This quite extraordinary season brought us yet another first time winner in Robert Milkins. This time it’s not a young Chinese talent, nor is it a player who has been “knocking on the door” for a long time … it’s a 46 years old, who, before this week, had only won three matches all season.
Congratulations Robert Milkins!
Here is the report by WST:
Milkins Rules The Rock With First Ranking Crown
Robert Milkins won the first ranking title of his 27-year career, beating Kyren Wilson 4-2 in the final of the BetVictor Gibraltar Open.
Gloucester’s 46-year-old Milkins turned pro back in 1995 and had previously appeared in six ranking event semi-finals but never a final – until today as he enjoys undoubtedly the best moment of his career. He becomes the oldest first-time winner of a ranking event since Doug Mountjoy at the 1988 UK Championship.
And his success is all the more remarkable given that he had won just three matches all season prior to this week. Seven victories on the bounce have given him by far his biggest pay-day of £50,000.
Milkins’ triumph also comes just three weeks after one of the lowest moments of his time in snooker: drunken escapades during the opening ceremony of the Nirvana Turkish Masters for which he faces WPBSA disciplinary action. That incident was perhaps the result of the pressure the father-of-three felt to turn his form around and provide money for his family. One of the sport’s more naturally talented players who is popular with his peers for his usually affable nature, Milkins can now look forward to a brighter future having fulfilled at least part of his potential.
Having joined a list of first-time winners this season – alongside David Gilbert, Zhao Xintong, Hossein Vafaei, Fan Zhengyi and Joe Perry – Milkins will earn a debut in the Cazoo Champion of Champions later this year and shoots up the world rankings from 43rd to 28th.
Other than Milkins, no one had more cause to celebrate the day’s results than John Higgins. The 46-year-old Scot banked the huge £150,000 bonus for topping the BetVictor Series rankings after the eight counting events. Higgins had a nervous wait for most of the day, but was sure of the bonus after Ricky Walden lost narrowly 4-3 to Wilson in the semi-finals. Read more on that story here.
Wilson could have leapfrogged Higgins in the race to qualify for the Cazoo Tour Championship by winning the final, but misses out on that eight-man event which starts on Monday in Llandudno. World number five Wilson reached his first ranking final of the season and earns £20,000 as runner-up, but the Kettering cueman will surely see this as an opportunity missed. He has now lost seven of his 11 career ranking finals.
Wilson looked on course to take the opening frame until he missed a tricky black to a top corner on a break of 59, letting Milkins in for an excellent 71 clearance. The second came down to a long safety battle on the yellow, and Wilson, trailing by 19 points, created a chance but then failed to clip the yellow into a baulk corner, and Milkins took advantage for 2-0.
Early in frame three, Wilson overcut a red to a centre pocket on 14, and once again his opponent punished him, making 62 which proved enough to put him three up with four to play. Milkins had a brief glimpse of the finish line in the fourth, but failed to convert a tricky red to a top corner, and Wilson’s 65 made it 3-1. Another chance came and went for Milkins in the fifth as he missed the pink to a centre pocket when he trailed 27-18, and eventually lost the frame after being trapped in a tough snooker on the last red.
Wilson had the chance to extend the fight-back in the sixth, until he missed a difficult pink to centre when he trailed 30-10. This time there was no mistake from Milkins as he kept his composure in a match-winning run of 44.
“It has been a long time coming,” said the player nicknamed the Milkman. “I have worked all my career for this, it’s a dream come true. It’s hard to keep practising and not getting the rewards, but a moment like this makes it all worth it. To be honest I didn’t think I’d ever see this day. Things haven’t been going well for me recently and I couldn’t see it coming.
“I have had times in my career where I have felt I had a chance to win tournaments, but recently I haven’t even seen myself winning a match. The standard is so good now, and next season I could have been struggling to stay on the tour. I’m glad this has happened now because I certainly haven’t got much time left! This has changed things for me. I love Gibraltar, it’s one of the best venues and a place to enjoy. Thank you to the fans because they have been great.
“I would like to dedicate this trophy to the people around me I have lost and who can’t see me here today – my mum and dad, and other people.”
Wilson said: “This is a special moment for Rob so congratulations to him. I wasn’t there at all, I lost my cueing in the final. If I had taken the first frame I might have settled and left Rob cold, but he made a really good clearance. After that it was very twitchy. I tried to make a fight of it from 3-0.”
Once again, there is inaccurate information in this post by WST: Joe Perry’s Welsh Open title was not his first as he had won the Players Championship Grand Final back in 2015.
One comment by Lewis suggests that he feels that Robert should not have been allowed to play in this event. Personally, I disagree. What happened was a one-off incident, it didn’t put the integrity of the sport in jeopardy. Robert didn’t look for any excuses: he knows he messed up, he admitted to it, he was genuinely sorry and, this week he did put everything he had to try to redeem himself. I write this confidentely because I have known Robert personally for many years and he’s just a “what you see is what you get” type of bloke and a nice guy. He will be punished and will take his punishement without a complain.
For all players but 8, this was the last event before the World Championship and what happened at the table was largely overshadowed by all the talks about the various possible implications of this otherwise rather “low-key” tournament.
The big loser this week is Ricky Walden and I really feel for him. He prepared well. Going into the semi-finals there was a lot at stake for him: reaching the final would have put him into the Tour Championship and in the top 16, with a direct seeding at the Crucible. That alone would have been worth a guaranteed 40000 pounds and 20000 points, and spared him the harrowing World qualifiers. Ricky knew it, it had been the main talking point all week, it got at him. It pained me to watch him sweating in his chair during the semi-final and I’m not sure how he found the courage to smile at Kyren Wilson whilst extending his hand at the end of the match … he walked away, looking terrible, with a paltry 6000 pounds, and the prospect of playing qualifiers at the EIS in a week’s time.
