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Barry Hawkins “eager” to make up for lost time on his Crucible return

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Hawkins was absent from the Crucible last year for the first time since 2005 (News Images LTD / Alamy Stock Photo)

Barry Hawkins admits he is “eager to get back” to The Crucible after missing out on the World Championship in 2023.

Runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2013 and a four-time semi-finalist in Sheffield, ‘The Hawk’ saw a streak of 18 consecutive appearances in snooker’s blue-riband event end 12 months ago.

Having dropped out of the world’s top 16 following a disappointing 2022-23 season, Hawkins was forced to come through qualifying for the first time since 2012, but fell at the final hurdle following a 10-8 defeat by Jak Jones, who went on to reach the quarter-finals.

Therefore, the world number 15 is understandably keen to make to up for lost time this year.

“I’m looking forward to going back to the Crucible again after missing out last year,” he told Live Snooker. “It’s really nice to be one of the seeds, knowing I haven’t got to go through the qualifying.

“I’m eager to get back there again. It’s going to be a great feeling again walking out and playing.”

Although disappointed to see his impressive streak of Crucible appearances screech to a shuddering halt, Hawkins wisely chose to adopt a philosophical approach towards the situation.

“I went away on holiday not long after getting beat,” he reflects. “I just dipped in and out, and tried not to watch too much of it once I’d been knocked out.

“Once your own season’s finished, you just want to switch off, put your cue away and not even think about snooker.

“It’s just one of those things that’s going to happen; you can’t keep playing there all the time. This could be my last year – you never know what’s around the corner. You can’t drive yourself too mad about not qualifying.”

Fast forward 12 months and the Hawk is back following an improved 2023-24 campaign, of which the highlight was undoubtedly his triumph at the European Masters in August – ending a six-year wait for ranking silverware.

Runner-up to Kyren Wilson the previous year, the Kent cueist went one better in Nuremberg as he defeated reigning World champion Luca Brecel, Noppon Saengkham and Mark Selby, before seeing off Judd Trump in the final.

“I’ve dug in this season and managed to get another win under my belt,” he said. “Overall, I’ve been quite consistent apart from a few blips.

“I wouldn’t say I’m going absolutely brimming with confidence, but I’ve been playing pretty consistent for most of the year. I’m going there in as good form as I have been the last few years.

“[My win] came out of nowhere really. It was unbelievable to get another trophy under the belt. It wasn’t an easy win; I beat Mark in the semi-finals and Judd in the final. It set me up nicely for the rest of the season and got me in a load of tournaments.

“It’s not easy to win any tournament, so if you can get your hands on any trophy then you’ve got to be happy.”

One of the rewards for Hawkins’ impressive season saw him qualify for the Tour Championship earlier this month.

There, he was defeated 10-8 by Ali Carter in the opening round at Manchester Central, but drew plenty of positives from the match having battled back from 7-1 down to threaten a miraculous turnaround.

Although he could not quite achieve that, the Hawk was pleased to get his slow start out of the way prior to this event, where those determination levels will be crucial should he find himself in a similar predicament.

“I started off well but, after that, I was sitting in my chair for most of it,” he analyses.

“At 7-1 down, I was quite proud of myself in that I didn’t let it bother me too much. I then came out in the evening session and gave it my all. I thought I couldn’t come back from there but, at one point, I actually fancied winning again. Ali had started to feel the pressure.

“I can take that going into the Crucible – the fact I dug in and didn’t give up. If I’m in that position, I know it can easily change, so I’ll have those memories to draw on.”

Of course, Hawkins also has his fine Crucible record to draw upon ahead of facing three-time quarter-finalist Ryan Day in a tough first-round clash on Tuesday, when he will hope to celebrate his 45th birthday with a strong opening session.

“There are some horrible draws coming through the qualifiers, so you’re going to have to be bang on it from the start,” said the former finalist, who was awaiting his first-round opponent at the time of speaking.

“I’ve had some really good runs there and beaten some unbelievable players. If I can replicate any of those runs then I’ll be more than happy.”