2022 WSS Ways Seniors UK Championship – Peter Lines is your Champion

Peter Lines, the 2017 Seniors World Champion, added a second Seniors title to his record by winning the 2022 Seniors UK Championship in Hull. He came from behind to beat David Lilley by 4-2 in the final.

Congratulations Peter Lines!

Leo, Peter’s six years old son, was in the audience, watching his dad “live” for the first time. This surelely made the occasion even more special for the Lines family.

Here is the official report from the WSS website:

Lines Crowned UK Champion in Hull

Peter Lines became only the second player to have claimed the two biggest titles on the World Seniors Snooker Tour after he won the 2022 WAYS UK Seniors Snooker Championship in Hull.

A winner of the World Seniors Snooker Championship in 2017, 52-year-old Lines defeated reigning world seniors champion David Lilley 4-1 in the final at the Bonus Arena. Still a main tour exponent, Lines continues his good form having reached the last 16 of the UK Professional Championship in York six weeks ago.

SeniorsUK-14

Lines’ journey to glory began last summer when he emerged from a tough qualifying event at the Crucible Sports Club in Reading. By the Humber this week, the experienced Yorkshireman dethroned defending champion Michael Judge 3-1 in the opening round before a 4-1 success against close friend and fellow qualifier Kuldesh Johal in the last eight.

On finals day he defeated 2018 winner Ken Doherty 4-2 to set up a title showdown with Lilley, who was aiming to be the first player to hold both the world and UK seniors trophies at the same time. Having not dropped a frame in his first two matches, Lilley came back from 3-1 down to deny Jimmy White in the other last four tie during the afternoon session.

SeniorsUKHB

Lilley had been impressive during the tournament and he began the final well by claiming the opening frame before a break of 60 looked to have secured him a 2-0 lead. However, in what would prove to be a massive turning point, a determined Lines clawed his way back in the frame, eventually completing a gutsy 27 clearance to pinch it on the final black.

This was a catalyst for the current world number 82 as he chalked up frames either side of the mid-session interval and then crafted a decisive counter-attacking break of 47 to win frame five on the final pink.

Lines now follows in the footsteps of White in claiming both the world and UK seniors titles.

It was a great tournament, with an excellent coverage, supported by the ever vibrant enthusiasm of Rob Walker.

There is also a report on WST website:

Peter Lines won the WAYS Facilities Management UK Seniors Snooker Championship for the first time, beating David Lilley 4-1 in the final in Hull.

Back in 2017, Lines won the World Seniors title, and the 52-year-old from Leeds can now add the UK title to his list of honours.

Lilley took the opening frame of the final and made a break of 60 in the second, but his opponent crucially clawed his way back and eventually snatched the frame 67-66 by clearing the colours.

Lines dominated the third and fourth frames to take a 3-1 advantage. In the fifth, current World Seniors champion Lilley led 56-21 when he missed a red, and Lines made an excellent 47 clearance to clinch the title.

I’m over the moon to have won,” said world number 82 Lines. “I am just trying to enjoy myself out there. I want to play for as long as I possibly can because I just love playing snooker. When you get to my age and you haven’t won a ranking event, you accept that fact that you are probably not going to win one. So to win two prestigious events on the World Seniors tour, I’m really proud of myself. I am really honoured that I’ve done it.

Earlier in the semi-finals, Lines saw off Ken Doherty 4-2, while Lilley came from 3-1 down to beat Jimmy White 4-3.

Here is the post-match interview by Rob Walker:

Here are some more images, shared during the event on social media …

 

2022 WSS Ways Seniors UK Championship – The Last 16

The lst 16 round was played over the last two days and, I have to say, my predictions proved pretty accurate.

This is the World Deniors official report on the first day of the round:

WAYS UK Seniors Championship 2022 | Day One Report

Half of the quarter-final line-up for the 2022 WAYS UK Seniors Snooker Championship is now known following the opening day of action at the Bonus Arena in Hull.

The World Seniors Snooker Tour event began with defending champion Michael Judge exiting the tournament after losing 3-1 to fellow main tour professional Peter Lines.

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Lines – world seniors champion in 2017 – settled any early nerves he may have had with an 81 break in frame one, although Irishman Judge levelled up by claiming a scrappy second frame. However, the Yorkshireman, who reached the last 16 of the recent UK Championship, ousted the third on the final pink and then sealed victory with the fourth.

