2022 Q-School Event 2 – Returning players prevail

Congratulations to Aaron Hill, Zak Surety, Sanderson Lam and Adam Duffy who have regained their tour card this afternoon.

Here is the report by WST:

Hill, Surety, Lam and Duffy Earn Tour cards

Aaron Hill, Zak Surety, Sanderson Lam and Adam Duffy came through Q School Event Two in Sheffield to earn two-year tour cards for the World Snooker Tour.

All four players now have the right to compete on the pro circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.

Ireland’s Hill bounces right back to snooker’s top table after suffering relegation at the conclusion of the recent World Championship. The 20-year-old originally earned his place on the tour after winning both the Under-18 and Under-21 titles at the 2020 European Championship. He went on to show flashes of his potential, including a sensational 5-4 win over Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2020 European Masters, but ultimately fell short of retaining his tour card.

Hill came through today’s final round with a 4-1 defeat of China’s Zhao Jianbo, top scoring with a break of 110.

Hill said: “I can’t describe my emotions. I would have stayed there all day to get over the line. I wasn’t in the best of shape during the World Championship, so to be sitting here with my tour card back is probably the biggest achievement of my life so far. It means the world to my family and all of my close friends. It is an unbelievable feeling to be back.

You can’t buy the experience I’ve gained over the last two years. I won nearly all of the little battles on the colours this week. I probably wouldn’t have won those two years ago. It is all the crafty shots I’ve picked up, I’ve learned a lot from Ken Doherty himself. I started working with PJ Nolan, as my coach after the World Championship. He showed me a few things with my technique and that helped me under pressure. Fergal O’Brien also sent me a lovely message after he got through last week. I was down at the time and that gave me a little boost. I’ve been in contact with him all of this week and the advice he has given me to deal with other situations has been unbelievable.

Zak Surety also retained his spot on the circuit with a 4-2 win over Belgian teenager Ben Mertens. Surety was a graduate of Q School in 2020, but didn’t manage to consolidate his place on the tour after two seasons. Today’s win gives him a fresh professional slate to work from.

I am feeling pure relief at the moment. That is horrible and I never want to do it again. I say that every time I play in this tournament, yet I’m here every two years,” said 30-year-old Surety.

It was tough and I cracked up a bit towards the end of last season. I withdrew from Turkey, didn’t go to Gibraltar and didn’t really want to play the worlds. I surrendered my card really. I wasn’t even going to enter this, but my mum and my brother convinced me to.”

Sanderson Lam sealed a return to the World Snooker Tour after three years as an amateur. He has been unsuccessful on his previous three Q School trips, but a nerve shredding 4-3 win over Steven Hallworth put all of that right.

Lam had led 3-1 today, but breaks of 92 and 77 from Hallworth forced a decider at 3-3. Lam dug deep to summon a gutsy contribution of 60 to get himself over the line and secure his new two-year card.

Lam said: “At 3-1 I don’t think I did that much wrong, but he started getting a bit of momentum and all of a sudden it was 3-3. He played very well and he was in first during the decider. He went in off and I made a good break somehow.

“I was so close last year and I thought that I’d been in this situation before. I’ve got through Q School before and I knew I could only do my best.

Sheffield’s Adam Duffy secured a dramatic 4-3 win over Daniel Wells to earn professional status for the first time since 2018. Duffy trailed 3-2 and was on the verge of defeat, when he potted pink and black to steal the sixth frame by a single point. He then dominated the decider to emerge with his 4-3 win.

I had about two days practising ahead of this. I work in brick laying and building, it has helped me in a way. It has taken the focus off this and coming back to it I’ve not really expected anything. I just wanted to enjoy it and that is what I’ve done,” said 33-year-old Duffy.

I want to dedicate myself for the next two years. Snooker, even when I was on the tour, didn’t feel like a job. Now I have to treat it like a job, give it my all for two years and if I get somewhere then great.

So far, eight players have come through this Q-School and all of them have been pros before, most of them recently. Even Sanderson Lam who is returning after three years has not been really away because he played quite often as a top-up.

It’s a worrying situation if “new” players can’t get through and it triggered this tweet by Joe Perry:

Joe Perry 2022 Q-School Evt 2 Tweet

In recent years, two places were allocated through the Q-School order of merit. It seems that it won’t be the case this time.

