Appleton: “I’m still hungry and want more World titles”

On February 2, 2015, Darren Appleton became the first WPA Chinese 8-Ball World Champion, beating many snooker stars and Chinese 8-Ball specialists on his way to the title. In the final match he faced current World Snooker champion Mark Selby in a race to 21, which he won 21-19. We interviewed the champion to learn more about this game, his feelings, and what his plans are for 2015.
AZBilliards: Congratulations Darren Appleton, last week you became the first WPA World Champion of Chinese 8-Ball. Tell us how you feel?
Darren Appleton: I can't believe I finally won a World 8-Ball title after all these years of disappointments. I'm so relieved, it is definitely the biggest win of my career... And the most emotional I've ever been.
AZB: A lot of us are not very familiar with Chinese 8-Ball. Can you tell our readers about this game?
D.A: The game is played on a 9ft snooker table with nap cloth playing regular 8-Ball with American pool balls. So obviously, the pockets become super tight and it's very challenging for the top players.
It is China's main cue sport game now, and with the promotion they've made the last few years it is also the most popular to the general public. It has got a lot of potential.
I Love this game and it looks like the game is going to grow in China.
Hopefully my win will open a couple of doors up for me getting a big sponsor in Asia and more invitations to promote the game.
AZB: So, it feels to us like it was a competition as well as an exhibition to promote the game. The promoters invited many stars from Snooker and Pool, to help put their event on the map... With this stellar field, what did you think of your chances?
D.A: This is why my expectations were not too high. There were around 40 Chinese players in the main draw (stage 2) and I can tell you, all of them can play! I think around 16 of them could have claimed the title. Then you had the Brits and snooker players so I knew it was going to be tough.
I just went there as a challenge because of the level of the field. So many local players play the game so well... Yang Fan, recent winner of the joy Masters is a machine and the best player they have. But besides him, so many of them play so good... 
It's the best tournament I've ever played in just because the Arena was perfect, in a great venue with big crowds all the time (between 1,000 and 1,500 people). Playing conditions were perfect. Opening ceremony was amazing, we were treated like professionals. Practice facilities were amazing, as close as you can get to the match table.
Very well organized. Obviously, they spent millions on the tournament! 
AZB: You already had a strong English pool resume, but in less than ten years in pool you became one of the most successful players in history. Winner of a 10-Ball and a 9-Ball WPA title, two US Opens, two Challenge of Champions, a World Pool Masters title, and in 2014 the World Games and the 14/1 World Tournament... Do you sometimes take time to look back on these accomplishments?
D.A: Yes. It's hard to believe the success. Like you said it's hard to look back at times but when I do I think "wow, did I really do all that?"
Winning the Gold medal at the World Games might be the biggest title I won. I really don't know what to say... They're all special to me. But you know, winning the World 8-Ball was my dream when I first started playing pool. So, to win after so long, so many close misses, in a much bigger version of 8-Ball with a stronger field, great organization and massive prize money: it couldn't get any better.
With pool, there is no real "off-season", so I don't get much time to reflect, sit back and enjoy... It's a rollercoaster. One week I can be on top of the world, the next I lose and feel like I've hit rock bottom again. The good thing is, there is always next week. Pool is a very emotional and mental sport.
AZB: You're known for your work ethics, and mental approach. Did these help you overcome the new challenge of facing snooker stars as well as Chinese 8-Ball specialists?
D.A: Yes, absolutely. The most pleasing thing of the week was my temperament. My mistakes never affected me, and every match from the last 32 I had to break and run for the win. So, I'm really proud how I closed all these matches out.
Also, I had more break and runs than anybody else in the tournament. In seven matches I had around forty break and runs. From the last 16 I broke the best in the whole field. So that was a key to my success. It gave me a lot of confidence all the way.
AZB: You've won titles in all kind of games, and also came close to winning a major One-pocket title a couple of times; What does it say about the type of player you are?
D.A: It's so pleasing! I can win playing all disciplines... One-pocket, straight pool, 8-Ball, 9-Ball, 10-Ball, etc... I think that, to be looked at as one of the all-time greats it is important to have big titles in at least four disciplines. So many players are great at just one or two games. For me, improving my skills and knowledge will create longevity in my game. Learning all games was very important.
AZB: Besides being so successful individually, you also won the Mosconi Cup five times, the WPA Team Championship with England, and recently the World Cup of Pool with Karl Boyes, also playing for England. Do you have any preference, playing on your own or as part of a team? Do you have a different approach of team competitions?
D.A: I like both obviously. Individual is what we play most of year. Players are selfish and want all the success... But teams is a nice change, I enjoy the atmosphere and it's great working together and seeing other people's faces share that success. Also, you learn a lot about your team mates mentally and from your opponents so that helps for later when you're playing against them in singles events.
Playing individual or team puts a different kind of pressure and has different meanings. Doubles is a little different because you get to play every match. In teams you can be sitting and watching for hours so it's important to support the team and stay in the "team bubble", which is something I really enjoy... I've played pool in teams at the highest level in English 8-Ball and American pool for over 20 years and captained my country also at both games so I've got lot of experience and I know I'm a good team player and good for my team mates as I feel I love the team leader role and I always try and get the best out of my team mates.
Playing singles... You play for yourself, nobody else cares except your family and friends . In team play you've got a much wider audience and lot of people that you would let down if you don't perform so that adds more pressure for sure, especially in the big team tournaments. The good thing with team sports is that amateurs can relate to that feeling also. Teams are so much more fun and pressure packed!
But in the end, as a sportsman the individual titles are the ultimate career achievement, for sure. For personal pleasure and making money I prefer to rely on myself.
AZB: After winning a major title - and the $98,000 that goes with it - so early in the year. Is it possible to have goals after this? How do you see 2015?
D.A: I'm still hungry and want more world titles. I will work harder now that my life is so good on and off the table. Life is great at home, I'm happily settled into marriage with my wife Angie. She's amazing, supportive and allows me to be away from home for so long... I miss our dogs but I know they're fine and they keep her company.
I can really focus on pool this year. I will just play with confidence now and try to win more and improve my game as I have nothing to worry about. I'll try to get more titles and win as much money as possible. This win took a few days to really sink in, but I'm back to practicing this week and getting ready for the WPA World 10-Ball Championships coming soon. 
AZB: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish you all the best for the future!
D.A: Thank you. I would like to thank my sponsors Predator cues, Strachan cloth, Diamond billiards and Cheqio precision drink for their continued support. Also the CBSA and Star people for putting this great event together. And of course all my fans, friends and family who send me so many support messages on social media.