Hossein Vafaei became the first Iranian player to win a ranking title by beating Mark Williams in the final of the BetVictor Shoot Out in Leicester.
Williams played just one shot in the final, the break-off, as world number Vafaei 42 converted an excellent pot on a long red and went on to make a superb break of 71. He then missed a tricky red but, with only 67 points on the table, Williams had already taken off his shirt and offered the handshake.
A decade ago, Vafaei became the first Iranian player to compete on the main tour, and he has now broken new ground by capturing a professional title. Iran becomes the 14th country to produce a ranking event winner. Vafaei, nicknamed the Prince of Persia, hopes his success will inspire a new generation of snooker fans in his homeland.
The 27-year-old had previous reached the semi-finals of three ranking events, losing to Williams on two of those occasions, but this time he could not be stopped. Undoubtedly he played the best snooker of this unique event, in which all matches are contested in a single frame. He made the highest break of the tournament, a 123, as well as three other breaks over 50, including a crucial 54 in the semi-finals as he came from 48-0 down to beat Liang Wenbo.
The £50,000 winner’s cheque plus the £5,000 high break prize gives him the biggest pay-day of his career so far. He also now looks set to qualify for next month’s Cazoo Players Championship and potentially the Cazoo Champion of Champions later in the year. Vafaei jumps 19 places to 23rd in the world rankings.
World number eight Williams missed out on a milestone 25th ranking title and the chance to become the first player ranked inside the top 16 to win the Shoot Out in its 11-year history. Victory would have also made the 46-year-old the second oldest winner of a ranking event, after fellow Welshman Ray Reardon. Williams was rarely in danger of losing throughout the four-day event until the final, where he could do little against an inspired opponent.
Vafaei, who is based in Darlington during the season, said: “It’s such a big achievement for me, it’s a dream come true. All of the young players in Iran will see what is possible. I have worked hard for this. Everyone around me knows how hard I work for tournaments. I had beaten some good players this season and that gave me belief that I can do something in this game. Who knows how far I can go now.
“When I arrived at this event I nearly pulled out because my grandmother passed away. I was in my room crying for one hour for my grandma. My mother and everyone in my family were crying. I decided to play but I didn’t care about winning or losing. An energy came to me, I don’t know how to explain it, and I played fantastic. It was very sad news for me but everyone told me to win it for my grandma, I wanted to do that and I have done it.
“I can’t imagine what the reaction back in Iran will be like, it will be very big. People will be proud of me and I am so happy about that. The future of snooker in Iran is very good and I am trying my best to make it bigger there. The first step is the hardest and I have won my first title now so maybe I can win more.”
Earlier in the semi-finals, Williams saw off Robbie Williams, who reached the last four of a ranking event for the second time in his career. China’s Liang might have knocked out Vafaei had he not miscued on the black when he led 48-0. Vafaei compiled a break of 54 which proved enough.
So this concluded this seasonedition of the Shoot-out. I must confess that I rather enjoyed it this time for a number of reasons.
I already mentioned this, but, although the crowd was loud, I didn’t see any of the nasty behaviours that marred some previous editions. I was at the first ever shoot-out, as a photographer, and it was good fun. In the following couple of years it wasn’t aymore because of the behaviour of some drunk fans. They were a minority but they still spoiled if for eveyone else, including many of the playerswho had come with their kids. Female referees were abused, and female photographers were showered in beer and got broken glass thrown at them. World snooker security stepped in of course but that was not fun. This year I didn’t see anything like that. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
I enjoyed watching some of the young amateurs and lower ranked players. We usually don’t see them unless they play a top guy on television and, more often than not, don’t show much because of the pressure and the unfamiliar conditions. Some of them impressed me this week.
I liked it that Hossein won the event, playing “properly” from start to finish and it amused me when he seized the trophy without waiting for the presentation party! 😂 It meant so much to him! It’s all so much harder for the non British/Irish players because of the UK centric structure of the tour.
