Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden emerged from Group D yesterday. Barry always seems to come to live at this time of the season and save his for the Crucible. Personally, I’m happy to see Ricky Walden playing well again. He’s still far from his best, but at least he’s able to compete. He’s very good to watch when on form. He’s also a lovely guy … but you better leave him alone when he’s just lost. To say that he hates losing is an understatement!
Resurgent Hawkins Tops Group
Hawkins edged top spot by beating runner-up Ricky Walden 2-1 in the final round of matches and both players go through to the second phase in Milton Keynes.
Both players won their first five matches in the group, which meant that qualification was sewn up with two rounds of matches still to be played. Hawkins then lost to Jimmy Robertson, before beating Walden with breaks of 81 and 90 to top the group.
In recent weeks, world number 14 Hawkins has reached the semi-finals of both the BetVictor German Masters and the Cazoo Players Championship. Those results have put him on track to qualify for the Cazoo Tour Championship later this month and today’s performance further strengthens his position in eighth place on the one-year ranking list – though he can still be overtaken by Zhou Yuelong.
“I have been practising hard, and winning matches builds confidence,” said three-time ranking event winner Hawkins. “And lockdown helped because it stopped me going to the pub!
“The Tour Championship would be a brilliant tournament to be involved in, especially as I have never been close to getting into it before. It’s a chance to compete against the top players.
“I have managed to guarantee my place at the Crucible as well so I can look forward to that. I hope there will be crowds there because it’s a much better place to play with fans.”
In the last match of the day to finish, Paul Davison missed the pink on 134 when set for what would have been the first 147 of his career. Remarkably it was the second day in a row that a 49-year-old had missed the pink when two balls away from becoming the oldest player ever to make an official maximum, as Fergal O’Brien did exactly the same on Thursday. Davison won the match against Gerard Greene 2-1, but that was little consolation as he still finished bottom of the group.
It would have been nice for “Snowy” to finish a rather miserable day on a high but it wasn’t to be.