After 18 years as a pro, Ryan Day finally won his first ranking title, by defeating Stephen Maguire by 5-2 in the final of the Riga Masters 2017. It was his fifth final and it was a long overdue achievement given Ryan’s huge talent. Congratulations Ryan!
Nobody can say he had it easy! He beat Barry Hawkins, Robert Milkins, Kyren Wilson, Joe Perry, Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire en route. Considering there were only 5 top 16 players in the draw, and he beat 3 of them, it’s some feat!
So now the unwanted “Best player never to win a title” mantle is again hanging on the peg? Who will it belong to now?
But there were quite a number of other interesting aspects to the season opener.
It was quite obvious that the very top players showed little interest for the event.
The ones who are in the battle to gain or keep a top 16 spot on the contrary were determined to take advantage of the very top boys absence. Ryan Day climbed to n° 15 in the rankings, pushing Mark Williams – who made it to the SF himself – to n°16 , and kicking Martin Gould out of the elite bracket. “Willo” still has a 14000 + points cushion. Stephen Maguire, who started the tournament at n°24, climbed to n°19. He played very well, except in the final, and there is no doubt that he doesn’t like to be out of the top 16 and is determined to get back in it.
Neil Robertson was the defending champion. Neil has recently admitted that a video game addiction had been his downfall over the last season. He also vowed to put that right and to play more aggressively. My feeling is that his confidence is in tatters though: he was far from convincing in his held-over last 128 match against Daniel Ward, an amateur, and fell at the next hurdle to German rookie Lukas Kleckers. It will be interesting to see how Neil fares this season.
Another player who has been in the doldrums in recent seasons is Jack Lisowski. Jack reached the last 16, where he lost to a ruthless Stephen Maguire; Stephen had 139, 93 and 83 in that match. But for what we saw in the last 32 round, Jack is playing much better than he has been for a long time. He’s back with the Grove too, which should help him to climb back up in the rankings. He’s too good to drop off the tour.
Veterans Ken Doherty and Jimmy White proved they are worth the invitational cards handed to them – cards that earned Worldsnooker some harsh criticism from those on social media who believe they should have been sent to Q-school or retire. Personally, I believe that this type of reward for a long, dedicated and successful career is perfectly justifiable and, indeed, good for the sport, the viewing public and the sponsors. Jimmy reached the last 16, and his game remains highly entertaining. Ken did even better: he reached the SF and it took a decider for Stephen Maguire to shake him off. Hats off! If they can sustain that type of standard, they will probably regain their tour card through the one year list before we know it.
Finally the young Europeans, Alexander Ursenbacher (Swiss – 21) and Lukas Kleckers (German – 21) both reached the last 32. It was Lukas who defeated the defending champion. Alexander has been on the tour before, Lukas is in his first year. Both showed some good snooker in Riga last week-end. European fans will have their eyes on them this season … and their fingers crossed. And Luca Brecel, from Belgium also reached the last 32 where he stumbled on Mark Williams. People feel that he’s been around for a while but forget he’s only 22.