David Grace relishes chance to reprise fine York memories at UK Championship

David Grace.
David Grace.
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David Grace returns to the York Barbican next week looking to make up for lost time at the Betway UK Championship.

The 34-year-old from Leeds enjoyed an amazing run to the semi-finals in York in 2015, beating the likes of Jack Lisowski and Peter Ebdon to reach the last four.

But despite leading Liang Wenbo 4-2 in the semi-final, Grace slipped to a 6-4 defeat.

He actually fell off the main Tour at the end of the 2017-18 season – meaning he missed out on the UK Championship 12 months ago – but has since secured a two-year card after finishing in the top two on last season’s Challenge Tour.

Grace, who works part-time at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, faces Tom Ford in the first round on Thursday, and has fond memories of York.

“It’s my stomping ground,” said the Yorkshireman. “I will be in the main arena for the first time since 2015.

“I played in the back room the two years after, then obviously I wasn’t there last year.

“I watched it (on TV) last year, I love snooker, but it does give you that extra bit of motivation to get back on Tour.

“People do talk to me about 2015, but I will talk about it ’til the cows come home, it was an amazing week.

“Obviously, I don’t want that to be on my headstone, I want to do bigger and better things, but I will never get tired of talking about that.

“The entire experience was just surreal. I had never even played a game on the BBC. Playing against (Peter) Ebdon in the last 16 on telly, it was brilliant, and it just snowballed from there.

“It was a fairtytale, with me being local and I got a lot of support. The cheers when I walked down the stairs, it was amazing. It was something I would normally be sat at home watching on the TV, yet all of a sudden I was centre stage.”

Grace admits it was tough falling off the main Tour, and since his return – despite early wins in the qualifiers for the Riga Masters and International Championship – he has struggled for consistency.

“Every time you lose it’s a kick up the backside,” he said. “I didn’t see falling off the Tour as a disastrous turn of events, because it’s tough for everyone.

“There’s a lot of good players end up in Q School every year and they can’t all get through. You just have to stay positive.

“This season has been slow, because there’s been big gaps in the calendar.

“We have ended up going four to six weeks without playing, which means it’s really hard to get any form going.”

He continued: “The top players are fine and dandy because they have had the invitation events.

“I started perfectly, won my first two games, but since then there have been some long gaps and people have been playing well,” said Grace, who lost to China’s Zhou Yuelong in this month’s Northern Ireland Open, and faces Poland’s Adam Stefanow next month in the Scottish Open.

He added: “I am just looking forward to this period before Christmas, play a few matches on the trot and try to get some form going.”