Kyren Wilson on family life and becoming snooker's No. 1
In our interview, the 24-year-old discusses the UK Championship, beating Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Crucible and how his son Finlay has improved his game.
The worst thing about being turfed out of the UK Championship early doors?
"I always do my Christmas shopping when I’m in York," says Kyren Wilson.
He manages a laugh.
"Obviously, this year I’ve not had the time."
Wilson, of course, is joking.
He is still trying to put his opening-round defeat to Mitchell Mann at the season's first Triple Crown event behind him.
"It’s not easy," says the 24-year-old from Kettering. "It’s quite hard to do, actually."
Wilson is speaking over the phone from Prestatyn, Wales, where he is enjoying a weekend at the in-laws’ with wife Sophie and son Finley.
Five days earlier, he had arrived in York in decent nick after reaching the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open.
What went wrong at the Barbican?
"To be honest, a few off-table things were going on," he says. "My wife hasn’t been too well and she’s due in for an operation. I don’t think my mind was completely on the job."
Wilson also had a "horrible stomach bug" that kept him up the night of his match.
"I had the shakes, I hadn’t slept and I hadn’t eaten," he says. "It just wasn’t ideal before a game, really."
Not that Mann – who is ranked outside the top 100 – did not deserve his win.
"I know Mitchell very well," says Wilson. "He played very well, and I hope he goes on to do well."
A forgettable UK Championship, then, but the 2015 Shanghai Masters champion remains snooker’s brightest prospect.
The week before, he beat Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan – "two legends of the game" – in Northern Ireland.
Defeating O’Sullivan – in what was their first ever meeting – is always significant.
"It’s obviously nice," says Wilson during our first conversation, in person at the York Novotel. "He’s a class act, but I’d feel the same if it was against any other top-16 player."
"I think that’s the way you’ve got to view it. If you put Ronnie on a pedestal, you’ll never beat him again."
The opposite happened at this year’s World Championship when O’Sullivan tweeted: 'Keiren [sic] Wilson is going to be the best player in the world one day.'
Lofty praise indeed.
"It’s just a shame he couldn’t spell my name right," says Wilson, laughing. "No, it’s nice. But I’ve just got to forget about the hype and get on with my game."
That is what the world No. 13 has been doing ever since the birth of Finley in 2015.
"He’s turned my life upside down for the good," says Wilson.
And sharpened his focus.
"It’s turned my sport from a game to a job. I’m living for him now and I’ve got to take it more serious. I think that's made me a better snooker player."
Family is important to Wilson, who married Sophie, his partner of seven years, in the summer. He would would not be in this position, meanwhile, without his parents, Sonya and Rob.
"They’ve re-mortgaged the house a few times to support my career," he says. "I’m a lucky lad, really."
Their influence is not just financial, either.
His confidence, he says, is from his mum, with his focus coming from his dad.
"You know, he is so driven with whatever he does," says Wilson. "Whether it’s laying a floor, it’s got to be spot on."
That is why Wilson feels comfortable enough to say he wants to be a future world champion.
"I do feel like I can do these things that I’m saying," he says. "I put the work in and am very dedicated to my sport, so I don’t see why I can’t do it.
"I know a lot of people are saying I’m the head of the young crop coming through, so I feel a little bit is on my shoulders to take the game off the old guard."
That means embracing snooker for what it is: a global sport, even if it means spending time away from Sophie and Finley.
"I must admit, it does make it hard leaving them all the time," says Wilson. "But I know what I’ve signed up to, and I appreciate the fact that we’ve got many tournaments to play in nowadays."
FaceTime and Snapchats of Finley "running around the living room" raise morale when he is overseas, as does competing at the business end of tournaments.
"I love it," says Wilson. "It’s nice to be the centre of attention. Playing on the big stage and the TV, that’s where I thrive.
"I’d love to be there for many years to come."
One final thing: what was the most nerve-wracking: playing at the Crucible or delivering his wedding speech?
"My best men tried to stitch me up," he says. "But I put them in their place and got a few laughs, so I’d have to say the Crucible.
"I enjoy the Crucible, too, though. That weren’t too bad."
Watch Kyren Wilson team up with Neil Robertson to play Crazy Snooker 2!