Later in the afternoon session, Ken Doherty kept his hopes of a second UK seniors title alive with a 3-0 success over Lee Walker in another all-professional affair.

doherty-7

The 2018 champion – who wasn’t in the event 12 months later to defend – secured the first frame on the colours and made a crucial break of 30 up to and including the final pink to shade the second. Doherty then completed the win with a classy 64 clearance in the third.

Play resumed in the evening session where serial seniors event winner Jimmy White booked his place in the last eight with a 3-1 triumph over WSST tour number one Patrick Wallace.

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Wallace was a late replacement for Tony Drago and he threatened an upset when he took the opener, although three-time world and 2017 UK seniors champion White found his groove, leaving his opponent pointless in the next two frames with the aid of 88 and 80 breaks. The ever-popular Londoner then wrapped up victory with the fourth frame.

White’s opponent in the last eight will be qualifier Wayne Cooper who registered a memorable 3-0 win over former world and UK professional champion John Parrott in the final match of the day.

cooper4

One of the successful players to emerge from a qualifying event in Reading last year, the 46-year-old from Bradford got off to a dream start with a run of 102 before later registering a relatively comfortable passage through.

This is the official World Seniors report on the second day of the round:

The quarter-final line-up for the 2022 WAYS UK Seniors Snooker Championship is now complete following the second day of action at the Bonus Arena in Hull.

Joe Johnson caused something of an upset as he ousted Rod Lawler 3-2 in the first match of the day.

Lawler looked good as he took the opening frame with the help of a 71 break but the 1986 world champion potted several pressure balls as he claimed the second on the colours to level.

Back in front went Lawler, although 69-year-old Johnson – winner of the Seniors Masters in 2019 at the Crucible Theatre – remained resilient as he shaded the fourth on the pink before completing an impressive victory with the fifth.

johnson2

In the second match of the afternoon, 1980 world champion Cliff Thorburn brought down the curtain on his illustrious competitive career when he bowed out to qualifier Kuldesh Johal.

Former professional Johal registered runs of 47 and 32 during the 3-0 win to set up a last eight tie with good friend Peter Lines on Thursday.

Revered Canadian Thorburn – who famously made the Crucible’s first maximum 147 break in 1983 and won the Masters on three occasions – announced that this would be his last competitive match earlier this week.

The former world number one has been an integral part in the creation and development of the World Seniors Snooker Tour and tasted glory on it in 2018 when he lifted the Seniors Masters trophy at the home of snooker.

lilley1

No player has held both the world and UK seniors titles at the same time, but David Lilley kept on course to create history when he defeated in-form Philip Williams in the evening session.

Lilley won the world crown in Sheffield last spring and the 46-year-old made a statement here with a classy 3-0 victory over the qualifier that featured breaks of 66, 55 and 89, and a pot success rate of over 98%.

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The final player to book a spot in the quarter-finals was seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry who ousted Barry Pinches in a deciding frame.

Hendry – looking to secure a maiden title at seniors level – began well with a 76 break to take the opening frame, although he was restricted to just six points in the following two, as Pinches moved one away from victory with the aid of a 70 break in frame three.

However, Hendry turned the tables, crafting a 50 to square the match up before a few fruitful scoring visits in the fifth helped him set up a tasty clash with Ken Doherty.

Matches in the quarter-finals will be the best of seven frames.

Before this event started, Cliff Thorburn, at 73, had announced that this would be his last “competitive” tournament and indeed confirmed that he played his last competitive match yesterday. Cliff struggled badly but never lost his sense of humor throughout the match.

Right after hanging his cue … he seized the mic and headed to the commentary box!

Here is a great piece, written by Hector Nunns before the start of the event:

Snooker’s Original ‘Grinder’ Cliff Thorburn Ready To Call It A Day

Snooker’s original ‘Grinder’ Cliff Thorburn admits he is finally ready to pack away his cue for the last time – after a life of turbulence and triumph in cue-sports that probably merits a Hollywood blockbuster biopic to do it justice.

Thorburn enjoyed huge success on the green baize in the 1980s winning a total of 20 titles, and the mustachioed and gravel-voiced Canadian was also one of the most popular and instantly recognisable faces in the game at a time when players acquired almost rock-star celebrity status.

At 73, the man born in British Columbia takes on a player 32 years his junior, former professional Kuldesh Johal, in the UK Seniors Championship in Hull in what may well prove his last hurrah should he fail to progress further.

But with a cue in hand, Thorburn has lived a very full, exciting, glorious and occasionally dangerous life to the full. His early years after leaving school, at 16 were spent travelling across Canada playing money games in pool halls, staking himself with jobs as a bin-man and dishwasher.

