Ali Carter reckons a less stormy mindset is catalysing his resurgence back towards the world’s top 16, writes Will Jennings.
‘The Captain’ saw his season finally set sail on Friday as he battled through to the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open with a 5-3 with over Kurt Maflin.
The world No.19 has been through the wringer in recent months but admits a stern word with himself is overcoming some choppy baize waters ahead of January’s Masters at the Alexandra Palace.
“I haven’t had the best start to the season, and came here and said to myself ‘just try and be nice to yourself’, rather than beating yourself up all the time,” said the former world No.2, who took a step closer towards the world’s provisional top 16 list with his win over Maflin.
“That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve just come here and tried to be nice to myself. I’m my own worst enemy and when I miss a ball I beat myself up, but I haven’t missed it on purpose. The pressure can takes its toll so I just said ‘you’re going to miss balls, but just try and be a little bit nicer to yourself.’
“I came here with zero confidence, had hardly won a match all year and didn’t particularly, in the nicest possible way, want to be here because life’s tough at the minute for everyone.
“If you’re in a low ebb it’s easy to get yourself in a rut and in a big black hole. I gave myself a good talking to and said come on, you’ve got to turn this around.
“To be in the semis is great. It’s just one match at a time and I’m not getting ahead of myself.”
Carter, 41, beat Ben Hancorn, Xiao Guodong, Dominic Dale and Ben Woollaston to navigate his way to the quarter-finals of the second Home Nations event of the season.
He was forced to battle against World Championship quarter-finalist Maflin but breaks of 91, 65 and 50 helped haul him over the line and into a first major semi-final since last season’s European Masters.
There he will meet either six-time world champion and old rival Ronnie O’Sullivan or world No.10 Ding Junhui.
Carter and O’Sullivan were involved in a memorable bust-up at the 2018 World Championship when they shoulder-barged each other in a heated last 16 clash.
The pair have never met on the baize since and four-time ranking event winner Carter, who beat O’Sullivan 13-9 that day, says he’s relish another bout with the Rocket.
On the infamous Crucible incident, Carter added: “Ronnie actually came up to me and apologised twice.
“I said no worries – in the heat of the moment it was a bit of fun. It got a lot of people talking and it brought the spotlight on snooker.
“Me and Ronnie are both from Essex and we’ve had a lot old history – he’s beat me in two world finals so it was nice, thankfully, to get one over him on the big stage. It’s a shame it wasn’t in the final!”