The Big Interview with Paul Davison

York Press: Paul Davison. Picture: Steve Carroll Paul Davison. Picture: Steve Carroll

It’s lights, cameras and action for Pickering snooker player Paul Davison in this weekend’s televised Betfair Snooker Shoot-Out. He tells STEVE CARROLL how he can’t wait to get out on the table.

THIS is what all the practice is for – the hours and hours, every day, every week, month and year, spent potting balls, perfecting the art, honing the craft.

All for moments like these.

The bright lights, the entrance into the arena, and the ceaseless cheering of a packed out audience.

There will be hundreds crammed into the Blackpool Tower Circus Arena to greet Paul Davison and his opponent Ben Woollaston when they walk out to do battle in one quick-fire frame on Friday night.

The Betfair Snooker Shoot-Out is about speed. Pot as many balls as you can, and hope you can get in first.

It might be far removed from the silence of the World Snooker Academy, home of the qualification matches for the year’s ranking tournaments, but it is an opportunity for vital exposure – on prime-time under the gaze of the Sky Sports cameras – and Davison is hugely excited.

“Pretty much all the top players are there and I just can’t wait,” he explains. “If you can have a good run in this tournament it gives you a bit of confidence for the rest of the season.

“You never know what can happen. You can be a bit lucky, get in, have a run and see how it goes. If I can win my first match, and feel comfortable winning it, there’s no reason why I can’t go on and win a few more.

“I feel comfortable under those conditions. The tables are a little bit quicker, under the TV lights, than we normally play on. It’s a lot hotter and it makes the table run a little bit quicker and it’s a bit more responsive.

“Apart from that, I feel fine. The table’s the same size and the pockets are in the same place.”

You might think the Shoot-Out is all about sprinting round the table, smacking in breathtaking long pots in the time it takes the seconds to spin to 15 as the shot-clock forcing the players to act quickly ensures a blitz of action is never far away.

But the right tactics, even in a match that lasts only 600 seconds, will be key.

“The first shot you see, you are going to have to play,” Pickering-based Davison adds. “When the game passes five minutes it (the clock) goes down to ten seconds. You can be pretty much cueing up to the ball for ten seconds.

“The worst case scenario is that you break off, he pots a ball and makes 50. If someone gets 50 in front in any frame I think it would be virtually impossible to win.

“If someone makes 40 it would be pretty much odds-on they would win the frame. If you then have a bit of a safety battle, your opponent is going to use all of his 15 seconds or ten seconds playing safe. He’s going to use all his time if he is in front.

“If you get 30 or 40 in front, you don’t have to go for any shots. You could just play safe and force your opponent to try to pot balls. If he misses, you can get another red and a colour. You could basically win the tournament with a 20 or 30 break – as daft as it sounds – if you know the tactical side of it.”

A legend of the game will set the scene for Davison’s arrival to the stage. His match with Woollaston is second to last on Friday night and is immediately preceded by Jimmy White’s clash with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

Not a bad warm-up man.

“The crowd will probably have had a couple of drinks down their necks by the time I play between 9.30pm and 10pm,” Davison laughs.

“I think it makes it a better atmosphere if the crowd are a little bit noisier. You either want them to be really quiet, or really noisy so everyone drowns each other out.

“I think the atmosphere will be more darts-orientated. When you’re are taking a shot, I think the crowd can build up to it and then shout out. I can remember seeing a bit of that last year. It will be fun, whatever happens.”

At 41, Davison has never felt in better shape.

He has won matches, moved steadily up the rankings, and has taken top 16 players – like world number one and UK champion Mark Selby and former world champion Graeme Dott – to the brink in PTC events.

“It’s been great, travelling here, there and everywhere,” he said of the expanded snooker calendar.

“There are more matches, your expenses are a little bit more each season but you are match sharp.

“The standard has gone through the roof in the last couple of seasons because everyone is playing week in and week out up to Christmas from June and July.

“It gets a bit quieter after Christmas but, for seven or eight months, everyone is really match sharp.

“This season, I have put a good foundation to get into the top 64 at the start of next season. It’s pretty much impossible to do it over the two-year system they have now. You don’t start with any points but, provisionally, for next season I would be bang up there.

“If I can get a good finish to the season, and a decent start, by the time the next cut-off point comes for next season I would be disappointed if I am not in the 64 to be honest. My form is really good and I am practising harder than ever. I can’t wait.”

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