There will also be less opportunities for top-ups. Indeed Matt Huart was contacted by the snooker.org team about the situation with the order of merit and the top-ups and he observed that there will be 131 players on tour next season. In theory that even opens the possibility that we get preliminary matches. It’s unlikely, but it could happen.

In fact we have 128 “regular” players plus the three invitational tour  cards … Ken Doherty and Jimmy White will definitely enter everything. If Stephen Hendry doesn’t play in most event, I can’t see how WST could justify giving him another tour card in the future.

Also, it remains to be seen how the players coming through the Asian Q-School will fare and if they will actually be able to play a full schedule, for both logistic and financial reasons.

Coming back to Joe’s tweet, a strong Challenge  tour – or Q-Tour, or whatever name we gave to a secondary tour – needs to be developped, funded, streamed or broadcasted,  and properly promoted. Ideally it should be a professional tour and it should NOT be (almost) exclusively played in the UK. Q-school and other qualifying routes should give access to the secondary tour, with a one year tour card. I could see both tours featuring 80 players, with the top 16 of the secondary tour promoted to the main tour whilst the 16 lowest ranked main tour players would be demoted to the secondary tour. The “lower 16” of the secondary tour would be relegated, with no right to enter any qualifying route immdediately unless they were in their first three years as pros.

 

 

2022 Q-School Event 2 – Onto the last day

Only 8 remain and they will play just one session today. They are: Daniel Wells, Adam Duffy, Zak Surey, Ben Mertens, Zhao Jianbo, Aaron Hill, Steven Hallworth, Sanderson Lam. Of those eight, only Ben Mertens has never been a pro before. It is however a significantly younger lot than what Event 1 delivered. All of them are 33 or younger, with Aaron Hill being 20, Zhao Jianbo 18 and Ben Mertns 17.

Here is WST report on yesterday’s action:

Q School Event Two: The Final Round

Belgium’s Ben Mertens won a battle between two of snooker’s brightest prospects, beating Liam Davies 4-1 to reach the final round of Q School event two.

Welsh 15 year-old Davies stole a record from Mertens at Crucible qualifying last month, becoming the youngest ever winner of a match in the World Championship. Mertens was just two days older when he set the previous record at the 2020 World Championship. It was the Belgian who had the last laugh today.

Mertens, who is now 17 years old, top scored with 81 on his way to the win. He will now face Zak Surety for a two-year card on the World Snooker Tour. Surety defeated Rodney Goggins 4-3.

Ireland’s Aaron Hill whitewashed Kuldesh Johal 4-0 to set up a quarter-final clash with Zhao Jianbo, who was a 4-2 victor against Chris Totten. Chinese cueman Zhao was in fine form, hammering home breaks of 52, 88, 105 and 51 on his way to the win.

Former Scottish Open semi-finalist Daniel Wells edged past Ross Bulman 4-3 to earn his place in the final round. Wells now faces Sheffields Adam Duffy, who beat former Shoot Out winner Michael Georgiou 4-2.

Sanderson Lam scored a surprise 4-3 win over Kurt Maflin and he now plays Steven Hallworth for a spot on tour. Hallworth came through with a 4-1 defeat of Peter Devlin.

The winners of the four quarter-finals on Friday in Sheffield will each receive a two-year World Snooker Tour card, for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.

Friday’s quarter-final line up:

Daniel Wells vs Adam Duffy
Zak Surety vs Ben Mertens
Zhao Jianbo vs Aaron Hill
Steven Hallworth vs Sanderson Lam

As Jo explains in the commentary section, it’s hard for Kurt Maflin. The covid crisis has hit everyone in a way or another but, in general, non-UK/Irish players have suffered even more than their “colleagues”, either because they were away from their families in particularly stressing circumstances, or they returned home and missed on both practice and match play opportunities.

Event 3 will start already tomorrow, and there will be even more pressure for those playing in that one. This time, there is no saving grace. As far as we know, there will be no tour cards for those on top of the order of merit. It will however “count” when it comes to who gets “top-up” invitations.

 

 

2022 Q-School Event 2 – Round 3

The third round of the 2022 Q-School Event 2 was played yesterday.

This is the report by WST:

Cahill Reaches Round Four

James Cahill booked his place in the penultimate day of Q School event two with a 4-1 win over Martin O’Donnell in Sheffield.

