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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 06:47 GMT 07:47 UK
Dott's year of fame and pain
By Bryn Palmer

Graeme Dott celebrates his World Championship victory
Dott beat Peter Ebdon in the latest ever finish to a final - 1253am
The sight of Graeme Dott pumping his fist and roaring in celebration after clinching snooker's World Championship was one of the more unlikely sporting images of 2006.

It felt like a triumph for one of life's natural underdogs, a reminder that grit and determination can, on occasion, overcome opponents of a more naturally talented disposition.

But those who only tune in for the sport's showcase fortnight in Sheffield each year and are tempted to write off the doughty Scot's success as a blip may be in for a surprise as he prepares to launch his defence this weekend.

The impression of a dour grinder relying on a patient, safety-first approach to pounce on opponents' errors and steal frames no longer rings true in Dott's case.

606: DEBATE

A quicker, more fluent game has brought new levels of consistency and success, so much so that Dott returns to Sheffield as provisional world number one for next season.

"I have changed my game - for the better," he told BBC Sport. "I am certainly a much better player now than I was this time last year.

"It is very unusual to have such consistency as I have had this season. Normally you might do well for two or three tournaments and then have a blip.

"But I have done well in all the major events. I have had three quarter-finals, a couple of semis and won the China Open. Hopefully I can carry my form into one more tournament."

DOTT THE POCKET DYNAMO
Born: 12 May 1977
Lives: Larkhall, nr Glasgow
Turned pro: 1994
Ranked: (last 5 years)
13-15-13-12-14
Current ranking: 6 (prov. number one for next season)
Tournament wins: World Ch'ship 2006; China Open 07

Winning the final ranking tournament - in Beijing, a venue he had repeatedly struggled at previously - three weeks before the World Championship has certainly bolstered Dott's confidence and self-belief.

It was his first final since Sheffield, and he prevailed in some style against Jamie Cope, reeling off successive century breaks when Cope closed to 6-5 before prevailing 9-5.

"It is weird when the first tournament you win is the World Championship," Dott said. "There is not exactly an instruction manual telling you what to do next.

"I have learnt a lot in the last year but I have enjoyed it. I don't stress about it and the key thing is I have played well.

"It is nice to show people I am not a one-hit wonder, and after winning in China I am going back to Sheffield full of confidence and top of the world rankings.

"Everything is going really well, but I am experienced enough to know that this game can come up and bite you very easily, so I am on my guard not to let things slip."

Even if he succumbs to the "Crucible Curse" - none of the 16 first-time champions who have triumphed at Sheffield have successfully defended their title - Dott will be able to keep defeat in perspective.

Graeme Dott during his defeat to Stephen Lee at the Masters
Dott was distracted at the Masters with his wife's cancer scare
For while he has enjoyed his best-ever 12 months on the green baize, events off it have made it difficult to enjoy his new-found status.

Dott's manager and father-in-law, Alex Lambie, passed away with cancer in December.

Then, at the Masters in January, he played at Wembley under the strain of his pregnant wife Elaine's own cancer scare.

"It has been very difficult," said Dott. "Even though I won the world title, I'll still look back on it as a bad year.

"Anyone who has experienced cancer knows that it is the whole family that suffers as well.

"Fortunately the situation with Elaine only lasted a few days, but it has been a tough time.

"But I've tried to keep all my commitments despite the situation and I am surprised I have played as well as I have."

As well as progressing to the quarter-finals or better of five of the season's six ranking events so far, Dott has also had to come to terms with being a more recognized figure.

"I find when I go out for a meal now everyone knows who you are, and when I went to the Algarve on holiday even some of the Portuguese knew me," he said.

People know I am not a big-headed type - it is the Scottish mentality

Graeme Dott

"It's a bit surreal, but it is nice. It shows you are doing something that people recognise."

"Dotty" is hardly an overnight success story. At 29, he has been on the professional circuit for 13 years, and in the top 16 since 2001, without - until last year - suggesting he would ever join the Hendrys and O'Sullivans in snooker's top bracket.

When you put it to him that he is now something of a cult figure whom supporters can relate to, he appears bemused.

"If that is the case, I am happy," he said. "I try to say the right things, and people know I am not a big-headed type. It is the Scottish mentality, I try to be friendly with everyone."

If he wins his first-round match at the Crucible against Ian McCulloch, who beat him 10-9 at the same stage two years ago, and progresses to the latter stages again, Dott stands a good chance of cementing his number one ranking.

The prospect, he admits, provides him with "huge" motivation.

"It would mean that I have done everything I wanted to do in snooker," he said. "As a kid I wanted to win a tournament, and the World Championship, and then become world number one.

"I have won a couple of tournaments now, and I've done everything I wanted to do. I could probably retire happy if I won it again!"

The impression you get, though, is that this softly-spoken Scot will carry on proving to himself and his detractors for a good while yet that success comes to those that wait.

A second successive Crucible title may be asking a lot. But if 2006 was the year Dott joined snooker's top table, 2007 could be the year when his place is properly set.



SEE ALSO
O'Sullivan draw fix claim denied
17 Apr 07 |  Snooker
World Championship draw
20 Mar 07 |  Snooker
World Championship order of play
18 Apr 07 |  Snooker


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