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Ricky Walden: I can build on my big break!

RICKY Walden says his incredible victory at the Shanghai Masters is only the start.

The 25-year-old qualifier from Bagillt caused one of the greatest shocks snooker has seen in years on Sunday when he claimed his first ranking title by stunning three-time world champion and world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8 in the final.

Walden, who also knocked out seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry MBE and six-time world champion Steve Davis OBE on his way to the £52,000 winner’s prize, has now truly lived up to his billing as one of the world’s most exciting young players after years of near misses.

And, having broken his duck, the world number 35 has no intention of resting on his laurels.

Walden told the Chronicle: "My aim has always been to win a title but once you do, it still comes as a massive shock.

"I’ve been frustrated in the past by falling at silly hurdles. It really got to me, but something has just clicked and if I’m making mistakes now, I just get on with it.

"It’s always nice to be called a great player, but there’s no point being a great player that doesn’t win. I think I’ve got that winning mentality now.

"It is going to bring a different sort of pressure. People will be gunning for me and expecting me to win tournaments, but I’ve just got to keep practising hard and hopefully another victory will be around the corner. I’m sure I can do it because it’s given me a whole lot of confidence."

Walden, who was welcomed home on Monday night by his friends, family, girlfriend and former Sealand team-mates at a surprise party at the Blossoms pub in Bagillt, returns to action on Sunday in the Grand Prix in Glasgow.

He will face world number eight Ryan Day in the first round and the Englishman, who was born in Chester but has lived all his life in Flintshire, is confident he can overcome the Welshman after a week in which he produced the best snooker of a career which started in the Deeside League.

The ex-Flint High School student swept aside World Under 21 Championship finalist Zhang Anda in the wildcard round before he came from behind to beat Hendry in the last 32.

Former World U21 champion Walden showed more amazing powers of recovery to defeat world number 10 Neil Robertson, Davis and then world number four Mark Selby to set-up the showpiece with O’Sullivan.

Walden, Chester Snooker Centre’s new professional, denied The Rocket the chance to become the first player since Hendry to win three ranking titles on the run, but only after he missed an easy red when he was 9-7 up.

Walden, who will take his friends to Las Vegas to celebrate later in the year, said: "I was thinking about everyone back home in Bagillt celebrating and I took my eye off the ball. So when Ronnie cleared up to make it 9-8, I thought my chance had gone, but I showed a bit of grit and put a good century away to win. It was an amazing feeling."

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