I’m still not convinced that this should be ranking because, basically, it’s not snooker, but considering that even with ￡50000 for the winner a lot of the top players gave it a miss, it’s probably the only way it can be made sustainable.
The first round of this season’s Shoot-Out was played over two days, concluding yesterday evening.
Overall the crowd behaved better than in some recent editions. There was no big problem with referreing either. The only incident I’m aware of happened in a match refereed by Andy Yates: the player at the table was clearly aiming at the blue, but somehow Andy thought that he had nominated green. Andy annouced green, but the player didn’t hear him and played the blue, prompting Andy to call a foul and leaving the “offending” player totally bemused. The situation was “solved” to everyone’s satisfaction after a discussion between Andy and both players cleared the misunderstanding, and the clock was “reset”.
The defending champion, Ryan Day, was beaten by Jak Jones in the first match of the event.
Ding withdrew at the very last minute… his name was still in the draw when the session he was due to play in started. about 45 minutes before his match, news was posted on weibo that he has a fever and was now in quarantine. Speedy recovery Ding!
I’m not a fan of the event, even less so since it’s a ranking one, but I enjoyed watching some of the young players in action, notably Stan Moody, Ros Bulman and Paul Deaville. Stan who is 15 years old (but looks like 12) played a very good, very mature frame to beat Lu Ning. He certainly gained a lot of fans.
There was only one blue ball shoot-out: Yan Sijun had managed to equalize the score at 16-16 in the very last couple of seconds of a match that Tom Ford had dominated, but held his nerves to claim victory by 21-26. His celebration was endearing.
I liked Alan McManus commentary, essentially debunking the idea that this event is “fast and furious”. He highlighted that, in this format, negative tactics are often paying off and prove more efficient than sheer attack.
Some players embrace the event, like Mitchell Mann who played to the crowd and was all smiles, whilst others don’t like Hossein Vafaei who was dead serious and all business.
There was a heartbreak for Jimmy White, not so much because he lost, but the manner of it. He looked very nervous and had a clear opportunity to score at one point but missed a red by such a margin that it was unsettling: he didn’t appear to have a kick or anything, but missed the pocket by 30-40 cm…
Finally, it’s probably just me and not “all around the world” … but … that MC … 🙄
Yan Bingtao won Group 6 of the 2022 BetVictor Championship League Snooker Invitational, beating Martin Gould 3-1 in the group final at the Morningside Arena, Leicester live on FreeSports in the UK and networks worldwide.
Yan started the day on top having won three of his four matches on day one to all but secure a play-off spot. The world number 15 continued that form, beating Kyren Wilson in his penultimate group match 3-0 with breaks of 110, 114, and 75 before a similar whitewash over Gould to complete the group section with five wins from six.
Gould ensured his progression with wins over Jordan Brown and Ali Carter. In the semi-finals, Gould then came from 1-0 down to beat Ding Junhui 3-2. In the other semi, Yan scored a 3-0 success over reigning champion Wilson.
It was Yan who got off the mark the quickest in the final with a break of 94 in the first frame and 65 to pinch the second. Gould did take the third frame, but Yan proved too strong overall and sealed it with a run of 63 in the last frame.
Yan said: “I feel very good. It is difficult to win the group with seven players. This is very good practice for me. I think I have more confidence in myself.”
Wilson, Ding, Carter, and Gould will all return in Group 7 alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, and John Higgins who will join the competition. Brown and Matthew Selt were both eliminated after taking sixth and seventh spots, respectively. Each group champion advances to February’s Winners’ Group.
Yan played very well indeed, and scored heavily: there were 15 centuries made in that Group and Yan contributed by scoring 6 of them. He was a joy to watch.
There were encouraging signs for Ding’s fans as well. Ding managed to win 4 out of 6 matches, his defeats coming against Yan Bingtao and Kyren Wilson. My feeling was that he got better as the event unfolded but he still looks vulnerable under pressure. Ding is only 34 and far to good to plummet in the rankings the way he has in recent years. Of course, there are reasons for it that have nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of his game but he needs to play and rebuild his confidence to get back where he belongs.