Cahill is seeking a return to the World Snooker Tour, having dropped off the circuit at the conclusion of the 20/21 campaign. The Blackpool cueman is renowned for his ability to perform on the big occasion and became the first amateur to compete at the Crucible when he qualified for the 2019 World Championship. Cahill beat Ronnie O’Sullivan before bowing out in the last 16.

At times Cahill, who has also landed wins over the likes of Ding Junhui and Mark Selby at the UK Championship, has struggled to convert his big match prowess into performances against lesser opposition. He failed to come through Q School 12 months ago and lost his second match in event one this year.

After establishing a 2-1 lead this afternoon, Cahill crafted breaks of 78 and 61 to get himself over the line. He faces Ross Bulman up next.

Former Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou progressed with a 4-2 win over Daniel Womersley. He faces a tough tie against Andrew Higginson in round four. Higginson defeated Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko 4-1 this morning.

Michael Holt edged to a nervy 4-3 win over Sean Harvey, while Belgian teenager Ben Mertens scored a 4-0 victory against Alfie Davies.

Once again this report is only telling part of the story and ignoring the Asian and mainland European players involved in the tournment. Among those who progressed, we find Gao Yang, Zhao Jianbo, Wang Yuchen, Soheil Vahedi, Cheung Ka Wai, Lukas Kleckers and Kurt Maflin.

Iulian Boiko didn’t go through. He still has another event to go at of course. However, if he doesn’t qualify but still does well enough to be able to stay in the UK and play in most events without the ranking pressure, it could be a blessing in disguise. He was far too young when he turned pro, and still is only 16.

On the other hand, I’m quite sad for Sunny Akani. He looks under huge pressure and would probably not be in this position if it wasn’t for long covid hitting him very badly. He too has another event to go at, but the pressure will only increase.

2022 Q-School Event 2 – Taking stock of rounds 1 and 2

We are three days into Q-School event 2 and this time there weren’t many real surprises those early rounds. You will find all the results on snooker.org.

Here are the reports by WST:

Day 1 – 22 May 2022

Davies Into Second Round

Ace teenager Liam Davies boosted his goal of turning professional as he got off to a strong start at Q School event two in Sheffield with a 4-3 win over Alex Clenshaw.

In April, Welsh 15-year-old Davies became the youngest ever player to win matches in the qualifying rounds of the World Championship, showing his potential with victories over Fergal O’Brien and Aaron Hill. Today he scored an impressive win over Clenshaw, who was runner-up in the recent Q Tour Play-Off. Breaks of 65, 63 and 60 helped Davies set up a second round meeting with  Mark Lloyd.

Another talented 15-year-old, Stan Moody, saw off Dylan Smith 4-1 and now faces former Welsh Open finalist Andrew Higginson.

Jordan Shepherd scored the top break of the opening day, a 136 during a 4-1 defeat of Liam Pullen. Adam Duffy made a 113 in a 4-2 win over Danny Connolly while Daniel Wells saw off Hrithik Jain 4-2.

Both Liam Davies (who works with Sightright) and Stan Moody are very promising talents, but, in my opinion, they are too young to be on tour. If they do well enough to get invited as “top ups” in a few events next season, it would probably be the best scenario for them: getting some experience of the main tour without the pressure of the rankings.

Day 2 – 23 May 2022

O’Donnell Sets Up Cahill Clash

Martin O’Donnell edged out promising Chinese teenager Liu Hongyu 4-3 on the final black to book a third round meeting with James Cahill at Q School event two in Sheffield.

O’Donnell is a former UK Championship quarter-finalist, but a difficult last two seasons saw him drop off the circuit at the conclusion of the recent World Championship. He’s no stranger to Q School, having successfully negotiated the event three times since initially turning professional in 2012.

He faced stiff opposition today in the form of 18-year-old Liu, who is appearing in Q School for the first time. Liu showed his considerable potential in event one, making breaks of 134 and 137 en route to winning his first three matches.

It was Liu who made the better start this afternoon, moving one frame from victory at 3-1. However, O’Donnell dug in and clawed his way back into contention. A break of 70 in the sixth frame forced a decider, where O’Donnell eventually deposited the pink and the black to progress.

Cahill earned his place with a 4-2 win over Germany’s Umut Dikme. Blackpool’s Cahill, who became the only amateur ever to compete in the Crucible stages of the World Championship in 2019, is aiming to rejoin the tour after dropping off in 2021. Cahill avoided a deciding frame this afternoon courtesy of a 79 break in the sixth frame and he now faces O’Donnell on Wednesday.