Then he moved down the West Coast to Oakland and San Francisco in the late 1960s. Thorburn said: “There were certainly some moments. I played at a place once in Oakland where I was winning and the backer of the other guy opened up his jacket and showed a gun.

“He said ‘Ain’t nobody leaves here with my player’s money’. My friends told me to lose all the money we had won, which I wasn’t happy about. But eventually I saw we had to lose at least some of it – or get robbed. It felt like fun, but something terrible could have happened.

“I didn’t play down in the States much after that. In one place two guys were smashing cues over each other’s backs then started throwing the balls at each other. The whole club hit the floor ducked behind tables, before slowly poking their heads up. After winning money against a guy called Cornbread Red in Detroit backed by a nasty piece of work, we had to be escorted to our car.”

Snooker had become the biggest draw for Thorburn and after performing well against John Spencer in exhibition matches he was recommended for acceptance onto the pro tour in 1973.  But if the Canadian had thought things might quieten down a little…he had reckoned without the combustible but brilliant Alex Higgins. A clash of personalities and styles ensured rivalry on the table, and confrontations off it.

On one occasion at the 1983 Irish Open, Thorburn punched the Northern Irishman to the ground, and as peacemakers tried to make the pair shake hands he then kicked Higgins in the groin. It later emerged that Higgins had told his rival: “You’re a Canadian **** who is **** at snooker.”

This rivalry came to a head in the 1980 ‘SAS final’, with Thorburn winning his only world title at the Crucible with an 18-16 victory. TV coverage of the showpiece was interrupted to provide pictures of the storming of the Iranian Embassy in London after a six-day siege. Higgins had a celebratory cake wheeled to his dressing room at 16-16 – Thorburn later planted his face in it.

Thorburn said: “Alex was a heck of player, but he knew what he could get away with and aggravation just seemed to follow him around. I don’t know why he was the way he was, and I still wonder how he could play so well. But I think I bothered him.

“in many ways he was my toughest opponent – I lost a lot of close matches to him, at least it felt like too many. And then of course I would add Steve Davis. But with Steve, he blew so many opponents away and I always felt if I showed some spirit and got close, within two frames, then I could win.”

Another Crucible high for Thorburn came in 1983 in his second-round match against Terry Griffiths, which saw him make the first ever maximum 147 break at the iconic theatre in frame four. Much later, he won the epic match 13-12 at 3.51 am on a Monday morning.

There is no deliberation over his biggest career regret – picking up a £10,000 fine, being docked ranking points and banned for two tournaments by the WPBSA after traces of cocaine were found in a drug sample in 1988. Thorburn said: “People forget that I was world No1 but they sure remember the scandal, and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

But these days Thorburn is enjoying a quiet, relaxing and peaceful retirement in the town of Markham, Ontario in Canada – playing some golf in the summer, spending time with family and still doing some snooker coaching.

And watching a lot more snooker now than ever he did as a player, it has given Thorburn time to reflect on a few things – including his trademark mastery of safety play and tactical nous, which he still defends to the hilt.

Thorburn said: “You see a lot of flash shots being played by the kids today, and there were players coming up with those in my day too. That’s great, but you need something to fall back on. There might be the odd exception, but I always felt safety play was rocket science. And I still think it is a prerequisite to first turn pro, and then win things. Throwing a cue at everything wins you nothing.

“And in terms of who I would have loved to play at both our peaks, I really like John Higgins’ game – he is Mr Clearance. It would have been good to take him on in a long match.

“This will be my last tournament. I have loved doing the Seniors and the Legends for almost 25 years now and I will really enjoy meeting with old pals. I lived in the UK twice, once for two years and once for six and as a Canadian I have always been made welcome. And I am honoured and proud my name is still out there and known after first coming here in 1973.”

I have met Cliff many times at Legends and Seniors events and he was always charming, witty, knowledgeable  and great company. Un Grand Monsieur du snooker!

Thank you for the memories Cliff, all the best for the future.

2022 WSS Seniors Ways Facilities Management UK Championship Update and Preview

This was announced today by Jason Francis on social media 

We are sorry to announce that Tony Drago has been identified as a close contact of someone who has contracted COVID and his enforced period of quarantine means he cannot travel to the UK for next weeks event. Tony will be replaced in the event by Patrick Wallace who is the current World Number 1 ranked Seniors Player. Patrick will face Jimmy White in the Last 16 Bonus Arena, Hull WAYS Facilities Management

Of course, we wish Tony the best. Hopefully he won’t develop any (severe) symptoms.

