The World Snooker Championship qualifiers provide moments of ecstasy for some players as they achieve their dreams of reaching the Crucible, but leave others with their hopes dashed and careers hanging in the balance.
Not only do players miss out on a trip to the main stages of the biggest tournament in the sport, but they can lose their status as a professional and face the prospect of entering the snooker wilderness next season.
Many have suffered this fate, including Michael Georgiou, who was beaten by Jimmy White in the second round of qualifying, leaving him outside the world’s top 64 players and entering the unknown.
The route back onto tour is through Q School, a series of three events held during the World Championship, which Georgiou is taking on, but will do so with a string of doubts running through his head.
Having been a professional since 2014, to find himself without that status has not necessarily left him questioning his talent, but doubting life choices past, present and future.
‘Immediately afterwards I was devastated and it was hard to deal with,’ Georgiou told Metro.co.uk.
‘It’s falling into the unknown and all sorts of questions come up about the choices I’ve made in the last couple of years. I’ve tried to do my best to not overthink things, but it’s difficult.
‘I’ve tried to keep myself busy, over the last few days, seeing family, speaking with them, but now my focus is on Q School and hopefully I can retain my tour card.
‘It’s been on my mind whether to go to Q School or if it would be good for me to take a year out. I had so many different ideas in my head over what to do and it can be quite overwhelming, but I can only do what’s in front of me and that’s Q School now.
‘I’ve had a few days off, I didn’t want to look at a snooker table, I’ve not followed any results from the qualifiers, but I’m going to practice and prepare. My head’s still not clear, I can’t make a decision till Q School is out of the way.’
The 32-year-old was in the top 50 in the world as recently as last year and won a ranking event as he claimed the Shoot Out title in 2018, however, he has had a very disappointing season and has slid down the rankings.
He moved to Northern Ireland last year, leaving London for a slower pace of life and to focus on snooker, being around fellow pros Mark Allen and Jordan Brown.
Things have not worked out how he imagined and as the possibility of dropping off tour became a reality, the pressure became unbearable.
‘Ever since I won the Shoot Out things have, not gone downhill, but I haven’t progressed as much as I’d like,’ said Michael.
‘Qualifying for the Crucible last year was special, but I feel like I’ve mounted all this pressure of protecting points that when it came to crunch time it all collapsed on top of me, I found it really hard to deal with.
‘I tend to struggle on TV anyway, I don’t know if that’s a mental issue I need to deal with. It was a horrible position to be in.
‘It was more the pressures off the table that I displayed on the table. I’m not one to dwell if I miss a ball or lose a match, but because of the pressures I’ve mounted on myself over the last two years, it showed in my game. I watched my match back with Jimmy and looking at my reactions, going back to my chair and I didn’t even recognise myself. There’s a lot to think about and work out what to do, but everything’s so up in the air at the moment.
‘One of the frustrating things about ahead of the qualifiers, I was playing well, I’d never scored so heavily. I go out there and miss a ball and I’m thinking “do I know what I’m doing?” It’s amazing what it does to you.’
Georgiou made a superb break of 121 in the 6-4 defeat to White, showing what he can do when on song, but with his mind drowning in doubt, he couldn’t consistently produce his best game.
‘I had one quarter-final in Germany, but that’s the only thing I’ve done this year really, I’ve had nine or 10 first round defeats. Looking at my season I deserve to lose my tour spot.
‘Today’s probably the first time I’ve felt the pressure released and the stress has gone over having to win a match. I kind of feel relieved, but where do I go from here? I tried everything to keep my tour spot, practicing with great players, top facilities, moving out of a busy life in London, but maybe that wasn’t the issue.
‘It was a positive move, but I don’t know now. If it was positive then why am I here? I don’t know, there are so many questions.’
It is such an uncertain time for players in this situation and the future is unclear for Gerogiou, but he is trying to refocus and remain positive as he fights to save his professional status next week.
‘I’m looking forward to competing, but I’ve not missed playing over the last few days. Whatever happens happens, if it doesn’t then I’ll have to work out what I’ll do for a year, maybe go travelling. It’s hard to deal with, missing a sense of direction.
‘I’ve only got myself to blame, I can’t blame a horrible boss or something, I’ve lost the job myself.
‘Q School is not going to be easy but I’m confident I can get through it, but we’ll wait and see. The way the year’s gone, I am confident, but there is always the possibility it can’t work out. Speaking to family, they say, “you have to think positive” and I’m like, “I’d love to.” It’s hard.
‘It could be a blessing in disguise, go to Q School, get a few matches won under my belt and I could get back on the tour with a bit of confidence.
‘When things are going well, you’re travelling around, getting paid well, everyone on tour’s really nice, it’s amazing, you feel really lucky. The highs are very high and the lows are devastating.’
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