Back in the winners enclosure
I’ve caught up with the newly crowned World Open Champion Ali Carter, who chats to me below about how he feels about becoming a main ranking winner again after a turbulent period in his life and what it means to get back into the top sixteen. He also tells us about his plans to release the story of his life and career.
So Ali, obvious first question is how does it feel to be a big tournament winner again?
It feels fantastic, to be a main ranking event winner again so soon after my disappointment at The Crucible just feels a bit surreal, it really hasn’t sunk in yet to be honest. The win means so much to me and there was a lot more than just the trophy I was playing for, I’m set now to climb the rankings again so this is the best possible start to the season.
It was a new venue and host city of course, with one player being bitten by a worm and you eating what looked like tomatoes in hot water (without egg obviously), all sounds a bit grim to me, what was it like out there?
There was a young guy called Chris from Shanghai who was looking after me over there, bear in mind he was from Shanghai and he had never heard of the place! What I can tell you is that it was 100% Chinese, absolutely no westernisation at all, no coffee shops, nothing, just nothing there! In fact on the Monday of the tournament, after a very long and uncomfortable journey and arriving at a hotel that I didn’t really like, having trouble communicating with the staff I was considering coming home, but I decided to stay put and lived all week on steamed rice, broccoli and carrots, the soup didn’t really hit the spot! What I will say is that the tables played really nice and they were the best conditions we have played on for a long time, all the players said the same. It’s a shame that the conditions were so bad at The Crucible and I was really disappointed to lose to Alan there, but he coped with the poor table better than I did and I can now forget about this and enjoy being a winner again.
You are back in the top sixteen at a really early stage in the season and look set to build on your ranking throughout the remainder of it, that must feel pretty good…
Exactly, because of the timing of my illness I have almost nothing to defend so the only way from here is up. I just need to keep up my form and I should be in The Masters again which is very important to me. I’m also in the Champion of Champions and it’s only August. Like I say, I don’t think it’s all sunk in yet as all I have been doing since I got back is sleeping and I just headed straight off from the venue as soon as they gave me the trophy. But it feels great to be back where I think I belong and now I’ll be looking to get higher.
We’ve been working together on your autobiography which we’re hoping to finalise and publish soon, what made you decide to do it?
Well, the obvious trigger factor was beating cancer. I want to inspire people who find themselves in my position to fight back and believe in themselves. You have very very dark days and sometimes you are in unbearable pain, but if you keep fighting and think about the people you love and who love you it is amazing what you can achieve. It also changes you a lot as a person, changes your priorities in life. Before cancer, my snooker career and the money it made me was absolutely everything to me, I placed it above other things that are really far more important, relationships for one. As horrible a disease as it is, cancer helps you put things in perspective and it also helps you work out the things that you need to change in your life to help you stay strong. I wouldn’t ever say it was a blessing in disguise, but it does change your outlook on everything.
Once I started telling my story and thinking about my life before my health issues, including my constant battle with Crohns, I realised that some of the problems I have had may be because of the type of person that I am. I think people will be surprised when they finally read it, I tend to keep myself to myself on the circuit and also in life, only a few people really actually know me very well. It’s going to be strange opening up for the first time about things fans and fellow players know nothing about, but I think I am at a stage of my life and my career that I’m ready to do this. There is one theme throughout the book that not even my close friends know anything about.
It is a brave and brutally honest story, so many sporting autobiographies tend to play it safe, this doesn’t….
No, it doesn’t do that at all and I think it helps a lot that we get on well. I don’t think I could have been so open with a stranger and the more I talked the more I realised that this was the direction it had to go. There is obviously an underlying theme of snooker but I like to think it’s firstly an account of Ali the person, rather than Ali Carter, the snooker player. We’ve also had some contributions from people close to me like Steve Daintry, Peter Ebdon and others outside the snooker world, so there is something for everyone to take away hopefully.
You talk quite a bit about your relationships with women down the years, it’s fair to say there are a few eye opening stories…
That’s one way of putting it! Yes, I’ve had some interesting times when it comes to relationships. I don’t break any confidences in the book and it’s not about settling scores or anything like that. It’s more about building a picture of the type of person that I was then and I am now. I’m in a new relationship now and I am as content and happy as I have ever been, which also seems to be helping with my snooker. What is it they say, behind every good man is a great woman? I never used to believe that but maybe it’s true after all!
Are you wary of upsetting anyone with the book, or maybe even changing the way your fans and fellow players think about you?
No, I hope that they will see that when you peel away the waistcoat and take my cue off me that I am only human. As well as my health issues, relationships and being a snooker player both on and off the table I also talk about my relationship with my son, who is the most important person in the world to me and about my upbringing and how that shaped me as a person. I think some of the scrapes I have got myself into down the years and some of the bizarre things I have done will make people laugh. Above all, it’s honest, it’s me and I hope people enjoy it.
Everyone is asking us when it’s coming out, it’s fair to say the world of publishing doesn’t really run at our pace does it?
We’ve kind of done it in stages and I think it’s good that we have, I had planned to finish it with my win last season in the Paul Hunter Classic but so much has happened to me since then. It would have been lovely to end it as World Champion obviously but that wasn’t to be this year, but World Open Champion isn’t a bad second prize, who knows, if I keep on winning it might never come out! No, seriously, I think we will get it out there in the next six months, you seem to have come up with an innovative approach to doing this without relying too much on the lengthy timescales publishers work to, so again, that is exciting for me to see how that all goes as it’s a fresh way of doing things that is easily accessible to snooker fans all over the world.
Great stuff, we’d better get it finished then?
Let’s get to work SB! Just so long as we don’t drift off into politics!
‘Ali Carter – To The Max’ will be out a few weeks after we’ve finished it….or possibly after that, we’ll keep you posted.
Thanks to World Snooker for the main image.