STROUD'S Dominic Dale insists Matthew Stevens is more than capable of causing an upset when they clash at the UK Snooker Championships – and he would know having been his childhood friend.
The 40-year-old grew up with Stevens, 35, in Carmarthen in Wales and will meet him in the first round of the UK Championships on Monday, heading into the tournament ranked No.23 in the world.
Dale is in mixed form, having lost 6-5 in the second round of the International Championship to Lu Haotian and going down 4-3 to Rory McLeod at the same stage of the Bulgaria Open earlier this month.
He did however overcame Ian Burns in qualifying for the UK Championships and Dale is adamant he will have to be at his best if he wants to make the last 16 at the Barbican in York.
“Matthew Stevens on form is a world beater,” said Dale. “On his day he can beat anybody you put in front of him. I’ve known him since I was eight-years-old. We grew up together around Carmarthen.
“We know each other very well. I always keep an eye on his results although I haven’t practiced with him for a while. We always keep in contact though.
“Earlier on in our careers he used to get the better of me but it’s been the other way around recently.
“If you asked him he would say he’s not as confident as he used to be and that age is catching up with him. But if he starts well against me no doubt that confidence will start coming back.
“I’m really looking forward to it though. It’s not just a special tournament for me but for all the players. It’s a superb venue and it holds a lot of prestige.”
Last season Dale made it beyond qualifying for the UK Championships for the first time since 2005 and was drawn against Judd Trump.
Dale led 4-2 but Trump fluked a pink in the seventh frame before going on to triumph 6-4 on his way to winning the tournament – and Dale insists he is again the favourite.
“Judd will be the guy to beat, he’s playing very well,” added Dale. “Last year I had Judd just where I wanted him. He was taking a few shots on and missing them by a while. I was 4-2 up.
“He missed a long red by a mile but then had a couple of fluky shots and made it 4-3 and then started playing a lot better.
“It was a disappointing way to lose but that’s snooker for you. It was something that can happen in any match you play.”