We’ve all played our best mate for a few quid – but perhaps not for the £40,000 that will be at stake when Barry Hawkins takes on Joe Perry on Saturday night in a Masters semi-final.
To say Hawkins and Perry are late bloomers at the Masters would be something of an understatement.
The Hawk had not won a match in the event until last season at the age of 36, going on to reach the final only to be on the end of a 10-1 humbling by Ronnie O’Sullivan.
And Perry, now 42, had an even worse record, having lost on all six previous appearances until beating Ding Junhui in 2015, during his 24th season as a professional.
This is first Masters semi-final, another first in his 40s having claimed a first ranking title less than two years ago.
Hawkins won a first-round clash last year 6-3 and the pair have shown good form this week and beaten fancied opponents. One will be into Sunday’s final playing for the £200,000 first prize, and with the runner-up getting £90,000 there is plenty at stake.
Hawkins, who had to wait until the evening after his win over world No1 Selby to discover his opponent, said:
Hawkins said: “Aside from matches like this I like to see Joe do well, we have always got on well on the circuit and if it wasn’t for people like that I would find the tour really difficult.
“There is a lot of travelling and you need a laugh with pals, it keeps the fun element there. He is a good friend and it might be a bit awkward in a big semi-final, that can make it a bit scrappy when it matters a lot to both.
“I am in the semi-final of a Major again, which is great and I want to keep on going now. Last year’s run was a great experience, apart from the final itself.
“And I would love to get to the final again and show up a bit better and put on a better display.
“Beating Mark Selby to reach this semi-final was right up there with the biggest wins of my life, along with beating Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible last year.
“Mark has been a machine recently. The 10-1 loss here in the final to Ronnie last year hurt, it was demoralising and I wanted to run away and go home. I was gone in the end, but I learned from it, and so it is very satisfying to be back here and playing well.”
Perry, a huge fan of Arsenal just down the road, said: “I have been struggling with my focus recently, but I will always care, always try 100 per cent and try my heart out. I am just trying now not to worry too much.
“It is about freeing your mind and playing with an uncluttered brain, that is what every snooker player on the planet wants to be able to do. I am doing it better and it has helped this week.
“Once we start playing the friendship won’t be relevant. But I would rather never play Barry again, he is my best mate on the tour/
“But on the plus side at least one of us will be in the final. I hope it’s me, but either way we will congratulate the other and wish the other all the best and hope they go on to win it.
“To still be setting firsts in my 26th year on tour, of course it means something. I always believed there was something bigger out there for me.
“Winning that first ranking title was a real monkey off my back in 2015, I thought I was good enough to win one, and once you’ve done that the Majors are what you dream of winning.
“I don’t think age is a barrier in our game, it is all about desire and dedication. Playing in a Masters semi-final is huge.
“I remember being brought after school to the old Wembley Conference Centre by my dad to see Jimmy White v Ray Reardon, and dreamt of one day playing in an arena like that.
“I still feel a Londoner even though I have been out in Cambridgeshire for a long time now. I was here until I was 14, I feel from north London and it feels like a home event.”