This is the updated first round draw:

WSSSEniorsUK2022UpdatedDraw

We have some interesting matches in prospect!

Michael Judge v Peter Lines.

This is a hard one to call. Both Michael and Peter have loads of experience, a good tactical nous and a vast knowledge of the game. This should be good and it should be close. Peter is playing on the main tour, he should be sharp. How much and how well pthe epared Michael will be is the unknown factor. I’m certain though that he will do everything in his power to be ready: He’s the defending Champion. I can’t pick a winner.

Ken Doherty v Lee Walker.

Expect hard match play. Expect grit and patience. Expect fancy socks… 🧦. I will go with Ken for this one, but only just. Ken  is very shrewd and has more experience of the “main table situation”. Lee though is a very solid player: if he manages to dictate the pace and style of the match, he will definitely give Ken a serious challenge.

Jimmy White v Patrick Wallace.

Patrick is the number one Senior player for a reason. In the past however he has struggled with nerves in the big matches, on the main table. Jimmy on the other hand loves such situations, he thrives on them. He’s a showman. Because of these differences in personality, and because these are short matches, I fancy Jimmy to win, but not by much.

John Parrott v Wayne Cooper

John Parrott has very rarely performed convincingly since the Seniors Tour started. I’m not sure why. I must admit that I don’t know much about Wayne’s game, but he has come through the qualifiers which isn’t easy. Wayne Cooper to win.

Joe Johnson v Rod Lawler

Joe Johnson’s cue action is all over the place these days, but he still relishes the battle, and still pots some very good balls. The competitive animal has not been tamed. Rod Lawler is someone I fully respect because he always tries 100%, but I’m not a fan of his pace and he has struggled in recent years. I can’t call this one. I have a feeling that it will just depend on either player’s form on the day.

Cliff Thorburn v Kuldesh Johal

Cliff is 73, getting down of the shot is a struggle, the shot-clock a nightmare. He is however a great champion, and still has the heart of a great champion. Will it be enough to beat Kuldesh? I’m not sure. I would absolutely love to see Cliff do well but I think that Kuldesh will have too much for him.

David Lilley v Philip Williams

Philip Williams has been a strong presence in qualifiers on the WSS tour those last years. He sure can play. David Lilley is the Seniors reigning World Champion and he plays on the main tour. This should be a quality match but, ultimately, I expect David to win it.

Stephen Hendry v Barry Pinches

Now this is an interesting one. Stephen Hendry has hinted that he is playing well in practice. Every time he plays on the main tour he has lots of expectations to cope with and, because of his ranking, he usually faces a “current” top player. This will be a different proposition and an interesting “test” for Stephen. Barry Pinches had a very decent career, he is/was very solid but never really classed as a “top” player. I will go with Stephen here, mainly because, given the opportunity, he still has the scoring power. However, if Stephen goes for too much and gives Barry a lot of opportunities, he will probably pay the price.

 

 

Our Seniors Snooker World Champion wins Q-Tour event One

David Lilley won the first Q-Tour event of this season. There are four such events sheduled this season, with the player topping the order of merit getting a two year professional tour card.

Here is the report by WPBSA

Lilley Crowned King of the Castle at Q Tour

England’s David Lilley has claimed the inaugural WPBSA Q Tour title following a 5-1 final defeat of China’s Si Jiahui at the Castle Snooker & Sports Bar in Brighton.

The WPBSA Q Tour is an official pathway to the World Snooker Tour with two professional places to be won across the season from four tournaments. The events are open to all players, with 48 players automatically qualified for the last 64 stage through their position on the 2021 Q School Order of Merit.

Reigning World Seniors Snooker champion Lilley was one of eight players competing on the final day having seen the field reduced from 107 since the start of the tournament and was impressed throughout, compiling 14 breaks of 50, including three centuries during his six matches played.

Having already dispatched English trio Hamim Hussain, Daniel Womersley and John Astley, his closest match came at the quarter-finals stage where he won the final two frames to edge out Welshman Daniel Wells 4-3, before dominating Alex Millington to reach the title match.

There he would face fellow former professional Si, who himself had seen off Lee Shanker, Soheil Vahedi and Alfie Lee to reach the final day, before toppling Keishin Kamihashi and Simon Bedford to earn the right to face Lilley.

