GRAEME Dott and the UK Championship have never been a good pairing, but the Larkhall snooker player insists there is no better time to change all that than the present.
Despite winning the UK Under-19 Championship in 1992, Dott has failed to carry that success over into his senior career. While featuring in two World Championship finals – winning it in 2006 after overcoming Peter Ebdon 18-14 in the longest final ever – Dott is yet to feature in a UK Championship showpiece. His best performance came back in the same year he won his world title, falling at the semi-final 9-7 to Stephen Hendry. This time around he faces Martin Gould first up and with all the omens looking positive, having beaten him in round one of the 2010 tournament, Dott is hopeful 2012 will finally be his year.
“My preparation for the UK Championship hasn’t been too bad, could have been better but it has been alright,” said Dott. “But it never seems to matter because I have never done that well at the UK Championship no matter how well I have been playing in the build-up. I don’t know what it is about the tournament and I can’t put my finger on it. It is just one of those things.
“I got to the semi-final in 2006 where I lost to Hendry and that tournament I did well but other than that I have not played well there. But I beat Martin a couple of years ago at the UK Championship so hopefully I can repeat that and build from there, although I don’t like to set myself goals heading into a competition.”
After ending last season on a real low point, losing 10-1 to Joe Perry at the World Championships, Dott has turned his form around this campaign, reaching the quarter-final of the Wuxi Classic in his first competition and building from there. And it is a sign of how far he has come that Dott admits disappointment at narrowly losing to world No 1 Judd Trump 5-4 in the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters, despite fighting back from 4-1 down to level the match.
“I have been pleased with how my season has gone so far, the second part hasn’t been quite as good as the first but it has still been good,” he added. “The Judd match was a great match and I was pleased with how I played and the way I fought back. But to be honest I was a bit unhappy to lose the match and felt like I was unlucky to lose so I want to turn that around as quick as I can.”
Meanwhile, Mark Allen claims snooker faces a long and difficult battle to win back shell-shocked fans after the double blow of Hendry’s retirement and Ronnie O’Sullivan’s decision to put his career on hold.
Allen, last year’s UK Championship runner-up, returns to the York Barbican Centre this weekend looking to go one step further in the tournament by landing the biggest title of his career to date. The sparky Northern Irishman and the flamboyant Trump, who beat Allen in a thrilling final 12 months ago, are prime candidates to fashion snooker’s next great rivalry. However 26-year-old Allen has warned the sport is now in a slow recovery mode rather than a period of growth.
Allen regrets the exit of seven-time world champion Hendry more than he does the absence of crowd favourite O’Sullivan, but understands why the latter’s decision to take a hiatus from his sporting career has been particularly damaging. “I think Stephen’s a bigger miss to the game than Ronnie, but from the financial side Ronnie is the big draw and I think the tournaments have suffered because of that,” Allen said. “The crowds haven’t been the same and there hasn’t really been that same buzz around the tournaments and it’s going to be a bit of time before it can recover.”
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