Snooker prodigy Joel Walker admitted being the first player from Sheffield to walk out at the Crucible would be a dream come true after his third-round defeat at the UK Championship.
The 20-year-old narrowly went down 6-5 to world No.9 Stuart Bingham at the Barbican in York but, in all, gave an extremely good showing of himself on one of the biggest stages in world snooker.
Walker, himself ranked as low as 105th, did throw away a 3-0 lead against Bingham, who then went 5-4 ahead, before producing the goods when it mattered with a break of 95 in the final frame decider.
Walker has met Bingham three times with each match going the distance and he was grateful he proved he is now able to cut it with the biggest and best players with the worlds in sight.
“You’re just hoping for a chance in the decider, and I didn’t do anything wrong or miss a ball I should have potted,” he said. “At least I am competing with everyone now.
“Stuart is ranked highly and has won ranking events, so if I keep doing what I’m doing I won’t be far off. I went 3-0 up and I could’ve gone 4-0 up.
“Obviously I’d have taken 3-1 at the interval but I’ve had a bit of bad luck there to be fair and he’s nicked that frame, and he played well to get back.
“I had a chance in the decider, but played a bit of a shot to nothing and left it over the pocket for him, and he made a good break to finish.
“I feel good with where I am now. I enter every tournament with the aim to win it despite my ranking as I know I’m good enough.
“It gives me confidence to be competing with everyone and Stuart did not play badly. Everyone misses a couple of balls here and there, and I was not far away from him.”
Walker is in line to become the first man from Sheffield ever to play in the World Championship at the Crucible next year – although there is the small matter of qualifying first.
He got to the second round of qualifying last season before losing to Wales’ Jamie Jones and Walker isn’t going to get too ahead of himself despite a positive UK Championship.
“My big aim is to win it one day, but I’ll take it step-by-step. We’ll start off with qualifying and working my way up the rankings and see what happens,” he added.
“It would mean everything to walk out there. I’ve been going there since I was six, and the atmosphere and everything is incredible.
“To be the first from Sheffield to make it there, with the support I’d get it would be a dream come true.
“You can always work on every part of your game; no-one has mastered snooker. So I’ll just go away from here and keeping working hard. That’s all I can do.”
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