Snooker: Travis on cue for Rocket showdown

Sheffield potter Mitchell Travis.
Sheffield potter Mitchell Travis.
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Gifted amateur Mitchell Travis says only winning the world title would top beating crowd favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Welsh Open next week.

The Sheffield starlet faces O’Sullivan, a five-time world champion, in the first round of the £300,000 world ranking event on Wednesday, February 19.

Travis pulled off one of the biggest upsets in snooker history when he dumped world number six Marco Fu out of the UK Championship at the end of last year and the 22-year-old sees no reason why he can’t claim another big scalp at the Newport Centre.

He told The Star: “It is a dream come true for me to play Ronnie [O’Sullivan]. He is the one player I have always wanted to play.

“If I pulled off an upset, it would be the biggest win of my life. There is only winning the world championship that would beat that as Ronnie is the best player in the world.”

It was just over a week ago Travis learned he had been paired with O’Sullivan.

“When the draw came out, I was scrolling down it and I couldn’t see my name or Ronnie’s,” he said. “Then when I got to the bottom and saw we’d been drawn together, I couldn’t believe it.

“I put a message on Facebook, and within a few hours I had over 154 ‘likes’ and a100 plus comments!”

O’Sullivan brushed aside Mark Selby to clinch his fifth Masters title last month.

Travis admitted: “It is unbelievable what Ronnie does on a snooker table. He makes the game look so easy.

“I watched Ronnie on TV at the Masters and he made the others look like novices.

“It is one of them where if he played week in, week out, he can win every event.

“But I’ve got nothing to lose. I have proved to myself that I can match the best in the world and beat them. I beat Marco [Fu] so why can’t I beat Ronnie?

“I’m not going there to roll over. I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Before Travis goes head-to-head with O’Sullivan, he will compete in the China Open 2014 qualifiers, which take place at The Capital Venue in Gloucester. Travis will play world number 40 Jamie Jones on Sunday night. Fellow Sheffield potters Joel Walker and Adam Duffy will take on Leeds-based cueman Peter Lines and Shaun Murphy respectively.

All 128 players who enter the event will play one qualifying match, with the 64 winners to go on to China for the season’s penultimate world ranking tournament. All matches are the best of nine frames.

Travis said: “I am looking forward to playing Jamie; he is like me in that he’s a very attacking player.

“I have watched him play a few times. He had a good run at the Crucible a few years ago so I know it is going to be difficult.

“I have only played one match so far this year so I just want to get back out on the table.”

Travis recently packed in his job at a call centre in Sheffield to focus more on his snooker. However, he will continue to work behind the bar at the Hallamshire Proprietary Bowling Club at weekends.

The youngster, who is not on the professional tour but has gained a place in several ranking events this season thanks to his results in 2013 Q School, said: “I had been thinking about giving up the job for quite a while. I want to be a full-time snooker player. I know that I can do it and have proved I can compete with the big boys.

“I’m planning to play in Q School in May and hopefully I’ll be on the tour next season.”