BARRY Hawkins arrives at the Dafabet Masters in fine fettle, making a 147 maximum break in making it through to the winners’ group of the Championship League with success in Group One.
The world No5’s second career maximum, and the 111th in professional tournament play, came in the second frame of his 3-0 victory over Stephen Maguire at Crondon Park Golf Club.
Other than fluking the opening red and getting a fortunate kiss from brown to blue, Hawkins was delighted with his positional play during the break and pleased to have doubled his tally of perfect frames.
“It’s lovely to have a 147 and keep control of the cue ball so well,” he said. “Not many people make a maximum throughout their careers, so to make two now is a nice little bonus.”
The 35-year-old’s good form in Essex will have given him a huge confidence boost going into the Masters next week - an event he cherishes.
“It’s a massive tournament which every player wants to play in,” he said. “The crowds are really good and the atmosphere is fantastic.”
The Kent-based Hawkins is hoping to make it fifth time lucky in snooker’s most prestigious invitational tournament, having lost the opening match on each of his previous four appearances.
Ali Carter stands in his way on Tuesday and Hawkins is expecting a difficult contest, in what will be the Captain’s first match since receiving the all-clear from lung cancer.
“Ali’s such a great player,” he said. “He’s had a lot to deal with over the last couple of years and he’s got through that, so he’ll be looking to get his career back on track.
“It’s going to be a very tough match and I need to be on top of my game.”
Should Hawkins progress, the likes of Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan potentially await him further down the track in the draw.
However, he remains confident that he can go all the way at the Alexandra Palace.
“There’s no point in turning up if you don’t think you’ve got a chance of winning,” he said. “It’s not worth going and just making up the numbers - you’ve got to believe in yourself.
“If I bring my best form out then I can beat anybody on my day.”
A good run in London will be a boost in what has been a mixed season for the Hawk. After reaching the semi-finals of the Wuxi Classic at the start of the campaign, he has failed to get beyond the last 32 of any major ranking event since.
“I’m not too happy with the way it’s gone over the last four or five months,” he admitted.
“I really don’t like spending that much time away from home and I think that’s shown in my performances.”
A series of disappointments culminated in a shock 6-5 first-round defeat from 5-0 up against Nigel Bond in the UK Championship – an eye-catching result which Hawkins felt gave him a much-needed kick up the backside.
He was pleased though with the way he responded, in reaching the semi-finals of the Lisbon Open and qualifying for the German Masters.
“Years ago, if I lost like that, I’d go into my shell and it would affect me for the next few tournaments,” he said.
“But now if I lose like that, it gives me more motivation to put things right at the next tournament.”
The two-time ranking event winner aims to add more titles to his collection and his ultimate ambition is to become world champion.
He reached the 2013 final and 2014 semi-finals, where it took impressive displays from O’Sullivan to see him off on both occasions.
But lifting the trophy would be a dream-come-true for the man who used to brush tables at his local club as an 11-year-old, in exchange for free playing time.
“To win the World Championship at the Crucible is everybody’s dream,” he smiled. “I’ve come close the last couple of years.
“If I could win, I’d die a very happy man!”
Jonathan Davies is currently studying journalism, and a regular presence in the media centre at big tournaments where he assists World Snooker and Matchroom.
Photograph by Monique Limbos