Sheffield rookie Walker relishing TV spotlight at Barbican

Joel Walker.
Joel Walker.
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Joel Walker hopes to cash in at the Coral UK Championship in his bid to break into the world’s top 64 snooker players.

The 20-year-old from Sheffield - tipped for the top after winning the Rileys Future Stars competition as a raw 16-year-old - will today meet world No 9 Stuart Bingham in the third round at the Barbican in York.

He already has a two-year Tour card, and the world No 105 is hoping to climb the rankings.

Walker will pocket £9,000 whatever today’s result - prize winnings go towards ranking points - and the Steel City youngster insists he will not be nervous in front of the BBC cameras.

“I have only played one TV game before and that was against Ding Junhui in the Welsh Open quarter-finals last season,” said Walker.

“I loved every minute of it, played really well, and Ding had to make back-to-back centuries to beat me.

“That’s what you play snooker for to be in the main arena and on TV. I can’t wait.”

He is guaranteed £9,000 for his work in York, after beating Tom Ford 6-3 in his second-round match on Sunday, and edging out former Masters champion Alan McManus in the opening game.

“It puts me in a good position for the rest of the season to try and climb the rankings,” he said. “I have got a two-year Tour card, so that puts me in a good position to get into the top 64 if i can win a few more games.

“I just want to win as many games over these two years and see where I end up. I know I am capable of even doing better than the top 64, I just need to take the chances when I can.

“I have been playing quite well in practice. I think the lowest ranked player I have lost to in the world this year is 35, I am competing with everyone I play. I know I can be a top player.”

Walker was involved in a scrappy match with Ford, and knows he will have to improve to beat Essex cueman Bingham, 38, a former Australian Open champion and winner of this season’s Shanghai Masters.

“I have played Stuart twice and they have both ended up in deciders,” recalled Walker. “I won the first one and he beat me last week in Germany 4-3.

“I know I can beat him, I have beat him before, but he’s a top player and won ranking events, and will be a tough game.”

Walker and Ford were tied at 3-3, before the Sheffield potter stepped up a gear to win 6-3.

“It was pretty scrappy, i scored well in parts of the match,” he said.

“I was a bit lucky to get through because Tom didn’t play well. I just took my chances better than what he did.

“I had four 50-plus breaks, but that didn’t tell how the game went.

“I am scoring well when I get in, it’s just getting in that’s the problem. I missed a few long balls and my safety wasn’t very good.

“At least I am still in the tournament and I can build on that.”