The 2023 World Snooker Championship Qualifiers – Day 10

That’s it… the 2023 World Snooker Championship qualifiers concluded yesterday evening and here is WST report on the last day:

Perry Edges Thriller To Relegate Davis

Joe Perry claimed a black ball decider against Mark Davis to win 10-9 and qualify for the Cazoo World Championship, ending his opponent and close friend’s 32 year run as a professional.

Davis needed to reach the final stages to retain his tour card and had looked set to do it, when he found himself on a match ball final pink. However, he agonisingly spurned his opportunity to the top left.

Perry stepped up and deposited pink and black to clinch a dramatic victory. After the final ball dropped, the Gentleman slumped his shoulders and looked visibly emotional at the table, with the mixed feelings provoked by what had just occurred.

Victory sees 2022 Welsh Open champion Perry earn a first trip to the final stages since 2019, having lost his first match in the previous three years. Davis will now require Q School if he wishes to regain his professional status.

Earlier in the tie, with Davis leading 7-6, Perry crucially took the 14th on the black to restore parity. He then also won the 15th on the final ball to move 8-7 ahead.

Runs of 104 and 75 saw Davis regain the lead at 9-8, before Perry crafted a contribution of 58 to take the tie to that nerve shredding final frame.

I should be absolutely delighted, over the moon and celebrating. I am chuffed to bits to go to the Crucible, but the way it has happened. I just feel so sick for him,” said 48-year-old Perry.

I came to the table (after Davis missed the pink) and I felt physically sick for him. It was a horrible feeling. He is one of my best friends and has been for a long time. I felt sick and I potted a great pink and black.

It never bothered me the whole match, that he was going to drop off the tour if I win. It didn’t enter my head once, until that clearance. It must have hit him like a ton of bricks, because it hit me. It doesn’t matter to me, it matters to him so it must have been awful.”

China’s Pang Junxu secured a Crucible debut after beating compatriot Xu Si 10-5. Pang reached his maiden ranking final at the recent WST Classic, where he was beaten by Mark Selby in the title match. The 23-year-old has carried that form over to this week.

He led 5-4 coming into the evening session and blitzed to the win. Breaks of 85, 86, 102 and 67 helped Pang to five of the six frames played and saw him secure victory.

Pang said: “Before the match, I told myself many times, ‘don’t think about winning, playing at the Crucible and all the stuff comes with it’, so I was able to focus throughout. It is incredible and I’m over the moon, but to be honest both of my opponents offered me with a lot of chances.”

David Grace started the week knowing he needed to win his first match to remain on the circuit. He achieved that by defeating Sean O’Sullivan and followed it up with a win over Sam Craigie. Today, he beat amateur Andrew Higginson 10-5 to reach the final stages of the World Championship.

If you’d offered me winning my first match I’d have taken it. Getting in the 64 and not being at Q School is everything,” said 37-year-old Grace.

It is really special to get to the Crucible. It is right up there with the best achievements of my career. I’ve had a couple of semi-finals and got to the Crucible last time. It is brilliant to be back there.

Iran’s Hossein Vafaei earned his second consecutive Crucible appearance with a 10-6 win over Welshman Jackson Page.

Vafaei came into this evening with a 6-3 advantage and managed his lead well to get over the line, crafting breaks of 84, 52 and 115 along the way.

I don’t care who I play at the Crucible. At the end of the day it is a game of snooker and I am going to play my game. It is my job to play snooker and try my best to perform. I will be respectful of all my opponents and everyone is tough. There is no easy draw for anyone,” said 2022 Shoot Out winner Vafaei.

It has been a hard journey for me. It is my life and I will take it. I am writing everything down, one day my story will come out and I think it will be good for snooker. I have some story to tell. Let’s see what I do at the Crucible. Hopefully my best comes out, like at the Masters. I can’t wait to play at the Crucible as well.”

World number 60 Elliot Slessor will appear at the Theatre of Dreams for a second time, after scoring an impressive 10-5 defeat of Zhou Yuelong.

The North East cueman made his Crucible debut in 2020, which unfortunately coincided with the coronavirus pandemic forcing proceedings behind closed doors. He was beaten 10-7 by Yan Bingtao on that occasion.

Slessor has recently started working with 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon as his coach in a bid to improve his temperament, which he admits isn’t his strongest attribute.

Slessor said: “I don’t think I’m ever going to be blessed with the best temperament. That is just not my personality and not the way I go about life. I’m trying to reign it in as best as I can. I know I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be, but I am trying. That is all I can do.”

Former European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson booked his place in the final stages thanks to a comprehensive 10-2 defeat of Anthony Hamilton.

World number 27 Robertson will be hoping to fare better than he has in his four trips to the Theatre of Dreams.  He is yet to win a game in the final stages and last made a Crucible appearance back in 2018.

