CHESTER-BORN snooker sensation Ricky Walden says his incredible victory at the Shanghai Masters is only the start.
The 25-year-old qualifier caused one of the greatest shocks the sport has seen for years on Sunday when he stunned world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8 in the final.
Walden, who also knocked out seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry and six-time world champion Steve Davis on his way to the £52,000 winner’s prize, has now truly lived up to his billing as one of the world’s most exciting young players after years of near misses.
World number 35 Walden, who is the resident professional at the Chester Snooker Centre on Volunteer Street, told The Chronicle: “I’ve been frustrated in the past by falling at silly hurdles. It really got to me, but something has just clicked and if I’m making mistakes now I just get on with it.
“It’s always nice to be called a great player, but there’s no point being a great player that doesn’t win. I think I’ve got that winning mentality now.
“It is going to bring a different sort of pressure. People will be gunning for me and expecting me to win tournaments, but I’ve just got to keep practising hard and hopefully another victory will be around the corner. I’m sure I can do it because it’s given me a whole lot of confidence.”
Walden returns to action on Sunday in the Grand Prix in Glasgow.
He will face world number eight Ryan Day in the first round and is confident he can overcome the Welshman after a week in which he produced the best snooker of his career.
Former Sealand player Walden, who lives in Bagillt, Flintshire, swept aside Zhang Anda in the wild card round of the Shanghai Masters before he came from behind to beat Hendry in the last 32.
The former world U21 champion showed more amazing powers of recovery to defeat world number 10 Neil Robertson, Davis and then world number four Mark Selby to set up a final showdown with three-time world champion O’Sullivan.
Walden, who has his own table at the Chester Snooker Centre, denied Rocket Ronnie the chance to become the first player since Hendry to win three ranking titles on the run, but only after he missed an easy red when he was 9-7 up.
Walden, who will take his friends to Las Vegas to celebrate later in the year, said: “I was thinking about everyone back home in Bagillt celebrating and I took my eye off the ball. So when Ronnie cleared up to make it 9-8 I thought my chance had gone, but I showed a bit of grit and put a good century away to win.”
See our video interview with Ricky Walden at www.chesterchronicle.co.uk