In a snooker calendar that is packed with more tournaments than ever, Kyren Wilson is a throwback in that he produces his best performances at the Triple Crown events.
Wilson reached the final of this year’s Masters – where he cried after losing to Mark Allen – before progressing to the World Championship semi-finals three months later.
Those performances have turned him into one of the players to beat at this year’s Betway UK Championship.
When Wilson stepped into the press room after his first-round victory at the York Barbican, one journalist compared his emotional reaction at the Masters to Andy Murray’s after he was beaten in the 2012 Wimbledon’s Centre Court in 2012.
Wilson laughed off the comparison, although he believes that, like Murray, he is fuelled, rather than demoralised, by disappointment.
“Obviously, it does hurt not winning those titles,” says Wilson, “but everything seems to be a bit of a progression in my career.
“If I was bombing out in first rounds and not progressing, then I’d be quite worried, but I’m stepping up every time I go to these events.
“Now I want to head into Christmas with this title under my belt.”
The 26-year-old is not afraid to state how important winning is to him, a characteristic that recently irked Judd Trump, who was not impressed when Wilson suggested that he perhaps he “wanted it more” when the pair met in the semi-final at the Champion of Champions in November.
“I think that a lot of players are content with sticking with what they’re doing, and praying that miracles happen,” says Wilson.
“I believe that if something’s not quite right then it has to change. I can achieve whatever I set out to if I keep working like that.”
Those at the top of the game believe he can be the best in the business.
“Kyren will be a world champion for sure, because he has got the bottle, he has the right attitude, he loves the game and is dedicated,” said Ronnie O’Sullivan after the Champion of Champions final in November, two years on from tweeting that Wilson “is going to be the best player in the world one day”.
World Snooker chief Barry Hearn has similarly high hopes. “Kyren is a stand-out performer in the current top 16,” he says. “He’s a top player, a top prospect.
“He’s probably looking for some more consistency – you have to go down to number 19 before you find him on this season’s one-year list.
“But his current form looks very sharp. I think he’s going to be in the major winning enclosure before long.
“He is one of a couple of British talents making progress and climbing the rankings.”
There is one clear hurdle.
The success of snooker’s very own Class of ’92 – including O’Sullivan, who has beaten Wilson in three of their four meetings, world champion Mark Williams and mainstay John Higgins – has endured for far longer than anybody could have foreseen.
O’Sullivan, Williams and Higgins are all ranked inside the top four in the world, with at least one of them competing in nine of the last 12 World Championship finals.
Wilson accepts that he may just have to play the waiting game.
“It’s going to be very difficult to topple the three of them,“ he says. “These lads are so seasoned and so experienced.
“There are quite a few of us coming through now. I do think that the guard is slowly bringing in new faces, and they’re not all dominating as much.
“But Ronnie’s obviously a one-off. He’s class.”
Wilson laughs. “We’ve just got to keep hoping that they give up one day.”
But Wilson shouldn’t be waiting long.
Higgins and Williams have both spoken about their diminishing love of the game, and this year’s event has already played host to some fantastic snooker from younger players – including Wilson.
“I target this sort of event,” he says. “You 100 per cent target this, the Masters and the World Championships – these are the majors.
“In these longer events, the better player comes out on top. You feel like if you’ve worked hard enough then that’s normally the case.”
That suits Wilson.
“I believe I can do anything I set my mind to,” he says.
“When I really, really want something, I’m always close. My career’s going in the right direction.”
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