Phil Haigh ✍️
Judd Trump called on his pal Oliver Lines to be more ‘evil’ in his snooker career, but the Yorkshireman says a selfish streak is just not going to happen with his family ties on tour.
Lines enjoyed his finest run as a professional at the Turkish Masters earlier this month, reaching the quarter-finals where he was narrowly beaten 5-4 by Shaun Murphy.
The 26-year-old picked up wins over Yan Bingtao, Xiao Guodong and Andrew Higginson to reach the last eight and Trump said he should be going deep in competitions more often, but would benefit from a more malevolent attitude.
‘I genuinely believe he is as good as some of the players winning these events,’ Trump told The Sportsman. ‘And for me he needs to get that evil side to him, kind of what I had to get and now have in order to win. And if he can do that, get on a roll and move up the rankings I have no doubt he can be a really top player.
‘It’s just the mental side, that is the thing that Oli needs to work on and get right to make a big breakthrough and fulfil his potential.
‘With him it is all in the head. I think having Peter, his dad, on the tour for him with the type of guy he is doesn’t help him. He is very, very close to his family and that is clearly a good thing. But I think it takes away some of his concentration when he is at tournaments and his dad is playing too.’
The Lines family are in a unique situation on the tour, with Peter and Oli both scrapping for success as professionals. There are obvious benefits to being on tour with your snooker family, but Oliver can see where Trump is coming from with a possible drawback.
‘I don’t think he meant to use the word evil, I think he just wants me to get more selfish with my snooker,’ the world number 67 told Metro.co.uk. ‘I understand it because, I think he thinks me and me dad are just too nice.
‘We’re watching each other play but I should be focusing on myself and making sure I’m doing the best I possibly can. He’s saying that because I’m watching my dad before I play I can be wasting a lot of nervous energy and I might not be ready to start a match.
‘He’s saying I’ve got to be a bit more selfish, maybe care about my dad’s results a bit less, but I don’t think that could ever happen.’
Peter wasn’t at the Turkish Masters, and with Oli making the quarter-finals there was some suggestion that Judd may have a point, but the younger Lines didn’t see it that way.
‘No, I love having my dad with me,’ he said. ‘He knows me inside out, knows when I’m feeling good or down. Knows my snooker game inside out, it’s just good having him there because he’s got so much knowledge and can help me at any stage.
‘No matter how I was playing I was ringing him all the time to ask if he was watching and what I was doing right or wrong. I love having him there.
‘He obviously wants me to win and he knows me, watches me play every day, knows the shots I like to go for and if I’m not going for them he wants to know why.’
Peter may not have been in Antalya, but Oli had some extra motivation thanks to his dad as he took on Xiao in the last 64.
The 52-year-old was fined in January for a confrontation he had with Xiao at the Northern Ireland Open qualifiers back in August and Oliver was inspired to produce the best break of his career to win a decider against the Chinese star – a 69 clearance from 50 behind.
‘I wouldn’t say I dislike Xiao, but everything that happened with him and my dad, it added a bit of extra spice to the game,’ he said. ‘It probably didn’t for him, but it did for me. I couldn’t lose that game, I just couldn’t.
‘I’d say it was the best break I’ve ever made, probably my most important as well for tour survival, the pressure I was under and getting into the top 64.’
Peter was eventually fined £2,500 and ordered to pay costs of over £5,000, which was a stiff punishment, but it was the uncertainty of waiting on the judgement that was bothering the Lines family.
They are pleased it is all behind them now, though, and are looking to turn it into a positive.
‘We’ve tried to have a different outset since all this stuff happened, just be happier as a family because we went through a few months of just feeling really low,’ said Oli. ‘We’re just trying to be happier and I think you can see it in my dad’s game, he’s playing better.
‘It was a really hard time for us all. It dragged on for so long. If they’d just got it out the way we could have moved on, but we couldn’t. We didn’t know if he’d get fined, banned, lose his job on the board. It just dragged on and on.
‘But we’ve moved on from that now and just forgetting about it.’
Oliver will be back on the table this week at the Gibraltar Open and then in action at the World Championship qualifiers next month, where he is looking to continue the impressive form he showed in Turkey.
Form he puts down to a lot of hard work on the practice table with the likes of Mark King and Matt Selt, sessions with his coach Steve Feeney, and words of wisdom from his pal – and helpfully one of the world’s finest players – Trump.
‘In my practice, with Kingy, Selty and Judd, I’ve been playing really good and then I lost in the first round of the Welsh Open to [Zhao] Xintong,’ Oli explained.
‘I was staying at Judd’s and I was obviously annoyed, so I just asked him for some advice, a few tips. He told me a few things that have helped him over the years and I started putting them into practice in Turkey.
‘I don’t know if it was just because you try something new, it works, but I just felt really calm, confident, started to believe that I could maybe go on and win it. That hasn’t happened for years.
‘It was just helping with my mental approach. I wouldn’t say what he told me to say to myself, but it was mainly about my attitude and to talk to myself in better ways.
‘I was 4-2 up against Xiao and I think he needed three snookers on the brown which he got and it got to 4-4 and 50 down from there. Even then I still felt really calm.
‘It was weird because normally I’d be saying to myself, “How are you going to lose this? You’re absolutely garbage.” All that stuff. But I was genuinely saying to myself, “Give me one chance and I’m going to clear these.”
‘Sounds easy to say now because I did it, but I genuinely was saying that. I didn’t want to let Judd down either, he’s my best mate and I wanted to show him I was doing what he told me, then it just seemed to click and I managed to do the best break of my life.’
Some fine victories, the best run of his career and £12,500 in prize money was an excellent week for Oli, but with glory is still despair, as Lines feels his loss to Murphy in the quarters is the most hurtful of his life.
‘It’s weird because if you’d have given me a quarter-final at the start of the week I’d have taken it, 100 percent,’ he said. ‘But then you get there and you think, “No, I’m not settling for this. I want more.”
‘I missed a couple of shots I should have got at the end of the match. I was devastated. It was definitely my most painful loss.’
Some time removed from that run in Antalya and Lines can see the positives, taking a boost to his confidence which he admits can be damaged by what people say about his game.
The Leeds cueman has taken a step back from social media to avoid the negativity which he feels has hurt his snooker, and feels better for it.
‘In general I’m happy because I know I’ve been waiting to do this for a while,’ he said. ‘One of my problems is I listen to criticism too much. I listen to the commentators and people asking why I’m not doing better.
‘Then you start to believe it. Why am I not doing better? Maybe I am not good enough. When you’re getting beat you keep taking hits and the negative comments don’t help at all. You can start believing them and it’s even harder.
‘I came off a lot of social media because when you’re losing you just don’t want to see the comments you’re getting, I think I’ve been happier since I’ve come off, to be honest.’
In a better place mentally and with his game in general, Lines is aiming for a first appearance at the Crucible this year and is confident that the team set-up he has created will take him to Sheffield’s world famous theatre.
‘I’ve been practicing hard all year, working with Steve Feeney,’ he said. ‘I love working with Feeney, just gives me something to aim for each day, he’s always got my back if I need him, he’ll be here.
‘I feel like my game’s in good shape with him, with what Judd’s telling me, what my dad’s telling me. I don’t think I could be in a much better position to qualify this year.’
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