JOE Perry admits he arrived at the Crucible for this year’s Betfred World Championship with his burgeoning belief fortified further by a first ranking title.
The 40-year-old from Cambridgeshire was a worthy and popular winner of the PTC Grand Finals in Thailand in March – a first major success in his 24th season as a professional.
It is something Perry, finding some of the best form of his life in the last two years, had craved as something tangible he could point to in a lifetime playing snooker.
And his immediate reaction after the Bangkok 4-3 final victory over Mark Williams was to hope there might be another one before too long – and without having to wait quite as long again.
But while the Crucible is obviously a different kettle of fish altogether in terms of the length of the matches and the unique atmosphere and stage, Perry insists he can use some of that new-found confidence to good effect.
That would be little different to the kind of boost from the Shootout, a completely different event, that nevertheless lifted Michael White to achieve his own first ranking win in India.
But Perry does have some Sheffield pedigree, reaching the semi-finals in 2008 when he lost a great match 17-15 to Ali Carter – and being edged out 13-11 by Ronnie O’Sullivan, the Rocket being forced to dig deep and find two centuries in the last two frames.
Perry, who was set to play either the in-form seed Shaun Murphy or Robin Hull in the last 16, said: “I never try to give off too much confidence as I don’t want to come across as flash and don’t think I ever do that.
“But I have achieved something this year that I have never done before, and it has helped me with the belief that I can win the big match when it comes along. It is nice to know it is in there when it comes to the crunch.
“But I am just generally confident, I have been consistent over the last two years. I don’t worry about playing badly any more, if it happens it happens.
“I don’t put too much expectation on myself but work hard, practise hard and am starting to get some results.
“It may feel a little different coming here as a ranking event winner and even tipped as an outsider by the odd person. If I am honest I don’t think I have ever come here believing that I could win it before, even though I thought I could beat any one individual.
“But I have won an event this season with every player in it, so this is no different to that and if I play to my ability and relax then I can have a good run. But it will be tough, some of the big seeds are winning, and my section of the draw is tough.
“I know if I play my game here though, which I have been able to do most of the season, then I can make it a match for people, and good to watch.
“I don’t go for as many shots as the most aggressive but I play at a good speed and keep the balls in play, don’t play many negative shots, and enjoy an open game.
“The blue I potted against Anda to stop his run and go 9-4 was probably one of the best balls I have ever potted at the Crucible – and that turned out to be a big frame.
“My safety was very good which it is going to have to be against any future opponents, and I felt good and confident from the start of the match.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos