It seems only a matter of weeks ago that Ronnie O’Sullivan was being crowned World Snooker Champion for the sixth time in his career. But in this strangest of years, that delayed Triple Crown event was the final tournament of last season, and now, as the festive season approaches, we’re well into a new snooker season.
And it’s already time for the first Triple Crown event, the 2020 Betway UK Championship which starts in Milton Keynes on Monday.
Steeped in history and renowned as a stage where the biggest stars of the game are gunning for glory, this is an opportunity for the next chapter of snooker’s famous Triple Crown to be written.
Record seven-time winner O’Sullivan, world number one Judd Trump and the defending champion Ding Junhui are among the top players looking to inscribe their name on the trophy once more. But there’s a player on the horizon getting closer and closer to his maiden major triumph – Kyren Wilson.
Fresh from his run to the World Championship final at The Crucible back in July, ‘The Warrior’ is poised and ready to make the leap to become a Triple Crown event winner for the first time – and it could be here.
Speaking exclusively to Betfair earlier this month, the world number five is hoping now is his time as experts around the sport continue to tout him for a breakthrough moment.
Playing with pressure
“It’s great that I’m even in those conversations and in people’s minds to be in the mix for these kinds of events,” Wilson explained. “It shows that my game is heading in the right direction and the hard work I’ve put in over the years has got me to that end of the game.
“The UK Championship is a very special event and one of the events that you’re going to be remembered for (once you’ve finished playing the game).
“I never wanted to be a journeyman or a nearly man; I want to be pushing for those titles but obviously with that comes extra pressure.
“I like playing with pressure; it gives you a great adrenaline buzz and normally it works in my favour and helps me to concentrate.”
Wilson’s defeat to O’Sullivan in Sheffield just four months ago followed on from his run to the final of The Masters in 2018, proving he’s on the cusp of landing one of the top titles.
Asked what he learned from his recent match with the Rocket, he said: “It taught me to be patient. I think the longer format matches suit my personality and style of play, it’s just about (remembering) that you can’t be perfect all the time. You have to deal with the highs and the lows (of a match) and keep level-headed right the way through.
“One of the things my manager (Brandon Parker) said to me before he passed away (in July this year) was that you’ll win when you’re ready. It’s not just going to fall into your lap. When it’s going to happen, it’s meant to happen. I’m a big believer in everything happening for a reason and I’m a big believer in fate. As long as I keep working very hard and doing the right things to give myself the best chance, I do believe it will happen one day.”
This patience has seen Wilson continue to knock at the door of sport’s top winning enclosure over the past few years and his hardworking and mature approach to the game looks certain to yield silverware soon.
Finding the edge
“I’ve been a victim of myself in the past where if I’ve had a loss I’d have questioned everything and started to make big changes to my game,” he reflected. “Whereas now I just take it on the chin a bit more and go away and work even harder.”
“I don’t think I need to change much but I’m always looking for that (extra) two per cent that could make the key difference.
“Winning titles is what I want to be doing (at this stage in my career), so I want to make sure I take my chances when the finals come along.”
This year’s Betway UK Championship will be held away from York’s Barbican arena for the first time in a decade owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning it will be played behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.
Wilson sets off in the event at an appealing 20/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook. He’s eighth favourite to win the title but looks to be a wise selection from the pick of slight outsiders as his journey towards the sport’s pinnacle continues.
*The 2020 Betway UK Championship is live on Eurosport (from Monday 23 November) and the BBC (from Saturday 28 November) until its conclusion on Sunday 6 December.