Barry Hawkins: 'Snooker-mania' escape helps title hopes

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Barry Hawkins
Hawkins will face world number 12 Mark Allen in the last 16 at the Crucible on Friday
World Championship
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 18 April-4 May
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Barry Hawkins says the picturesque serenity of the Derbyshire countryside has helped him relax and find his best form at the Crucible.

The world number five was the 2013 runner-up and he proved it was no fluke by reaching the final four at last year's World Championship.

And he told BBC Sport staying in a cottage a short drive away from Sheffield has helped him stay calm prior to another attempt at winning snooker's showpiece event.

"It is ideal really," said Hawkins, who needed to call on all his powers of relaxation as he saw a 9-4 lead slowly whittled away in his 10-9 first-round win over Matthew Selt.

"It's in the countryside, it has unbelievable views and on a lovely day it feels perfect - away from all the hustle and bustle of Sheffield and the snooker-mania.

"I get fed up with staying in hotels and if you are going to be here for a week or two you want to be as comfortable as possible.

"I stumbled across it a couple of years ago online and as long as I am playing at the Crucible I will always try to stay there."

The eagerly awaited tranquil trip was very nearly a mini-break this year, with Hawkins coming perilously close to wasting his money before finally shaking off Selt's comeback.

Avoiding defeat in that match means Ronnie O'Sullivan remains the only man to have beaten Hawkins at the Crucible since 2012.

Barry Hawkins and Ronnie O'Sullivan
Hawkins' appearance in the 2013 final against Ronnie O'Sullivan was the first time he had gone beyond round two at the Crucible since turning professional in 1996

But the run to the 2013 final, where he lost 18-12, and last year's 17-7 defeat in the last four mean that although the title still eludes him, Hawkins did at least get full value from his countryside retreat.

And the Kent-based, London-born left-hander said this season's tough Sheffield opener may do him some good - as long as there is no repeat when he starts his second-round, three-session match against Mark Allen on Friday.

"It gives me a lot of confidence and shows I can do it under the utmost pressure," the 'Hawk' said. "I just hope I just don't have to do it again.

"If you can get through the first couple of rounds playing really well and get through quite easy, and conserve some energy for the later rounds, then it is a massive advantage.

"Last year I came through some really tough battles and when I played Ronnie in the semi-finals I was absolutely wiped out.

"I had nothing left in the tank whatsoever. It was the first time I have ever felt like that.

"I went quite far behind and just wanted him to finish me off. I just couldn't wait to get out of there. It's mentally draining and not a nice feeling to have."

At least Hawkins had three full days off after Monday's nerve-jangling win over Selt.

Barry Hawkins' recent record at the Crucible
Last 32: Beat Jack Lisowski 10-3Last 32: Beat David Gilbert 10-4
Last 16: Beat Mark Selby 13-10Last 16: Beat Ricky Walden 13-11
Quarter-final: Beat Ding Junhui 13-7Quarter-final: Beat Dominic Dale 13-12
Semi-final: Beat Ricky Walden 17-14Semi-final: Lost to Ronnie O'Sullivan 17-7
Final: Lost to Ronnie O'Sullivan 18-12

And the 36-year-old is guaranteed to be match sharp when he faces world number 12 Allen. He knows he needs to be, against one of the most attacking players on the circuit.

"It just gets tougher and tougher from now on," said Hawkins, who has only beaten the Northern Irishman once in nine previous meetings.

That win was in their last encounter, a 5-1 success at the German Open in 2013.

The only time they have played each other in a match longer than a first-to-five format came at the Crucible in 2011, Allen winning a thrilling encounter 13-12 with a break of 123 in the deciding frame.

"Mark is so gritty and determined and is a great player," the two-time ranking event winner said.

"If he gets going he bangs in big breaks all day long and he has a great all-round game.

"I will have to be at the top of my game to win. I am thoroughly looking forward to it; I like the way Mark plays and hopefully it will be free-flowing."

Interview with Barry Hawkins by BBC Sport's Jamie Broughton.

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