In the latest of my interviews from the UK Championship qualifiers, I spoke to Welshman Dominic Dale shortly after his 6-2 victory over Nigel Bond at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester and as ever he was excellent value, talking PTCs, practice and offering his views on snooker’s younger generation…
PSB: Congratulations Dominic, your thoughts on the match today?
Dominic Dale: Well I started off tremendously well, I was really in control of my emotions out there and I was solid in the first four games. Nigel had a few chances but didn’t find his A-game at all.
I won a massive frame before the interval, I was 66-0 down I think and won it in two visits. Nigel missed a dolly brown off the spot when he only needed a brown and a red and a colour and it would have been 3-1. Although to be honest it didn’t make much difference because when you come back downstairs 4-0 up you can only lose it from there, the other guy can’t really win it but at 3-1 you feel like you are still in a match first to six there is a long way to go and you know it.
I was too careful after the interval and Nigel started to play well because he felt that he was at the point of no return and he got it back to 2-4, then the scoreboard froze…
PSB: Was that a distraction?
DD: Not really, except the monitor was still switched on and if you are sitting in the chair and looking at the monitor it still had the same frame on and I didn’t like that so I actually asked the referee to turn it off but he couldn’t reach so I had to do it!
But I was 21 down on the yellow and it was looking for all the world like 4-3 as he snookered me. I played a really tough swerve around the blue to clip the yellow wafer thin but the white has careered into the brown, knocked the brown right in front of the yellow and snookered him. He then hit it with pace and left me a medium-range yellow and he had knocked the brown into play.
I was under all sorts of pressure to knock the yellow in and clear up and fortunately I held myself together. I played a bad brown to blue, overscrewed it and had to play a medium pink and stun round the angles for the black. The black was just behind the pink spot, it was a terribly important moment and I felt a lot of pressure on that pink and when you are feeling like that your cue action gets shorter, but I still hit it sweet. I landed parallel with the black and I had to pot a quarter-ball cut-back on the black and it never touched the sides. I was so relieved, worlds of pressure off me there and I was 5-2 up instead of 4-3 and that made a huge difference.
He gave me a golden chance in the next frame and I completely messed up an easy red. He then made 27 and left me in and I cleared up with 112 in the end. So I was very, very pleased. I haven’t done well in the PTCs you know, I’ve not enjoyed the travelling and I know I‘ve had the wrong mindset for them…
PSB: Is that the domestic and the overseas PTCs?
DD: The problem is with all of them really because you are scheduled to play at 3pm and you find you are playing at quarter-past five and there are so many players around and everything that you can’t prepare for them. They are to a degree mickey-mouse competitions because you can’t be as ultra-professional as you want to be in your preparation for them so you know that’s why you get a multiplicity of different winners.
It’s great for the game though, but the top 48 in the world would probably love six of them all in Europe with double the prize money. You don’t need the ones in Britain because they are played behind closed doors with the exception of here and nobody can watch them. They don’t serve any purpose to have them. I would like to see them made more important by doubling the prize-money, doubling the points. Every played would take them seriously then and you wouldn’t get players pulling out of certain ones. They would play in them all then.
PSB: In terms of this tournament now you have booked your place in York now, have you played there before?
DD: Yeah a few times, it’s a great place. I’m glad to be going back there because I love York as it’s full of antique shops and I love antiques and things. It’s great you have got lots of places like the Shambles, all antique centres, I’ll be in my element there.
PSB: And you will play Judd Trump…
DD: Yeah! I’ve played Trump a few times, not too recently and I’ve got a decent record over him but he’s a completely different player now.
I love the way he plays because he plays the way I did when I was his age but I’m older and wiser now and I’ve got a different type of game completely, modelled on experience and knowledge and it makes you a certain type of player. Judd has suggested that he would like to go down that route himself and he is looking at his own game with a view to not pushing the boat out so much and playing a more rounded game.
My advice to him though is to do what he has doing and what has taken him this far because he plays with sort of gay abandon really and it’s a great way to be. Paul Hunter did the same thing and it is working for him now and I can assure Judd that there are probably 30 or so players my age who wish that they could play that way like we used to do with such freedom, like Ronnie does because it’s hard to do.
He’s like Hendry in his early days, he doesn’t strangle you and win the match slowly, he knocks you flat and it is tough to play against. I shall really look forward to that match.
PSB: Talking about you used to play and how you have changed now you have got more experience, maybe become more of an all-rounder…Is that a conscious decision or do you get down on the shot and have second thoughts?
DD: I think you just become like that. What happens is you win a lot of matches, you lose a lot of matches and you are so used to winning frames you shouldn’t win and losing frames you shouldn’t lose, you kind of analyse the game and play the right shots at the crucial time rather than see a pot and just go for it without thinking.
If you look at Ronnie when he made that 147 in five minutes and 20 seconds, he saw the first ball and played it. Now he walks around the table for 30 seconds between each shot that he plays because that’s what experience makes you do and it helps you to compose yourself and everything. You don’t need to do that so much when you are full of confidence and everything is just like a carpet bag, the pocket. You just go for them and pot them and the game looks ridiculously easy at times.
But when you get older, you have seen a lot of things and you are wiser and you maybe as you get older, you are used to losing enough matches to take away some of that overwhelming confidence, that schools you into a more cautious approach than a confident one that the kids have these days.
PSB: And now we are heading into the business end of the season, are you looking forward to it?
