And so the new season started yesterday with a rather low key event … and two rather “low key” groups.
Robert Milkins and Aaron Hill opened the 2022/23 season with respective group wins to move forward into Winners’ Week at the 2022 BetVictor Championship League.
Milkins, who emotionally claimed his maiden ranking crown at the BetVictor Gibraltar Open last season, started this campaign strongly. The Milkman made 78 in the opening frame against Sanderson Lam before clinching a 3-0 win. Former Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks provided the sternest opposition to Milkins and scored wins of his own against Allan Taylor and Lam to sit top of the group at the break.
When play resumed, Taylor needed to beat Milkins if he was to progress but he succumbed to a 3-1 defeat. That set up a showdown between Milkins and Hicks in the final match to settle the Group 24 winner.
Milkins and Hicks met in the final match of the day in Group 24 to settle things a the top end of the table.The tie ended as a 2-2 draw and it was enough for Milkins to progress on frame difference.
Milkins said: “I played alright today. I played well in patches. I thought I played solid in the first two matches. Overall, I am quite pleased. I have nothing to lose now. I just keep going. Even today, I felt like the weight was off my shoulders.”
Hill is freshly back on tour through Q School and he made a century run of 101 in his opening match 3-0 win over Craig Steadman. Former English Amateur champion Ben Hancorn had to settle for draws against David Grace and Steadman to leave the group open going into the evening session, but it was advantage to Hill.
Into the evening session and Hill looked to be on course for Winners’ Week with a match to spare after establishing a 2-0 lead over David Grace. The Yorkshireman hit back in the following two frames to earn a 2-2 draw and leave Hill sweating.
A 2-2 draw between Hill and Hancorn took it down to the final tie. The permutations for Grace were clear in his final match with Steadman. A 3-0 win and a high break beating Hill’s 101 was required to take him through. Grace took the opener, but Steadman poured the cold water on his hopes by drawing level. Grace went on to win 3-1 but it was to no avail..
BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Event continues tomorrow with Zhao Xintong in action on Table 1 in Group 4 live on FreeSports and Matchroom.Live in the UK and networks worldwide with Hammad Miah, Adam Duffy, and Michael Holt whilst Noppon Saengkham, Ashley Hugill, Anthony Hamilton and Steven Hallworth live on the Matchroom Multi Sport YouTube for free. See where to watch here.
And here is the (above linked to ) table
It wasn’t the most enthralling day of snooker and I had a bit of a discussion about that with Gary Moss on twitter. Gary said that this wasn’t the actual start of the season, rather a pre-season event. I disagreed, arguing that this was actually a good event to start the season, allowing the newcomers to settle and getting familiar with pro conditions: three matches guaranteed, a streamed table but no crowd. It’s not the first time Gary and I disagree and he felt hurt. It wasn’t my intention at all, I’m sorry he felt this way and want to apologise for making him feeling uneasy. I’m quite an upfront person and working for 35 years in IT system development hasn’t made me any “softer”: it is/was a very strongly male dominated cut-throat environment, especially when I started in the mid 70th.
Anyway, Gary and I continued our discussion by messaging and what we came to realise is that we were just looking at it from two completely different standpoints, with different “goals” in mind.
As those who read this blog regularly will know, I feel that the current “system” is far too brutal and doesn’t offer a good path for development to young players and main tour rookies. The situation is made even worse by the fact that the “gap” between the “professional level” and the “top amateur level” is widening with every passing season (*). Therefore, I was welcoming this “soft start” of the season.
Gary had something else in mind: he feels that the first event of the season should be a “flagship” event, something prestigious, driving media attention to our sport. I do see his point. With that in mind, this event isn’t filling the bill indeed, and the timing is possibly as bad as it can be… clashing with the Wimbledon Championships 🙄
Back to yesterday’s results … Robert Milkins topping his group was to be expected.
The other group looked more open. Aaron Hill played the best snooker all day and deservedly topped it. I think we will see a very different Aaron this term and the next. He fell off the tour and immediately regained his tour card via the Q-School. It was a very tough experience and Aaron rated this achievement above beating Ronnie on his debut.
“To be sitting here after getting through Q School is a much bigger achievement than beating Ronnie,”
“There was much more pressure out there and I think it is probably the biggest achievement of my life. I was thrown in at the deep end on the tour and didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was. But I have got a second chance and I am determined to make the most of it.”
The quote I put in bold is exactly the expression of the biggest problem in snooker nowadays. Young amateurs arrive on tour totally unprepared for what awaits them. Some like Aaron survive it and get stronger. Others are completely destroyed by the experience and might never recover. I do have a few names in mind but will refrain to name anyone as they might feel singled out and hurt. And of course, it’s even harder for players coming from outside UK/Ireland, having to cope with a diffrent culture, a different language, possibly administrative “hassle”, away from family and friends.