Ashley Hugill delves into the encyclopedia of human billiards and enjoys the test of the World Championship

Ashley Hugill is hoping to return to the Crucible after making her debut last year (Image: Getty Images)

Ashley Hugill is one of the hardest workers in snooker and has been working hours before the World Championship qualifiers, making use of a human encyclopedia of snooker in the process.

The Sheffield-based Yorkshireman has headed south to practice as he tries to make it to the Crucible for the second year running.

Few will put him to the test more than the players who await him in North London, especially one of the game’s most cunning veterans, Sheriff of Pottinham, Anthony Hamilton.

“I feel great, I’ve been working really hard,” Hugill told ahead of this week’s qualifiers. “I’ve been traveling, all the way to London to play Anthony Hamilton and Martin O’Donnell, playing best of 19, had some really nice battles with them.

“Staying there, getting a hotel and playing for two days, a couple of top 19s, so it’s been great.

“The amount you can learn from them, especially from Anthony, the amount he’s forgotten about the game is probably more than I know, it’s like a billiards encyclopedia.”

“Then I was at Leicester playing Joe O’Connor, that’s been good, I’ve been putting in a lot of effort, keeping fit, going to bed early and doing as good as I can.”

Former German Masters champion Anthony Hamilton has been on tour since 1991 (Image: Getty Images)

O’Connor is just a year younger than the 28-year-old Hugill and has enjoyed an impressive rise up the rankings this season, thanks to his runs to the final of the Scottish Open and the semi-finals of the Players Championship.

Hugill knows he can compete with the Leicester cueman and is inspired by his excellent results this season.

“Joe is doing amazing this season, it’s inspiring to watch, it’s a great motivation to see what’s possible,” he said. ‘When we practice we have close games so hopefully it can be me soon. I just have to stay patient, practice hard and bide my time.’

Hugill’s Crucible moment came last year when he beat three players, including O’Connor, to get to the legendary spot.

Neil Robertson handed him a brutal equalizer and fell to the Australian, but gave a good account of himself in a 10-5 defeat.

The Victoria’s Academy resident hasn’t started from there as he would have liked, although he did manage his first quarterfinal ranking at the English Open this season, but he is doing his best not to think about the big picture and just focus. on the task in question.

‘At some points this season I thought, why haven’t I kicked a bit? But that doesn’t really help, you just have to focus on your next match, the next tournament, one draw at a time, one match at a time, without putting any pressure on yourself,” he said.

“It’s good to set goals and targets, but constantly thinking about kicking can be more of a distraction, you have to go back to basics and focus on the next frame.” There are so many great players that you can’t get ahead of yourself.

“I know I’ll be back in the Crucible at some point, this season, next season, whenever, I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.”

Hugill made breaks of 85, 82, 77 and 51 on his Crucible debut (Image: Getty Images)

The first player on his way to the Crucible this year is amateur standout George Pragnell, who Hugill knows will be a tough test after an impressive year away from the pro circuit.

“I actually performed it at Q School, the first year I was on tour,” Hugill said. I have seen that he has been playing well this season, so I expect a good game.

We were in the juniors at a similar time and I remember him as a really talented player back then. I’m surprised he hasn’t been on tour before, it’s obviously not easy, and I think he’s in Norwich, where it’s a bit difficult to travel to the competitions and there’s not much snooker there compared to say here.

Getting to the first round of qualifiers is really tough, with four best-of-19 games to go to get to the Crucible, but Hugill is looking for the positives of getting into the tier system early.

“If I come into the games having played one more game than my opponents, I’ll be sharper, I’ll know the conditions, I’ll have the confidence to win, so there are a lot of benefits,” he said.

“Obviously, there are more games to play, more work, you may be tired at the end, but I know I’m in good physical shape, so the momentum is an advantage.” All the best of the 19 now, I think it suits my style and my attitude in the longer matches.”

Hugill, when not traveling the country to practice, finds himself dunking balls at Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield, which is also home to some of the players currently suspended for match-fixing.

With star names Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao, two of those in question, he could have hit the practice facility hard, but Hugill says he has kept himself busy with quality players on hand for good work.

“There are also a lot of European players here, so it hasn’t had as big an effect on the academy as you might think,” he explained. “Obviously not ideal, but it’s still busy and it’s easy to get good games with great players, so I just put my head down and moved on.”

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