An interview with David Grace – the Q School Event One graduate

19:53:00 Ramona Dragomir 0 Comments

David Grace taking control of the green baize
It’s been a week since the Q School ended its first edition, edition that saw 12 players graduating and getting a precious spot on the Main Tour. One of those 12 players is David Grace, the Englishman being able to qualify from the very first Q School event. It’s been an incredible five days for him, days that I’m sure he won’t forget too soon.

David is a very passionate snooker player and it was a real pleasure to make this interview with him, for I’ve felt him being honest about every emotion that he experienced during the Q School and for a few moments I was under the impression I was there, in Sheffield, watching him making his way to winning Event One.

He discovered snooker at a young age, he felt in love with this sport, he continued practicing it and now he’ll be living his dream of playing next to the heavy names on the Main Tour. He speaks in such a unique way about the sport that has changed his life, that it’s practically impossible to stop listening to him.
Maybe you’ll think his story has nothing special, but I dare you to keep reading between the lines and see how much has he given to this sport, how much this sport means to him and how much snooker needs such a brilliant player.

Snooker Loopy: Let’s start with the classic question :-P
How did your passion for snooker start? Was there a mentor that has guided your steps, a family member, maybe a famous player?

David Grace: “My Dad got me started, he had a small 5ft table from when he was young, and he kept it for when he had children. When I and my sister were little he sawed the legs off so we could reach it! After I got good on that he took me to play on a full size table aged 10, and I was hooked!

SL: Was there a moment when you said “This is what I want to do: to become a professional snooker player!”? Or was it more like one step at a time and all of the sudden you’ve found yourself all grown up and playing for a professional career in snooker?

David Grace: “Right from the start I knew I wanted to be a professional playing on TV. Some of my friends played football and dreamt of playing for Leeds United but I always knew snooker was my number one.

SL: Tell us a bit about your recent victory (aka. the Q School Event One). You defeated a very tough opponent, Anda Zhang 4-1 in the quarter-finals. What does this mean for you? Was it a hard task to overcome?

David Grace: “The whole Q School experience was incredibly tough. I knew nearly all the players in the field, and I knew that they are all great players capable of playing on the Main Tour. I watched Anda Zhang play Stephen Hendry at the Crucible a couple of years ago so I knew how good he is. But I was determined that it was my week, and I didn’t really put a foot wrong against him.

At 1-0 to me he made a break of 60 but missed a pink and I could just win with a clearance. Even though it was only the 2nd frame I knew it was a very important moment in the match. It was not an easy clearance but I managed to cannon the last red off the side cushion and clear up with 70 to steal the frame. Even though he won the next frame, from 2-1 I think he only potted a couple of balls because I managed to control the frames. Even when I was 70-odd in front in the last frame I said to myself “don’t relax until he shakes your hand”!

SL: You qualified on the Main Tour by experiencing the “old way” as well as the “new way”. Which do you think is the best and why?

David Grace: “I preferred to be playing all year round rather than in just 3 weeks, but now that amateurs can qualify by finishing high enough on the PTC rankings I prefer the new way. You can play in the PTC’s then always go to the Q School if it doesn’t work out.

SL: The golden rule of each interview that I take it’s called: “Is bragging time!” :-)) So please do share your greatest achievements in snooker (tournaments, your highest break etc.) and anything that makes you proud when you look at your career as a snooker player.

The champ David Grace
David Grace: “I am very proud to have won the English Amateur Championship twice (2005, 2008). Lots of top players like Jimmy White, Terry Griffiths, Stephen Lee, Stuart Bingham and many more have won the title so to see my name amongst theirs is very special. Winning the European Amateur Championship in 2008 was the best feeling, because it got me onto the Main Tour for the first time. I couldn’t stop smiling for a week!

Also making my first tournament 147 was a great feeling, although I lost the match! It was in an EASB Pro-Ticket event against Daniel Ward in 2007. Two weeks later I made another 147 in a local competition, but haven’t had one since. It would be great to do it on TV one day.

We’ve seen that David’s no stranger from the Main Tour and what this means to him, but let’s take a look at what makes him be such a great player. With snooker firstly being a mental sport, a player that wants to feel in control of a situation (even when he’s playing on TV under tones of pressure) needs to overcome negative emotions and go for the kill.

SL: What would you say is the biggest and most important asset of a snooker player? What makes you keep going when you lost a battle of cues?

David Grace: “I would say your brain! At the end of the day it’s your brain that controls your arms and eyes so if you’re thinking clearly you can deal with the pressure. Pressure is only created in the brain anyway, it’s just some of us create more than others! It is hard to accept a bad defeat, but again if you deal with it well mentally, you can bounce back and learn from your mistakes.

SL: How important is to have a role model in this business and how important is to keep playing in your own personal and unique way?

David Grace: “I’ve made the mistake of trying to copy other players, or trying to change my cue action to something un-natural, but I’ve come to realise that your identity is what makes you who you are as a player. There are always things you can work on, but you can’t change into what you’re not. Just try and make the best of what individual skills you are best at.

SL: What are your thoughts on this brand new start? What’s the future holding for David Grace? :-)

The smile of a winner
David Grace: “There’s never been a better time to become a professional. The game is really going places under Barry Hearn and it’s just really exciting. My only aim was to get back on the Tour, now my only aim is to stay on the Tour. That would be a massive step in the right direction. But I won’t be content to hang around in the 64-96’s in the rankings, I want to push on up the rankings and take it from there. I’ve earned myself a second chance and I’m determined to take it!

It seems to me like we have a very determined lad in front of us, who knows exactly what he wants and he’s not of going after it. The first step was made. He is on the Main Tour. That “piece of heaven” that every snooker player dreams of tasting it one day.

Now, it’s just up to him to make it work, to succeed and retain that spot for the coming seasons. And you know what? I think he is up for the job!
You know, just a Snooker Loopy hunch ;-)

Snooker needs the likes of O`Sullivan, Higgins or Williams as well as the likes of David Grace to grow more and become a global sport. Each player touches snooker in a particular way and gives it a burst for the future.
So, keep an eye on David here – his skills, ambition, talent and “think like a winner” attitude are assets that make snooker a better sport. :-)