2021 WST Pro Series – Group B

Kyren Wilson and Sunny Akani made it through yesterday. 

Here is the report by WST:

Sunny Delight – And Kyren Shows Class

Kyren Wilson and Sunny Akani came through Group B to reach the second phase of the new WST Pro Series.

Sunny Akani

Kettering’s Wilson finished top of the eight-man group while Thailand’s Akani came second. They will head back to Milton Keynes in March when the field is reduced to 32 players, with four more groups of eight.

World number five Wilson won his first five matches of the day, and despite losing the last two against Yuan Sijun and Li Hang, he had done enough.

“It’s a cut-throat format but I played well though the day and I’m delighted to top the group,” said Wilson, who made five centuries in his seven matches. “All the players are adapting to the situation we are in and we just appreciate being able to play snooker. I’m still playing the game I love and earning money. I have scored heavily this season and my game is tightening up the more I play.”

Akani also won five times, and he ended up tied with China’s Pang Junxu on both number of wins and frame difference. However Akani had won the head-to-head game between those two players by a 2-1 scoreline in the first match of the day, and that result ended up being decisive as it meant the Thai was ranked higher in the final standings.

The event continues on Wednesday with Gary Wilson the highest ranked player in Group G. Fans can watch the action live on the Matchroom Live website.

For live scores click here and for the group tables click here.

Click here for all match fixtures

Click here for the revised group draw

Kyren Wilson 7 5 2 12 5 15
Sunny Akani 7 5 2 10 5 15
Junxu Pang 7 5 2 11 6 15
Hang Li 7 4 3 10 9 12
Yuan SiJun 7 4 3 9 8 12
Kacper Filipiak 7 3 4 8 10 9
Fan Zhengyi 7 2 5 6 11 6
Dean Young 7 0 7 2 14 0

I was glad to see that WST didn’t systematically put Kyren on the main table. It’s good to see different players.

Lewis reflected that this is a 21 days event, but for 3/4 of the players it’s just one day. Which is true. On the other hand, three weeks is what it takes to play three “normal” tournaments. In each of those, half of the players will go out in round one, having played a minimum of 4 frames and a maximum of 7,  and they will go with empty pockets. Here they are guaranteed a minimum of 14 frames, possibly as many as 21 even if they go out, and get more winnable matches. Also, only one in eight will earn nothing, So far all pros involved have earned something and I expect that to be the case in most goups that involve an amateur.

Today’s group “leader” is Gary Wilson, who has been struggling mentally in recent times.

He was interviewed by Phil Haigh:

Gary Wilson opens up on battle with depression: ‘I’ve got no motivation to play snooker or to get out of bed’

2020 Coral World Grand Prix - Day 4
Gary Wilson has been suffering but has identified the problem (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

Gary Wilson’s recent struggles on the snooker table have been clear to see, but the unseen cause of his problems is the depression that has developed, sapping his motivation not only for the game, but just to get out of bed in the morning.

Form comes and goes and snooker fans may not have thought much of a run of poor results for Wilson, but his struggles were made plain at the Championship League this month.

The Tyneside Terror missed a pot against John Higgins then smashed the balls around the table, in a rare show of frustration on the table.

The sporting conseuquences of that outburst were quickly and fervently discussed, but they paled into insignificance when Gary revealed the reason behind his loss of discipline.

He tweeted after the incident: ‘I’m just totally gone, including snooker. I can’t play at all. Feel the worst I’ve ever felt and can’t see a way back anymore.

‘I let John back in and apologised for the foul as he was plumb in. All I could do.

‘First world problems. Although I do feel depressed generally and I’m not one, as many will know, to play on stuff like that or use them words lightly.’

It was a frank admission to make on Twitter, but it is something the 35-year-old is open to talk about as he looks to overcome mental health issues that he is suffering for the first time.

