World number 38 Ben Woollaston claims a health regime has helped with Championship League success and provided a boost, heading into Betfred World Championship qualifying.
Woollaston put on a superb showing at the recent Championship League, progressing through two groups, before being narrowly edged out into the runner-up spot by Luca Brecel in the final game. He fired in two century breaks of 141 and 126, but his must-win tie with Brecel ended 2-2.
The Leicester cueman has used the lockdown period to undergo a complete overhaul of his diet. He admits that working on his fitness has acted as a great motivator during recent months.
“I think the reason I did well at the Championship League was that I was buzzing to play again,” said 33-year-old Woollaston. “I’ve lost a lot of weight during lockdown, about ten kilos, and I feel really good in myself. I’ve had to buy new clothes for snooker. I’ve basically just been eating better. Lots of fruit and veg and eating less often.
“I’ve also not been eating any meat. That is something I didn’t think I would be able to stop. I’ll see how much longer I can go, I haven’t been missing it. I think where it will get more difficult is when I am travelling on the tour again. Being at home has made it easier to do something like that. I really feel great and I will try to keep it up as long as possible.
“I was getting a bit bored and fed up with lockdown, so to get the email about the Championship League was a real boost. I will take a lot from the event, especially the fact that I made a lot of big breaks. I felt good practising on my own before it, but until you are at a tournament with an opponent in front of you, there is no way of knowing how you’ll play. My main aim now is to win my qualifying matches and get to the Crucible, but I know how hard that will be.”
The scale of the task for Woollaston is highlighted by the fact it is seven years since he made his one and only appearance so far at the Crucible, in the 2013 World Championship.
That year, it came down to a deciding frame against Ryan Day in the final round of qualifying. Woollaston held his nerve with a break of 64 to triumph 10-9. However, he fell at the first hurdle at the Theatre of Dreams, losing 10-4 to Ali Carter. If he can negotiate the 2020 qualifying gauntlet, Woollaston believes he can use that experience to his advantage.
“I remember playing really well in the first four frames against Ali. I went 3-1 up at the mid-session, despite being so nervous that I could barely breathe. When I came back from the interval, I felt very relaxed and it went downhill from there. It was strange to feel so nervous at the beginning and play well. I relaxed too much, played a lot of bad frames and my confidence went. I should have done a lot better in that match.
“Even though that was a long time ago, I know what to expect now. It is very rare that someone plays well on their first time at the Crucible. I’d love to get there again this year and be more prepared for it. It would be the highlight of the last couple of years for me if I qualified.”