Yesterday, at Ally Pally, Neil Robertson beat Barry Hawkins by 10-4 to becone the 2022 Masters Champion.
Congratulations Neil !
Both were far from their best during the first session; it finished on a 5-3 score in Neil’s favour. As I expected, Neil came back stronger in the evening, but Barry was unable to raise his game significantly, despite or, maybe, because having most of the crowd on his side. Neil has been there a lot, Barry not so much. Quite simply Barry didn’t score enough.
Australia’s Neil Robertson landed his second Cazoo Masters crown, ten years after his first, with a 10-4 defeat of Barry Hawkins in the final at Alexandra Palace.
The Melbourne cueman beat Shaun Murphy 10-6 in the 2012 title match, but was runner-up to Mark Selby the following year. His most recent appearance in the final was in 2015, again up against Murphy, when he fell to a heavy 10-2 defeat. Today’s victory ends his decade long wait for Alexandra Palace glory.
This is 2010 World Champion Robertson’s sixth Triple Crown title, moving him ahead of Alex Higgins into eighth position on the all-time list. Only Ray Reardon, Mark Williams, Selby, John Higgins, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan have won more.
Robertson had an impressive path to lifting the Paul Hunter Trophy and securing the £250,000 top prize. After a 6-3 defeat of Anthony McGill in the opening round, he scored a 6-4 win over O’Sullivan. He then secured a thrilling 6-5 defeat of Williams in the semi-finals, where he came back from requiring two snookers in the decider.
Hawkins will be disappointed to succumb to another defeat in a Masters final. He lost out 10-1 against O’Sullivan in 2016. The three-time ranking event winner leaves with the consolation of a £100,000 runner-up prize. He enjoyed a superb week, defeating Murphy, Selby and Judd Trump en route to today’s showpiece showdown with Robertson.
This afternoon saw 21-time ranking event winner Robertson take control of proceedings, establishing a 5-3 cushion heading into the final session.
World number four Robertson kept pressing forward when the concluding session got underway and moved three ahead at 6-3, with the help of a 50 break.
The Hawk clawed his way back within two when he composed a break of 69 to make it 6-4. However, that would prove to be his final frame of the evening.
Robertson surged for the finish line and crafted breaks of 68 and 114 on his way to four frames on the bounce, which secured him the 10-4 win and his second taste of Masters glory.
“I’m so happy to win this wonderful title again. I had my first win after Alexander was born at this event back in 2012. I always wanted to do a repeat with Penelope here as well, so I’m happy to do that,” said 39-year-old Robertson.
“Barry was the underdog tonight and I felt like I was the villain spoiling the fairytale at some points. He is such a wonderful player. He really deserves to win one of the big titles. I had to stay focussed with the job at hand. I knew that the majority of the crowd were with him. Luckily with my experience I knew how to silence that a little bit, play well and get a good lead.
“When I won my first title I thought I’d be able to go back to Australia happy. Who’d have thought I’d still be living here 16 years later. I think a lot of things have happened since Barry Hearn took over and gave us more opportunities to play. He has been a massive part of allowing myself and all of the great players in the game to win as much as we have.
“So many people have said they’ve never seen anything like my deciding frame with Mark Williams in sport, let alone snooker. I was absolutely dead and buried and all of a sudden it was like a phoenix rising from the ashes.”
Hawkins said: “It’s a bit disappointing. I expected to go out there and play well. I was over the moon to be 5-3 down after this afternoon. I felt better tonight, but Neil played stronger. I just made too many mistakes overall. Neil is a fantastic player and a fantastic cueist. You just can’t do that at this level.
“This has been one of the best weeks of my life. The atmosphere at every match has been phenomenal. There aren’t many snooker players that will have experienced that. I am going to remember all of those cheers and they will stay with me for a while.”
