Joe Perry returns to Welsh Open looking for inspiration: ‘I don’t want to fade away’
Joe Perry pulled off an incredible win at the Welsh Open last year but he does not feel like he’s still riding that triumphant wave and returns to Wales looking for a spark of inspiration again.
The Gentleman has been competing with the elite in snooker for three decades, already winning a ranking event, reaching a Masters final and a Crucible semi-final, so it was not a wild shock, but few saw his triumph in Newport coming.
At 47 years old Perry was struggling for form and motivation, but he sprung into life at the Welsh, beating a string of top players to reach the final where he downed Judd Trump to get his hands on the trophy.
It was a remarkable and emotional win but it hasn’t quite had the lasting impact Perry was hoping for, with the veteran sliding back into the inconsistency that was frustrating him before the victory.
A superb result whatever has come since, Perry is rightfully really proud of the win, but he is a bit frustrated with his game in the 12 months after he was crowned champion.
‘I do think about it and it makes me really proud,’ Perry told Metro.co.uk. ‘I’ve got a picture in my snooker room of me holding the trophy, the trophy’s on display in there. It’s a moment I’ll always treasure and be proud of but it hasn’t really had the effect I hoped it would have.
‘I don’t think my game’s improved at all, to be honest. I’ve always been one of those players…obviously I’m very good to be up in the rankings for so long, but my biggest asset was my consistency. I always played to a certain level, it never dropped that far.
‘I was always in the middle 50 per cent, and occasionally get up to 80-90 per cent, but now I can go from the middle down to 10 per cent and just the odd time up to 80. My levels have changed, I’m not consistent like I used to be. On my day I can produce stuff like I always have, but it doesn’t happen as often as it used to. But that week it all came together, I’d love to know why, I really would.’
Looking back at his amazing run in Newport, Perry does remember finding a bit of form beforehand, specifically a fine performance in beating Lee Walker in Turkish Masters qualifying.
However, he also thinks the killer draw he was handed in Wales helped bring the best out of him, as he downed Cao Yupeng, Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson, Ricky Walden and Jack Lisowski before beating Trump.
‘The draw was insane with how hard it was,’ he said. ‘That might have made a difference. Even in the first round before I got to Wales I had Dave Gilbert and it seemed to keep getting tougher.
‘I think it brought the best out of me. Not that I slack off if I play someone lower-ranked because I know everyone can play, I don’t disrespect anyone, but I knew I had to play really well. Maybe being the underdog pretty much every round helped.
‘Some people like being the underdog. It’s not going to be a disaster if you lose. I’m not going to have to make the dreaded phone call to my dad on the way home explaining where it all went wrong.
‘You lose to a Mark Allen or a Kyren Wilson, you can accept it, it’s easier to take them defeats as long as you play well. That can help you relax and bring the best out in you, it helped me that week, I played well every match. I played how I’d like to play all the time, really.’
A UK Championship quarter-final this season shows that his game has not deserted him since the Welsh Open, but things have not exactly gone as hoped, with results and performances quite unpredictable.
Motivation to practice has proved an issue for the now 48-year-old, but it is not a situation he is happy to accept and intends to put things right, even if inspiration hasn’t arrived just yet.
‘I thought leading up to this event it would make a difference but it’s just not happened,’ he said.
‘It’s a combination of things. I don’t practice anywhere near as much as I used to. I also took myself out of the club environment so I don’t play anyone, I just play on my own.
‘I play Ryan Thomerson maybe once or twice a week, but once upon a time I was playing Mark Selby, Kyren Wilson, Neil Robertson, Mark Davis two or three times a week, every week of the year. In between I was playing on my own in the club and I was sharp all the time.
‘I didn’t play well all the time but I was always sharp, whereas now, I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen when I play a match. I could be brilliant, I could be awful. When I was on it, usually I’d play alright, sometimes really well, but I’d very rarely play badly.
‘I didn’t enjoy any tournament during Covid, I really did struggle, but I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I stopped putting the hours in then and couldn’t find the drive at all.
‘I probably sound like I’m down in the dumps, but I’m not. I don’t want to fall down the rankings, I will make an effort to stop that and stay in the game as long as I can, because I do love it. You just get in a bit of a rut, you accept how you’re playing, but I don’t really want to do that, I need to put a stop to it pretty quick.’
Perry may be struggling for motivation but he is keen to rediscover it, dismissing the idea that an unexpected ranking title in Wales felt like ‘job done’ for his career.
‘No, definitely not, not at all,’ he said. ‘At the time it reignited a spark to try and get back in the top 16, there’s no reason I can’t.
‘Inside we all know how good we are and I don’t think any time during that week I played at a level I thought was beyond what I’m capable of. I played within my capabilities, so if that was good enough to win a tournament, there’s no reason why I can’t put myself in that position a few more times.
‘I’ve had the conversation and I’m going to make an effort to get out and play some good players and get myself to some sort of consistent level.
‘I’m not writing myself off, I’m still comfortably in the top 32 but I don’t want to dwindle down the rankings and fade away by not giving myself a chance.’
More high quality practice can start with his old pal Neil Robertson now they have ended a run of events which saw them play each other annoyingly regularly.
‘It’s been awkward because we keep playing each other!’ Perry said. ‘We can’t really practice together if we’re drawn in the next tournament.
‘I had him in the UK, then Scotland, then in Germany, so we couldn’t really do it. Hopefully I’ll play him a bit more now.
‘I’ve been watching him and I think he’s probably the same, been suffering a bit from me not being there as well. It catches up with you. Last year he was winning everything, confidence is high, playing lots of matches, but when you start to lose a few, it can creep up on you, it doesn’t take a lot.’
Perry hopes to spark back into life again when he begins the defence of his Welsh Open title on Monday against Mark King at the new venue for the event in Llandudno.
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