RICKY Walden is determined to draw the positives from his career-best run at the World Championship – even though the pain of his semi-final exit is likely to linger for some time.
The Chester-born player blew a 12-8 lead in his last-four meeting with Kent’s Barry Hawkins, who won eight frames in a row on his way to an eventual 17-14 victory on Saturday evening.
It was a painful way to bow out of the BBC-televised competition for Walden, but the blow was softened this week with the news that he has risen to eighth in the world rankings – the highest he has ever been.
“I have now been to the semi-finals of the UK Championships and the worlds. I’ve won two ranking events and I’m definitely improving,” said the 30-year-old, who had never been beyond the first round at the Crucible before this year.
“I have to take some confidence from that, but I will sit down in a few days time and properly analyse it and take some positives from this tournament. But to be honest at the moment I’m still pretty disappointed.”
Walden’s season began in fine style with victory at the Wuxi Classic.
He went into the World Championship ranked 13th in the world and breezed through to the semis thanks to wins over Michael Holt (10-1), Robert Milkins (13-11) and Michael White (13-6).
But both Walden and Hawkins struggled in their semi-final.
“It was very tough out there and neither of us were finding it easy,” said Walden.
“Bad bounces and contacts were affecting both of us. My technique started to go as well and by the end there was only ever going to be one winner.”
Walden, who lives in Chester but was brought up in Bagillt, Flintshire, was given his first snooker table by his dad Bill when he was just two years old. He recorded his first century break when he was 13 and his maiden maximum at the age of 15.
He played in local leagues in Chester, Ellesmere Port and Deeside and represented England at junior and senior level, winning the World Under 21 title in 2001, a year after turning professional.
He has two ranking title wins to his name – the 2008 Shanghai Masters and the Wuxi Classic.
After beating Walden on Saturday, Hawkins went on to lose 18-12 to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.
British Eurosport is showing 19 tournaments this season including the World Championship, UK Championship, the Masters and all ranking events, available on Sky, Virgin Media & BT or online/on mobile via eurosportplayer.co.uk.