DD: I am yeah. I don’t feel as though I will have a problem now in the last PTCs as I can see the end of them in sight. There are only four of them left and we have got the majors left to concentrate on, there are more majors than PTCs, the end is in sight!
It’s not nice when you are practising Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then on Thursday you have to travel to a PTC because it consumes your whole weekend and the end of your week. You get back Sunday night or Monday and then you start practising for two or three days, you can’t get a full week of practice in before Thursday comes around and you have to go to another PTC. You can’t work on your game, you can’t get a full week’s practice in which is something that I always like to do.
PSB: How important is that to actually have to get that full week of practice in compared to the match-practice that you get in the PTCs instead?
DD: I like to know I have got a full week ahead of me practice-wise, I can do three days on my own and practice two days with the guys, or I can do two hours every day on my own and practice with other players here which is what I actually tend to do. The trouble is when I am travelling from abroad and I get back late, you don’t really want to come in on a Monday anyway, so you practice Tuesday and Wednesday and then I have got to go to another one.
Winning a lot of matches in the PTCs keeps you interested, it keeps you keen but you know travelling around from one venue to another, the conditions are very different, the venues are very different and there are a lot of players there, it is very busy. I feel that there are too many of them.
I would like Barry Hearn or World Snooker to canvass the opinion of players and ask what we would prefer, for example six with double the prize money, what would you prefer? I wish that they would ask the players first because I am sure that the overwhelming majority would prefer six, all abroad and with double the prize money. I think that would please everybody and that it would be good for the game. You would still have he overseas events and hopefully they could then be replaced by full-blown ranking events at a later date which is the idea of the PTCs.
PSB: In terms of yourself, your targets for the second half of the season now? You haven’t got too many points coming off now, any particular goals, to reach a particular venue?
DD: Yeah, now I’m in the UK’s at the venue I can really focus on practising hard for that and I can’t wait for that. Because I don’t have many points to come off, I’ve got a reasonable chance with good performances for the rest of the season of maybe getting myself inside of the top 16. I have been inside the top 16 a couple of times over the years but never at the end of the season.
I don’t look at rankings as much as I used to but from what I can gather I have only got about 3,000 points to make up maybe and if certain players don’t perform well then it could be less than that. There are chances there and it will certainly keep me keen. Winning today will give me good points now and I am making good progress because obviously not all the seeds win.
PSB: And we spoke earlier about you perhaps potentially moving away again, this time to Germany…
DD: Yeah, I’ve been in this relationship now for a couple of months and it is going so well you know that you can’t help. It does affect the way you are thinking. You are so happy in your personal life that your professional life doesn’t seem quite so important sometimes.
It is actually my girlfriend’s birthday today so I really wanted to win. The flowers and champagne that I have sent to her from a well-known florist has arrived. It’s fantastic to win, it will hopefully make her day and it has certainly made mine and I can look forward to the venue now.
PSB: On another note, are there any young players about at the moment that have impressed you particularly or that we should keep an eye on?
DD: Not to the degree of a decade ago when you had Paul Hunter coming through and before that Matthew Stevens. I think that there is a reason for that though, the majority of the youngsters coming through today tend to be the Asian players who lack the match experience and pro-am experience that we gained as amateurs and you know we cut our teeth that way and we had a lot of experience before we turned professional and the Asian players haven’t had that experience on the tour. But there are a lot more playing opportunities these days, these PTCs, I wish I had them when I was 20-years old.
At this point Steve Davis who was just getting changed nearby asked Dominic…
Steve Davis: Do you not think that perhaps they have a big pro-am circuit over there?
DD: Yeah but they are all the same types of players, they crash the long balls in with too much pace, maybe because of the humidity over there, they can’t stroke the balls in the way we do over here. Their cues tend to be rigidly stiff, they lack any sort of feel. They used these rock-hard ash shafts and you don’t get the feel and they play a different type of snooker.
They need to learn the other side of snooker when things aren’t going so well, they need a B-game. Are they going to be like a Ryan Day who doesn’t have a B-game and just go for everything left, right and centre and if they go in great, if they don’t they just lose 6-0? Rather than winning 6-4 and just grinding it out like a Peter Ebdon or Steve, myself or Ken Doherty.
They are maybe just a little one-dimensional but saying that there is one who does impress me and that is Chen Zhe. I love the way he hits the ball. He has great feel and touch and I think he could be a real force to be reckoned with, provided he doesn’t get hammered in tournaments consistently and lose a lot of heart and self-belief and confidence through that happening. I really do rate him, I don’t see a lot of the other guys playing, I’m not a great watcher of the other players, I am busy looking after my own career.
I have seen Chen Zhe at some of the PTCs. I watched him play Craig Steadman last year and I love the way he hits the ball, he has got a great technique and he could go a long way I think. There is a Li Yan, I don’t know what he looks like, I’ve never seen him hit a ball but he seems to be winning a lot of matches, another guy that could be coming through.
From what I gather one or two players who looked to have a great career ahead of them have decided to start families which is costing them a fortune and putting tremendous pressure on them, Liang Wenbo being the classic example. It can ruin a career if it happens too soon or it’s not planned properly. My advice to all of these guys coming through is to live your teenage years in your thirties because there are too many players that are willing to do that.
Thanks to Dominic for his time and good luck to him at the Barbican Centre where he will take on the defending China Open champion Judd Trump in the last 32.