The 19-year-old would have no answer in the decisive match, however, as he quickly fell 4-0 behind – potting just five balls prior to the mid-session interval – leaving Lilley just one frame from the title. Although Si would claim the first frame upon their resumption with a cool clearance of 84, Lilley would not be denied and took out the decider with a break of 76 to become the first Q Tour champion of the season.

The victory puts Lilley in pole position for the first World Snooker Tour card available from the new Q Tour series, with the top ranked player following this season’s four scheduled events set to qualify. A further 16 players will contest a play-off tournament for the second card.

The WPBSA would like to thank all of the players, officials and in particular the Castle Snooker Club and its staff, who helped to ensure the success of the first Q Tour event – which saw an impressive 28 century breaks compiled across three days.

The WPBSA Q Tour will return with Event Two from 10-12 December at the Terry Griffiths Matchroom, Llanelli. The closing date for entries for the event is 4:30pm on Friday 26 November 2021

 

 

Ahmed Aly Elsayed books his spot at the Crucible

We will see an American Senior at the Crucible next May

Congratulations Aly and best of luck at the Theatre of Dreams

Aly Wins Pan American Seniors Snooker Title

Ahmed Aly Elsayed is set to realise a dream and appear at the Crucible Theatre next May after winning the 2021 Pan American Seniors Snooker Championship in Canada.

The American – who last month won a record-breaking sixth national championship title – claimed the continental accolade at the Corner Bank venue in Toronto. The triumph means he earns a coveted berth at the 2022 World Seniors Snooker Championship in Sheffield.

Organised by the Pan American Billiards and Snooker Association (PABSA), a total of 48 players representing Brazil, Canada and the United States of America took part in the competition that initially featured an eight-group round robin phase which was followed by knockout rounds.

New York cueist Aly qualified from his group and then defeated Alan Whitefield 3-1, Ali Baba 4-3 and Eddie Galati 4-1 before denying Levi Meiller 4-1 in the final.

Aly will now turn his attention to the Pan American Snooker Championship which takes place at the same venue over the next few days. The winner of this premier continental event for the Americas will secure a two-year World Snooker Tour card.

Article by Michael Day.

Seniors snooker news – 18.10.2021

The draw for the 2022 UK Seniors Championship first round has been made.

2021SeniorsUKDrraw

Darren Morgan has won the Seniors 2021 EBSA (European) Championship in Portugal last week. Congratulations Darren.

This EBSA championship carried a spot into the 2022 Seniors World Championship. Because Darren is already in the draw, this spot will be given to the runner-up, Frank Sarsfield.

FrankSarfield

Here is the Press released as shared on World Seniors Snooker Facebook page.

PRESS RELEASE- FRANK SARSFIELD
Following his run to the final in the EBSA European Seniors Championship World Seniors Snooker is delighted to announce that Frank Sarsfield from Ireland gets a place in our 2022 World Seniors Championship which will be played at the Crucible Theatre in May.

With the current EBSA Seniors Champion already qualified, Darren Morgan, the federation has decided to use their nomination for the runner up from that event.
The news was broken to Frank by EBSA Chairman Maxim Cassis who has been overseeing a tremendous event in Portugal of over 500 personnel. With Darren and Frank in the field the EBSA is well represented.

Jason Francis, Chairman of World Seniors, said “To play snooker at the Crucible Theatre is the pinnacle for any snooker player, it’s the dream we all have when we first pick up a cue. We are delighted to accept the EBSA nomination of Frank Sarsfield from Ireland who will join fellow Irishmen Michael Judge and Ken Doherty in the field next May”

Maxime Cassis said “The EBSA is delighted to nominate Frank Sarsfield to take part into this year’s World Seniors Snooker Championship.

The standard of this year’s European Championships was very high with many top senior players competing and Darren Morgan retaining his title.

To play in the Crucible is the dream of all snooker players and I’m sure Frank and Darren will enjoy it”

The World Seniors Championship plays from the 4th to the 8th May 2022.

Good luck and enjoy the Crucible Frank!

And a great interview with Tony Drago

Tony Drago will play in the UK Championship in Hull come January and here is a great interview where he tells us about his childhood in Malta, his career and his advice to aspiring players

50 Shades of Greats: ‘Follow your heart not your head’ – Tony Drago

The Malta Independent on Sunday meets Tony Drago, he speaks about being considered a talent, turning pro, missing Malta, his Snooker and pool career and players for the future

Tony Drago was born in Malta’s capital city on the 27th September, 1965.  

Nicknamed the Tornado, there are few more entertaining sights in snooker than an on-form Tony Drago whose speed around the table can be summed up by the fact that he is the holder of the record for the fast century break in a ranking event tournament, timed at a ridiculous three minutes and 31 seconds back in 1996.  

