Phil Haigh ✍️
After a swift return to the World Snooker Tour, Aaron Hill is back with a new outlook and now feels ready to fulfil the immense potential he has shown flashes of during his young career so far.
First arriving on the professional circuit at just 18 years old, Hill immediately grabbed headlines by beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in his first event on tour, downing the reigning world champion 5-4 at the European Masters.
He was highly-regarded anyway, but this saw expectation soar and the youngster couldn’t replicate his initial success as he struggled for results over two seasons and slipped off tour.
Now 20, Hill has been forced to garner snooker wisdom very quickly and he is already seeing the shock of losing professional status as a positive, which his immediate return through Q School illustrates.
‘I think it’s probably the best thing that could happen to me,’ he said. ‘I was really disappointed with my results on the tour, because that’s not me. I’m a lot better than that.
‘I know there were a few good results in there, but I was really disappointed. I was never in the present moment in my matches, always looking ahead or thinking about a shot I missed.
‘You just cant do that, with the standard, these matches are so big, there’s a lot on the line. You can’t be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, because its hard enough as it is.’
Hill was speaking after comfortably beating talented Chinese star Zhao Jianbo to come through Q School Event 2 and he was rightfully proud of what he had achieved, even more so than when he shot down the Rocket.
‘To be sitting here after getting through is a much bigger achievement than beating Ronnie,’ Hill said. ‘The state I was in there a couple of weeks back. One day changed everything, things I learnt from that day will stay with me forever now and I’m just really grateful to be here today after getting back.’
The day in question saw Hill harness the power of having close pals there to help him out, and he feels a simple conversation has done wonders for his game.
‘It was just a couple of mates of mine, just a chat really, I learned a few truths on that night,’ he explained. ‘I was stronger than anyone here, I believe. How strong I was upstairs, I showed it on the table.’
On what the problem was he had to fix, Aaron explained: ‘It was personal things from being on the table. It was just tough, a bit lonely, really.
‘I accepted that I was going through it and it was all going to stand to me. Luckily it did this week, I’m back now, so bigger and better things ahead. It was never a problem on the table, I knew I was always good enough, but just getting the easy things right in your head was the main thing for me.
‘It’s just how to be happy all the time, it’s only a game of snooker. You’ll be stressed off your head in the seat when your opponent’s at the table and for no reason.
‘Just be happy and everything changes when your mood changes. In a bad mood, bad things are going to happen. In a good mood, good things are going to happen.
‘All this week I was calm, relaxed. Of course the pressure came and I was a bit nervous, but I was able to deal with it better than I would have been able to recently. I’m just really looking forward to getting back on tour now and see what happens.’
Most players will be a long way past 20 years old when they have this kind of lightbulb moment and Hill is hopeful that removing this mental weight from his game will free him up to achieve great things.
‘The amount of games I’ve lost in the last two years from just putting unnecessary pressure on me, it’s frightening,’ he said. ‘It’s not like I can’t play under pressure. I can play under the snooker pressure, it’s just unnecessary extra add-ons you put on yourself and it’s only you that’s doing it, no one else.
‘When you’re stuck in that, it’s like being stuck in the mud, you can’t get out of it. What I mean by learning truths, was change them thoughts, get rid of them thoughts and it’s worked.
‘I know my game is there. It’s just about getting mentally right, that was the big thing for me. I got on tour when I was 18, I suppose you could say I was thrown in the deep end, I wasn’t expecting to be as tough as it was.
‘Especially with the Covid year as well, it was really tough on the head. Especially having to do everything on your own as well. I hadn’t anyone in my corner really, except my family back home. I’ve changed that now, I’m back and I’m going to make things easier for myself. I’m working with a few people now, so my game is in the best shape.’
The Irishman wouldn’t change his immense win over O’Sullivan back in 2020, but other than the boost to his confidence, it did make things tricky with expectations and the sudden burst of interest which quickly ebbed away.
‘It was my first week on tour. I was just buzzing, I just wanted to play snooker,’ Hill remembered. ‘I suppose when I beat Ronnie expectations started to build from, not only me, but everyone around the world, back home and everything.
‘Then when you start getting the bad results, them fellas aren’t there, so you can’t get down on that, just focus on yourself and drive on.’
Having only turned 20 this year, the sky remains the limit for Hill having refocussed his energies on enjoying the game and letting his talent flow, and he is still aiming for the very top of the sport.
‘100 per cent,’ Hill said on his goal remaining to join snooker’s elite. ‘I won’t let them people down, the people that always stick with me.
‘They know what I’m capable of, I know what I’m capable of. I can beat anybody on my day and all this experience and confidence is going to build up and I believe there’s a long, long career for me in this game.’
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