Jack Lisowski hopes to continue reaping the benefits of a relatively pressure-free environment when snooker’s Masters becomes the latest tournament to pitch up in Milton Keynes from Sunday.
Barring world number one Judd Trump, few players have benefited from snooker’s Covid-secure bubble at the Marshall Arena more than the 29-year-old, who followed up his quarter-final appearance at the UK Championship with a surge to the final of last month’s World Grand Prix.
Showing glimpses of the form which had him tipped for the top from an early age, Lisowski hauled back four frames in a row before going down 10-7 to Trump, who insisted afterwards: “Over nine frames, I’ve only played Ronnie O’Sullivan or John Higgins at that standard – that’s how good he was tonight.”
The world number 14 is the first to admit that confidence and concentration issues have dogged his career and as this year’s Masters is a world away from the raucous atmosphere of Alexandra Palace or Wembley where the tournament made its name, it should suit him down to the ground.
Lisowski told the PA news agency: “I just think there are less distractions for me, and less adrenaline.
“Usually when the crowd claps it heightens my adrenaline a bit, or when I miss a shot and the crowd groan, it feels like a real kick in the teeth for me.
“I know I struggle a bit with self-belief and I just feel like if I can get over the line and win my first ranking title, it will really change things. I’m tired of being considered one of the best current players not to win a title, and I feel like I’m ready to change that.”
Lisowski faces Kyren Wilson in the first round of the top 16-only tournament on Sunday while Trump opens proceedings against David Gilbert.
Record seven-times champion Ronnie O’Sullivan does not kick off his own quest until Wednesday, when he plays Ding Junhui.
The tournament had been set to be staged in front of a restricted crowd at Alexandra Palace before the latest government clampdown, and Lisowski admitted it was “bizarre” to repeatedly return to the same lockdown bubble for consecutive tournaments.
“It’s strange being shut away from the outside world and it would have been amazing to go back to Ally Pally, but it makes sense to play the tournament in Milton Keynes and the alternative is not to play it at all,” added Lisowski.
“I know I’m going to feel relatively comfortable. I’m getting to the stage where I’d feel confident playing Judd in front of a crowd, but for now I have to make the most of this situation. I feel like I’m on the crest of a wave and I want to keep riding it.”