Last year’s World Snooker Championship final felt like an opportunity missed for Kyren Wilson. Yes, he came up against the greatest player the game has ever produced, who rediscovered his best form just in time for the final, but the fact that Wilson failed to compete in the 18-8 defeat will have rankled with him throughout this season.
Simply put, the chance to win a world title does not come around too often, just ask the likes of Ali Carter, Matthew Stevens and Barry Hawkins – players who have reached the final on one or more occasions but failed to get their hands on the trophy. To suffer a heavy loss like Wilson and recover takes character, but determination has never been an attribute missing from the CV of the man they call ‘The Warrior’, and he’ll be eager to experience the thrill of a world final once again this year.
Fresh off the back of victory at the Championship League – his second Championship League title this season – Wilson heads to the Crucible as a serious contender. Now ranked sixth in the world, having reached his highest ranking of fourth earlier in the season, it feels as though Wilson is finally maturing into the finished article. Question marks have always been raised over his cue-ball control, but it’s fair to say that the 29-year-old has done a lot to silence those doubters this season, sitting second on the century break list with 64 tons. Only Judd Trump has made more.
It’s that kind of high scoring that Wilson will need to produce at the Crucible. Too often in the past, he has lost focus around the black and pink spots, often relying on his sensational single-ball potting to recover from poor positional play. This season, however, he seems to be striking a perfect chord with his improved scoring power and the dogged and determined temperament we all associate with him.
But for all Wilson’s talent and popularity, he is yet to really come of age in terms of landing major titles. Despite posting consistent results all year, he has not recorded a ranking event win this season, and while his two Championship League triumphs are some sort of consolation, it’s the bigger prizes that players like Wilson eye up at the beginning of each new campaign.
Having played in one Masters final and one World Championship final so far in his career and lost them both, there is a danger that Wilson could slip into that category of nearly men, for whom the biggest titles have eluded them time and again. When you view all the odds on snooker World Championship 2021, there are five players ahead of Wilson in the outright betting. It is that elite category of player that Wilson hasn’t quite reached, and it feels like he needs to land one of the really big titles to gain that status.
That’s why this upcoming World Championship feels like an important moment in Wilson’s career. It’s hard to know whether he will build upon his odyssey to the final last year, or if he is due an early exit. Second chances don’t always come around in snooker – something many players can attest to – and that’s why it is vital Wilson proves his mettle in returning to Sheffield and posting another deep run.
He has a style of play which seems perfectly suited to the confines of the Crucible, and this has been borne out in his results in recent years, having reached at least the quarter-finals in each of the last five World Championships. However, for a player as highly motivated as Wilson, nothing but the trophy will do, and if he could get his hands on the silverware this year, then it could well be the spark that ignites his final ascension to snooker’s elite echelons.