Former Ruhr Open champion Rory McLeod earned his place in the third round with a 4-0 defeat of two-time ranking event finalist Dean Reynolds, while Scottish 17-year-old Liam Graham beat India’s Digvijay Kadian  4-1.

Day 3 – 24 May 2022

Holt Edges Through

Former Shoot Out winner Michael Holt held his nerve to come from 2-0 down and beat Manasawin Phetmalaikul 4-3 at Q School event two in Sheffield.

Holt is one of a number of high profile players to have lost their tour place at the conclusion of the 21/22 season. It came as a bitter pill to swallow for the Nottingham cueman, who had been on the circuit for 25 seasons since first turning professional back in 1996.

The Hitman only has two remaining opportunities to immediately regain his place on the World Snooker Tour, having lost his first match last week. The four semi-finalists over events two and three will earn fresh two-year tour cards.

It had looked as if 43-year-old Holt would fall by the wayside again here, when Phetmalaikul took the opening two frames. However, Holt dug deep and runs of 53, 72 and 64 saw him take three on the bounce to lead 3-2. A gutsy break of 77 from Phetmalaikul forced a decider, but Holt fired in 91 to progress. Next up he faces fellow Englishman Sean Harvey tomorrow.

Sunny Akani comfortably progressed thanks to a 4-0 whitewash win over Jamie Curtis-Barrett. Thailand’s Akani composed breaks of 87, 63 and 80 in the last three frames to wrap up the win. He now plays Scotland’s Chris Totten, who beat Alex Millington 4-2 earlier today.

Aaron Hill top scored with 116 in his 4-0 win over James Lee, while Gao Yang registered a 4-0 win over Simon Bevz.

Ashley Carty, Brian Ochoiski, Niel Vincent, Lee Walker were among those I excpected to reach the latter stages but didn’t.

We have some really interesting matches to look forward to today. These are my picks:

  • Martin O’Donnel v James Cahill
  • Andrew Higginson v Iulian Boiko
  • Daan Leyssen v Liam Davies
  • Chris Totten v Sunny Akani
  • Sidney Wilson v Gao Yang
  • Steven Hallworth v Harvey Chandler
  • Ross Muir v Lukas Kleckers

 

 

 

 

2022 Asia-Oceania Q-Schools – Draws, Format and Schedules

WST has now published extensive information regarding the two Asia-Oceania Q-Schools

Asia Oceania Q School Draw And Format

The draw and format for the inaugural Asia-Oceania Q School are now available.

Click here for the draw and format

Click here for the match schedule

Snooker’s first ever Asia-Oceania Q School, starting on June 1st,  gives new opportunities for the most talented players in those regions to graduate to the professional tour. Two tournaments will be staged, with the finalists from both to earn a two-year card to the World Snooker Tour. So in total four players will be awarded a place on the professional circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.

There are 70 players from 12 different countries in the field. Former professionals Dechawat Poomjaeng, Hamza Akbar, Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon, Thor Chuan Leong, Luo Honghao and Kritsanut Lertsattayathorn will be among those battling for tour cards.

As usual when events have been organised and held in Thailand, the information they share is well and clearly presented. Thanks for this!

Meanwhile, the second UK based Q-School is underway and I will look at the results tomorrow, after the second round is completed

Exhibitions – May 2022

Whilst so many players are fighting for their professional status, Ronnie has been touring with the World Trophy, doing exhibitions and meeting the fans in South England, Cornwall and Wales. In Wales he did 3 nights at Darren Morgan’s club and Darren shared a lot of pictures on Facebook.

Darren’s club is, as you would expect, a great place to play snooker and was looked packed on every of the three nights.

Here are the images… en vrac!

 

pictures shared on twitter (Jason Francis) and on Facebook (Darren Morgan)

Not much transpired about the ones in Bridgewater although it seems that, on one night Ronnie made 5 centuries.  In Wales, he was playing the locals and chasing 147’s and eventually … yes, he made one!

147 attempt at Darren’s club

 

 

 

 

2022 Q-School event 1 outcome – 3 grandads and a kid…

I’m just kidding … no disrespect to the players!

All four had to battle extremely hard to earn their new tour card. They deserve respect and huge congratulations. I hope that they will fully enjoy the next two seasons.

