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Tom Ford aiming to build on “best season” as he heads to The Crucible as first-time seed

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Ford is gearing up for his first Crucible appearance as a seed (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Tom Ford heads to the Crucible for the first time as a seed after what he regards as the “best season” of his 22-year professional career.

The 40-year-old is set to make his first appearance in the final stages of the World Championship since 2020, having climbed to a career high 14th in the world rankings.

Ford has done so off the back on an impressive 2023-24 campaign, in which he has reached the International Championship final and a further three quarter-finals.

The Leicester cueman believes he will travel to the Crucible, where he is seeking a first match win, in the best shape of his four appearances.

“Without a doubt [I will be],” he told Live Snooker. “I think it’s the best season I’ve had, especially to get up to where I am in the rankings.

“I’m 40 now and it’s the first time I’ve got into the top 16, so I’m obviously playing better snooker now than what I have been.

“It’s always a special place. It’s also nice I’m going to be there and not playing one of the top seeds like I have done the last few years.

“It’s going to be tough, whoever I play, but I’ll be playing somebody who hasn’t been firing on all cylinders this year.”

In recent seasons, Ford has focused heavily on improving the mental side of the game through his work with Sabrina Francis of Mind Set Match.

He feels his progress on that front has been crucial to his upturn in fortunes on the table.

“It’s been huge. Without working on the mental side of things, there’s no way I’d be where I am,” he said. “It’s all paying off.

“I always used to put too much pressure on myself at the World Championship. I used to wind myself up so, in the longer matches, I’d have more time to do that and dwell on it, and the worse I played.

“If I’d miss a ball or play a bad shot, I’d get the hump with myself a little bit. As soon as I start doing that, my game goes and before I know it, it’s a downward spiral and there’s no way back.

“Now, knowing how the mind works, I can overcome those things, put them to one side, and just get on with it without letting it affect me.”

Ford’s performances this season saw him qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time earlier this month.

The three-time ranking finalist hit four centuries to leave his first-round match against Mark Williams finely poised at 9-9.

However, after missing a relatively routine red at 54-0 to the good, he could only watch in admiration as the Welshman produced an astonishing 66 clearance to snatch victory on the black, before going on to lift the trophy at the end of the week.

“When he got in, I thought he’d score 20 or 30 then I may be in trouble, but I never once thought he’d be clearing up from where the balls were,” Ford reflects.

“I told him afterwards it had to be one of the best clearances I’ve seen.

“It was disappointing to lose like that knowing I had my chance to win, but at least I know I had my chance to win, so I can take a positive from that.”

“I felt like I played well in patches – I’d play well one frame and then have two bad ones,” he continued. “But I know where I need to work on my game, so I know I’m not far off from firing on all cylinders.

“It’s nice to actually play a best-of-19 before going into the World Championship. To have that under my belt – with a two-table setup and a good crowd – it was always nice.

“I struggled for the first few frames and didn’t get into the match until later on when I settled down and relaxed.”

Like Ford, Luca Brecel descended on the Crucible 12 months ago looking for that first victory on snooker’s greatest stage. The rest was history as that elusive win provided the platform for the Belgian Bullet to go on and become the first World champion from mainland Europe.

However, the world number 14 insists he cannot afford to look too far ahead, with his immediate focus on commencing his campaign on Saturday.

“I’m just looking forward to hopefully getting my game right and playing well at the World Championship,” he added.

“I can’t say that I want to do so well. It’s very much one match at a time.

“Because I’m there for the first time as a seed, I’m just concentrating on that and the first match, and seeing what happens from there.”