Alexander Ursenbacher vows quarantine rules will not stop Crucible dream
Swiss snooker star Alexander Ursenbacher is determined to defy strict quarantine rules and the “continental mentality” in order to realise of dream of reaching the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible.
Ursenbacher, the world number 86, is aiming to become only the eighth player from Europe outside the UK and Ireland to reach the final stages of the tournament since it switched to its current venue in 1977.
But his focus on qualifying, which begins on July 21, has been complicated by strict quarantine regulations which have already prompted 16 of the world’s 127 tour card holders, including former semi-finalist Marco Fu, to withdraw from the event.
Under current rules Ursenbacher must submit to a coronavirus test upon arrival at the official hotel, in which he will remain quarantined for the duration – potentially a period of 10 days for the qualifying tournament alone.
Ursenbacher told the PA news agency: “Obviously the quarantine situation is not ideal but provided I can practice during that time it is not a big deal – it never crossed my mind to pull out.
“I have already travelled to the UK to play in tournaments twice this year, and I am not afraid. Switzerland has had a relatively low number of cases so I am hoping I will not need to go through any extra quarantine requirements.”
Continental snooker stars outside the UK and Ireland have been few and far between, with Belgian Luca Brecel currently leading the charge following his recent win in the Championship League tournament in Milton Keynes.
But more European players will get the chance to qualify this year – including the tournament’s youngest ever player, Ukrainian 14-year-old Iulian Boiko – due to the opportunities arising from the withdrawals of players from primarily China and Hong Kong.
Ursenbacher, who said he started playing 15 years ago because he “loved the sound of the balls going into the pockets” is hoping Brecel’s success can help raise the profile of the sport beyond its traditional borders.
“As soon as I got involved in snooker in Switzerland I realised the standard wasn’t really that high, and I was really the only person who could play it very well,” added Ursenbacher.
“I don’t think there is the mentality like there is in the UK. People on continental Europe think about the game in a different way and they need to have more patience.
“I think if Luca continues to have success he could change the attitude and inspire more players from these countries. He is an incredible talent and he has put in a lot of hard work to get where he is.”
Ursenbacher will face either Chen Feilong or Aaron Hill in the second round of qualifying.
The qualifying draw, made on Friday, pits six-time runner-up Jimmy White against Russia’s Ivan Kakovskii, while Reanne Evans, the only female player in the draw, takes on 1995 semi-finalist Andy Hicks.