Ashley Hugill on 'ridiculously hard work' and Ronnie O'Sullivan help ahead of Crucible debut

April 13, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Ashley Hugill
Ashley Hugill came through World Championship qualifying on Tuesday (Picture: Zhai Zheng)

Ashley Hugill will make his World Snooker Championship debut this month after coming through qualifying and he says it is down to ‘ridiculously hard work’ and a little confidence boost from Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The 27-year-old Yorkshireman is enjoying his best season to date thanks to his run to the Crucible, beating Dean Young, Martin Gould and Joe O’Connor at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

He has picked up memorable victories over the likes of Kyren Wilson, Jack Lisowski and Ali Carter this campaign, with the long hours of practice starting to really pay off.

Hugill has been described as the most improved player on tour and asked whether he would describe himself as such, he simply said: ‘Yeah.’

On what that improvement is down to, he explained: ‘Hard work, ridiculously hard work.

‘When I first started training in Sheffield I used to be in the Star Academy for 12 or 13 hours. I’d get there at 9am, play there all day till 9pm, clean the tables and leave at 10pm.

‘I did that for four days a week for two or three years. That was the most intense practice I did. That was from when I was about 20 till 23, 24. Seven hours a day does me now.’

Now based at the hugely successful Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield – home of the likes of Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao, Fan Zhengyi and Lyu Haotian – Hugill has moved from his York home to set up in the Steel City.

‘Three and a half years ago I moved to Sheffield,’ he said. ‘It needed to be done, I was commuting all the time. I’m a rubbish cook though, so it was a bit difficult having to do that for myself.

‘Victoria’s great. It’s not really the facilities, it’s the mindset and it’s the mentality and the feeling in the room.’

Some serious hours of practice are put in at Victoria’s Academy from all the players in attendance and Hugill says the hard work over the years gave him the knowledge that results would come.

‘I wouldn’t say it gave me confidence, but I knew I couldn’t keep doing that for years and years and not get something back from it,’ he said. ‘I knew I had to get something back from it.’

Hours and hours on the practice table get you so far, but there are intangibles that can move a player onto the next level and Ronnie O’Sullivan provided something of a boost for the Yorkshireman.

The Rocket beat Hugill at the European Masters earlier this season and had some kind words for his opponent.

‘A big shout out to Ashley Hugill,’ said O’Sullivan. ‘He’s 27, so not very young in snooker terms, but a very good player and still not very experienced in tour terms. He has a lot of good qualities, and I’m not one for giving out compliments unless they are deserved. The same as Wu Yize earlier in the week, he will be a world champion if he develops and gets good advice.

‘There is a right way and a wrong way to play a sport, and they both play snooker the right way. You might win, but if you do it in the wrong way you ain’t getting my eyeballs. It’s the way you do it, sometimes. You have good players, great players and exceptional players.

‘And even some exceptional players win tournaments but are not great to watch. And you get good players that don’t win so many events but I’d pay to watch them, because they play the game the right way.’

2017 English Open - Day 2
Ronnie O’Sullivan was thoroughly impressed with Ashley Hugill (Picture: Getty Images)

O’Sullivan has also been working with the players at Victoria’s Academy and Hugill has taken a lot from his comments and even going running with the Rocket.

‘That was a massive confidence boost actually,’ Hugill said of Ronnie’s comments. ‘I’ve watched that interview a few times and my family love watching it.

‘He’s been good to me actually, Ronnie. We went for a run together, I’m quite into running, so we did that and I’ve been trying to learn from him.’

However, what advice the six-time world champion gives to the younger players at Victoria’s, is an academy secret: ‘Oh, I can’t tell you that,’ said Hugill.

The Yorkshireman will be in the Crucible first round draw for the first time on Thursday at 11am.

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