Hawkins precise in Preston for win

The 2017 World Grand Prix concluded on Sunday, with Barry Hawkins beating Ryan Day, in another, though not as thrilling, battle between England and Wales on the weekend. The tournament, staged at the Guild Hall in Preston, saw many stars of the game, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, attempt to win this ranking tournament amongst the passionate crowd in north-west England. This tournament was another example to show that, although Snooker has – positively – become a worldwide sport, with tournaments now played in nearly every corner of the globe, England still attracts the great players to do battle. And with prize money of £100,000 up for grabs for the winner, this was an extremely lucrative tournament.

The First Round, however, saw some big name players lose their opening, and thus only, match of the tournament. Indeed, Mark Selby, John Higgins and Stuart Bingham lost to Martin Gould, Michael White and Ryan Day respectively. With a best of 7 frame format for the opening three rounds, mistakes can be capitalised on in a way that is a lot harder to sustain in the longer matches that snooker fans are used to in major tournaments. These competitive and surprising results of the opening rounds was to be a prevalent theme of the opening few rounds.

Indeed, in the Second Round, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump were thrashed 4-1 by Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins. Michael White, the man who beat John Higgins, lost to fellow Welshman Ryan Day, whilst Shaun Murphy narrowly beat Ding Junhui 4-3. Joe Perry, who has had a recent resurgence of form, having got to the final of the UK Masters in January, was knocked out 4-3 against Liang Wenbo. Neil Robertson lost 4-2 against Barry Hawkins whilst Marco Fu beat Mark King by the same score line, as did Ryan Day against Shaun Murphy.

The best of 11 frames semi-finals could not have produced more contrasting matches. Barry Hawkins produced a stunning victory over Liang Wenbo, winning 6-1, and thus assuring himself a huge confidence boost ahead of the final on Sunday. Ryan Day, conversely, had to fight extremely hard to win his match, beating Marco Fu 6-4.

After losing the initial frame in the final, Hawkins played some astonishing snooker, scoring five centuries on the way to taking a 9-3 lead against his rival. Day, however, won the next four frames, demonstrating that there could still have been life left in the match, but in the end Hawkins sailed over the line, winning 10-7. With the World Snooker Championships just two months away, tournaments such as the World Grand Prix can be used to gauge players’ form, although every Snooker competition is different, and with the increasing competitiveness of the sport, it is unsurprising that so many top players lost in the opening rounds. Whether Barry Hawkins can translate this tournament win into a strong performance at the World Championships, nobody knows. But since this was his third Ranking title victory of his career, it is a key milestone for him. He has been a finalist, twice semi-finalist and quarter-finalist, in the last four World Championships. Could this be the year he goes onto win it? If so, he will receive a grand prize of around £375,000. He’s certainly got strong form going into the tournament and will be one of several players who can realistically expect to do extremely well at the Crucible in Sheffield.

James Felton 

Featured Image: World Snooker

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