It’s typical of Neil’s fundamentally kind disposition to feel sorry for his opponent, but that doesn’t stop him trying his hardest to win.
This Masters was one of the best events I ever watched in snooker and it’s been largely thanks to the London crowd.
There were suggestions that, maybe, the World Championship should move to Alexandra Palace. As a playing venue, it would be suitable, it could even accomodate the qualifiers probably. But there aren’t that many hotels or restaurants nearby, it’s outside of the city, and public transport to and from the place isn’t fantastic, especially in late evening.
‘I’D LIKE TO SEE IT STAY AT SHEFFIELD’ – JIMMY WHITE AND RONNIE O’SULLIVAN BACK CRUCIBLE AS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP VENUE
“Do they have the facilities here?” Jimmy White said on Eurosport of the Alexandra Palace. “There’s not many hotels, but the actual playing conditions when it gets to a one-table situation… The Crucible has two tables and you could probably do it here, it is big enough also to have the qualifiers and all the matches.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White feel the World Championship should remain at the Crucible in Sheffield.
The Masters is taking place at Alexandra Palace this week, and the amazing atmosphere has led to calls for snooker’s flagship event to be moved to the capital.
Judd Trump said following his win over Kyren Wilson, admittedly in the heat of the moment, that he would like all tournaments to be played at Alexandra Palace.
Other players have floated the idea of the World Championship moving to north London, but O’Sullivan and White are not convinced.
“Do they have the facilities here?” White said on Eurosport. “There’s not many hotels, but the actual playing conditions when it gets to a one-table situation… The Crucible has two tables and you could probably do it here, it is big enough also to have the qualifiers and all the matches.
“I’d like to see it stay at Sheffield as it made snooker, but when that contract comes up it might move to somewhere like the Ally Pally.”
O’Sullivan echoed White’s sentiment, despite suggesting a move to Alexandra Palace would benefit him personally.
“It is a great venue, but I am like Jimmy, Sheffield and the Crucible is a special tournament,” O’Sullivan said.
“You’d have to look at the facilities, the hotels, getting in and out, would it be suitable for the players? Probably not.
“I only live 20 minutes up the road so it is probably ideal for me, but as a tournament as a whole I think Sheffield is a great place to host the World championship.”
Yesterday was an extraordinary day at Ally Pally as both semi-finals went to a deciding frame. Neil Robertson emerged the winner of the afternoon match after a dramatic finish – he needed two snooker in the last frame – and Barry Hawkins won the last two frame to deny Judd Trump of a shot at the title.
Neil Robertson is through to the Cazoo Masters final after winning a thrilling deciding frame, in which he required two snookers, to beat Mark Williams 6-5.
The Australian had hauled his way back from 4-1 and 5-3 down to make it 5-5 and force a final frame. Alexandra Palace was at fever pitch when both players took to the arena for the decider and the 2,000 strong crowd gave them a standing ovation. A break of 67 had appeared to be enough to take Welshman Williams into the final, when Robertson was left requiring two snookers.
However, a situation developed where the final red was placed on top of the black, which itself hung over the edge of the top left pocket. A nerve-shredding safety exchange unfolded. Williams did give four penalty points away, before playing a remarkable shot to dislodge the red and give himself breathing space.
World number eight Williams then spurned two opportunities to pot the red and put the match to bed. The tie came down to the colours and Robertson left Williams in a tricky snooker on the yellow. He hit the green when attempting a swerve and left Robertson his chance. The 2012 Masters winner pulled off a superb clearance of 27 to win on the black.
World number four Robertson now faces either Judd Trump or Barry Hawkins in tomorrow’s final over the best of 19 frames. The Paul Hunter Trophy and a top prize of £250,000 will be on the line.