‘It was a normal upbringing for me in Valletta. We used to play together as kids in the streets especially football which I used to love and still do. It was football and snooker. But from a tender age I think I was born to be a cueist since my orientation drove me always to the green table.’

‘As regards my educational background I attended St Albert College, Valletta and The Lyceum in Hamrun but school was not my forte since I was fully focused on snooker from a very young age.’

How did Tony’s interest in snooker begin? Was it a first love sport? ‘I used to play football because of my friends. But snooker was something different since everyone used to tell me that I will be a great player. My first touch of a cue was at the famous Pawlu Curmi, il-Pampalun who is a Carnival legend. But I also played at Fossa and Mandragg and obviously my childhood club Anglo Maltese in Merchant Street. I was there at the age of eleven but three years later I started competing and the promise was there to see.’

His local competitive career started with success in the Boys Championships. ‘Yes I won against Arthur Cachia way back in 1980. Arthur is still a good friend of mine. When I won the Boys event I was already a promising player. The association decided to put me straight into the Second Division rather than play in the Third since I would have been too superior to my opponents. In the first year I won the Second and thus was promoted to the First Division. When the draws were made I was drawn in the group of Pawlu Mifsud and was so excited about it. Unfortunately Mifsud had an accident which left him away from playing for a number of months. So I won in 1983 against Alfred Micallef and lost the famous final played at De La Salle College against Pawlu Mifsud a year later. In 1985 it was time to turn professional.

‘I was accepted as a pro in 1984 but they wanted me to play in the World Amateur. I didn’t succeed and lost in the quarter-final and then I turned pro the following year.’

Turning from an amateur to a professional meant a cultural shock which needed time to adjust. ‘Yes for the first couple of years I struggled with results. But in the second year I made it to the Quarter Final of the UK Open against Steve Davis losing by a 9-8 score. But there was a mix of results during my career. I did well and have been in the top 10 and been top 16 for five years. But I did reach a couple of massive finals, the Scottish International 1997, losing to Hendry, and I lost in 1991 Mita World Masters which at the time was the biggest tournament ever. I have won small invitations, I beat Steve Davis in a final in China and I did win a ranking event, a Strachan. It was a minor ranking event but there was only 5 or 6 who didn’t enter it and I beat Ken Doherty in the final. But I did underachieve because in the first five or six years as a pro I got homesick after every week. So that affected my game.’

But who is the toughest opponent that Tony has played against? ‘Well the hardest player I have ever played is Steve Davis. But the most talented player I have ever played against is Ronnie O’Sullivan. But the best, the greatest player all round with the pressure, the nitty-gritty and everything is John Higgins.’

Tony also found time to compare his days with today. ‘Today there are better players as a whole crop. But when one looks more into detail you find that when I was number 10, John Higgins was number 1 in the world, Ronnie O’Sullivan was third ranked player and number 5 was Mark Williams. And twenty five years past the line and they are still three of the best players.’

Drago won the Sportsman of the year award twice in 1991 and 1996 but though a much appreciated award he also looks back at his local participation when ranking tournaments were held yearly on the island. ‘For me it was always a nightmare. The pressure of the Maltese was felt not only on the table but even before. People calling me and requesting tickets and all kinds of things which didn’t leave me much time for maximum concentration. Once I made it to the semi-final losing to Jimmy White and I still can’t believe how I made it to the last four. Obviously I wanted to win it in front and for the Maltese public but I wasn’t able to handle the pressure.’

But how did Tony turn his attention to pool and what attracted him to this game? ‘To be honest I always used to watch it on Eurosport and I always used to say I’d try it someday. Then I got a letter from Matchroom and I spoke to Barry Hearn on the phone and asked him about it and he said the invitation is there for you to play in the World Championship in Cardiff. So I started to play and I got to like the game.’

Drago’s first major Pool win was the 2003 World Pool Masters, which came just a few weeks after a run to the semi-finals of that year’s World Pool Championship. ‘I was a member of the winning European team at the 2007 and 2008 Mosconi Cup. In 2007 in Las Vegas, I won all of my single matches which earned me the Most Valuable Player Award. And a year later I also won the Predator International 10-ball Championship, beating Francisco Bustamante 13–10.’