‘People who know me will know I’m the last person to sort of…I’m not like a snowflake. I’m one of the last people to moan about feelings and stuff,’ Wilson told Metro.co.uk.

‘Using the word “depression”…I don’t use that lightly, I respect people who have come out and said they’ve got that and how they feel.

‘I’m not the sort of person who would say I’ve got that unless I really, really thought about it long and hard. I don’t use them words lightly.

‘It’s just not me, I don’t moan about things, I just get on with stuff. But that’s probably part of the problem, bottling things up and thinking, “nah, it can’t be anything like that.”

‘I’ve probably been in denial for a while. But now I’ve thought, “there is something wrong and don’t be ashamed to admit it.”‘

Depression can manifest in a number of ways, and Wilson is finding it difficult to self-motivate, not only on the snooker table but in day-to-day life.

‘I’ve got no motivation to play snooker, to get out of bed, I’m struggling to see a purpose or an end goal,’ he explained.

‘I don’t know what the experts would say, but it sounds like depression and that’s what I’ve been going through.’

Wilson beleives his malaise stems from the long-running, and still ongoing problems he and his fiancee have had with building work on their house.

They began substantial work on the house in 2019, which should have taken well under six months, but nearly 18 months later there remain tasks to be complete and it has caused a huge amount of stress.

With the lockdowns over the last year, it is not a time for a house to be ‘upside down’ nor was 2020 good timing to be hit financially by problems with builders who have let Gary down.

‘All the building work on my house over the last year has been really stressful, we’ve had quite a few problems around it,’ Gary said. ‘We’ve lost a lot of money through it and it’s not panned out the way we hoped.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Anna Gowthorpe/BPI/REX (10215518bj) Gary Wilson of England at the table during his first round match Betfred World Championships, Snooker, Day Two, The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, UK, 21 Apr 2019
Wilson is not alone among snooker players in struggling with mental health in recent months (Picture: BPI/REX)

‘This Covid time we’ve had to stay in the house, but we haven’t even felt like we’ve got a house to stay in, it’s been pretty hard for me and my fiancée.

‘The whole project should have been four or five months at the absolute most, even with Covid, but it’s been nearly 18 months now.

‘Nearly every room in the house has been upside down and we’ve been living like that for a year and a half, and there’s still things to be done, that will probably still be a few more months.

‘It’s liveable now so the worst of it is over, but I think I’ve got a bit of a hangover effect from it. It’s hit us at the end of it how much it’s taken out of us. I think through the whole process I’ve had to be subconsciously quite strong mentally for me and Robyn, just getting on with things and keeping on top of things.

‘This was all obviously not helping snooker-wise as well. But now it’s pretty much finished I’ve thought “wow, I’ve had far too much attention and stress over that” and now I’m feeling even more down about the wasted time. I just feel depressed about it, despite it coming to an end.’

2020 Coral World Grand Prix - Day 3
Wilson is ranked number 20 in the world after enjoying two very good seasons before the current one (Picture: Getty Images)

The long, stressful time has been slowly weighing heavier on Wilson, until he recognised that it had gone beyond just worrying about the house and it was seriously impacting his mental health.

‘It’s built up over quite a period of time now and a month or two ago I really thought there’s something not right with us,’ Gary explained. ‘I had no motivation at all to do anything and I still don’t, really.

‘I’m struggling for motivation to even get out of bed, I’m thinking “what’s the point?” That’s when I had a lightbulb moment and thought, it’s not normal to be feeling like this, there’s something wrong and I need to speak to somebody about it.

‘I’ve spoke to a contact in sports psychology, I’ve been seeing him for a while so I’m back in touch with him, it was nice to talk to him. I’ve not rushed into anything else, but I’ve let everyone close to me know how I’m feeling and I even said it on Twitter anyway, so people know.

‘But I’m just trying to get a grasp of it in me own head and work out what to do because there is an underlying problem, but I just need to work out how to handle it.

