Today, Barry Hawkins and John Higgins will compete in the Final of the last of the Home Nations Series tournament. This is how the Semi-Finals panned out:
Barry Hawkins reached the final of the ManBetX Welsh Open in Cardiff with a 6-4 win over Noppon Saengkham, then spoke movingly about the tragedy which has affected his life and career over the past year.
Despite a late fight back from Thailand’s Saengkham, world number eight Hawkins eventually got the better of an opponent ranked 50 places below him to set up a final meeting on Sunday with John Higgins or Gary Wilson. Victory for 38-year-old Hawkins would give him his fourth career ranking title and first since the 2017 World Grand Prix.
The past year has been a tough one for Hawkins on and off the table, following the death of his brother-in-law. “Last April I had a belated birthday party with the family after the World Championship,” he explained after today’s match. “For the previous six months my sister’s husband had been suffering from depression. We all thought he was getting back to normal.
“That evening he was dropped at home by my dad. Sadly he took his own life. He felt like there was no way out for him. We didn’t see it coming at all. I was with him for an hour while the paramedics were working on him. I have never experienced anything like that and I wouldn’t want to go through it again. It absolutely destroyed me for about six months.
“I played snooker but I really wasn’t thinking about the game, my mind was elsewhere. It was very tough for my family and especially my sister and her two twins, who are eight years old now. It was devastating, so snooker had to take a back seat. In the last few months I have been trying to find my form again. I feel better about myself and we’re moving on. We’ll never forget what happened but at least we are dealing with it now.”
So far this season he had failed to progress beyond the last 16 of a ranking event, until this week. At the Motorpoint Arena the Londoner has shown signs of a return to his best form, winning six matches to reach his sixth ranking final.
Hawkins also keeps alive his chances of qualifying for the lucrative Players Championship in Llandudno later this month. Only the £70,000 top prize in Cardiff would earn him a spot.
A scrappy opening frame today went the way of Hawkins, then his opponent, who was competing in the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time, levelled with a break of 63. Former World Championship finalist Hawkins fired runs of 57 and 94 to lead 3-1, and shared the next two frames to make it 4-2.
A drawn-out seventh frame, lasting 38 minutes, came down to the colours and Hawkins cleared from yellow to pink to move within one of victory. Saengkham, age 25, fought back impressively as breaks of 57 and 139 saw him close to 5-4. And the Thai had chances early in frame ten, but twice missed a red to a top corner pocket. His second error proved decisive as Hawkins compiled an excellent run of 63 to book his final spot.
Hawkins added: “I feel a bit subdued because it was such a long match, we both missed a lot of easy balls. It was hard battle. But once it sinks in I will be proud of myself because I’m in the final.
“I didn’t do much wrong from 5-2 to 5-4. In the last frame luckily he missed a couple of easy balls and I made a good break. If it had gone 5-5 I would have got twitchy.”
What happened to Barry’s family is terrible and it’s no wonder that he had a bad few months on the baize. It’s a credit to his professionalism that he was able to play at all. This is a reminder that snooker, after all, is only a game and that there are far more important things in life than winning or losing a match. That said, I really hope that Barry can win today. Seeing him lift the trophy won’t undo the tragedy the family had to go through, but I’m sure, for him and his, it would be more than a win on the table, it would be a win over despair and hardship, driven by courage. Barry is a lovely, humble man who loves his family dearly. I will be firmly in his side today!
Wizard of Wishaw Higgins will face Barry Hawkins over 17 frames in Cardiff on Sunday with the winner to collect £70,000 and the Ray Reardon Trophy. Higgins is now into the 47th ranking final of his career – one more than Ronnie O’Sullivan – and he is currently tied with O’Sullivan on four Welsh Open crowns.
The 42-year-old Scot is looking for his second ranking title of the season, having won the Indian Open in September, and 30th of his career, which would leave him just two behind O’Sullivan and six behind Stephen Hendry on the all-time list.
It was a scrappy start to the match tonight with neither player able to make a break over 50 in the first four frames. World number five Higgins led 2-1 and had a chance to clear in the fourth but missed the final pink to a top corner when ten points ahead. Wilson’s attempted long pot also missed its target and Higgins clipped in an excellent long pink to go 3-1 ahead.
Wallsend’s Wilson, appearing in a ranking event semi-final for only the second time in his career, pulled one back after the interval with a run of 61 and the world number 51 had first scoring chance in frame six but ran out of position on 35. Higgins replied with a 99 clearance which included a superb planted red to a centre pocket early in the break.
That proved the key moment as Higgins built momentum, dominating frame seven to lead 5-2 then finishing the job with a 106 in the eighth.
“I’m just delighted to be through to the final,” said Higgins, who won the Welsh Open in 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2015. “I was feeling the pressure tonight because I knew it was a good chance to get to the final, I had to play on Gary’s inexperience a bit. It was similar to Barry’s game earlier against Noppon in that you’re expected to win. I’m sure it will be a good final because Barry is hitting the ball well and I’m doing the same.
“In any sport you very rarely get great semi-finals because it’s all about keeping your nerve, getting over the line and trying to get to the final so you can enjoy the occasion. It would be brilliant to win this for a fifth time. I’m proud of myself that I’m still in there battling having played my first final in this event in 1995.
“I know what Barry can do, he knows what I can do and I think we’ll just relax and play the table. Getting to 30 ranking titles will be in the back of my mind. I just hope I do myself justice tomorrow and make it a good occasion.”
The final starts at 1pm on Sunday, with eight frames played in the afternoon and then the remainder from 7pm.
Funnily, what John said there about the semi-finals being rarely “good” matches, is almost identical to what Ronnie was saying in the studio whilst commenting as a pundit: in a way, those are the most difficult matches of the tournament.
Here is the punditry – with Ronnie
And, about Ronnie, this was initially published by Wales Online (and then repeated, with variations, by other media)
This is only an excerpt, as the rest of the article goes on about what Ronnie said last year…
He must have been disappointed at losing in the quarter-final of the Welsh Open, but it didn’t stop Ronnie O’Sullivan showing his caring side.
The snooker superstar had just been knocked out of the competition by John Higgins in the event being held at the Motorpoint Arena this week.
He had just left the arena when he saw a homeless man in a doorway on what was another bitterly cold night in the city.
It has been the coldest start to March on record with temperatures feeling around -10C at night, and Ronnie was so shocked to see the man in the doorway of the Rainbow Casino in Tredegar Street he had to do something.
He went to the supermarket next door and bought him some sandwiches and drinks.
Eyewitness Matthew Lofthouse said: “It happened 45 minutes after his defeat in the 2018 Welsh Open quarter-finals at the Motorpoint Arena.
“The Rocket spoke to the homeless man, shocked that he was laying outside in the snow and freezing conditions.
He ran into the Tesco Express next door and picked up a couple of sandwiches and drinks for the man and gave them to him compassionately. He then very polite and told the man to stay safe and insisting that he shouldn’t say thanks for the gift.”
Jason Francis retweet the article with these comments:
He has done this countless times when I’ve been with him. people never want to see this side of him though
1 million per cent genuine
Ronnie might be temperamental at times, and a bit naughty, even mischievous as he likes to tease people, but he is fundamentally a warm, generous and caring person with a big heart. I have witnessed a few myself. And he never boasts about it, this wouldn’t be in the press if that student hadn’t been around, just by chance, and hadn’t chosen to report it.