Injury-free Walden to hit running trail after Crucible exit

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Walden's first Crucible appearance for three years was ended by Anthony McGill at the first round stage
Walden's first Crucible appearance for three years was ended by Anthony McGill at the first round stage

A SEASON of consolidation ended in a first-round World Snooker Championship exit for Ricky Walden but now running is back on the agenda for him, he’s ready to sprint to success next year, writes Luke Baker.

Walden is a three-time ranking event winner who was once ranked No.6 in the world but the last of those victories came back in 2014.

Back injuries have scuppered the Chester cueman over the past few years and seen him slide down the rankings but reaching the quarter-finals at the Scottish Open earlier this campaign showed positive signs and he’s now back up to No.35 in the world.

Victories over Peter Lines and Ryan Day booked his place at the Crucible Theatre and although a second-session blitz from 16th seed Anthony McGill led to a 10-5 defeat, Walden is feeling upbeat.

That is partly driven by the fact his back has improved and he’s regularly going out running once more – a real boon for a man who has run a marathon in the past.

“It’s been a consolidation season,” explained Walden. “I know my game is in a good place and I haven’t got to the levels I can but I haven’t dropped to a really low level either. I feel like it’s progress over the last couple of years.

“I’ve always been tweaking around with things but I’m back on the running now, which helps with the fitness. I need to get a lot fitter but I’m on the right path.

“I’ve been into the running for a long time now but circumstances meant I had to knock it for a couple of years. I think it helps the mind and helps you calm down out there.

“If you’re smashing the treadmill and the running miles, you’re in a good place so hopefully it’s around to stay.”

Walden had the better of the opening session against McGill but ultimately trailed 5-4 and the Scot, who reached the semi-final at the Worlds in 2020, punished his English counterpart further in the second session.

Breaks of 83 and 130 in the first two frames set the tone and ultimately McGill won five of the six frames played on Monday evening to record a 10-5 victory that was less comprehensive than the scoreline suggests but still well deserved.

“It was just a few missed opportunities by me, really,” explained Walden. “I missed a few balls in that first session and being 5-4 down was a bit unjust.

“Then Anthony played well from there. I’ve missed one ball in the first frame which swung the whole session and he’s kicked on from there. He played really well.

“I just felt like I didn’t settle exactly how I wanted to and it’s hard coming from frames behind against someone playing that well.

“My game is in a good place but it obviously needs a bit more improvement because to feel that far away at times is not a good feeling. To improve concentration and be in the game a little bit more is the aim.”

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