The Melbourne cueman hasn’t appeared in a Masters title match since 2015, when he was soundly beaten by Shaun Murphy. He will be hoping to land a second Masters title tomorrow, ten years after his first. Robertson’s 2012 victory came after a 10-6 defeat of Murphy in the final.
At the beginning of the afternoon it was 1998 and 2003 Masters winner Williams who seized the early initiative. The three-time Crucible king was aiming to reach his first Masters final in 19 years. He defeated Stephen Hendry in the 2003 title match.
Breaks of 59, 71 and 60 had seen Williams establish a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval. When play resumed, a run of 60 helped him to move 4-1 ahead. Robertson then pulled one back, before firing in a run of 83 to turn up the heat and claw within a frame at 4-3.
A contribution of 91 then took Williams to the verge of victory. He had his chance to win in the next frame, but missed a black off the spot on 23. Robertson ruthlessly punished him by making 95 to keep the tie alive and make it 5-4.
The 2010 World Champion showed nerves of steel in the tenth frame, crafting a sublime century break of 119 to force the decider at 5-5. He then went on to clinch the win in the pulsating finale.
“We both left the arena before the deciding frame and came back to a standing ovation, it was bone chilling stuff. We just smiled at each other and realised how lucky we were to experience something like that,” said 39-year-old Robertson.
“To come back when I was literally out of the tournament, needing two snookers in the decider, was amazing. To land on the black where I couldn’t miss it was a nice feeling walking round the table. I have to enjoy the win, reset mentally and go again tomorrow.
“Any final is a great opportunity to win another trophy. I can’t allow myself to think what it will mean if I win or lose. I just have to play the best I can and when I shake my opponent’s hand I need to be gracious in defeat or humble in victory. The most important thing is to play my heart out and see what happens.”
Williams said: “I could have won it in the end and people may say I have thrown it away, but I don’t see it like that. I just think I lost a snooker match and I should have won it. I’ve got no grumbles.
“I’m not gutted at all, I’ve lost a snooker match. Best of luck to Neil. I did twitch a black off the spot to win 6-3 and that is the only one I’ve twitched all game. I’ve had a good week, the crowd has been fantastic and I’m out. I’ve got no problems.”
Here is a “condensed” version of the decider, shared by WST on YouTube
It’s the first time both semi-finals have come down to a decider since 2002, when Paul Hunter beat Alan McManus 6-5 and Williams defeated Jimmy White by the same scoreline.
A tense 30-minute opening frame this evening came down to a safety exchange on the final blue. Eventually Hawkins deposited a superb long range pot and added the pink and black to move 1-0 up.
Trump responded immediately to draw level at 1-1 following a contribution of 86, before hitting the front by adding the third courtesy of a 63 break.
An important last frame before the mid-session also came down to the colours. Once again it was the Hawk who pounced, taking it on the pink to draw level at 2-2.
When play got back underway Hawkins continued his momentum as he pushed to establish a stranglehold on proceedings. Breaks of 60 and 124 helped him to move 4-2 ahead.
World number two Trump showed his resolve and bounced back with three in a row, including breaks of 65 and 54, to come within a frame of the win at 5-4. However, Hawkins refused to back down and ensured the tie went the distance with runs of 46 and 76 in the tenth.
Hawkins gained control in the decider by crafting a contribution of 58. Trump missed a difficult opportunity with a red to the left middle and that proved to be his final shot. Hawkins punched the air with joy after getting over the line and celebrated with the raucous and adoring London crowd.
“I’ve had a few big wins in the past, but that is definitely the biggest win in terms of playing in front of that many people, the prestige of the event and playing against Judd,” said 42-year-old Hawkins.
“I couldn’t help but celebrate at the end. It was a massive occasion, a massive event and a massive crowd. All my friends and family were up there. I was giving them something to cheer as well, but inside I was bubbling. Getting closer and closer to that winning line it was building. It was completely natural and it got the crowd going. It was an unbelievable feeling.