Former Crucible semi-finalist David Gilbert beat two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens 10-7 to qualify. The other game saw Ryan Day receive a 10-0 win over Scott Donaldson, who had to withdraw at 4-0 down due to medical reasons.

What happened to Scott Donaldson is horrible of course and Ryan Day must have very mixed feelings about his Crucible qualification. That tremor is one of the known side effects of the covid vaccine and it goes away after a while. It had disappeared in Scott’s case and the fact that it came back at such a crucial moment hints at a strong psychosomatic component in it. Never mind the reasons, I’m deeply sorry for Scott.

Mark Davis was one ball away from qualifying for the Crucible and extending his 32 professional career. He has been a solid professional for 32 years, he has dedicated his life to snooker. I totally get why Joe Perry found it so hard to pot those two balls and, potentially, end his good friend’s career. To be honest I felt gutted as well. Immediately, there were voices on social media calling for Mark to be given a wildcard. Of course, he shouldn’t get one. That would be a very pernicious route for WST to take. But what IS needed, for the sake of those men (and women) who have dedicated their lives to snooker and hugely contributed to the tour, mainly away from the spotlights, is a proper, promoted and funded Seniors tour. They deserve it.

The draw will be made this morning on BBC radio5. This will probably not be available to the majority of fans outside the UK/Ireland and that’s further evidence that the “World” tour remains actually very UK-centric.

This HAS to change, and quick, if they have serious ambitions to develop the game worldwide. But do they?

There was this announcement in the press yesterday:

Matchroom Pool unveils World Nineball Tour as Barry Hearn aims to replicate darts breakaway success

Phil Haigh Wednesday 12 Apr 2023 3:21 pm

Mosconi Cup
Matchroom already have plenty of experience in pool and have ambitious plans for the future (Picture: Matchroom)

Matchroom Pool has created the World Nineball Tour, which Barry Hearn hopes will become the dominant force in the sport and replicate the success of the Professional Darts Corporation in marching to the forefront of the chosen sport.

There will be at least 40 ranking events played across the world, with a minimum prize fund of $3m and guaranteed 1,000 hours of live television.

The progression of pool as a major sport has been hampered by a range of organisations running the game and Matchroom hope that this venture will blow much of the competition out of the water and centralise the interest thanks to the financial backing and a new era of professionalism.

The size and scope of nineball pool is vast and the Matchroom team, which has a lot of experience in the sport, are primed to capitalise on it.

‘We know there are more nineball pool players in the world than snooker, and yet nine-ball pool is a fraction of the size,’ President of Matchroom Hearn told

Someone like me sees that and thinks it doesn’t work. There’s 32 million once-a-month players in the United States alone. So we dwarf any other cue sport. But that’s just the number, how do you commercialise that?

It comes through television, streaming, sponsorship, betting right, IP values, endorsements. It’s a complicated business, which is why there are only a few companies in the world that do what we do.

Sport must change people’s lives for it to be successful. This is the beginning of changing the biggest cue sport in the world and the lives of the people that play it. Where it is going to go I have no idea, but I know it will be a humungous success, as always.

As sports promoters, we’re not saying we’re the best in the world but we know we’re in a group of one. By getting it out there, concentrating on data, establishing links with governments rather than local associations who have failed miserably to expand the game. It’s gone nowhere, it’s not being cruel, it’s a fact. There’s not half a dozen players making a living out of it unless they’re playing money matches in seedy pool halls and that’s not the image that’s required today. We need to refresh it.

Our track record, without being immodest, is second to none. I don’t see us being beat on this because I think it’s got our handwriting all over it.’

Barry Hearn
Barry Hearn has not lost any of his confidence or enthusiasm at 74 years old (Picture: Matchroom Multi Sport)

The new venture will certainly ruffle some feathers in the pool organisations that have been doing their thing for many years, but Hearn likens it to the emergence of the PDC and the huge growth in darts as they left the BDO behind.

‘The journey we’re going on now, it’s going to be a lot quicker than the darts, but it’s got the same handwriting on it,’ he said. ‘It’s similar to the PDC breakaway. 

‘Common sense says it should have happened years ago, but no one grasped the opportunity. With the darts it was the BDO and PDC until we shredded everything and made the PDC the dominant force. Well, our nineball circuit will be the dominant force of pool globally within two or three years, simply because it makes commercial sense.’

Emily Frazer, Managing Director of Matchroom Multi Sport, is a driving force behind the expansion of pool in the company and she says she has felt a responsibility to create better opportunities for players.

Our team is mulit-sport and we were only doing there events a year but we’ve all fallen in love with the sport and the players,’ she said. 

We’ve all seen how hard the players work, how far they travel for such a small amount of money. We feel we have a responsibility to the players to create this tour for them.’

Emily Frazer
Emily Frazer is aiming big in the pool world (Picture: Matchroom)

As for Hearn’s motivation, he is semi-retired after stepping down as Matchroom Sport chairman in 2021, but he is not a fan of relaxation and has been looking for a new project, which has presented itself in nineball pool.

