There were 42 matches played in Wigan yesterday, as part of the first round of the Q-school 2019 event 1, yielding 21 winners who will go to the next round (last 128).
I may come as a surprise – it did to me anyway – but 10 of those winners are actually teenagers, none of them having been pro before.
They are: Aaron Hill (17), Riley Parsons (19), Ronan Whyte (19), Kayden Brierley (17), Si JiaHui (16), Harry Farell (19), Iulian Boiko (13), Jack Harris (19), Sean Maddockx (17), Ben Mertens (14). Amongst then, the three youngest ones are not from the UK/Ireland. Si JiaHui is from China, Ben Mertens from Belgium and Iulian Boiko from Ukraine.
Regarding Ben and Iulian, who are still only children, they were made to play very late in the evening. And the fact that they come from abroad – Belgium has a one hour time difference with UK, Ukraine has two – made it even later for them. I feel that it wouldn’t have been too much of an effort for Worldsnooker to make sure that those kids would be scheduled to play during actual day time.
In addition to those 10 teenagers, there were six additional winners in their very early twenties: Wang ZePeng (22), Liu JiaMing (22), Thomas Hillborne (22), Xu Si (21), Louis Heathcote (21), Daniel Holoyda (20). Three of them fare rom China – Wang, Liu and Xi – whilst Daniel Holoyda is from Poland.
It is only the first match, on the first day, but this is a very encouraging sign for the future of the game.
All three women involved in the competition were in action yesterday, with only Ng On Yee managing a win. On Yee’s win is not that surprising considering how close she ran Alan McManus at the World Championship qualifiers last month. Reanne Evans’ form seems to be nowhere near her best. Rebecca Kenna though gave Wayne Townsend, an experienced amateur, a stern test. Wayne was full of praise for Bex on Facebook after the match: her safety in particular was very solid.
Former professionals from India, Aditya Mehta and Lucky Vatnani both won their matches convincingly. I’m very pleased for Adi, a true gentleman. His career has been brought to a halt by a very serious neck injury:
Express News Service
CHENNAI: When Aditya Mehta boards a flight from Mumbai to London on Wednesday night to take part in three qualifying school events in Wigan from May 18, it will be understandable if he takes a moment or two to compose himself.
The two-time former national champion (2011 and 2012) has had a tumultuous four years in the sport and there is much riding on this latest comeback — if he does well, he will secure a two-year pro card. If he does get it, the 33-year-old will have something to look forward to in the short-term. Something to cling on to after a couple of years from hell.
For the Gujarati suffers from a condition known as ‘Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease’. In layman’s terms, three of his discs in his neck (C5, C6 and C7) are damaged. Even as he explains his condition, the agony in his voice is clear.
“It doesn’t heal itself, I have to manage on my own by physiotherapy and so on.”
To rest up properly and gain some strength in his shoulders, he sat out from the sport from April 2018 before getting back to the table in January this year.
But there was a time in his life when he ignored the pain and the warning signs. “2014,” he says. “I kept playing when I shouldn’t have.” There was even a point that year when the pain was so brutal that he collapsed in his room in Manchester. But Mehta soldiered on, hopping from one arena to the next in search of challenges.
The initial diagnosis — or the lack thereof — did not help. “I consulted scores of doctors, chiropractors, physios… but nothing worked to be honest.”
When he had contemplated quitting the sport altogether last year, lady luck had finally decided to pay him a visit. A fellow Indian Oil athlete had recommended a sports physio and since then he has learned to control the pain in the neck area. “At the Worlds in 2018, I decided I couldn’t keep going like this any longer.”
Since coming back to the fold in January, he has already risen to No 3 in India apart from scalping Pankaj Advani in the final of the CCI Invitational in March. He knows he is not yet a 100 per cent but doesn’t want to waste time because Q school events take place only once a year. He isn’t expecting a miracle in Wigan but he has gone through an awful lot. For starters, he has had to change his stance to manage his pain properly.
“The cue usually is in contact with the chin when we line up to strike. Me? Not so much. I have been advised to keep a distance of at least four inches between my chin and my cue. It’s not that I don’t have the shots I had previously but it’s now a question of having to adapt.”
Reach the semifinals in one of the three qualifying events and he will get back to the promised land. If he does, he would have answered that question with aplomb.
I wish him the very best.
Infuriatingly, but alas unsurprisingly, Lucky Vatnani’s win over Zhang Yong started speculations about possible foul play – from Zhang – because the Chinese player was favourite with the bookies before being beaten soundly. I can’t help to wonder if such speculations would have been raised if Zhang was English (for instance). Anyway, they were killed in the bud when one Q-school player who was in the venue, and watched the match, firmly stated that it was all about Lucky playing “awesome”.
Finally there were wins for WSS players – who DO dare to dream – Simon Dent, David Lilley, Stuart Watson and Matt Couch.
On a totally different subject, Ronnie will be on Sunday Brunch later this morning.