Friday, 28 October 2011

60 seconds with... Ashley Wright

Snooker fans are beginning to talk about Ashley Wright again.

Wins against Marcus Campbell and Passakorn Suwannawat saw the 24-year-old from Grimsby reach the last 32 of PTC8 in Killarney, before his run was ended by world champion John Higgins.

Talented Ashley was previously on the professional tour in 2007/08 season. After a lengthy absence, he picked his cue up again for this campaign after securing sponsorship.

Bidding to return to the pro ranks, he's played consistent snooker in the PTC series, entering them all and going through the qualifying phases on all but two occasions.

He's watched Grimsby's current professional Stuart Carrington gain his maiden card with victory in QSchool and plans on using the same route to secure his second spell among the game's elite.

OnCue caught up with Lincolnshire potter to find out more...

Thanks for joining me Ashley. It's been a busy season so far for you as you've been right in the thick of the PTCs. How have you been finding them?

I know a lot of the top players have been complaining about the PTCs recently, but as an amateur, they've been brilliant.

I've managed to be pretty consistent in winning my qualifying matches. I didn't make it to the proper rounds of the first event because I lost to Craig Steadman. He's a great player but I'd not been playing for a long time and felt a little bit like a lamb to the slaughter. The only other qualifying match I've lost was against Kyren Wilson. He's another excellent amateur player. He wiped the floor with me. He didn't miss a ball and beat me in about half an hour.

Apart from those two matches, I've done well and even feel I should have won more matches against the professionals. I went 2-0 up and lost against Martin Gould in Sheffield and did the same against Dave Harold in Poland.

That was frustrating but in the most recent event I feel like I've shown what I can do . Marcus is number 23 in the world, won a PTC last season and has been to lots of venues. You don't achieve that without being a top player and Suwannawat has impressed this season on the main tour.

It was great to play Higgins but I've also had matches with Judd Trump and Stephen Hendry this season. It's great experience to play the top players and get used to playing in front of a small crowd.

My performances have made me feel good mentally and the tournaments are providing me a better step between the amateur and professional games than there ever was before.

For those people who don't know much about you, tell them a little bit more...

I'm 24-years-old. I'm a right-handed player and and can't play with my left for toffee.
I first got into snooker when I was 10-years-old. I'd sit in my Dad's living room and use the end of a golf club to hit two balls together into a cup. My Dad knew Stuart Carrington's step-Dad and they set us up to play, so it went from there. I currently play in Westlands Club in Grimsby but I used to play in Cue World. 

Looking back to your time on the professional tour. How do you feel about it now?

It's difficult to be too positive about it because I only won one match. Playing professionally was like a totally different game. I had won a lot of junior events but I was only 20-year-old and my game was still a little bit raw. Before I turned pro, I used to get a few chances in every frame but the professionals are far more ruthless.I remember I met Liang Wenbo three or four times that season and he was flying. There were only about seven events back then so once I'd lost my first four matches I'd got it in my head that I wasn't good enough.

Overall I enjoyed it and I learned a lot but it was tough. Hopefully next time I'll show I'm a more mature player and use my experience to pick up some better results.

Do you feel like you're ready for a return now?

I don't want to sound too defeatist but I never really rated my chances of earning a tour card through the PTCs. I went into the season viewing the events as good match practice to get myself ready for the QSchool.

If I'd had a little run in a PTC before now, maybe I'd have a better chance of gaining a tour place from them. I'm not expecting to do that now but I'll see what happens.

I've loved playing in the PTCs and I've shown myself what it's like again to be playing with the professionals.

Carrington earned his place on tour via the QSchool last season and that's my big aim now. I know they're gruelling but someone has to get through. He left it late until the last event but when you watch him in practice, he doesn't miss. I'm not surprised he got on the tour.

I practise with him everyday and it's very intense. We always play for money so it's competitive action. Even though there's a lot of good snooker players in Grimsby it's only up to a certain level. Stuart and I give each that extra test. He's a professional now and I have been before so we get on well.

What are your strengths?

My potting. I spend most of my time practicing potting so that's my strongest area.  I like to play good quality safety and build my chances when I get them.

What are your weaknesses?

Long-potting. I don't take as many on as I used to. I'm a patient player. I'd rather force my opponent into a mistake through good safety to get a better chance.

Who is your favourite professional player?

It's always been John Higgins. He plays the game very differently to other top players. You never see him take too many risky shots on. He waits for his chances and break builds well when he's in. A lot of players these days are always looking for a long pot to get in straight away. It's nice to see John play another way, and it works.

What is your proudest snooker moment?

Turning professional is obviously right up there. I finished in the top eight of my first Pontins International Open Series (PIOS) to secure my place. I remember making two consecutive finals quite early and only needing a few more wins to make it.

But I always remember winning an Under-18s event in Coalville, near Leicester. I must only have been 15 or 16 at the time but I beat Trump 3-2 in the final. He was the player to beat at that level and it was a massive win. I've met him a few times since and we're pretty much level on wins each.

What is your biggest snooker disappointment?

Dropping off the professional tour. It has to be. I did not show my best or anything near what I could do. I'd worked so hard for so many years to make it and felt like I let myself down.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I look at Gould now for inspiration. He made it onto the professional tour for the second time at about the same age as me and now he's just got into the top 16.

If I can press on, cement my place in the rankings and make some venues in that time span, I'll be happy.

I bet a lot of people say the same thing but moving up the rankings is all you can really ask for.

If you didn’t play snooker, what would you be doing?

I did work with my Dad as a landscape gardener a couple of years back, so I'd probably still be doing that if I didn't have another go at snooker. Either that or a job within the building industry.

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