For me it’s personal,’ he said. ‘Everyone’s trying to get me to retire, but I’m not sure I’m ready to. But if I don’t have a project I might as well

Emily’s got an amazing enthusiasm and work ethic, she’s too young to be my daughter, but she’s got some Hearn genes in her somewhere. We play to win.

We’re going to create this huge global circuit, we’ve got amazing support from broadcasters because they know our reputation, we’ve got amazing support from players because they’re suddenly going to make some decent money and have the chance to call themselves a real profession.’

World Nineball No.1 Francisco Sanchez Ruiz certainly agrees, saying: ‘The World Nineball Tour gives us all more motivation to succeed. Nineball is the future with the rankings, previously we only had three tournaments now we have so many. Now you can be a professional by playing this game, it’s perfect. The World Nineball Tour means you can qualify for the biggest events and that includes the Mosconi Cup.’

The full World Nineball Tour schedule is available here.

People can bury their heads in the sand all they like, all the signs are there that Matchroom main focus, when it comes to cue sports in now on pool, and if anything, Barry Hearn’s personal involvement is definite proof of it.

Matchroom is the majority shareholder in snooker. If their priority goes elsewhere, especially if it shifts towards another cue sport. it’s definitely very worrying news for the future of the sport we love.

6 thoughts on “The 2023 World Snooker Championship Qualifiers – Day 10

  1. Monique – thank you as ever for your excellent coverage.

    1. Scott’s tremor returning under strain does *not* make it psychosomatic. It means that when he is under physical (and mental) strain, his body can’t contain the tremor. People with chronic illness often find that their symptoms flare up when their body is otherwise weakened or under strain.

    2. Barry Hearn is temperamentally far more suited to promoting pool than snooker. Pool also seems to fit the Matchroom ethos better. Looking back, have Matchroom’s decisions in the last 5 years been for the long-term good of snooker?

    3. Given Ronnie’s injury – maybe he might be cueing left-handed more often? That might give him a bit of a breather. We might also see him playing an excessively open game, to limit frame time.

    Take care. Hope the tournament itself goes well for you.

    • 1. By psychosomatic I was meaning that it is influenced by his psychological state, and stress is part of that, so yes fundamentally we agree. 3. What will happen is hard to predict. My fear is that the injury flares at one point because of the intensity of this event. And thank you for your good wishes.

      • Thanks, Monique. I was a bit sensitive to the use of the word “psychosomatic”, because it is often used to imply that a person’s problems are “in their head”. Scott Donaldson’s illness is as physical as a broken leg or heart failure.

        It’s hard for me to see Ronnie sustaining intensity over the 2 weeks, given his injury, unless he tries unorthodox tactics or techniques… which might be quite entertaining!

  2. Davis-Perry was dramatic and sad and I understand the calls for a wildcard, because one’s original reaction is that one ball cannot determine a career, bur then of course it was not one ball in the end but pretty much two seasons leading to the relegation. I’m not opposed to a certain number of wildcards, but now that Jimmy White might have retained his thanks to the one.year list, I would like to see Marco Fu offered one, to see if he stands a fighting chance to get himself back on the Tour.

    I know, Monique, you are a big fan of the Seniors, but I’m not surprised if it is not every relegated player’s cup of tea.

  3. As expected, yesterday’s matches weren’t as close, or as dramatic. The exception was of course the Perry-Davis finish.

    We even had some quotes from Pang Junxu! I’ve spent 3 years complaining about marginalisation of Chinese players, who weren’t interviewed at all in the Judgement Days (the other 12 players were of course). I doubt whether I had any influence, but maybe they are trying to make a token effort. Unfortunately the report is incorrect: the match was 4-4 at the interval, and the 9th frame was important. Pang was a bit lucky at times, including a ridiculous fluke from with he made a 102 break.

    I actually spoke to Scott Donaldson after his win over Yuan Sijun, and he seemed OK, if a bit tired. It was after midnight and was the last match to finish on Monday night. He would have been playing or waiting at the venue for 15 hours, from which he might have had a reaction. I’m hearing a lot of conflicting rumours about the seriousness of his condition, which is a bit worrying, and there are also people who have an agenda to do with covid and vaccines…

    The average age of the seeds is 40, and (despite the 4 young Chinese debutants) the average age of the qualifiers is 32, which makes it once again the oldest World Championship since the early 1980’s. However, it could have been a lot older – in almost all of the Judgement Day matches the younger player won.

    • Of course people have an agenda. Reactions to vaccines are not rare even for the oldest and best tested ones. I had a bad reaction to the anti-tetanos one … just once in many occurrences. Why? no clue. It can be anything: tiredness, stress. As someone who has lost a young friend to covid, and seen another one handicapped for life (one lung totally destroyed), both professional sportsmen, both unvaccinated … I’m certainly no antivax!

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