Snooker player Ross Muir believes he is on the verge of a real breakthrough in the sport after securing his Tour card for another two years.
The Musselburgh youngster confirmed his berth by finishing as the No.1 qualifying player ranked outside the world’s top 64 on the Asian Tour order of Merit, an achievement in its own right given it was the 20-year-old’s second season in professional competition.
However, after ironing out some of the inconsistencies he found in his first year on the Tour, Muir says he now feels in a position to mount a challenge against the world’s top players.
“The first two years have been a great learning experience and I’ve certainly taken a lot from that where I can push forward and use that to my advantage,” Muir said. “I’ve played my fair share of top players recently so what an experience that has been. It’s experience you can’t buy. In my first year I don’t think my game was up to standard where I could compete against these guys every week. I beat Ding Junhui (world No.9) but I wasn’t as consistent with my game as I had hoped for. But I’ve really improved in my second year and to be honest I don’t really see that much of a difference between how I play and the top 16. I feel my game isn’t too far off a really big breakthrough.”
With such affection for the sport in China and throughout other parts of Asia, Muir has taken the liberty of learning Mandarin in a bid to raise his profile in what has become one of the game’s most lucrative markets. Cities including Shanghai and Beijing regularly host some of the Tour’s most prestigious tournaments and the former Musselburgh Grammar pupil is ready to maximise those opportunities that come his way.
“I’ve been learning Mandarin for about three years now,” he said. “There are so many tournaments across China and Asia on the Tour so to be able to conduct interviews in China is a great thing and can only benefit me. I’ve got some friends here in Edinburgh that help me out with the language but I’m really interested in learning the Chinese culture and way of living. It is difficult to grasp but I’m getting there and can now hold a basic conversation.
“The amount of Chinese players that are between the ages of nine to 14 and are already of a standard not too far away from professional is unbelievable. The game is growing massively. But there’s still a lot of interest in Europe as well and the same goes for Germany where there are a lot of players emerging and that can only be a good thing for the future of snooker.
“I love travelling to those places in the Far East, eating the food out there and most of the time when I’m on the plane I’m studying Mandarin so I’m learning all the time. It’s the best way forward.”
Muir revealed he has also taken on a mind coach to assist with the psychological battles he encounters.
“I’m seeing big improvements and I’m feeling good,” Muir said. “It might only be one per cent I gain from it but that can be crucial. There’s not really been anything lacking, I just want to improve all the time.
“I qualified for the International Championship in China just last month and had to come through an epic in the qualifiers with Alan McManus, which took almost seven hours and was just an hour off the record for a best-of-11 match. So that was a huge win for myself as he’s a really solid player and is one of the reasons why he’s still considered one of the world’s top players.
“Snooker doesn’t come natural to me so I’m someone that always has to work hard at my game. If I take a day or two off then I lose a bit of my momentum. I don’t set myself any targets. My next shot is as far as I am thinking so I don’t think about the next frame or the next round. It’s all about just one ball at a time.”
A keen tennis player, Muir has just renewed his membership at the Grange Tennis Club where he enjoys some downtime swapping his cue for a racquet.
He said: “I really love playing tennis. It’s great getting out there on the court and I’ve got a lot of friends I play against when I’m not away at competitions. I was also a goalkeeper for Salvesen and was scouted by Celtic when I was nine. But a recurring wrist injury meant I had to give up.”