“I’ve got a mountain to climb against Neil tomorrow. He is an unbelievable player and you don’t fancy him to miss a ball with that cue action of his. I have to block all of that out, forget who I’m playing and concentrate on what I’m doing. I will enjoy every moment of it and try my best. ”
Trump said: “I felt good and felt like I’d take my chance at the end but I just didn’t get any. That is just the way the game goes. He completely shut me out from 5-4. I made a mistake and let him in straight away. You can’t do that at this level and it went 5-5. I was just hoping for half a chance and I didn’t get any.
“Everyone will be happy for him. He has been to quite a few major finals now and he is one of the nicest guys on tour. Neil is also a great guy so it will be a great final.”
Mark Selby reveals mental health struggles after Masters exit
Phil Haigh Saturday 15 Jan 2022
Mark Selby has revealed that he is struggling with his mental health and will seek help to improve the situation after his exit from the Masters on Friday night.
The world champion and world number one was beaten 6-1 by Barry Hawkins in the quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace on Friday, a performance he described as ‘rubbish’ and was certainly well below par for a player of his quality.
He has since revealed that he is suffering mentally and admits he was putting a ‘brave face on it’ this week in London.
There was no need to, but Selby has apologised to friends and family for ‘letting them down’ in the Hawkins game, but they will all just be hoping he can be well again as soon as possible.
Selby tweeted: ‘Just want to apologise to all my friends and family for letting them down. Mentally not in a good place at moment, had a relapse and trying to bottle it up and put a brave face on is not the way. I promise I will get help and become a better person #mentalhealth.’
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has responded, offering support to the world number one and any other player who needs it.
‘The WPBSA is not just a governing body, it is a members association which includes a players support body for players on the World Snooker Tour,’ said Ferguson.
‘We are always sorry to hear if any of our players are going through difficult times, support is there for Mark and any other playing member on the WST.’
Selby had tweeted after the game last night and, while disappointed, was looking towards his return to the table and wished his good friend Hawkins all the best for the rest of the event.
‘Well I don’t think I could play that bad if I tried too!!!!’ Selby tweeted. ‘Good luck to Barry I so hope he wins it! Shootout here we come.’
Selby has spoken out about his mental health struggles before, explaining dealing with depression at last year’s Masters.
‘It is tough,’ he said. ‘When people are going through depression it’s very tough and times like this don’t make it any easier because you’re locked in your house and you have so much time to think about stuff.
‘When I was going through it – and even now I’m still on the medication to this day – I went to see the professional people and they were telling me to do things that you enjoy and you try to keep your mind active. But it’s difficult when you go through times like this because the things you do enjoy you cannot go and do.
‘The only thing you can do is speak to the professional people. Speak to your family and cry for help and get them to help you as well.’
I wish Mark the best and hope he will feel much better soon.
“It can be tough,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport. “But you have to make a decision whether you are going to rule it, or it rules you.
“There are two camps to be in. I chose to go the other way and be a bit more carefree, and treat it like a bit of fun.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO GET INVOLVED IN THE MUSTARD, YOU HAVE GOT TO TAKE ON ALL THAT COMES WITH IT.
“It is a tough sport, mentally it is tough.
“You have just got to get in and take the battle scars. If you want to be a top player, world champion, winning tournaments like he does, you have to put yourself through the mill. Or you take a step back and lower the intensity, enjoy it and not win as much.
“You have to choose one or the other.”
I don’t think Mark Selby is ready for that just yet.
As for today, Neil Robertson will start favourite, but Barry, a Londoner, will have a lot of support and he’s more than capable if he can stay calm. It’s his second Masters final. In 2016 he was beaten 10-1 by Ronnie. I would be very surprised though if he was to lose heavily today. I expect the match to be close.
Day 6 at Ally Pally saw the conclusion of the quarter-finals round with two matches that I, personally, found disappointing. The crowd gave the players a fantastic reception as they had all week. Ronnie was back in the ES studio.
