Kyren Wilson believes that his strong run at the China Open came at “perfect timing” and could prove to be crucial ahead of the season’s climax at the World Championship in Sheffield.
The world number 14 had struggled to get going in 2017 – winning just one match in ranking events, while notably suffering opening-round defeats at the Masters and World Grand Prix along the way.
However, the Warrior reaped the rewards for his hard work on the practice table and enjoyed an upturn in fortune in China, after beating Stuart Bingham and home favourite Ding Junhui to reach the semi-finals, where he was narrowly beaten by eventual champion Mark Selby.
And Wilson feels that his performance in the Chinese capital could not have come at a better time.
“It was nice to get some good wins under the belt in Beijing,” he told livesnooker.com. “I had some tough players in the draw and I was pleased with how I performed against them.
“I’m now at a level where you’re coming up against the likes of Ding Junhui and Barry Hawkins in the first round and, although it looks like I’ve lost early on, they’re both very good players. I’ve just got to keep working hard to make sure I deserve it more than they do.
“For a little while, my form’s been there in practise and it’s nice to have a tournament where you get a reflection of your hard work. It was probably perfect timing to have a good run just before the World Championship.”
The 25-year-old, who recently announced that he and wife Sophie are expecting their second child, is full of confidence following his recent exploits ahead of snooker’s blue-riband event, in which he got to the quarter-finals 12 months ago – climbing into the top 16 of the world rankings for the first time as a result.
Wilson also pocketed an additional £20,000 for the highest break after a stylish 143 total clearance against Selby in their Last-Eight encounter, and has very fond memories at the Home of Snooker.
“I really like the venue – I like how it’s so compact and the crowd really soak up the atmosphere,” he explained. “It’s just such a special place to play in.
“Last year, I felt really comfortable there, gave a pretty good account for myself and ended up bowing out to the eventual winner.”
Appearing as a seed for the first time this year, the Kettering cueist will play debutant David Grace in the opening round on Saturday.
Although a huge favourite to progress to the Last 16, Wilson knows he cannot take anything for granted against the Leeds man, who came through three qualifying rounds at Ponds Forge to secure his Crucible bow.
However, he is aware of what is required to give him the best possible chance of advancing.
“Whoever comes through the qualifiers is going to have played very well and be on form,” he said. “I’m just going to see it as a tough match whether I’m a seed or not.
“With it being the best of 19, you like to think that the better player on the day is going to come through.
“It’s just about sustaining your levels of concentration, getting plenty of rest and just taking one session at a time.”
Having reached the quarter-finals last year, Wilson is understandably eager to make further strides at the World Championship in 2017.
Brother Taylor, who is a personal trainer, has been on hand in the gym to try and give his sibling the advantage that is needed in order for him to go the extra steps this year.
And the former Shanghai Masters champion is hoping it pays dividends in his quest to join the legends of the sport by going all the way to the title.
“I’ve been working very hard in the gym and I’ve been trying to eat some better foods to trim down a little bit,” he added.
“If you can find an extra five percent on your opponent whether it be technique, mental strength, fitness or diet, you’ve got to try and snatch it and get the best head start that you can.
“Winning the tournament is what I’ve dreamt of since I picked up a cue at six years old. I’ve visualised lifting the trophy thousands and thousands of times, so to make it a reality would mean absolutely everything.”