It’s fair to say that the second half of Barry Hawkins’ Crucible career has been better than his first.
Hawkins has been traveling to Sheffield to compete in the World Championship for the last ten consecutive campaigns.
Once considered a bit of a journeyman, the 36 year-old is now firmly established as a top 16 player, indeed spending most of the last couple of years within the top eight in the world rankings.
A lot of that is down to his recent performances in the sport’s blue riband event but not all, as his ranking event victories in the 2012 Australian Open and the 2014 Players Championship proved.
The ‘Hawk’ struggled to produce his best form this season, not helped by an unusual collapse against Nigel Bond in the UK Championship that saw him squander a 5-0 lead in a best of 11.
By his own admission it took him a while to get over that, which subsequently showed in his results, but things began to turn around at the China Open earlier in April.
Now, Hawkins has emerged from a pair of close encounters to reach a third World Championship quarter-final in a row.
In 2013 Hawkins went all the way to the final where he was denied success by an unstoppable Ronnie O’Sullivan, and again last year he fell to the ‘Rocket’ but on that occasion in the last four.
On Saturday, the Kent cueist followed up his deciding frame triumph over Matthew Selt in round one with a 13-11 defeat of Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen.
Their duel was a high-quality affair throughout, with big breaks the order of play, but it was a typically tense conclusion that saw Hawkins complete what was a fabulous five-frame string of frames to win.
During his successful period at the Crucible Hawkins has survived many a tight tussle but that wasn’t always the case.
In fact, the world no.5 lost in the last 32 in each of his first five appearances at the famous venue – leading him to once question if he’d even ever record a single victory in what was transpiring for him into being a theatre of nightmares, not dreams.
Hawkins lost 10-1 to Ken Doherty on his debut but endured the agony of back-to-back deciding frame losses the following two years and then succumbed to a narrow 10-8 exit at the hands of Graeme Dott in 2009.
It wasn’t until 2011 when, ironically, he ousted Scotland’s Stephen Maguire 10-9 that Hawkins finally experienced the elation of a win on snooker’s centre stage.
How his record has improved in the City of Steel since then!
Not many will be tipping Hawkins for glory on Monday week but it’s hard not to be impressed by his displays at the venue.
He awaits the winner of the Neil Robertson and Ali Carter clash, surely full of confidence that he can launch a third aggressive assault to land the sport’s ultimate prize.
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