Graeme Dott and Rory McLeod advanced to the next stage, on a day that featured no young player. Both needed to fight to the last match, and in Dotty’s case, actually the last ball.
Graeme Dott won a dramatic deciding match against Liang Wenbo to advance to Stage Two of BetVictor Championship League Snooker, while Rory McLeod also won his last match to progress.
Liang had earlier beaten Soheil Vahedi 3-1 and Zak Surety 3-0 to take a commanding position in Group 14, while Dott had drawn 2-2 with Surety before also scoring a 3-1 win over Vahedi.
That meant a draw would be enough for Liang to advance when he faced Dott in the final match of the group. The 2006 World Champion took a 2-0 lead with a 100 in the second frame and looked set to advance in the third, until a missed yellow allowed Liang back in.
The Chinese star duly halved his deficit and both had chances to take the decisive final frame, but it was Dott who got over the line for a 3-1 win and top spot on the group table.
“The first match was probably the worst I have ever played,” admitted Dott. “Anybody watching that would be amazed that I qualified.
“I played better against Soheil and played okay against Liang, although it got a bit twitchy at the end. If I’d potted that yellow I’d have been happy with how I played, but I thought I’d lost it at the end, you wouldn’t have imagined Liang would have missed when he was so far in front.”
Group 13 also went right down to the wire. At the halfway stage only Frazer Patrick couldn’t qualify, and no further conclusions could be made after Ian Burns and Rory McLeod played out a 2-2 draw in match four. Jack Lisowski was also still in contention, but a share of the points against Burns meant the group seed could no longer advance.
The ball was then firmly in McLeod’s court; a win would see him advance, anything less and Burns would be the benefactor. But McLeod, returning to the tour this season, secured a 3-0 win to book his place in the next stage.
“I am happy, it wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win,” he said. “Lisowski was trying to get started and I just took what was there, so that was probably the best win.
“The year off took the stress away a little bit and I learnt to enjoy the game a little bit better than I was before. I had some bad situations in my life; I lost my mum and my dad. Things weren’t pretty but it was nice to have time off, to regroup and to come back. I’ve got a new coach and a different perspective now.
“I am just trying to enjoy my snooker more than anything. I’m not putting anything on myself, I just want to be present and enjoy it.”
McLeod and Dott will meet in Group D of Stage Two, where they will be joined by the winners of Sunday’s groups. Among those in action is Mark Selby. Coverage of both tables available at Matchroom.Live, with UK television coverage on Freesports.
FINAL GROUP STANDINGS
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS Rory McLeod 3 2 1 0 8 2 6 7 Ian Burns 3 1 2 0 7 4 3 5 Jack Lisowski 3 1 1 1 5 6 -1 4 Fraser Patrick 3 0 0 3 1 9 -8 0
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS Graeme Dott 3 2 1 0 8 4 4 7 Liang Wenbo 3 2 0 1 7 4 3 6 Zak Surety 3 1 1 1 5 6 -1 4 Soheil Vahedi 3 0 0 3 3 9 -6 0
I’m happy for Greame Dott who I always liked. He’s never got the credit he deserves. Mind you, even as a World Champion he wasn’t always put on the TV table. The World Final he played and won against Ebdon left him with a reputation of being slow and boring. A lot of people who formed that opinion on that day had never watched him play before. He’s neither slow nor boring. Both players were exhausted that time, there was a lot of pressure and Ebdon… was ebdonesque. But Graeme is naturally quite attacking. He’s also someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
Here is a little story about Graeme. Other than Premier League nigths and a couple of exhibitions, my first live snooker event was the 2007 Warshaw Snooker Tour.
John Higgins had just won his second World Title, Mark Selby had been his opponent in the final, and after a poor first day, had mounted a scary comeback. In the third session he had Higgins on the ropes. Graeme Dott had been the defending champion and Steve Davis … is Steve Davis. Michaela Tabb was refereeing. This event was a kind of “test run” for the “World Series” that John Higgins and Pat Mooney launched in 2008. Mooney was both Higgins’ and Dott’s manager.
The event was a success. Polish fans came “en masse”. Everyone wanted a piece of Higgins, Selby, Davis and of course Michaela. Ahead of one session, Mark Selby needed more that 20 minutes to walk the 50 meters from the car park to the venue. He got caught in the crowd and must have signed a million things en route.
But nobody really cared about Dotty … except the young children. It’s hard to explain but he attracted them like a magnet. He’s very good with kids, and although they had no common language he managed to communicate with them. At one of his matches, whilst nearly all the aldults where watching the other table, he had the first rows entirely occupied by kids under 10. He had always time for them.
I’m also happy for Rory McLeod who is a lovely man and who had a hard time off the tour. His first match was important. Jack Lisowski was badly out of shape and was throwing his cue at everything, in an attempt to make something happen. He was missing all sorts and Rory took advantage. That match settled Rory and the defeat immediately put Jack under even more pressure.