Irishman Mark Allen, third in the world rankings, who voluntarily doesn’t give his opponents the slightest chance on the tightly stretched canvas. But that’s what people now say about Gary Wilson.

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