Here is the report by WST:

O’Brien, Lawler, Lee And Bai Earn Tour Cards

Rod Lawler, Fergal O’Brien, Andy Lee and Bai Langning came through Q School event one in Sheffield to earn two-year cards to the World Snooker Tour.

The quartet have earned the right to compete on the pro circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.

Former British Open champion O’Brien was relegated from the tour at the end of last season but the 50-year-old Irishman has bounced straight back. In the final round he beat Rory McLeod 4-1 in a battle between two players with a combined age of 101.

It’s a tough week,” said former Masters finalist O’Brien, who turned pro in 1991 and had never been relegated before last season. “If you don’t get through the first event here then the pressure is only going to build. I’m really proud of the way I battled for everything and kept a good attitude. A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t even sure whether I would play in Q School. If I was going to play then I was going to give it everything.

I don’t see myself playing more than two more years and I plan to play a limited schedule. Over the last couple of years I’ve been chasing points and haven’t always enjoyed it. That frees me up to choose the tournaments I want to play and take more breaks.

Rod LawlerLawler is another veteran with more than 30 years experience on the tour. The former International Open finalist, age 50, dropped off the circuit in 2021 but is now back for two more years. He let slip a 3-1 lead against Brandon Sargeant in the final round but then dominated the decider to win 4-3.

I’m really delighted to be back on tour,” said Liverpool’s Lawler. “I can’t give up the enjoyment of the battle, that’s what I have really missed over the past year. I’m coming towards the end of my career so I have to embrace the next two years and enjoy it.”

Hong Kong’s Lee last played on the pro tour in 2020 and now returns after a two-year absence. The 41-year-old scored a 4-2 win over Luke Simmonds, pulling away from 2-2 to take the last two frames with a top break of 57.

It’s disbelief, I’m shocked to have got through,” said Lee. “When Covid hit in 2020 I went back to Hong Kong and I couldn’t come back to the UK. So I haven’t been playing to any kind of elite level over the past two years. I have practised occasionally with Marco Fu which has really helped.

The last round of Q School is the worst match that any snooker player can be involved in. There is so much at stake, it’s all or nothing.”

China’s 20-year-old Bai was relegated at the end of the 2020/21 season, though he played in most ranking events last term as a top-up amateur. He now regains his tour card thanks to a narrow 4-3 victory over Sunny Akani. Thailand’s Akani led 2-0 and 3-2 and had chances for victory in each of the last two frames, but Bai won them both on the colours.

That said, objectively, it’s not great for the future of the sport that two laureates of this first 2022 Q-School Event are in their 50th, and a third one in his 40th.

Fergal doesn’t intend to play in everything. I can understand why given his age and where he stands in his career. That said, he’s a competitive animal and I’m not sure that he will actually take that many breaks!

I fully expect Rod Lawler to play as much as he can. Behind the slow going man – on and off the table – hides a determined and ferociously competitive animal.

Andy Lee’s win though may prove very significant for the future of snooker in Hong Kong. The following post was made by Wayne Griffiths on Facebook almost immediately after Andy’s victory:

HONG KONG BILLIARD SPORTS PUNCHES ABOVE ITS WEIGHT
Congratulations

to Hong Kong’s Andy Lee for once again securing his place on the WST main tour for the next two seasons. Hong Kong now has more professional players on the main tour (per capita) than any other Asian country.

This qualification through Q School is a huge boost for Hong Kong Billiard Sports as they are threatened with losing elite status from April, 2023. The players, in both snooker and pool, keep showing why they belong in the Elite Tier A level. Let’s hope that the Hong Kong Sports Commission can also see the ongoing potential in our sport in Hong Kong.
Well done Andy 💪🇭🇰

Being in Tier A level is extremely important when it comes to the funding of the sport.

The match between Sunny Akani and Bai Langning was torture for me.

I like Sunny who I have met personally on multiple occasions. Long covid has hit him hard and this is probably the reason why he is in this situation now, needing to qualify for the main tour again. I’m wishing him the best for the two remaining events.

I never met Bai but he impressed me when, having spent nearly the  whole 2020/21 season in China because of covid, he came back for the 2021 World Championship and reached the last 48 stage. He’s still only 20. He has a sound technique. He hasn’t got many good results on the main tour so far, but he certainly has the potential to do well. The tour needs more young players like him.