Martin Gould admits “lock-down saved me” after overcoming personal demons to secure a return to the World Snooker Championship.
Gould, 38, was ranked as high as 11th in 2012 but has dropped to 60th following a barren run of results on the tour over the last two seasons.
That left ‘The Pinner Potter’ battling to retain his Tour Card for next season, but a timely resurgence saw him secure a return to The Crucible for the upcoming World Championship.
Gould followed up a whitewash win over Amine Amiri with a 6-4 success over Chris Wakelin, before defeating 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott 10-6 in the final qualifying round.
Following his victory over Dott, an emotional Gould revealed he has been battling ‘personal demons’ off the table and admits the lock-down period helped get him back on track.
Gould told Eurosport: “I decided I wanted to take myself away from the game, for my own personal reasons.
“Thankfully lock-down actually saved me because I think if lock-down hadn’t come then I probably wouldn’t be standing right here now.
“I had some demons to beat and it’s been hard.
“Thankfully I’ve got a good team behind me.
“It’s been nice that lock-down came when it did. I know it’s not ideal for everybody, but it came at a good time for me.
“Thankfully, the club that I practice at (Northwood Central) gave me permission to come in during lock-down so that helped.
“I had a good couple of months of hard practice on my own.”
The 2016 German Masters champion dominated the first session of his clash with Dott, racing into a 5-1 lead with breaks of 55, 95, 97 and 69 before taking a 6-3 advantage into the evening session.
He then produced a clinical 127 clearance in frame 11 and went on to make an 87 break in leading 9-4.
Dott took the next two frames to briefly rally back, but Gould got the job done in frame 16 to reach the sport’s show-piece event for the tenth time.
On the match, Gould said: “You know what to expect from Graeme, he’s very tenacious, very hard, gritty, so thankfully in the first session I dominated most of it with the power scoring.
“My safety game was good all the way through so I always kept Graeme under wraps.
“We both missed a couple during the match, which you do, we’re human.
“It was a little bit nervy but I had a couple of opportunities to try and finish it but kept running a bit awkward but I got it done in the end.”
Gould will be drawn to face one of the world’s top 16 ranked stars in the opening round in Sheffield, with the draw taking place at 11am BST on Wednesday.