Joe Perry admits that an excellent victory and performance at the Masters on Monday night against Stuart Bingham could not have come at a more timely moment.
The 42-year-old has a largely wretched record at the prestigious invitation event for the sport’s elite players, and matched the best run of his 26-year pro career by reaching the quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace – where he will take on Ding Junhui.
World No9 Perry, who won his first and to date only ranking title less than two years ago, has been through the kind of doldrums in recent months experienced by many players – struggling with motivation and practice, and irritated by inconsistency.
So Perry was as surprised as anyone by the two centuries and other breaks of 77 and 76 in an emphatic 6-1 win over the world No2 and former world champion.
And afterwards he went further, giving a fascinating insight into how the feats of forty-somethings Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Bingham, Mark King and others are offering hope that the best days may still lie ahead for even seasoned pros.
Perry said: “They say it is a young man’s game, but I don’t believe so. There are a couple of outstanding young talents going in to every tournament, but it is always someone in their 30s or 40s that is favourite to win it.
“It gets harder as a life going round the world in your 40s and have a family, but in terms of winning tournaments I don’t see the current group of 40-year-olds being moved away too quick.
“I don’t know what it is…the experience coming through? The young talents still blow hot and cold, can beat anyone and then lose.
“The draw can sometimes open up in your favour, but if you can avoid the Trumps, the Selbys and the Robertsons then come the semi-finals it is anyone’s.
“I can still have hopes of winning a big one like the Masters. I won’t knock anyone’s achievements but Mark King has won a title recently; Stuart is always in contention; Mark Davis has just made 1 first 147, he is older than me. Why not?
“It is a game of snooker, it is not like we are running round at 100 miles an hour. I have always said it won’t be the standard that knocks me off my perch, it will be the desire to keep practising and travelling and putting the effort in.
“I was thrilled with my performance against Stuart, definitely one of my best of the season. It was totally unexpected, you never know when you hit form in this game.
“I was playing some of the worst snooker of my long career in the Championship League in Coventry recently, I didn’t get close to potting one and got hammered by everyone.
“So I came here thinking I don’t care what happens even if I lose 6-0, and it is amazing what happens when you take the pressure off and have no expectations.
“That is probably as good as I have played for a long time, since I beat Neil in China. The standard is so high now if you do get a chance you have to win the frame.
“A big win at the Masters is nice and stops some of the mad thoughts about not playing ever again, the winning feeling is great and can’t be replaced by anything else.
“I did fall out of love with snooker recently, it comes and goes over 26 years as I’m sure it does for anyone’s job. We don’t all have great days at work, and I am having one of those spells.
“The match against Ding is another great game but this is the Masters, what do you expect, it is the best players in the world.
“Ding’s scoring and cue ball control are his great strengths, when he is on it maybe only Ronnie has a better cue ball. He is pin-point with his positional play and hardly ever has to pot a difficult ball.”
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos