Barry Hawkins arrives at the Masters as one of the most consistently impressive players of the season so far, but admits motivation has not always been busy to keep hold of.
The Hawk kicked the campaign off in style by winning the European Masters in August, downing Judd Trump in the final in Germany.
Since then he has won a lot of matches, reaching two semi-finals and a quarter-final, putting him fifth on the one-year ranking list.
Confidence is a fickle thing, though, and he admits that he is not still on the high of winning the European, with motivation tough to maintain over a busy season, but his game is still in great shape.
‘No I wouldn’t say I’m the same now as when I first won it,’ Hawkins told Metro.co.uk. ‘I’ve played so much snooker since then, it’s felt non-stop, here there and everywhere.
‘But I still feel good about my game. I’ve been pretty consistent since I won that tournament. Latter stages of quite a few big events, so I feel deep down my game is still in good shape.
‘The motivation can just dwindle a bit, the hunger goes up and down, it dips then it comes back. I lost in the Scottish Open and I was gutted. I lost to a good player in Pang Junxu, tough first round game, but I didn’t really perform. I wasn’t getting sick and tired of snooker, but I did need a break. Losing that match did give me the motivation to get back practicing.
‘It’s been a good year, but now I want to get my head back down for a lot of big tournaments coming up.’
Little will get the juices flowing like The Masters at Alexandra Palace, where Hawkins takes on Neil Robertson on Tuesday evening and cannot wait to do just that.
‘If you can’t get motivated for the Masters there’s something wrong with you,’ he said. ‘It’s a bonus tournament really. Top 16, it’s massive but it’s not linked to the rankings. Obviously the pressure is immense when you’re out there but you have to enjoy it as much as you can because it’s an unbelievable place to play. I’m looking forward to it.
‘I think it’s the best place we play, the best arena. The atmosphere, the set-up, it feels like a blue chip event. If you don’t ever get the chance to play there it would be a shame as a player, because to play there is amazing.
‘I can remember when I beat Trump to get to the final [in 2022], having all my friends and family in the crowd. I won a close game 6-5 and it was unlike me, I let all the emotion out, I was punching the air because the atmosphere was unbelievable, I think that’s the best I’ve ever felt winning a snooker game.
‘It was just an electric atmosphere, the crowd seem to go a bit crazier. It feels like there’s a buzz about the place, it’s hard to explain, but it’s the perfect place for snooker. Good memories there, hopefully I can go there and produce again this year.’
Hawkins met Robertson in that final after downing Trump and couldn’t replicate the form in the showpiece, losing 10-4 and his performance still irks him.
‘I played well getting to that final, but it felt like a few other finals, I fell away too easy,’ he explained. ‘Neil played okay, I don’t think he played brilliantly, I think I made it too easy for him and he just brushed me aside.
‘It’s another great tournament and great memories, but disappointing I didn’t put up more of a fight against Neil. I don’t think I put him under any pressure really. It’s disappointing when you don’t really perform, but you’ve got to take the positives.’
On whether he is now better placed to land his first Triple Crown title he said: ‘Yeah, maybe. I suppose experience over the last season suggests that. You’re only as good as your last game, but I just need to go there and settle and produce some of the form I’ve been showing for the last few months.’
The Hawk meets a Robertson on Tuesday who is having the worst season he has experienced for years, currently 88th on the one-year list after a string of early exits in ranking events.
Hawkins, like most people, is struggling to explain the drop-off in the Australian’s results, but is expecting him to turn up firing at Alexandra Palace.
‘It’s so strange. How good he is, you would never ever see him having a season like this,’ said Hawkins. ‘But he’s still likely to turn up and win the next couple of tournaments, that’s how good he is.
‘His confidence must have dropped. I don’t know how much he’s been practicing. But when you start losing matches and people start playing well against you, which they have done…it’s weird, when you’re not winning that happens. When you’re playing well people miss against you, it’s strange. Winning breeds confidence, but it also makes people miss.
‘It looks like he’ll have to qualify for the World Championships, but I’m sure he’ll get his game back together, he’s too strong-minded not to.
‘I’m expecting the best from him. A tournament like this, big arena, big occasion, he feels at home there. I’m expecting him to play really well and I’m sure he will. He’ll be determined to put on a show and show that his game’s there, that’s the way Neil thinks and what makes him a great champion. I’ve got my work cut out, that’s for sure.’
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