GOULD - I WON'T FEAR WORLD QUALIFIERS
Martin Gould will be confident of making it through the Betfred World Championship qualifiers even if he fails to gain a place in the top 16.
Gould still has a chance to earn a top 16 spot and an automatic place at the Crucible - he needs to reach at least the semi-finals of the China Open, which starts on March 27. After that event, all players outside the top 16 will need to win three qualifying matches at Ponds Forge to make it to the final stages of snooker's biggest tournament.
Tickets for the qualifying rounds at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield (April 5-12) are on sale now and cost just £10 per day.
London's 35 year old Gould has seen both sides of the coin at the Crucible as he came through the qualifying rounds in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 while he was a top 16 seed in 2012 and 2016.
''I have made it through the qualifiers several times - I have been there and got the t shirt,'' said Gould. ''If that's what I need to do this year then I'll go to Ponds Forge with the right mind set. It is a cut-throat system now - but, so be it.
''Last year I was a seed and drew Ding Junhui in the first round. Everyone said it was a tough draw for me - though I also felt I was one of the seeds Ding wouldn't want to play. We had a great match, he won 10-8 and I was pleased that he went on to reach the final.
''He showed that it is possible to win three qualifying matches and then have a good run at the Crucible. As long as you've had a few breaks during the season then you can still be fresh going into it. And you don't mind being knackered at the end of the event because it's the last one of the season, so you can put everything into it.'' Gould, who won his first ranking title last season at the German Masters, heads to the China Open next Friday and faces either Robbie Williams or Fan Zhengyi in the opening round in Beijing the following Tuesday.
''I won't be thinking about the rankings, I'll just be going to China to win matches and have a good run in the tournament,'' he said. ''Since the turn of the year my results have been good, particularly getting to the semi-finals in Germany and then beating Mark Selby at the World Grand Prix. In the first half of the season I didn't feel I was playing badly, I just ran into players who were flying. I played Mei Xiwen at the UK Championship - he beat me 6-3 and I couldn't believe I had never seen him play before because he was phenomenal that day.''
''I always look forward to going to China. The toughest thing is getting into a sleep pattern quickly - if I can do that then I'll be ready for my first match.''