Barry Hawkins

Barry Hawkins is hoping to find his best form at the Masters (Picture: Getty Images)

Barry Hawkins has had a challenging time on and off the snooker table, struggling to find form and any enjoyment from the game, but he is looking to change all that at the Masters.

The world number 10 has had, by his own admission, an up-and-down season that has seen him win the Paul Hunter Classic, but fall early in a string of big tournaments, including a second round exit from the UK Championship.

The 40-year-old first turned professional in 1996 and the game has undergone seismic changes since then, with a packed calendar of events across the globe that offers little time off for players.

Hawkins, who has won well over £2m in prize money over his career, is delighted that the opportunities are there, but admits that the incessant nature of the tour can be a strain mentally and physically.

After defeat to Alan McManus at the UK Championship and a 4-0 loss to John Astley in the first round of the Scottish Open in December, the Hawk was feeling like his wings had been clipped.

‘For whatever reason this season I’ve not been at the races at all,’ Hawkins told Metro.co.uk. ‘Sometimes I’ve felt a lack of motivation, a bit peed off with the game here and there, I’ve had a few things go on off the table.

‘A couple of times this year, especially just before Christmas I was just sick of it really and it showed in my performance, which is really frustrating because I’ve been around long enough to know that when I lose a match then I’m upset afterwards, so I’ve only got myself to blame.

Barry Hawkins

Hawkins is playing in his ninth Masters (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Everyone goes through it, I’ve been through it before where I get fed up with the game, the day-to-day mundane practice, it gets a bit draining. The travelling as well, we’re away so much, just before Christmas it was ridiculous.

‘I felt I was in a bit of a rat race, trying to get some family time, enjoy my life, but at the same time practicing, sometimes it’s quite difficult, you feel like you’re going through the motions, not preparing properly and it shows in my performance.

‘If you’re winning you just get on a roll and go with it, but if you’re scratching around for results then going from one to another can be difficult. You turn up and get into bad habits, your mindset’s not right at all, then you can’t win.

‘When you’ve got a youngish family… I’ve never travelled so much ever. I can’t complain too much because the opportunities are there, but the scheduling, if I had to moan about anything, it would be that. Sometimes it can be a bit too mad getting from one to the other. It’s the only downside, otherwise the game is in great shape.

‘When you’ve got a family at home and you’re living out of a suitcase it just starts getting a bit depressing really.

‘I speak on behalf of a lot of players that have got families who find it difficult, they end up going through the motions and getting sick of the game.’

After the break over Christmas, Hawkins is looking forward to getting back to the table in one of the sport’s biggest tournaments as he takes on John Higgins in the first round of the Masters on Tuesday night.

However, after struggling for results, he admits that he has been feeling anxious about stepping out onto the grand stage at Alexandra Palace, something he has never gone through before.

‘I’ve felt a bit edgy today [Monday], to be honest, the Mrs told me to cheer up a little bit but I think I’m just a bit anxious. I need to get there now and get the feel of it. I just need to get over there, chill and get in the tournament.

‘I’m not too fussed about all the other ones really. I don’t really get anxious about any of the other ones. But because it’s such a big occasion.

‘To be honest, in years gone by it’s not happened before, but in the last day or so I’ve just felt a bit anxious, I don’t know why. I just want to go out there and make a good account of myself, because this seasons been a bit up and down, I’m just anxious to put on a good performance.

‘It’s not easy out there, it’s hard. All the people watching you, live on TV, playing a great player, there’s a lot of pressure. Legends in the commentary box and in the studio all giving you critique, there’s a lot of pressure. You’ve got to block all that out if you can and concentrate on potting balls.’

Hawkins’ opponent on Tuesday night has spoken of a similar malaise in his career, which Higgins cured by changing his practice routine.

The Scot moved from practicing at home to playing with Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill and has credited the switch for reinvigorating his game.

The Hawk is also looking for a fresh coat of paint on his career but is looking at a different route; changing his cue for the first time in over 25 years.

‘I’m looking at giving it a fresh set-up,’ Hawkins continued, ‘I think I’m going to get a new cue made. I’ve always wanted a one piece and it will just give me a fresh perspective on the game.

‘I’m knocking on for 41 now, so something to give me that buzz again, get the motivation back and something different to look forward to when I’m going to practice.

‘Whether it’s the right thing to do or not, we’ll see. I’ve had this one since I was 15, I’m not one of the players that have changed over the years.

‘I’m not sure if cues lose a bit of power over the years but I’ve had mine over 25 years now so maybe it’s a good time to have a little change, although I’ll keep hold of it unless I don’t like the new one.’

Hawkins’ honesty about his game reflects the humble nature of a widely popular player within the game.

When presented with the fact that his record against Higgins is actually very even he replied: ‘Is it? He’s probably ahead in the major ones, the bigger events.

‘I beat him in the Champion of Champions once, although that was only best of seven, and last time in Shanghai [Masters].

‘Obviously he’s a great player, so I’ll have to be well on my game and not make many unforced errors.’

Hawkins and Higgins meet at 7pm on Tuesday at Alexandra Palace.

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