Another very disappointed player was Mark Allen, who found himself ex aequo with John Higgins in the race to the European Series bonus and was convinced that they would share it … instead John Higgins got it all, on countback.
BetVictor £150,000 Bonus Goes To Higgins
John Higgins won the £150,000 BetVictor Series bonus for topping the ranking list despite not hitting a ball in Gibraltar on Saturday.
Scotland’s Higgins lost in the last 32 at the BetVictor Gibraltar Open on Friday but none of the players chasing him were able to surpass his total, so the 46-year-old banks the massive bonus for the first time.
Surprisingly, Higgins has finished top of the list despite not winning any of the eight events in the 2021/22 BetVictor Series. He was runner-up at three of the four BetVictor Home Nations events and reached the last 32 of three other tournaments.
He finishes the series tied with Mark Allen with £101,000, but ahead of Allen on countback, having gone further at the BetVictor European Masters. Both players reached the same stage of the subsequent events in Wales and Gibraltar.
Ten players could have overtaken Higgins in Gibraltar and captured the bonus, but all of them fell by the wayside. Ricky Walden was the last man standing and would have taken the £150,000 by winning the title, but his semi-final defeat against Kyren Wilson was good news for Higgins’ bank balance.
Four-time World Champion Higgins becomes the first player to win the BetVictor Series bonus other than Judd Trump, who topped the list in 2020 and 2021.
John Higgins, 2021/22 BetVictor Series
BetVictor Northern Ireland Open: Runner-up
BetVictor English Open: Runner-up
BetVictor Scottish Open: Runner-up
BildBet German Masters: Last 128
BetVictor Shoot Out: Did not enter
BetVictor European Masters: Last 32
BetVictor Welsh Open: Last 32
BetVictor Gibraltar Open: last 32
I can understand the countback rule when it comes to ranking and seeding, but here I feel that they should have been sharing the money, especially in the light of the alleged “reward the winners” WST/Hearn philosphy as Allen, contrary to Higgins, has actually won one of those events.
So John Higgins is actually the big winner at the end of this week, not just because of the bonus but also because defeat for Kyren Wilson in the final kept him in the Tour Championship.
Yan Bingtao is also a winner, despite not entering the event because, eventually, he kept his top 16 seeding at the Crucible AND spared himself all the travel hassle that so many other Asian players had to face because bad weather landed them in Spain … and in visa issues.
Tomorrow the 2022 Tour Championship will start in Llandudno and on ITV.
Cazoo Tour Championship Schedule Confirmed
The match schedule for next week’s Cazoo Tour Championship is now confirmed, following the completion of the final counting event, the BetVictor Gibraltar Open.
The elite eight-man tournament runs from March 28 to April 3 at Venue Cymru in Llandudno.
Kyren Wilson could have earned a place in the field if he had beaten Robert Milkins in the final in Gibraltar, but defeat for Wilson meant that John Higgins held on to the eighth and last spot. So the line-up is (seeding in brackets):
Monday March 28
Zhao Xintong (1) v John Higgins (8)
Tuesday March 29
Neil Robertson (2) v Mark Allen (7)
Wednesday March 30
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) v Mark Williams (6)
Thursday March 31
Judd Trump (4) v Luca Brecel (5)
Friday April 1
Saturday April 2
Sunday April 3
All matches take place over two sessions and the best of 19 frames. Session times are 1pm and 7:30pm.
It’s the final event of the 2021/22 Cazoo Series, with only the top eight from the one-year ranking list in the line-up.
ITV provides a great coverage but is not available in many countries unless you “cheat”. It’s not on Eurosport. It is on Matchroom.live but the quality of the streaming there has been really terrible in some events this season with the footage resembling more to a psychedelic trip than anything else.
Whatever happens in the coming days, Ronnie will go at the Crucible as World Number One. Not bad at 46 years of age. Of course, at the end of the event, he will lose the 500000 points earned in 2020, and would need the title to keep that ranking, but hey!
6 thoughts on “Robert Milkins wins the 2022 Gibraltar Open”
2 SF, and is a super season…and i sense the 16th.
World number 1 it would be not too bad, but Ronnie Super-Seven O’Sullivan…Hmm, taste them only.
(and maybe break this record circa in 2088…by a chinese player with bio-robotic implant arm : ))
Actually I don’t have an opinion whether Rob Milkins got suspended or not. But the fact is, he may have been suspended for this event, and it’s awkward for WPBSA. They might just have to brush it under the (beautiful) carpet.
Anyway, we continue with this season full of surprises, but the two remaining events have longer matches, which makes the shocks less likely. The World Championship draw is now taking shape as well.
COVID-19 continues to leave lasting effects on the tour/schedule. When, if ever, will the Tour Championship return to the wonderful 3-session best-of-25 final the inaugural event had, instead of this best-of-19 format throughout? It should be Bo17 QFs, Bo19 SFs, and a Bo25 Final.
No one will probably remember this, but for the second Tour Championship in 2020, WST had actually planned to the extend the final to a best-of-27, first to 14 frames! But of course, COVID-19 struck, events postponed and formats changed…forever?
I remember. Unfortunately the trend is clearly to shorten the formats and covid I’m afraid is only an excuse now.
I’m generally keen on having a variety of formats. But actually I think the Tour Championship is too close the the World Championship to have 3-session matches. It might tire us out too soon.
The real problem is the WC qualifiers as best-of-11, and the splitting of the Home Nations events. That’s where the special situation of covid has been allowed to become permanent, and we’ve only found out by looking at footnotes in the ticket booking pages.
Well for the first Tour Championship in 2019, it ended in March, and they still had the China Open after it in early April, before the World Championship. So a 3-session final event wasn’t right before the WC.
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