Phil Haigh ✍️
Ricky Walden’s superb season so far got even better on Thursday when he beat the ‘just awesome’ Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open.
The 39-year-old has had a tricky few years on the circuit due to a back injury, but he is over that now and his results are showing, with three semi-final appearances this season so far.
The victory over the Rocket moved him to number eight on the one-year rankings, ahead of the likes of Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Kyren Wilson, which shows just how consistently excellent he has been this campaign.
The Gladiator was 3-1 up on O’Sullivan and feeling good, but the power of the Rocket had him questioning himself, turning down a brown in the fifth frame in particular, which left him doubting himself.
‘A lot of players say it, but he’s the one player that makes you regret certain situations…dramatically,’ Walden told Eurosport.
‘It felt like a big swing when I refused that brown. My safety was wrong, he was coming back at me.
‘He’s just awesome isn’t he? You know when you play him you’ve got to take your chances.
‘I played okay in spells. I went a bit negative in the middle part of the game and I could feel it. So I just thought I’d go for everything in the last one.
‘When I refused the brown, sometimes you make decisions and you know it’s the wrong shot. I knew I was playing the wrong shot and I didn’t forgive myself really. I started making more errors.
‘Then I thought, I played positive to go 3-1 up, I need to play positive, so if I get out on the right side of it, then all good.’
The three-time ranking event winner was delighted to get over the line, though, with a superb break of 83 in the decider to set up a quarter-final against Joe Perry.
Walden had not been to a semi-final of any event for five straight seasons before this campaign, and he feels his old glories – when he peaked at number six in the world – are returning.
‘It’s going okay, to be honest that’s the first time in a long time that I felt like my old self,’ he said. ‘I feel like I’m getting on with it and potting all the balls.
‘It’s hard to get in that frame of mind consistently when you’re playing a lot of qualifiers and stuff. I am a confidence player and it’s been a long road back.
‘But I feel like I’m knocking on the door of playing some good stuff and I’ve just got to keep on trying.’
On whether he is fully back to the confidence and rhythm which saw him claim three big titles from 2008-14, he said: ‘Not quite, if I’m being honest, but it’s coming close. I feel that my game is in the perfect place to move up another level.
‘It’s going to need some work, I need to keep knocking on the door and trying my hardest. Hopefully it’ll come.’
Walden and Perry meet in the last eight in Newport on Friday evening, with the winner playing either Jack Lisowski or Ali Carter for a place in the final.
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