May 7

A Dream Come True for Kyren

If you keep knocking at the door, eventually it will open.

These must be the words which have been imprinted in Kyren Wilson’s mind for the best part of a decade – and are perfectly befitting for a fantastic snooker player who has forged a professional career on refusing to ever give in.

Today, he knows they are true and can enjoy the reward of his unwavering belief as he is snooker’s new world champion.

His 18-14 victory over Jak Jones inside the atmospheric Crucible Theatre was the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition, and an emotionally special moment he deserves to savour.

It’s true what they say. Kyren is one of the nicest blokes you could wish to meet in snooker, and the words I chose to use to begin this feature is something he’s said to me on each of the three times I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him. He must have said it so often because deep down he knew it would happen for him.

It doesn’t matter how much talent you possess. It takes blood, sweat and tears to become one of the elite in your sport, and for Kyren there could hardly be a truer word spoken.

It’s been a journey full of sacrifices – including his parents re-mortgaging their family home to fund his ambition on the table. It is now all worth it. He has climbed the mountain and has earned the ultimate reward for a lifetime of commitment.

The famous trophy adorning the silver lady on top is his and his name engraved into snooker’s history.

Reaching the pinnacle of the game has not come without challenge, it’s already been mentioned. But sometimes getting so close and still not quite making the grade can be the hardest to take.

We can talk all we like about Kyren having to bounce back from tour relegation like so many other top players, but it is the more recent moments of heartbreak in major finals that have felt like the true story of his career so far.

You will remember the tears at Alexandra Palace in 2018 when he was beaten to the Masters title by Mark Allen and then two years later had to watch on as Ronnie O’Sullivan secured a sixth world title.

You could see – maybe even feel – the disappointment. We wondered when it would be his turn and to keep his place in the queue he had to keep coming back for more. In his own words, he had to keep knocking on the door. Finally, it has opened.

A date with destiny

For a long time now, Kyren has been a player for some destined and widely tipped to become world champion, but nothing is ever guaranteed in sport until you actually go out and there and do it.
The irony is perhaps that this was the year he was arguably least expected to do it.

You’ll always have your critics and let’s be honest, there were moments in this final when the performance was anything but polished. He stuttered at times as he approached the winning line. This however was not the story of his championship. He arrived in Sheffield a determined figure and with his eyes on the job from the very first ball.

It is hard to argue against him being the standout performer across the full 17 days of the event. And that is perhaps where the surprising nature of this win comes from.

We all know Kyren is a capable customer. But by his standards, his game has been a very long way from his best across the season.

He landed at the Crucible outside the top 16 on the one-year ranking list and you would have been hard pushed to find someone mentioning him as a potential winner.

It was O’Sullivan and Judd Trump who were the names on the tip of everyone’s tongues, but neither were the last man standing on another famous Bank Holiday Monday night in snooker’s most special room.

This was Kyren and while the general public may not have believed, he certainly did. Coming into the tournament, some of the sport’s great voices suggested he may have found himself at the crossroads of his career. Would he re-establish himself at the top of the game or continue to slide away from contention in the biggest tournaments?

When this is the narrative, self-belief becomes a powerful weapon. On media day on the eve of this tournament, Kyren remained strident in his opinion that despite his results he had been performing well this season, and pointed out that he was second on the season’s century-makers list. He spoke about his excitement of arriving back at the Crucible and knowing that this is the venue where he so often produces his best snooker. He was confident enough to talk the talk, and then he walked the walk.

In his opening round match, he put on a masterclass of scoring to dispatch Dominic Dale 10-1. He met Crucible debutant Joe O’Connor next fresh from conquering Mark Selby, and Kyren dominated again. An in-form John Higgins couldn’t stop him in the last eight and against Dave Gilbert in the semi-finals he was never in danger.

When you write it down like that, it sounds so simple. There were times when it did feel as if Kyren was breezing to glory. It seemed he left the jitters until the final but aided by opening up a commanding 7-0 lead, he was able to get over the line and land the trophy.

Born to be champion

There is very little disputing that Kyren is and will be a fine world champion. In fact, it’s probably exactly the focussing of the mind he needs to re-establish himself at the very top of the sport.

By merit of this £500,000 payday, Wilson rockets up to number three in the world rankings and gives himself a strong foundation to build on for the coming two years.

There’s so much to admire about Kyren but what probably stands out most is that not only does he clearly adore the game, but he takes his responsibility of being one of the leading professionals very seriously. He spoke after the final about inspiring the next generation of Wilsons to play the game but more than that, it feels like he’ll take on the year-long ambassadorial role of being world champion with grace and style.

You fully expect to see him playing in all the events on the circuit, travelling the globe and fulfilling the added media duties that come with the territory of triumphing at the World Championship.

He’ll be keen to put on a great show and demonstrate exactly why he won snooker’s biggest title. Some players have struggled in the limelight created by this title but for Kyren you feel it could really be the making of him. It may well help to kick his game on a level and produce that bit of consistency that he’s perhaps been lacking when it comes to being a regular in the sport’s winner’s circle.

Watch this space. There’s a new world champion in town and he’s going to enjoy every minute of it.
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