INTERVIEW: Defending World Indoor Singles champion Mark Dawes
Defending World Indoor Singles Champion Mark Dawes takes to the blue portable rink at Potters tomorrow for his first round match.
So will he prove that last year was no fluke?
Dom Picksley caught up with him.
Last year was a memorable occasion for Blackpool Newton Hall’s Dawes,who not only scooped the Open Pairs title with Jamie Chestney, butwent on to land the Open Singles, the biggest success of his sporting
Having barely won a game at the ‘home of indoor bowls’ previously, the12th seed Dawes turned in the best two weeks of his life and came awayfrom Norfolk with nine wins and two titles under his belt.
It was a far cry from 2017, when he drove home in disgust a few daysinto the marathon tournament after losing to septuagenarian CharlieBence in the first round, a defeat that made headlines in papers not
accustomed to covering bowls.
But as he returns to Potters hoping to join a small elite band offollow-up champions – only David Bryant, Tony Allcock, Thomson and
Marshall (twice) have successfully defended their title – he arriveswith black form clouds hovering above him having suffered two
first-round losses since his brilliant victory over Robert Paxton inthe 2018 final.
The International Open tournament can feel a little like an ‘after theLord Mayor’s Show’ event, and he could be forgiven for being sent
packing by Scott Edwards in Blackpool at the first hurdle. Worryingly,though, he then lost in this season’s first event, the Scottish
International Open, to James Rippey to set the alarm bells ringingahead of his World defence.
The accounting assistant father-of-two, who turns 35 just prior to thetournament, has admitted that complacency may have set in after hisPotters success, but he is determined to get his mojo back now hereturns to the grandest stage of all.
“The form has not been great,” he agreed. “I think, basically, I wason a massive high and I haven’t quite re-adjusted to getting back and
having that drive and determination. I think probably going back asdefending champion gives you that little extra bit of incentive and I
think having played in two more tournaments it’s given me more respectof those who have won multiple world titles.
“Maybe my preparation for the other tournaments wasn’t as good as itwas for Potters last year. I have practised as much as I probably everhave done, but possibly not turned up to tournaments as well as Iwould have liked.
“Fingers crossed, I’ll be back on it at Potters. Because it wassurprise win and it was one of my goals in life, it’s case of asking
yourself ‘what do I do next?’. In a lot of professional sports, theyhave the ability to reassess and go again quickly, but unfortunatelywe have day-to-day life to deal with and ultimately you go back toworking full time, sorting out children, while there’s other issues todeal with. And work pays the bills.”
After his ‘surreal’ year as world champion, in which he says wasactually not that much different from any normal year, he doesn’t
believe he heads there with a target on his back as the defendingchampion and doesn’t feel his current status lends him any more kudosin the sport.
He went on: “I don’t particularly feel the pressure. When I was aqualifier I always used to think there were four or five top-16
players you wanted to avoid, but against the rest you had a chance andI think I’m still one of the latter players. People will respect the
fact I’ve won the world title, but equally there will be a few playerswho would rather play me than someone else.”
He faces good mate Graham McKee, from Belfast, in the first round, a player who he knows very well and one who is becoming aregular at WBT events. He is up to 20th on the provisional rankingsand a good tournament could well propel him into the top 16 and Dawesknows he has to be on his guard.
“I am good mates with Graham and am definitely expecting a tough
encounter,” he said. “His mum gets on well with my mum – she’dmessaged both us to say Graham’s qualified for the Worlds and I sentone back saying ‘well done’ and about four days later, he sent me anote saying ‘I’ve seen we’ve drawn each other’. I then told him ‘Ihope you have a good season, but not in the Worlds’, to which hereplied ‘You’ve won it once before, you’ve no need to win it again’.
He’s a good player and the game will be serious and competitive, butI’m sure we’ll share a beer afterwards whatever the result.”
Dawes may have a Singles title in the bag, but getting that second onecould well prove a much tougher prospect, given the fact there areseven one-time winners currently occupying top-16 berths. So does he
think he can land another crown and join Hugh Duff on two World Indoor
“It is very difficult to win just one tournament never mind a few andall those past one-time champions would probably have been expected towin another,” he said. “Ultimately there will be 32 players tryingtheir best to win the title. I am a prime example. I had won one gamein about three or four years at Potters and then I went and won fiveon the bounce. You only need to have a good week and hopefully
lightning may strike again.”
When asked if there was ever a point during last year’s tournamentwhen he realistically he thought he may win it, he responded: “Just
before the quarter-final, I had a feeling I may do well. I had justwon a close game, the sort I tended to have lost – I beat DavidGourlay on a tie-break – and after that it just looked like nobody wasplaying outstandingly well. I looked at the games I’d seen and Ithought ‘no-one is playing better than you are’ and there was noreason in my mind that I couldn’t go far. The next time after that I
thought I could do it, was literally about five seconds after Robertlet go of his bowl on the last end.
“It was more a case of knowing I had a chance, rather than thinking Iwould do it.”