Gary Wilson (snooker player)
Wilson started playing snooker aged three and soon started showing promise. At the age of 8 he had already been put into a team performing in the local league, despite some clubs refusing to allow a child to play. Aged 9, he made his first century, and appeared for the first time at the BBC1's snooker game show series Junior Big Break: Stars of the Future (he would make two more appearances at the show). He played exhibition matches with John Parrott and Willie Thorne and defeated Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan in level matches. Wilson went on to win a number of national titles, including the UK Under-18 championship twice, and was widely regarded as one of the most promising junior players in the country.
In 2003, Wilson made his international debut at the European U-19's Championship in Latvia. The same year he started his professional career by playing Challenge Tour, the second-level professional tour at the time, and won the fourth event in 2004 to finish fourth in the rankings and secure his place on the main tour for 2004–05 season. Wilson's biggest achievement that year however was the victory at the World Under-21 Snooker Championship in Ireland. Having won all seven of his round robin matches, dropping just two frames along the way, he then went all the way to the final, defeating the likes of Pankaj Advani, Aditya Mehta and Liang Wenbo. In the final Wilson saw off Kobkit Palajin with top breaks of 142 and 135 to win 11–5.
In his debut season Wilson reached the last 48 of the Irish Masters and last 64 of the China Open. These results were just enough to ensure that he would remain on tour for another year. The next season, Wilson twice reached the last 64 stage of the tournaments, however the rest of his performances was unsuccessful and following defeat to James Tatton in the World Championship qualifying he fell off the tour. In 2013 Wilson commented: "At the end of it, when you looked at the rankings it was only by one match and I was gutted. The thing is, at the time, and this is not an excuse, the game was nowhere near as popular as now. It was going through a really bad patch and there were only six tournaments in all compared to now when there are 20–25 tournaments per season. It meant if you had two bad tournaments and you were not doing too well you did not have much time to recover. It is so different now."
Amateur years and return to main tour
Wilson was to spend the next four years attempting to regain his tour place via the PIOS tour, having come close to finishing inside the top 8 on several occasions. He was forced to start working as a taxi driver at the time to make a living.
Following the introduction of the Q School Wilson again came close to winning a tour card, twice reaching the fourth round in 2011 and once in 2012. He also took part in the 2012 IBSF World Championship in Bulgaria, having finished top of the English amateur rankings. He reached the final but lost 8–10 to Muhammad Asif. During the 2011–12 season Wilson entered a number of PTC events, defeating the likes of Peter Ebdon and Marco Fu and reaching the last 32 twice. The next season was even better, as he performed consistently and reached the last 16 of Scottish Open; as a result he finished third among the amateur players on the Order of Merit and finally regained his tour place after seven years. Wilson said, "I knew if I went quite far in that last event I would be able to turn professional off that, so losing the world amateur final did not end my dreams".
Wilson had one of the strongest starts to the season among the new players on tour. In the first tournament, the Wuxi Classic, he defeated James Wattana to qualify for his second ever venue appearance; there he would lose in a deciding frame to David Morris. After failing to qualify for both the Australian Open and Shanghai Masters, Wilson had his best result to date at the inaugural Indian Open, defeating Jimmy White, Dominic Dale and Marco Fu on the way to last 16, where he again lost in the deciding frame, this time to Michael White. Following his first round defeat at the International Championship to Wattana, Wilson went on to reach last 32 of both the UK Championship and German Masters. During the qualifying match for the latter tournament against Ricky Walden in December, Wilson made his first maximum break in professional competition. He also performed successfully at the European Tour events, winning his first round matches at every tournament. The highlight was his first ever semi-final at the Rotterdam Open where he was leading eventual tournament winner Mark Williams 3–1 but lost 4–3. Thanks to these performances Wilson finished 24th on the Order of Merit to qualify for the Finals, where he was whitewashed 4–0 by Fu. Wilson's season came to a disappointing end as he was beaten 10–4 by James Cahill in the opening round of World Championship qualifying. However, he had made enough money during the year to give up his taxi driver job and concentrate on playing snooker full-time in the future.
Wilson qualified for the 2014 Wuxi Classic, the opening ranking event of the season, where he lost 5–3 to Alan McManus in the first round. He couldn't regain his momentum from last year as he failed to progress beyond the last 64 stage of any tournament in the first half of the season. Wilson's breakthrough came in February at the Welsh Open, as he defeated Zhang Anda, John Astley and Joe Perry. He then knocked out Neil Robertson 4–2 to reach his first major quarter-final, stating afterwards that he had proven that he could handle the big occasions. Wilson took an early 2–1 lead against Ben Woollaston, but lost four frames in a row to be beaten 5–2. In the opening round of the Indian Open, Wilson was edged out 4–3 by Adam Duffy.
At the China Open, Wilson eliminated Liang Wenbo 5–3, Ricky Walden 5–2 and Dechawat Poomjaeng 5–1 to play in his second ranking event quarter-final in under two months. Despite defeating Barry Hawkins 5–3, Wilson said that he was struggling with his game but hoped to find his form in the semi-finals against home favourite and reigning champion Ding Junhui. He fell 3–1 down, but moved 5–3 ahead with four breaks of 50 or above. Ding took the match into a deciding frame in which Wilson made a 72 to set up a meeting with reigning world champion Mark Selby in the final, in which Wilson was heavily beaten 10–2. Wilson said later that he didn't feel the occasion got to him, but simply missed the majority of chances that came his way and cued across the ball many times. His last match of the season was a 10–7 loss to Li Hang in the second round of World Championship qualifying. Wilson's successful year resulted in him increasing his ranking by 34 places in 12 months to end the season 34th in the world.
Wilson could not build on last year's exploits during the 2015–16 season. He lost in the qualifiers for the first three ranking events. He beat Martin O'Donnell 6–3 at the UK Championship, before being defeated 6–4 by Martin Gould in the second round. Wilson reached the same stage of the Welsh Open, but lost 4–1 to Liang Wenbo. He qualified for the China Open and was knocked out 5–3 by Stephen Maguire in the opening round.
At the Indian Open, Wilson overcame Zhao Xintong 4–1 and Anthony Hamilton 4–2, before losing 4–2 to Akani Songsermsawad. His only last 16 appearance of the season so far came at the Northern Ireland Open courtesy of knocking out Peter Lines 4–0, Andrew Higginson 4–3 and Sam Baird 4–3. Wilson was defeated 4–3 by Mark Allen. Wilson qualified for the China Open and beat Graeme Dott 5–3, before losing 5–1 to Shaun Murphy.
Wilson had a successful qualifying for the 2017 World Championship. Making a 147 in the fourth frame against Josh Boileau, he edged through 10–9. In the second qualifying round he defeated Peter Lines 10–7 and then Michael White 10–3. In his three matches he made eight centuries, more than double that of any other player. He rated the achievement of qualifying bigger than reaching the final of the China Open. On his debut in the event he played Ronnie O'Sullivan and rallied from 5–1 to only be 5–4 down after the first session. He fell 9–5 behind, before winning two frames in a row, but O'Sullivan then got the frame he needed to progress 10–7. Wilson made two century breaks during the match.
Ranking finals: 1 (1 runner-up)
Non-ranking finals: 2 (1 title, 1 runner-up)
Team finals: 1 (1 runner-up)
Amateur finals: 3 (3 titles)
- Gary Wilson at worldsnooker.com