Nov 25 / Snooker System

The International Championship winner tells us how he’s gone from tour journeyman to the winner’s circle

Zhang Anda has transformed into “Mr Calm” on the table – and it’s helped him to become a tournament winner after more than a decade of waiting.

The Chinese cueman – known as Mighty Mouse – has been one of the real stories of the season so far making his first ever final at the English Open in October and then going one better a month later by winning the International Championship in Tianjin.

His almighty triumph was a bolt out of the blue for the entire snooker world and he admits it was for him too.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Zhang told Snooker System with a smile on his face. “But I feel like I deserve it because I have been working hard and I always try my best in the events.”

His 10-6 win over Tom Ford in the final landed him a healthy £175,000 top prize and catapulted him up to number 15 in the world rankings. He goes into this weekend’s MrQ UK Championship as one of the seeded players and has all but secured his place in the Masters in January too.

Asked what’s helped him to revolutionise his career, he admits it’s learning be much cooler when he’s in action.
“My mind has changed,” he explained. “Before, I was up and down but now, I feel very calm.

“Even after I won, I felt very happy definitely, but not jumping up and down.

“After every match, I try to reflect. I used to worry too much about win or lose but now I just try my best and I don’t care.”

Landing a major title is a dream come true for Zhang and only having his son with him there could have topped the occasion. The trophy will now take pride of place back in the snooker club in his hometown in south China while he returns to the UK build on his success.

Being away from home is tough but being surrounded by other Chinese players at Victoria Snooker Academy in Sheffield makes life a little easier.

“I always miss home but this is my career and I want to chase my dream. The UK is the best place to be for snooker.

“It motivates me (at Victoria) to see other champions because we all want to win.”


Zhang’s extraordinary win has been a long time coming. He was aged just 17 when he first broke onto the circuit back in 2009 and in his very first season he qualified to the World Championship at the Crucible to play seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry. Thirteen years on and he’s now a tournament winner himself.

Asked if the wait has been a frustration, he said: “I felt disappointed because it was a long time but now I can accept anything in life and on the snooker table. I won’t be upset if lose. I won’t be over the moon if I win.

“I won’t feel pressure. I will just concentrate and play my own game – and see what happens.”

Zhang’s new-found balanced mindset is admirable but naturally his confidence has never been higher. That’s what beating Ronnie O’Sullivan twice in succession does for you on top of the runs to his recent finals.

“There is no secret,” he joked. “I don’t think Ronnie played that well (in the English Open) but in Tianjin I could tell Ronnie was more serious and Ronnie wanted to win. He played much better and that gave me more confidence when I won.

“Ronnie is the best player in the world and now I know I have a chance to beat anyone.”

Zhang begins his UK Championship campaign against Elliot Slessor in York on Sunday looking to capitalise on his momentum.

“I know all the opponents are strong and I try to play the same against everyone,” he said.

“It is another big event – it feels similar to the World Championship. The Barbican is like the Crucible. It is an iconic venue and I’ve been many times before; I always look forward to it because it feels very high level.”
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