Chris Wakelin is hoping that making his World Championship debut can inspire him to lift a maiden ranking title
The 26-year-old had spent six seasons as a professional attempting to qualify for snooker’s tournament of tournaments, before finally reaching the Crucible for the first time.
Wakelin progressed thanks to a stunning 10-1 demolition of China’s Tian Pengfei at World Championship qualifying. On previous occasions he had surrendered leads when bidding to reach the Crucible, so the Warwickshire potter was pleased with the clinical edge he showed under pressure.
Wakelin said: “I lost to Anthony Hamilton a couple of years ago from 4-0 up because I wasn’t ruthless enough. I moved 5-0 ahead against Tian this year and although he nicked one back, I did everything I could in the next few frames to stop any chance of a fightback.
“It was a massive achievement to finally qualify. I came close over the last two years. I’ve had leads and let them slip. They were games I should have taken control of. I learnt from my past mistakes on this occasion and made sure I stamped my authority on all of the matches. Playing on the tour has been a steep learning curve and I used my experience to my advantage and managed to finally get over the line.”
Competing at the World Championship brings with it a plethora of additional media obligations due to the global interest in the event. However, despite the fact this was Wakelin’s first appearance at the Theatre of Dreams, he felt at ease in the spotlight.
“It’s a big occasion and with that comes more press coverage. I’m fine in front of the camera and I’m not shy, so doing press conferences and interviews isn’t a daunting prospect to me,” said the world number 48. “It was nice to be able to show people who I am, both as a player and as a person off the table. When I was younger, snooker players were held up as heroes and celebrities and I suppose the likes of Alex Higgins and Jimmy White were exactly that. I am progressing in the sport, but I don’t see myself in that way. I just like to think that anyone can approach us as normal people.”
Wakelin and Trump locked horns in an epic Crucible battle.
Wakelin was pitted against eight-time ranking event winner Judd Trump in his first round match and it turned out to be one of the most thrilling showdowns of the event.
After a session and a half of high quality snooker, both players showed signs of nerves as the finishing line drew nearer. Eventually it was Trump who emerged a 10-9 victor, but having had time to reflect on the result, Wakelin is determined to take the positives from an agonising defeat.
He said: “I can look back at that match now and have no regrets. I was in the game from start to finish and never gave up. Of course it was disappointing to lose, but I can learn from it. I dug my heels in and showed Judd, the tour and the world what I am capable of. It has given me a lot of confidence going forward. I know I can compete on the biggest stage against the best players.”
With the new season just over two weeks away Wakelin is hopeful that he can make his campaign one to remember and he has set his sights on silverware.
“I’m still looking for my first tournament victory, but I know there are a lot of good players on the tour now and not everyone can win, so it is just about who wants it the most. Now is the time for me to push on and grab what I want.
“At the mid-way point of last season my practice was stagnating a bit. I was doing the same routines day in, day out. We had a month off in January and I found something in my game. I was making up new routines and practising for longer hours. I was simply trying harder. That is what I need to do now and if I can find that little one or two percent on top of what I’ve already got then that can be a big advantage.”