Kyren Wilson knows he will be a “massive underdog” when he makes his Dafabet Masters debut next month – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Kettering snooker star will take his place alongside the 15 other best players in the world at the Alexandra Palace in London from January 15.
Wilson has risen into the top 16 in the world over the past 12 months after making his breakthrough by winning the Shanghai Masters in September last year.
And now he is gearing up to begin 2017 by appearing in the prestigious Masters for the first time.
In recent weeks he has claimed victories over former world champions Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams when he defeated both of them on his way to the Northern Ireland Open semi-finals.
And Wilson believes the underdog tag is something that suits him.
“I would always rather be the underdog,” Wilson said.
“I was 3-0 up against Ronnie and if I had beaten him 4-0 then maybe there would have been some things spoken about him not being quite on it.
“The fact he knocked in three centuries and then I beat him 4-3 made the win even better for me.
“But I thought the win against Mark was the better victory. He is just as much a legend as Ronnie is and to beat him was great for me.
“I am going to be a massive underdog going into the Masters.
“I will be the lowest-ranked and the youngest player and I think I am the only one making my debut in the tournament.
“But we have all earned the right to be there and there won’t be a great deal of pressure on me. I am looking forward to being there and I will give it a real go.
“Ding is obviously a very good player and he has had a good season so far.
“He is going to be one of those players that I hope to be up against for a few years to come and I am looking forward to playing him again.”
Wilson admitted his season so far as been “a bit up and down” with his most recent outing seeing him reach the last 16 of the Scottish Open where he lost to Judd Trump having come through his first three matches without dropping a frame.
“It’s been a bit up and down really,” he added.
“I started the season very well by getting to the final of the Indian Open but I went off the boil and I put a bit too much expectation on myself, particularly going into Shanghai trying to defend that title.
“But I had a really good run in Northern Ireland, I had some great wins and I was gutted I couldn’t finish the job there.
“I didn’t play particularly well against Judd and that was slightly disappointing because I felt really good all week.
“It was a shame I couldn’t replicate the form I had shown. I thought I had a tough draw but to have a 13-frame winning streak is something that is hard to come by.”