Ricky Walden said he’s enjoying the process of returning to the top of the game after reaching the Players Championship quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The 39 year-old beat Mark Allen 6-2 to set up a last-eight clash against Mark Williams on Wednesday evening in Wolverhampton.
Walden is a three-time ranking event winner but persistent injury woes led to his departure from the higher echelons of the sport in recent years.
The Englishman was struggling to even stay inside the top 50 in the world rankings at certain periods of last season but has rebounded strongly during this term.
A pair of semi-final and quarter-final appearance in ranking events have aided his recovery, and he now has his sights on a place among the top 16 again.
“I’m made up,” former world number six Ricky Walden told the World Snooker Tour after his victory over the Northern Irishman.
“It was a tough game out there today, but I stuck in and the result was the most important thing. To beat someone as good as Mark is always pleasing.”
“He scores so heavily, so you know if you give him chances he can bang three frames in ten minutes – he’s that good.
“I was wary of that and I’m pleased to take that out in the end. I wouldn’t have fancied carrying on for a few more frames there really, so I was pleased with my final visit.
“I’ve been through a lot, and I’m sure there’s people who have been through a lot worse, but for me in my career it was a really tricky time (suffering with back problems and form).”
“I feel differently about things now. I know that I’m not playing exactly how I want, but I’m just appreciating being here at the venue.
“It’s a different journey that I’m on now with trying to get back up the rankings, but I’m enjoying just trying my hardest.
“My game is in great shape itself. It’s more the feelings you get in the semi-finals that are new again, and it’s almost as if you haven’t got that experience from the past.
“I’ve had a lean spell, so when you get in those situations it’s just about having those feelings and coping with those feelings again.”
Players Championship Quarter-Finals
(Times in GMT)
Barry Hawkins vs Yan Bingtao
Ricky Walden vs Mark Williams
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Neil Robertson
Higgins/Vafaei vs Brecel/J. Robertson
Live coverage continues on ITV4 across Ireland and the UK, with other options around the world available.
Featured photo credit: WST