Gilbert swaps baize for boogying in care-free lockdown bonanza

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Gilbert has endured a torrid time on the circuit since reaching the 2019 World Championship semi-finals
Gilbert has endured a torrid time on the circuit since reaching the 2019 World Championship semi-finals

PARTY BOY David Gilbert reckons reverting back to the good old days away from the baize can propel him to World Championship glory.

And the 2019 semi-finalist issued a stirring statement of intent to potential last 16 opponent and world No.1 Judd Trump – ‘I’m not scared.’

Gilbert breezed past Chris Wakelin 10-4 in his first round Crucible clash after a turbulent campaign on the World Snooker Tour.

The world No.15 has reached just a single ranking event quarter-final but says adopting a more carefree approach back home can catapult him back to the big time in Sheffield.

Gilbert, 39, said: “It was pretty solid – I scored heavily which is what you’re going to have to do here to go far.

“I’ve put in a hell of a lot of work since Christmas both on and off the table. I’ve tried to get myself in a better routine and I feel a lot fitter and happier.

“It’s just about being happy away from the table – I’ve always been up and down with this game and whether I’m in a good place or not, I find the game really hard.

“It’s really mentally challenging. I’ve never really struggled like [lockdown] at home or in normal life – it was weird. It was quite pathetic how I lost the plot so much but it’s nice to be smiling again.

“I just looked at my life, how I used to live and how I started to live. I had no routine in my life – lying about all day and not talking to anyone all day. It’s not me.

“I’m a busy person and I’m very social. I changed quite a few things and went back to how I used to live.

“It’s not quite how it was – partying on your own in a garage on a Saturday night isn’t like being in a nightclub giving it large, but it’s brought me back a bit.

“[Enjoying snooker] isn’t something that’s been easy for me to ever do, but I’m quite lucky to enjoy it, and that can help you.

“I’m always going to have bad days and days when I want to snap my cue, but you’ve got to shake yourselves sometimes and get back straight.”

Gilbert did reach the semi-finals of the prestigious Masters – one of snooker’s Triple Crown tournaments – in January but has struggled for consistency in ranking events.

But he found some of his most fluent form against Wakelin – the world No.63 – in Sheffield as three brilliant century breaks opened up a commanding 7-2 advantage at the overnight interval.

The four-time ranking event runner-up cracked in visits of 132, 111 and 100 as four further half-centuries left Wakelin, 29, with a mountain to climb.

Wakelin did notch two more frames on Sunday but further breaks of 84 and 58 from Gilbert booked a tantalising second round date against either 2019 world champion Trump – or practice partner Liam Highfield.

Trump has enjoyed a remarkable couple of years on the World Snooker Tour, racking up six ranking event titles last season and a further five this term.

But Gilbert isn’t scared of anyone and warned the planet’s best player he could be in for a shock.

“Obviously people are going to ask me about Judd next – he’s a great player and plays the game the right way,” added Gilbert.

“But if he has a bit of an off day, you’re going to get chances. It’s just about if you stand up and take it.

“He’s the best player in the world so it’s a pretty tough one, but it’s not daunting now – it’s exciting. Let’s not discredit Liam – he’s qualified and is in good form – so good luck to them both.”

Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3