Judd Trump paid tribute to the “different energy” of the Alexandra Palace crowd this year as he crushed Kyren Wilson 6-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo Masters.
An elated Trump shouted “Come on baby!” to the 2,000-strong audience after wrapping up an emphatic win. With Ronnie O’Sullivan out of the running, Trump has picked up the mantle of crowd favourite and hopes the London fans will inspire him to a second Masters crown. The world number two faces Mark Selby or Barry Hawkins on Saturday evening.
“There’s a different energy this year,” said Trump. “We all appreciate everything more because of what is going on. Over the Christmas period it didn’t even look like there would be a crowd here. It feels like everyone wants to let their hair down, go to venues and see sport live and experience it all again. Everyone is happy to be allowed out to do what they want to do, and the players are feeding off that. There have been some incredible games and incredible atmospheres, the players are enjoying being out there.
“This tournament is extra special. The players are surrounded by the seats, we are in a bubble and it makes you want to play well. It’s hard to say don’t go to the Crucible, but if you’ve never been to snooker then this is a great place to start.”
Before the match the pundits said that it’s 9-9 in Judd v Kyren head-to-head but that’s irrelevant when one of them – Judd – has won all the most recent encounters. Ronnie reflected that Kyren tends to lose the cueball under pressure. He didn’t have the run of the balls either but all that doesn’t explain the 6-1 trashing. The truth I’m afraid is that Kyren can’t cope with Judd’s game and/or reputation on the big stages.
Barry Hawkins reached his third Cazoo Masters semi-final after thrashing World Champion Mark Selby 6-1 at Alexandra Palace.
Londoner Hawkins has now won both of his Masters meetings with close friend Selby, having also beaten him 6-3 in the 2017 quarter-finals. The head-to-head record between the pair now stands at 11-9 to Selby.
Hawkins first qualified for snooker’s most prestigious invitational event in 2007. However, he failed to win a match in his first five Masters appearances. Hawkins emphatically rectified that in 2016, when he progressed all the way to the final, where he was comfortably defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan. He also reached the last four in 2017, losing out to Joe Perry.
Hawkins now faces world number two Judd Trump tomorrow night for a place in this year’s title match. The Hawk will be hoping he can land a maiden Triple Crown title this weekend, having also been runner-up to O’Sullivan at the World Championship in 2013.
World number one Selby is a three-time Masters winner but his recent woes at Alexandra Palace continue. The Jester from Leicester hasn’t been beyond the quarter-finals since he reached the final in 2014, when he was runner-up to O’Sullivan. Selby hasn’t won this event since 2013.
When play got underway this evening Hawkins hit the front immediately by taking the opener with a break of 58. He then landed an important early blow by taking the second on the black, after requiring a snooker, to lead 2-0. Selby closed the gap, but it was Hawkins who took the fourth to head into the mid-session 3-1 ahead.
Upon the resumption it was Hawkins who stretched his lead further by firing in a run of 65 to extend his cushion. Hawkins then pulled within a frame of victory after pouncing on what proved to be a critical mistake from his opponent. Selby missed a straightforward red whilst leading 56-0 with the balls in difficult positions. Hawkins recovered to take the frame on the pink and move 5-1 up.
Selby is famed for never giving up and mounting unlikely fightbacks, but nothing transpired on this occasion. World number 10 Hawkins closed out the match by winning the seventh frame to secure a momentous 6-1 win.
“I can’t believe I’ve won 6-1. It was a strange sort of match,” said 42-year-old Hawkins. “It is difficult, in a tournament like this you expect him to play well. When a few extra chances come along it is a bit of a shock to the system. It is hard to get the mindset right and not get too carried away.
“I was shaking like a leaf in the first frame or two. The nerves were going mad and it was quite hard to settle down. The reception I got in the end was unbelievable. I want the family to come across tomorrow now so they can soak that atmosphere up tomorrow and see what it is like.
