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Joe Perry hoping for a turn in form at UK Championships after Northern Ireland Open defeat

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Joe Perry has been knocked out of the Northern Ireland Open
Joe Perry has been knocked out of the Northern Ireland Open

By Will Jennings

Joe Perry believes the coronavirus pandemic is depriving snooker players of the globetrotting highlight of their calendar.

The Cambridgeshire potter slumped to a 4-2 defeat against world No 101 Allan Taylor in his second round match at the Northern Ireland Open in Milton Keynes.

The behind-closed-doors Marshall Arena is the venue being used for all ranking events this season, with visits to Belfast, York and Glasgow being swapped with the monotony of a Buckinghamshire retail park and the sound of silence at the table.

World No 18 Perry misses the lack of travelling and longs for the day when he can return to his favourite haunts around the British Isles once more.

“It’s sad to miss all the tournaments and normally on the tour this is a really good time for us,” said Perry, 46, who is now ramping up preparations for next week’s UK Championship.

“I’m getting a bit older now and not many things excite me when it comes to snooker anymore. But you’re looking for things to motivate you and this time of the year is normally really good.

“Belfast is a great tournament and a great city and then we go from there to York, which is always a buzz, then Glasgow, so we’re missing out. But we’ve got to be so thankful that we’re actually working and playing snooker at all.

“It’s going to be difficult to tell myself it is the UK Championship and it’s going to seem like every other tournament we’ve played in the same few months.

“It’s going to be hard to tell yourself it’s one of the major tournaments of the year, but that’s where you’ve got to be professional, get your head down and get on with it.”

2015 Tour Championship winner Perry struck breaks of 59 and 52 against his lowly opponent but Taylor, returning to the professional Tour after a year out last season, delivered a gusty performance to get over the line.

The result continued a turbulent season for the former world No 8 since snooker returned after lockdown, having won both his matches in German Masters qualifying but fell to premature defeats at the European Masters and English Open.

Next up is a clash against Maltese potter Alex Borg in the UK Championship and Perry reckons he’s peaking at the perfect time ahead of the prestigious Triple Crown event.

“I’m happy with how it’s going – I’m getting some good practice and I’m enjoying the practice, which helps,” he added.

“I’ve put a few more hours in and it paid off this week, and this is probably as good as I’ve played since we first came out of lockdown.

“Hopefully it’s a turn in form and it will just get better from here. A few wins will bring me more confidence and that always helps you play better stuff.”

Elsewhere, Cambridge-based Neil Robertson was stunned by world No 35 Ben Woollaston in his second round match.

The 2010 world champion and world No 3 went down 4-2 against the 2015 Welsh Open runner-up as breaks of 134, 101 and 61 dashed his hopes of a 19th ranking event title in Milton Keynes.

*Watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport app, and stream on discovery+

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