Barry Hawkins is enjoying a bright start to the 2016/17 season after qualifying for both the Riga Masters and China Championship, as well as earning a place in England’s two-man World Cup team.
We spoke with Hawkins as he looked ahead to his campaign beginning in earnest this week in Latvia…
Barry, it was a strong start to the season for you at the recent qualifiers in Preston. The most notable result was your 5-4 defeat of John Astley, where you came from 4-0 down to reach the China Championship. Did you think you were down and out?
“I know how it feels when someone comes back at you. Especially after last year, where I was on the wrong side of that comeback against Joe Perry at the Masters. I’ve lost from big leads in the past as well. I knew in my own mind that if I could get two or three frames on the board, then I would be back in the match with a chance of winning. Once I did that I could see he wasn’t as confident and missed a couple of balls. Perhaps I used my experience to my advantage.
“I played Michael Holt in Riga Masters qualifying, which was tough because we are good mates. Sometimes when you are playing a friend it can get a bit scrappy. It was a good game in the end. I’m pleased I managed to get through. You can’t ask any more than getting through in the first two events.”
Another piece of good news at the start of this season was your inclusion in the England team, alongside Judd Trump, for next month’s World Cup in Wuxi. Being the first time you have represented your country as a professional, how excited are you?
“It’s great for me to get to represent England. It will be a completely new experience as I have never played that sort of format before. There are so many top players from England and I am really happy to be in there.
“Team snooker brings with it different sorts of pressure. You are playing for your partner and not just yourself. It all depends how you can handle that. I get on well with Judd and I’m sure we will bounce off each other. I’ll probably just play safety and leave all the potting to him! In seriousness, all of the guys in this event are top talents and have great cue ball control. It’s just a case of coming together well as a team.”
It was a successful season for you last year. You heralded your win at the World Grand Prix as the biggest of your career. Has the achievement sunk in during the off-season?
“I think so, it’s a little bit strange. You try all season to win a big title and when I finally got one it was straight on to the next event so I didn’t have much time to celebrate. I didn’t have too much time to celebrate it. I’ve now had the summer and can look back on it as a real achievement. Hopefully I can build on that and win another in the next few years.”
The campaign ended with yet another trip to the last four of the World Championship. You have now reached the final, three semi-finals and a quarter final in the last five years at the Crucible. What is it that makes you play so well there?
“It’s not always about playing really well. It is about how you handle it out there. Over the last few years I’ve settled down and coped with the occasion. If you look at my Crucible record prior to the last five years it wasn’t great, so I am pleased with how I have done there recently. I think only Mark Selby has won more matches there in the last five years. I must be doing something right. When things are going against you there is no worse place to be, but when they are going for you it is a brilliant buzz.
“To be honest I was surprised I got that far this year. It was probably the worst I have played in recent times at the World Championship. I thought I would up my game in the semi-final against John Higgins, but I didn’t. I found that incredibly frustrating. Take nothing away from John he is a superb player under pressure and it was a great achievement for him to reach another final. I am still pleased I managed to reach another semi-final. “