“You just have to go out there, play your game, be confident and have the belief. I’ve beaten Judd before so I know what I have to do. I just have to go out there and play well. There is no getting away from the fact he is confident and will be fancying the job. If I can play well tomorrow then I have a chance to win.”
Selby said: “It was pathetic from start to finish. I carried on the way I did against Stephen Maguire in the first round. I felt he was the better player in that game as well, but I kept pinching the scrappy frames. I clung on. Barry didn’t have to play fantastically to beat me. I laid down and rolled over. It is disappointing.
“I’d love Barry to go on and pick up the trophy at the end of the week. I’ll be rooting for him tomorrow and tuning in. I wish him all the best.”
Mark Selby admitted that he took a good break after winning the World Championship last season. Unfortunately for him, he seems to struggle badly to regain his form. Barry played well and I really want him to win tonight but I’m not sure he has the self-belief to do it against Judd Trump.
The qualifying dates for the Nirvana Turkish Masters have been confirmed – the qualifying round will run from February 2 to 6 at the Morningside Arena in Leicester. Players will need to win one match to make it through to the final stages in Antalya in March. Matches involving the top four seeds plus the two local wild cards will be held over and played at the final venue.
All matches up to and including the quarter-finals will be best of nine frames, with the semi-finals best of 11 frames and the final best of 17 frames.
The qualifying round for the BetVictor Welsh Open will run from February 15 to 20 at Aldersley Village in Wolverhampton.
The part I have put in blue gives me hope that Ronnie might play in this one. It’s a best-of-nine based format, which I like.
Four players have withdrawn from the BetVictor Shoot Out, which runs from January 20 to 23 at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
Ng On Yee has withdrawn and been replaced by Haydon Pinhey Sam Craigie has withdrawn been replaced by Simon Blackwell Hammad Miah has withdrawn and been replaced by Mark Lloyd Kurt Maflin has withdrawn and been replaced by Billy Castle
Ever-present on the calendar since 2011, the tournament has a unique format, with every match lasting a maximum of ten minutes. Tickets for the world ranking event are on sale now and start at just £15 – for details click here.
Top stars including Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson, Zhao Xintong, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen, Luca Brecel and defending champion Ryan Day are all in the 128-player field.
I couldn’t care less but still hope that On Yee withdrawal is only for this and not an indication of further travel restrictions preventing her to compete this season.
The WPBSA and Peter Lines Disciplinary Hearing Finding.
After a complaint made to the WPBSA by WST and another Member, Peter Lines was charged with breaches of the WPBSA Members Rules following his match with Xiao Guodong at the 2021 Northern Ireland Open Qualifiers.
The allegation was that Mr Lines took issue with Mr Xiao over incidents in this match. After the match Mr Lines confronted Mr Xiao in the Players Lounge at the venue and accused him of cheating and swore at him. As Mr Lines was removed from the lounge by security, he asked Mr Xiao to go outside with him. Mr Xiao said he was in fear that he was going to be attacked by Mr Lines.
Soon after the incident Mr Lines apologised to Mr Xiao for his conduct after the match.
The case was heard on 16th December 2021 by the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee, which consists of three members who are independent from the WPBSA. The virtual hearing was attended by Mr Lines who accepted the facts in part.
On 13th January 2022 the Disciplinary Committee published its finding and decision on sanction. The Committee found that the breaches of WPBSA Members Rules 1.1 and 1.3 were proven in full. In making their decision on sanction the Committee took into account the early apology made by Mr Lines to Mr Xiao and Mr Lines’ unblemished career in snooker. Following the disciplinary hearing, the Committee decided that the appropriate sanction was a fine of £2,500.
Mr Lines was further ordered to pay costs of £5,464.80.
Mr Lines has until 28th January 2022 to appeal the decision of the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee.
WPBSA Members Rules extracts:
1.1 Members shall, at all times (i.e. whether at a Tournament or not), behave in a proper and correct manner consistent with their status as professional sportsmen.
1.3 A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards.