I must admit that yesterday was a sad day for me. So many players I got to know and like lost their professional status and it’s not over yet…
Vital Win For Stevens
Former Masters and UK Champion Matthew Stevens significantly boosted his position in the race to stay on the tour thanks to a 6-1 thrashing of Gerard Greene in the second qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship.
Stevens has been ever present on the circuit since 1994 but came into the qualifiers in Sheffield in danger of relegation. Today’s result helps his cause and the Welshman’s performance was encouraging as he made breaks of 56, 60, 51, 59 and 94 in a comfortable victory, setting up a tie against Sam Craigie.
Elliot Slessor’s 6-0 thrashing of Ian Burns was also crucial to his tour survival hopes and it was one of the performances of the day as he knocked in breaks of 50, 71, 60, 135 and 57. “I knew what I needed to do today,” said Slessor, who now meets Anthony Hamilton. “It has been a terrible few months for me but I have got my head down and worked really hard for this. If I can guarantee my ranking and stay in the top 64 then I am a very dangerous player, because I’ll feel like I have nothing to lose, and I have been to the Crucible before.”
Oliver Lines eased to a 6-1 win over Peter Devlin while Chris Wakelin top scored with 121 in a 6-2 success over Jamie Wilson.
Iulian Boiko saw his hopes of becoming the first Ukrainian to play at the Crucible end as he lost 6-4 to David Grace. Boiko made a 108 to level at 4-4, but Grace won a scrappy ninth frame then clinched victory in the tenth with an excellent long pot on the final black.
Amateur Daniel Wells came from 2-0 down to beat Andrew Higginson 6-4 with a top break of 103, which means former Welsh Open finalist Higginson will have to go to Q School to keep his tour card.
James Cahill, who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2019, came from 5-3 down to beat Mark Davis 6-5, compiling runs of 73, 62 and 62 in the last three frames.
Amongst those who lost their tour card yesterday is Nigel Bond who was the only remaining professional who started his career in the 80th and stayed on the tour for 33 years without interruption and without the help of a wilcard. Following yesterday’s defeat Nigel announced his retirement.
Nigel Bond Announces Retirement
Nigel Bond, one of snooker’s most dedicated professionals for more than three decades, has announced his retirement from the top level of the sport.
Former British Open champion and Crucible finalist Bond lost 6-1 to Lukas Kleckers in the Betfred World Championship on Thursday evening. That result meant he was relegated from the World Snooker Tour and he has decided not to try to retain his pro status via Q School.
That brings to an end an outstanding record for Chesterfield’s Bond as he was the only player to have turned pro in the 1980s and kept his place on the tour until now, without needing a wild card.
He said: “Last night was not quite the ending I was hoping for, losing in the World Championship qualifiers. I would like to wish Lukas the best of luck in the next round. Even though I know this time has been coming, today still feels a bit of a shock! At 56, my time as a main tour professional is at an end and I have no intention of playing Q School.
“After 33 years of being a professional player, today is a sad day as snooker has been my life. The last few years have been increasingly difficult when you don’t perform to the standard required. I feel very grateful to have been able to make a career out of my passion. I have had the privilege of traveling the world and meeting the most amazing people. I would like to thank you all for your support and generosity and continuing friendship.
“On a more positive note I’m not putting away my cue any time soon. I will be competing in the World Seniors Championship next month at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I will continue with my coaching both privately and my involvement with the WPBSA Coaching courses, hoping to impart my knowledge and passion to others who share the love of the game. My role as a WPBSA Players Board director will continue for another three years.
“Once again I’d like to thank you all and for snooker for giving me a life I could only have dreamed of when I first picked up a cue!”
Bond turned pro in 1989 and reached the final of the Grand Prix the following year.
In 1995 the player nicknamed 00-147 reached the final of the World Championship, beating Stephen Lee, Alan McManus, Gary Wilkinson and Andy Hicks at the Crucible before losing 18-9 to Stephen Hendry.
A year later he won his only ranking title at the British Open in Plymouth, beating John Higgins 9-8 by taking a dramatic deciding frame in which he was 69-0 down. He was also a semi-finalist at the Crucible and climbed to number five in the world.
Bond won the Scottish Masters in 1997, the inaugural Shoot Out in 2011 and the World Seniors title in 2012.
As recently as 2019 he proved he can still compete with the best as he knocked Judd Trump out of the UK Championship and reached the quarter-finals at the age of 54, narrowly missing out on the semis after a 6-5 defeat to Mark Allen.
WST congratulate Nigel on a fantastic career as a player and a fine ambassador for the sport. We wish him many happy years of coaching and passing on his experience to others.
I’m wishing Nigel the very best in whatever he wishes to do in the future.
Fergal O’Brien, Ken Doherty and Andrew Higginson are three other long-standing professionals who face relegation. Andrew losing his tour card was a shock to many who expressed sympathy and sorrow at seeing him possibly end his career. Andrew is a lovely man and I hope he can take some solace and courage in reading all those messages. Fergal absolutely loves his snooker and already plays on the Seniors Tour. The same is true for Ken Doherty.
Ashley Carty who qualified for the Crucible only two years ago is also losing his tour card. That’s how brutal the current system is.
Iulian Boïko also dropped off the tour. He put up a trememdous fight against David Grace. He played really well over the last weeks. He was far too young coming on the tour, especially as an expat. He needed more time to develop and adapt, but if he can keep the level he showed recently he has every chance in the Q-school.
As for Matthew Stevens he played the way we all know he can but we have rarely seen in recent years for a whatever reason.