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Gary Wilson eyeing one-table return at the World Snooker Championship

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Wilson reached the semi-finals in 2019 (News Images LTD / Alamy Stock Photo)

Gary Wilson is looking to emulate his run to the 2019 World Championship semi-finals when he returns to the Crucible this year.

It is now five years since the Tyneside Terror made it to the one-table setup on what was only his second appearance at the final stages of snooker’s blue-riband event.

After coming through three qualifying rounds, Wilson defeated future winner Luca Brecel, multiple champion Mark Selby and two-time runner-up Ali Carter before succumbing 17-11 to Judd Trump, who would lift the trophy that weekend.

Half a decade on, it is unsurprising that a similarly deep run this time around is high on his priority list.

“It’s a place I’ve always enjoyed going to, ever since my debut in 2017,” Wilson told Live Snooker. “When you first get there, you never know how you’re going to feel. Thankfully, I really enjoyed it and, since then, I’ve had the same feelings of playing some decent stuff.

“I want to get through a couple of games if I can and get right into the meat of the tournament. Hopefully, I can at least do what I did five years ago. Getting back to the one-table setup is a big goal of mine.”

For the second year running, Wilson enters the World Championship as a seed and, just like 12 months ago, he is doing so as a tournament winner from earlier in the season.

Although Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump have taken most of the plaudits this term with five titles apiece, the world number 10 has also landed multiple silverware after defending his Scottish Open crown and triumphing at the Welsh Open.

“It’s been amazing to get a couple of tournament wins,” he said. “It’s always in the back of my head, trying to carry that sort of inner confidence and experience forward.

“You try and take those positives into any tournament, knowing what you are capable of and what you have actually proved.”

But despite also reaching the Tour Championship semi-finals last time out, Wilson is seeking improvement having been far from happy with his performance levels against Mark Selby, Zhang Anda and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the elite 12-man event at Manchester Central.

“I’ve got things to work on. I wasn’t happy with my game; I didn’t feel very good at all, so I’m just trying to find something – without really changing anything too drastically,” he explained.

“I was a little bit lucky that Mark and Zhang didn’t really play their games either, so I took advantage of that rather than playing really well myself. That doesn’t get you through a lot of matches and tournaments with where the standard is today. You’ve got to turn up at some stage, you’ve got to play well and towards your potential, otherwise someone’s going to come along, play great and beat you.

“You do expect yourself to play with some kind of consistency, just to a pretty decent level most of the time. That’s what I want to do moving forward.

“If I go in feeling confident, that means I feel like my game’s in decent shape.”

Nevertheless, Wilson recognises that the significant strides he has made in recent years are epitomised by the fact he can grind out positive results when not performing at his optimum levels.

Up to his best career ranking and winning multiple events in a single season for the first time, the Tyneside Terror knows he has a great platform to build on as he strikes for further improvement and progress.

“Last year, I’d won the Scottish Open, so I was already a tournament winner, but I had a pretty drastic run up until the World Championship,” he reflects.

“This time around, I’ve had a lot more match practise; I’ve been a lot more involved in the tournaments.

“I know my game’s there somewhere now, whereas the last few times, I’ve been hoping it’s there. If things aren’t quite working out, I know I can still scrape through games and try to forget about being embarrassed.

“I’d rather be embarrassed and in the next round than embarrassed and sitting at home, so those are the things you have to keep telling yourself. As long as I play okay on the day, I fancy the job. That’s all you want going into a game.

“I can try to improve myself a little bit more while being in the strong position that I am. Winning the tournaments I have gets you into a couple of extra events. It’s all positive in that sense.”

Wilson’s fifth Crucible campaign commences on Monday with a tricky first-round clash against former champion Stuart Bingham.

With the likes of O’Sullivan, Ding Junhui and Jack Lisowski in his quarter of the draw, the 38-year-old knows he cannot afford to look too far ahead and will be focused very much on one ball at a time in the Crucible cauldron.

Ultimately, though, he is in it to win it, and has a decent idea of what would happen should he lift the trophy on May 6.

“I’d have a good holiday if that happened!” he laughs. “If I was to do it this year, it would top off an absolutely amazing season.

“However you look at it, it’s been a great season – I’ve had a couple of tournament wins, which not many players are doing. If I was to top that off with the World Championship as well, it’d be unbelievable.”