‘I’ve talked to me fiancée, obviously, and me mum and dad. I’ve got a lovely family and friends so I know there are people I can talk to. Sometimes it takes a massive weight off your shoulders, to explain how you’re feeling and to hear they understand, it can help a lot.

‘People can relate to what you’re feeling and just knowing that they understand can help.’

The lethargy and inertia Wilson has been feeling was a clear sign that something was not right, but as was notable weight loss, which rang alarm bells for the man from Wallsend.

‘I’m 10 stone wet through anyway and my missus said that I’d lost weight, which was frightening,’ he said.

‘I’m one of the skinniest lads you could meet. I eat loads of food, I’ve just got that metabolism, and I’m quite fit. I did the Great North Run in two hours the other year after one training run.

‘I’ve just always been round about 10 stone but I weighed myself a few months ago and I was down at 9 stone 2 and I think it was the stress and depression. It helped me realise there was something not right. It’s a very strange thing.’

Gary Wilson
Wilson enjoyed a memorable run to the World Championship semi-finals in 2019 (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

Thankfully Gary has recognised and identified the problem with the help of his family and friends, and been honest and brave enough to talk about it and look to improve his mental health.

He is glad that talking about the issue has helped make sense of it and knows he has the support of his sport to help deal with how he is feeling now and in the future.

‘World Snooker have been in contact to say that there is help there if I want it so I will probably talk to someone through them,’ he said.

‘I’m not rushing it, I’m trying to work through my problems in my own head without diving into all sorts straight away. I will talk to people when I’m ready, I feel I want to and I’m comfortable to do so.

‘I heard this from somewhere and it rang true with me. Just saying words rather than thinking them, describing how you’re feeling, gives another perspective on what you’re going through. Hearing yourself say it can give a different perspective and help clear things up in your head, you can understand it a bit better.’

Wilson is back on the snooker table on Wednesday in the WST Pro Series as he looks to rediscover some form and fight through the lack of motivation he has been struggling with.

It would be easy enough to stay in bed when your mind is making it difficult to get up, but he intends to keep working hard and thinking positively as he looks for brighter times on and off the table.

‘Looking forward to playing wouldn’t quite be right,’ Gary said. ‘I’m wanting to play and earn and do well, but at the moment the way I’ve been, I’ve not been looking forward to any snooker just because of how I’ve been playing.

‘I’ll look forward to playing again when my game’s in better shape. It’s hard to look forward to tournaments when you don’t feel like you’ve got much to give.

‘You really look forward to events when you’ve put all the work in, feeling good and can’t wait to show what you’ve got, but that time is not now, unfortunately.

‘But you never know with sport, things can change, you can find something from somewhere, things can click and set you off for the rest of the season. You’ve got to keep trying and keep battling on that’s all I can do.

‘I’ll be trying me best, don’t worry about that, however long it takes. Try and be positive about things, try not to let things get to me too much and try and slowly turn the corner. We’ll see how it goes.’

Everyone who has gone through a long sustained period of intense stress, will recognise what Gary is talking about, including the fact that it’s when things seem to improve that it hits you the hardest. Once you “relax” a bit, all of a sudden the emotional and mental exhaustion becomes overwhelming. It leaves you “empty”. It’s a bit like when you go hiking and you overdo it. As long as you walk, you might feel exhausted, but you somehow find a way to continue walking. If you sit to rest a bit  … it’s almost impossible to get up again!

2 thoughts on “2021 WST Pro Series – Group B

  1. Most of the amateurs who are here have been playing in tournaments as top-up players, so they are almost ‘de-facto’ professional anyway. But each player will have their own arrangements during lockdown, and it’s likely the professionals have organised something by now, and are much more experienced in knowing how to maintain a decent level.

    Sunny Akani was already assured of qualification before his last match, so it wasn’t as close as it might seem by looking at the table. It was a good result for Pang – it’s quite possible that his £2500 might make a difference in May 2022 when his tour card comes under review.

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