World number 17 Joe Perry hopes that his Crucible experience, which extends back 21 years, will give him the edge at Betfred World Championship qualifying.
Perry made his debut in 1999, securing a dramatic 10-9 win over Steve Davis on the final black in the opening round. Despite being a former Players Champion and Masters finalist, Perry cites that as the greatest moment of his career so far.
He narrowly missed out on automatic World Championship qualification this year, after being edged out of the top 16 by Yan Bingtao.
Given his seeding, Perry will enter qualifying in round three and needs to win two matches to reach the Crucible. Only Mitchell Mann and Tian Pengfei have Crucible experience in his section. The Gentleman believes that the emotions involved with bidding for a debut appearance could work against some of his potential opponents.
We caught up with Perry to find out just what it takes to come through the pressure cooker environment of Betfred World Championship qualifying…
Joe, how easy is it to avoid being dragged into the emotion of World Championship qualifying?
“It’s not easy. With the amount of years I’ve been playing the game, comes experience and you learn how to deal with things. I think that has helped me in recent times to negotiate my way through the qualifiers. It is a nerve-wracking experience for people who are new to it and have never played at the Crucible before. It’s a lifelong ambition for most young players to play snooker at the Crucible. There are a lot of nerves out there, but it is one of those things. You just have to get on with it.”
In the years before your Crucible debut, what was it like when you were fighting to qualify for the first time?
“It was one of the most horrible experiences I’ve had as a snooker player. I think I got beat to qualify at least two times, you just wonder if you are ever going to play there. The first time I qualified, I was 8-1 up over Dave Harold and he got it back to 8-7. You can imagine the thoughts in my head. I just thought I was never ever going to get to play there. Once you get over it and experience it, the feeling is so great that it motivates you to try and get back there every year.”
It was a dream debut to beat Steve Davis. What was the feeling like after winning that match?
“I’ve won a major tournament and a few little ones. I’ve had some big finals that I have come close in. All in all, when I look back on my snooker career, that will be the absolute highlight. None of my family members were there with me for the tournament I won in Thailand. That day in Sheffield, all the lads from the club were there, my dad was there, my brothers were there. When I potted that final black I just looked up and my dad was hanging over the balcony. It was an absolute dream come true for me. I don’t think I’ve experienced any emotion like that since then on the snooker table.”
It was a close call whether you were going to get into the top 16 and get into the Crucible automatically. How do you feel ahead of the qualifiers?
“I know my game isn’t sharp. Then again, I don’t think anyone’s will be completely sharp. We had a little warmup event at the Championship League. That was good to get the cue out again. All in all, it is going to be tough. It will be different to other years, you normally go into the qualifiers knowing what your form will be like. The last few years I have been in decent form. This time it is completely unknown. With the matches being reduced to best of 11, that first match is going to be really important for me to get myself into the best of 19 stage.”
Do you think, given the lack of sharpness, your experience could come into play?
“That is the plan, hopefully. The best you can hope for is to play someone that is new to it, excited and nervous. If you play someone who has been there many times like myself, it is just another game of snooker.”
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