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Snooker: Feast of York lifts Matthew Stevens
SNOOKER star Matthew Stevens won’t be fazed if he has to qualify for York’s williamhill.com UK Championship.
The 35-year-old Welshman enjoyed the finest moment of his career at the Barbican when coming back from 4-0 down to beat Stephen Hendry in 2003 and claim his only major tournament title to date.
Having returned to the game’s elite, the top 16 in the world rankings, a couple of years ago, Stevens knows a poor performance in the International Championship in China could see him drop out – forcing him to win a qualifier if he is to bid for another UK crown at York in December.
But, while admitting he is yet to really pick up a cue in anger this season, the two-time World Championship finalist hopes to enjoy a decent run to ensure qualification won’t be required.
“I’ve played a couple of Players Tour Championship events but I haven’t got started yet,” Stevens said. “The International is coming up now and the UK. They are two big tournaments and I am really looking forward to it.
“I like the big events. I make sure I put my work in before the event but I don’t tend to have played much before. I haven’t really picked my cue up so far this season. I like the tournaments in this country but, obviously the way it is going now, you have to be prepared to play in Asia. I don’t really tend to start playing properly until just before Christmas.”
When asked about the prospect of qualification, Stevens added: “It’s obviously not ideal having to qualify. If I have to then so be it. Hopefully, I’ll have a decent run now in the International and go up another couple of places.
“I have been back for a couple of years and I wasn’t in the top 16 for four or five years. It was tough qualifying, especially for the World Championship. I missed out on the Crucible one year and that wasn’t a very good feeling. I have a lot of work to do (to stay in). It is another challenge. If I do drop out I will have to work even harder.”
Surprisingly, Stevens admits he doesn’t remember too much of the 2003 final. What he does realise, however, is how important it was for him to get his hands on the game’s second biggest trophy.
“It did come at an important time in my career,” he said. “To beat one of my heroes in a major final was a dream come true. I hadn’t been doing that great. It was quite a tough time so it was great to win a tournament like that.
“I had lost in two finals before that. I’d been beaten by John Higgins and Mark Williams so it was important to go on and win it. York is one of my favourite venues. I have memories of winning there – it was nine years ago and it has flown by. But they are fond memories and I like York.
“I liked Preston as well but I wasn’t a major fan of Telford. I am more than happy to play at York. It is a lovely city and it is always nice to go somewhere where you have got good memories.”
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