GRAEME DOTT knows he isn’t being talked about as one of the likely winners of the world title – and it won’t bother him one bit.
Dott was one of three qualifiers to reach the second round at the Crucible after prevailing 10-8 against Ricky Walden in a high quality encounter. He started out in the last 16 against Stuart Bingham on Friday.
Despite winning the Betfred World Championship in 2006 and finishing runner-up in 2004 and 2010, the Scot remains an outsider to go all the way again but being written off is nothing new and Dott has long since used it to his advantage.
This is a player who has beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire, Matthew Stevens, Ali Carter, Mark Allen and Peter Ebdon at the Crucible – a formidable list of scalps on snooker’s most celebrated stage.
Not one to mince his words, Dott was withering about the new qualifying system. Asked how he felt about reaching the Crucible, he responded: “Have I qualified then? Are you sure I don’t have to do an assault course first?”
But he did battle through, unlike last year when he was a final round casualty to Kyren Wilson, missing out on the Crucible for the first time since 1999.
It is a venue where so many have floundered but Dott has played the best snooker of his career in the famous theatre in the round. The long matches suit him but so does the tense, oppressive atmosphere. This is a venue for the fighters, for the players with grit and the will to dig deep.
Dott seems to have won so many close frames down the years in Sheffield, where his battling qualities so often come to the fore.
A running theme, though, throughout his career is that he has not received the credit his performances have deserved. He deals with this in his entertaining autobiography, Frame of Mind.
However, back in 2006 he used this to his advantage. With his back to the wall, he came out fighting, making much of the fact that one newspaper had made him second favourite in every match he played.
The bookies again have him as the outsider against Bingham but Dott remains a genuine dangerman. All of the qualifiers were asked if they wanted to draw O’Sullivan and most said they wouldn’t mind, but Dott was the only one I believed.
He knows that if he is to come good somewhere it will most likely be the Crucible, where he has good memories to draw on and that game to cope when the pressure really comes to bear.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.