Professional snooker player Kyren Wilson is only 22 years old, but he’s already been ranked 72nd in the world and reached the quarter finals of the 2013 Shanghai Masters. Born in Kettering, Kyren now practises at Barratts Club in Northampton and is looking forward to an exciting 2014.
Kyren on Cue – Photographs by Monique Limbos
When it comes to snooker, Kyren really knows his way around the table. Here are 15 of his top tips for improving your game, including some handy exercises you can try for yourself.
1. Practise, Practise, Practise!
“You should be playing every day. I try to have one day off at the weekend, but you need to be doing a lot of solo training and practising with other players through the week.”
2. Play as Many People as Possible
“Without new challenges things can get a bit boring. Going to tournaments is a great way to keep meeting more players. The better your opponents, the more you’ll improve. Sometimes you’ll be spending a lot of money playing for petrol and hotels, but I’d definitely advise you to travel if you can.”
3. Take Setbacks On the Chin
“As you progress in snooker you take a hell of a lot of knocks, but if you keep going they will make you stronger. When you start out, you get battered regularly, but in the long run setbacks make you more experienced and stronger on the table. You gradually get better and start growing because you know what to expect.”
Play as Many Opponents as Possible – Photographs by Monique Limbos
4. Improving Your Long Potting
“There are plenty of long potting routines you can work at. I do a lot of dead straight long blues off the spot. Try to pot as many as you can in a row to improve your accuracy. Just keep practising.”
5. Break the Reds to Work on Your Positional Play
“Being able to get the cue ball into the right position for your next shot is vital and it comes with experience. The more you play, the more switched on you are and the more can anticipate certain shots.
“Practising cannons is one way to get used to what’s likely to happen. You can also try going into the pack of reds to anticipate where they’re going to open and give you an opportunity to break.”
6. A Grape Trick From Steve Davis
“I saw great tip from Steve Davis on the BBC on the Masters this year, which involved putting a grape on the table.
“When you land straight on a colour, it’s usually very tough to get the cue ball back in position for the next red. The white needs to either land high or low on the colour, so you’re not straight in line with it, but you obviously can’t see exactly where this is. Steve Davis used a grape to mark out this imaginary line, so you can practise not ending up straight on. That’s a good way of getting used to lining up the next red.”
7. Super Safety Shots
“To practise playing safe, draw a line at the back of the table and think of it as a target. Play thin off a red and try to get the cue ball back in behind the line, as close to the cushion as you can. It might be tricky at first, but you’ll get closer and eventually start to get it in more often.”
8. Get Tight Behind Another Colour
“Another option for safety shots is to place five reds in line with the pink spot and corner pocket, put the white behind the baulk line and play thin off the red off two cushions. Put a colour near the top cushion and try to get the white in behind that ball. I don’t stop until I’ve done it with all five reds.”
9. Clear all the Colours
“I try to clear all the colours regularly too. There are times in matches where you‘ve got to clear the table to see out the frame, so you need to be ready.”
Practise Clearing the Colours for Big Games – Photographs by Monique Limbos
10. Try the T Exercise
“There are lots of useful line-ups that are really good to practise. There’s one called a T exercise, where you put the reds into a T shape and try to pot every ball five times without missing. That works on focus and concentration. If you’ve done it four times and you miss on the fifth attempt, it’s a bit gutting because you’ve got to start all over again, but it’s great for discipline.”
11. Pool Helps with Angles
“Like a lot of people, I got into snooker after playing pool. Pool is great for working on your angles, which has really helped me.”
12. Practise Chasing the Game
“If you’re much better than your practice opponent, have a go at getting a snooker. I often give a head start to the person I’m playing in training, so I’m trailing the whole way through. As I’m chasing the frame, I end up needing snookers, which is great practice for serious games. When you’re in a competitive situation and you need a snooker, it’s an advantage if you’re used to being behind.”
13. Relax Before a Match
“Before a game I try and get on the table to have ten minutes getting used to the surface and getting my cueing arm going. I like to chill out to get focused and gather my thoughts, either with my coach or on my own.
“I don’t really need to psych myself up for big games because I’m always up for it, but sometimes I’ll try to get inspired by listening to music.”
14. Keep Fit
“Fitness is very important in snooker nowadays for your stamina and concentration. Feeling healthy is especially useful in the World Championship, where you’ve got to concentrate for very long periods because the format involves longer games. I’m getting back into playing football again on the weekends to keep up my fitness.”
15. Enjoy Yourself
“Finally, just enjoy playing snooker as much as you can. Keep going and keep learning.”
Kyren is sponsored by Cuepower.co.uk, a leading UK retailer of snooker and pool cues and accessories. Looking to improve your snooker skills? Cuepower.co.uk has the cues, balls and tables to turn you into a potting professional.