BOWLS

Bowls - World In­door Sin­gles Cham­pi­onship

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - YOUR TELEGRAPH - By Do­minic Pick­sley BOWLS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Three years ago, Hunt­ing­don bowler Nicky Brett ruled the roost when he was crowned World In­door Sin­gles cham­pion for the first time in his ca­reer.

A mem­o­rable fort­night at Pot­ters, in 2016, saw him beat two for­mer world cham­pi­ons in Greg Har­low and David Gourlay, be­fore see­ing off Robert Pax­ton in a fan­tas­tic fi­nal that pro­pelled the then-41-yearold to the top of the bowl­ing charts.

Lit­tle could Brett fore­see, though, of the rocky wa­ters that lay ahead on the World Bowls Tour in the three years since that suc­cess, with wins hard to come by and a player once king of the world now strug­gling to main­tain his po­si­tion in the top-10.

Ahead of this month’s 2019 Just World In­door Cham­pi­onships, we find Brett down in joint-ninth spot on the pro­vi­sional rank­ings list and, re­mark­ably, with­out a vic­tory over a fel­low top-16 player since beat­ing Les Gil­lett at the 2016 Scot­tish In­ter­na­tional Open.

He scram­bled past two qual­i­fiers, be­fore suc­cumb­ing to Ste­wart An­der­son as de­fend­ing cham­pion on his re­turn to Pot­ters in 2017, be­fore los­ing in the se­cond round last year when Mark Dawes clinched his first-ever WBT sin­gles ti­tle, while he has also suf­fered early ex­its in the In- ter­na­tional and Scot­tish In­ter­na­tional Opens.

Such pe­ri­ods of poor form would worry most bowlers, but the philo­soph­i­cal Brett is not one to be fazed by much and this poor run of re­sults cer­tainly has not been keep­ing him awake at night.

“I’m not con­cerned about drop­ping down the rank­ings, as long as I’m in the top 16 I’m okay with whether it’s one, two or 15,” in­sisted the now 44-year-old. “Ev­ery­body in there is dif­fi­cult to beat and it’s proved that way the last year or so for me.

“I think if I rank in be­tween six and 12 in the world, that’s prob­a­bly about right as I think I’ve been num­ber one, but was I the best player in the world? No I wasn’t. For some­one of my stan­dard, I’ve done al­right. Maybe in the last cou­ple of years I may not have de­feated a top-16 ranked player, but they are all pretty good play­ers and I think if you an­a­lyse ev­ery­body’s stats, a lot of play­ers will have had a bad cou­ple of years, an okay cou­ple of years and a good cou­ple of years. It goes round in cy­cles.

“I’m not go­ing to worry about rank­ing points too much, ei­ther, when I’m still in front of Alex Mar­shall. He’s done prob­a­bly more in the game than any other player who has lived.”

He will not know the name of his first-round op­po­nent un­til the pre­lim­i­nary rounds have been played, where four over­seas play­ers and one UK bowler will fight it out on a round-robin ba­sis to see who gets that cov­eted spot.

Char­lie Her­bert (USA), Mal­colm Whyte (Canada), Lawrence Hur­witz (Is­rael) and Jordi Lo (Hong Kong) – along with World In­door Bowls Coun­cil run­ner-up Andy Squire – will bat­tle it out in the Bowlers Bar and on the In­ter­na­tional Rink for the right to face Brett.

“I sup­pose the favourite to win is Andy Squire,” added Brett, who was re­called to the Eng­land squad this sea­son af­ter a few years in the wilder­ness. “He’s a good player, so I sup­pose I’ve got to gear my­self up to play him.”

The draw has not been kind to Brett as he could well face six-time cham­pion Alex Mar­shall in the se­cond round, while world No.1, and pairs part­ner, Greg Har­low po­ten­tially lies in wait at the quar­ter-fi­nal stage, although last year’s wild­card won­der Wayne Willgress also waits in the wings. And then there’s in-form Gourlay, po­ten­tially, in the semis, or 2014 win­ner Dar­ren Bur­nett.

“I wouldn’t bother go­ing if I didn’t think I could win it,” Brett added. “I have proved I have the game to win it, but ev­ery­body needs a bit of lady luck as well. If its your year, it’s your year. When and if I win an­other one, it will be pretty nice and taken in the course its due. If I do win an­other one then I’ll con­sider it a mas­sive achieve­ment be­cause those boys we play against are world-class play­ers.”

Brett is not in sin­gles ac­tion un­til next Thurs­day.

Nicky Brett was world in­door sin­gles cham­pion in 2016.

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