Mark Royal facing a race against time

SUFFOLK’S Mark Royal has no time to lose ahead of this year’s Fred Olsen Cruise Lines World Indoor Bowls Championships.

Royal will competing in three events in the annual jamboree, which starts with qualifying tomorrow and runs until January 26, at Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton-on-Sea on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.

The Stowmarket-based bowler, who will be taking part in the World Singles, World Indoor Pairs and Mixed Pairs World Matchplay, will do so using new bowls for the first time in ten years.

Royal, who will turn 38 during the championships, said: “I have had problems with my bowls which I have had for ten years and have been forced into getting some new ones. I am getting two new sets of bowls on Wednesday, which does not give me a lot of time before the tournament starts.

“I will have to get used to them quicker than normal, which should not be too much of a problem, but I am one of the few bowlers who have used the same bowls for that long.”

Royal, who lost in the quarter-finals of the Co-operative Funeralcare Scottish International Open to fellow Englishman and eventual runner-up Nick Brett before Christmas, admitted he had not been playing well.

Royal, who is ranked seventh in the world - he was third this time last year - said: “I have qualified for the Champion of champions at Hayling Island in February, which I won last year, but I have not been playing that well and I have lost a bit of confidence in the last few weeks.

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“But if it is your year, it is your year, although you do have to play well and things have to go your way.

“But I am more relaxed than I have been as I don’t expect to do that well.”

In the World Singles Royal has been drawn against South African qualifier Tracy Mayeridricks, who he will face on January 17.

“I am happy with that - it is a decent first-round draw. Some qualifiers are good and some are awful, but I am confident I can win that match.”

Should Royal progress he will face either England’s Robert Paxon or Robert Gordon of Scotland in the second round for a quarter-final berth.

“I fancy Robert Paxon to win that. He has been playing well in the last couple of years and we normally have tight matches against each other, so that will be interesting if we both get through.”

Royal admitted he does not know which of the identical Packwood twins he will be playing with in the Mixed Pairs World Matchplay at Potters.

He has been paired with either Kerry or Kelly in the event, where Greg Harlow and Rebecca Field will provide their first-round opponents on January 18 - the day of his 38th birthday.

“I am not sure which one I am playing with, to be honest, as the organisers make the draw. But it is a tough draw against Greg, who is a good friend of mine, and Rebecca Field, who is the reigning women’s singles champion,” he said.

If Royal and his Welsh-born partner get through there could be double-trouble ahead in the second round later on the same day, with the winners facing Simon Skelton and the other Packwood twin, if they can overcome Paul Foster and Laura Thomas.

In the World Indoor Pairs Royal and partner Andy Thomson face qualifiers Scott Edwards and Leigh Prince of the Adur Club in Brighton.

“I know them fairly well and so does Andy. That is a tough first-round draw for us,” conceded Royal.

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