Relieved David Gilbert reckons Judd Trump’s withdrawal from the Masters can be the spark to ignite his season, writes Will Jennings.
The Tamworth player was due to face the red-hot world No.1 before Trump was forced to withdraw from the prestigious, top 16-only event after testing positive for coronavirus.
World No.19 Joe Perry was drafted in as Trump’s replacement and Gilbert, ranked six places above his opponent, took full advantage by breezing past the 2017 finalist 6-2.
Gilbert has been through the wringer since reaching the 2019 World Championship semi-finals but believes his unexpected fortune in Milton Keynes can catapult his season into life.
The 39-year-old said: “It’s been a real long season.
“It’s not been the best, so it’s lovely to get a proper win in the Masters and get involved in the competition properly.
“It’s obviously better for me to play Joe than Judd – but that’s nothing against Joe. He’d have probably been favourite tonight and he’s definitely played better than me this season.
“I still had a good job to do. I hope Judd’s alright, but he’s the best player in the world right now and seems to win every competition he plays in, so it was a bit lucky for me what’s happened. I’ve managed to take advantage to it.
“I had Judd, my game’s been in terrible shape and I’ve not enjoyed any of it. For me, I was turning up perhaps thinking ‘I’ve got to turn up’ because I’m guaranteed £15,000 and I can’t just chuck that money away.
“It’s hard to think positive and forward when you’re really struggling at times. I’ve put a lot of work in lately and maybe it will change. But I certainly won’t get too excited by anything.”
Trump, 31, and world No.14 Jack Lisowski, 29, were the only two positives tests out of all players and officials at the behind closed doors Marshall Arena.
Gary Wilson – Lisowski’s replacement – lost 6-2 to Kyren Wilson in his first round match and Perry suffered the same fate against a fluent Gilbert.
The four-time ranking event runner-up knocked in five half-century breaks to floor his veteran opponent and keep his hopes of emulating last year’s run to the semi-finals alive.
Gilbert went down against eventual champion Stuart Bingham on his tournament debut last season but has endured a torrid time on the ranking event circuit since.
He is yet to progress past the third round this season and has slumped to dismal first round defeats at the English, Northern Ireland and Scottish Opens.
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Gilbert has resented life in lockdown and admits struggles away from the table are costing him results on it.
He added: “I just found it very difficult.
“I love my missus and I love my little one very much but I don’t want to spend 24/7 with them. And they don’t want to with me, I’m sure!
“I just missed doing what I used to do. I don’t de-stress, or do things to relax or get things out of my system anymore.
“I’ve definitely suffered from it. I always practice a lot and hard – I know people probably wouldn’t think that because of my results but I always put the effort in.
“I’ve just really missed playing with the practice partners I used to have – and I think my game has definitely suffered for that.”
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