And for Tony what is the difference between snooker and pool. Which is the most difficult to play? In snooker you play a lot of the same types of shots and you have situations occurring frequently such as in and around the black, but in 9 or 10-ball each game is more different. In pool you always play for one ball but in snooker we all play for 2 or 3 reds so if you’re not on this one you’re on this one. In pool you can’t do that, if you’re not on the next ball in pool you’re in trouble.’

And what about billiards? ‘I didn’t play it so much. And to be honest I didn’t play it badly. Once I even made it to the Final losing it to my great friend Guzi Grech who has just passed away in the past days. Some say that it helps to have a good background of Billiards when playing Snooker but let’s face it the top players don’t even know what this game is.’

How does Tony see the future of the game on our island? ‘Alex Borg is still playing and he is now in his fifties. He is not one for the future like me. Duncan Bezzina is now in his forties. There are Aaron Busuttil and Brian Cini. I personally think that Cini is the only present hope for Malta to have a professional player. But if he doesn’t go and live in the UK it’s useless.  He has to train against the best to reach the top. Here it’s difficult since me and Alex don’t play a lot. But the level is good, Brian and Aaron are good. Chris Peplow is also coming up.’

Sport Malta recently invested in a Snooker Academy which is located at the ex-Maria Assunta School, in Hamrun. The Academy boasts 7 professional heated snooker tables as well as 5 small tables for children. ‘Yes surely the Academy is a step in the right direction. It will help in producing more top level players.’

In this last part of this interview with one of the giants both locally and internationally Tony talked about the other side of his life, the personal one. ‘A normal day for me is playing some Pool and Snooker, chatting with my friends and watch sport especially football and tennis. Obviously my love for Valletta which I go and watch them in every game and Juventus is there but I like all kinds of sport.’

His favourite food is by far Chinese but he has also got his chosen chef. ‘My mum Sina is the best. Her food is second to none.’ And what about favourite destination?

‘The United States is the best place to be.  A lot of people say that they are boasters but they have got all the ingredients to boast of. For me they are a complete country. I also love London a lot, it is like my second home.’

When he has time on his hands Tony enjoys a bus ride since he doesn’t drive. He used to go as far as Mellieha and Bugibba but when Covid took over he didn’t feel that safe anymore.

Tornado Drago wanted to send one final message to the sporting public. ‘Always give your hundred per cent. Follow your heart not your head. Train as much as you can and set a goal in order to succeed.’

Good luck in Hull Tony!

 

A great interview with the reigning Seniors World Champion

This great interview originally appeared in United

Snooker star David Lilley on a memorable 2021 and his Toon support

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The last three or four months has been a bit of a golden time for North East snooker, with Gary Wilson and Elliot Slessor making waves at the British Open in recent weeks and DAVID LILLEY seeing off the likes of Ken Doherty and Jimmy White to win the World Seniors Championship at the Crucible in May. And for 45-year-old Lilley, who spends much of his time across the Tyne at Gateshead Snooker Centre, the best could still be to come…

I started playing snooker when I was 13. I’d been playing pool for a little bit, and one day I said to my dad that I wanted to play on one of the big tables. I was hooked straight away. I won my first major – the European Championship – when I was 19. The same year, I lost the Northern Amateur final to the late Paul Hunter. And then I got a job and I had to grow up, basically; there wasn’t a lot of money around, and I couldn’t get a sponsor. I’d have loved to turn pro but I didn’t have the coin to do it.

After the tobacco sponsors were squished, snooker really suffered – to the point where there were only around six tournaments a year. At that point, I’d won the English Amateur title, I was CIU champ three years in a row, I was one of the top amateurs in the world and I had quite a good job as well, so I didn’t feel it was worth giving that up to play in a handful of tournaments a year. I continued working in the insurance industry for a number of years, and then Barry Hearn took over and took snooker back to what it was like in the Eighties, where there were 16 or 17 tournaments a year again. And I thought: ‘You know, I’m coming up to 40 years old – I need to make a decision and just go for it.’ I was actually at work, at a team-building workshop, when I eventually made the call. There was a guest speaker there called Brendan Hall, who’d taken part in the Round the World Yacht Race, and a lot of the things he said just struck a chord with me. That was it. I thought: ‘These are signs that are telling me I’ve got to leave work and go and play snooker full-time.’ I told my gaffer I was going to leave, and I did.

I got on the tour – the World Snooker Tour – two years ago now. The irony is that, after waiting all of my life to turn pro, I couldn’t have picked a worse time to do it, because Covid kicked in and just about every tournament got cancelled!

However, winning the World Seniors Championship earlier this year has really changed everything for me. After overcoming a shoulder problem (the result of going from spending eight hours a week at the table as an amateur to something like 48 as a pro!), I could feel myself starting to play well again and it all came good that week in May. The experience was second to none. It was at the Crucible – the home of snooker – and it was just unreal. You see it on the TV where there are two tables side by side, but even just playing the one-table arena, the place felt really small. It was intense, and you feel the pressure straight away. You’re being interviewed every two minutes, and it all just builds. I felt I got better with every game I played, all the way through to the final against Jimmy White. To be playing against Jimmy – my hero – was really quite surreal. He’s such a nice guy, too – he couldn’t have been friendlier throughout the week.

David poses with the World Seniors Championship trophy at the Crucible.

Last month, I played in the British Open in Leicester. It was the first time the tournament had been played since 2004, and it’s a little like snooker’s version of the FA Cup – it’s really good for the neutral because two top players can come up against one another in the first round, as was the case with Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy this year. I won my first game and I played really well. I didn’t give my opponent, Craig Steadman, much of a chance, and I got over the line 3-1. The draw for the next round took place and I ended up playing Jordan Brown, but it was one of those where everything I touched went wrong and whatever he touched went right. After the way I’d been playing, it was disappointing to lose, but you have to take your medicine and come back fighting.

While I was there, though, I learned I was going to be playing in snooker’s Champion of Champions later this year. It was a complete surprise; ten seconds before you saw me do an interview for ITV4 on the Tuesday night, that was when I found out! I was stood with Rob Walker, having a bit of craic about the Olympics, and just as the camera was about to start rolling, he said: ‘So, Dave, how do you feel about being in the Champion of Champions?’ I just couldn’t believe it. People will laugh but, in my opinion, it’s the biggest competition there is – all of the players taking part have had to pot match ball to win a tournament. It’s the one I’ve always dreamed of being in. I’m counting down the days ‘til I go and play in it and I’m very thankful to my sponsor, GoSkippy Insurance, for their continued support.

I love the Toon. The last 18 months, not being able to come to St. James’ Park, has been complete torture. I was planning on coming to the Burnley game and the Southampton game as well, but they’ve just revamped the snooker calendar and I had to play in a qualifier! But I’ll definitely be coming to a few games as the season goes on. I just hope we can finish about where we did last season, and we’ll see what happens with this takeover.

Thank you to Andy Chubb for providing the two pictures of David and the World Seniors Championship trophy.

This article originally appeared in UNITED – the Magpies’ official matchday programme – ahead of the Carabao Cup game against Burnley last week. To order a copy of the programme, as well as upcoming issues and programmes from the 2020/21 season, please visit Curtis Sport’s website here.

 

Enjoy!

Tony Drago withdraws from the WSS World Championship and is replaced by Wayne Cooper

Unfortunately, Tony Drago, following his doctor advice, had to withdraw from the WSS ROKiT Phones.com World Championship. He is replaced by Sheffield’s very own Wayne Cooper.

Here is the announcement that was published on social media by Jason Francis:

YORKSHIRES WAYNE COOPER GET CRUCIBLE CHANCE…
Following a consultation in Malta with his doctor, and with the current COVID situation, the Tornado Tony Drago has made the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship.
Former Professional Wayne Cooper who is next highest placed on the World Seniors Ranking list will replace him. Cooper was due to attend the testing next Tuesday in case any positive tests were returned, he will now take Tony’s place in the event and plays Gary Filtness next Thursday at 1pm in the Last 16 of the Event
Wayne Cooper
Wayne said “I feel terribly sorry for Tony but one phone call last night has changed my life, its up to me now to make the most of it”
Tony said “Nobody is more disappointed than me. I love playing seniors events but my health have to come first. I’m healthy again thank god but because of Covid 19 I decide to pull out thank you all for your understanding”
The ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship begins on Wednesday 19th and will be shown across the BBC Digital Platforms.

 

The reigning WSS World Champion, Jimmy White reaches round 3 at the Main Tour 2020 World Championship Qualifiers

The WSS reigning World Champion, Jimmy White, is playing in his 40th professional snooker World Championship. He needs to win four matches to reach the Crucible stage. The last time he reached that stage was in 2006.

Here are the reports by Eurosport on those two matches:

Round 1: Jimmy White 6-3 Ivan Kakovskii

World Snooker Championship: Jimmy White makes winning start to qualifying

Jimmy White - R1 of the 2020 WC quals

Jimmy White made a highest break of only 58, but was still good enough to complete a 6-3 win over Russian amateur Ivan Kakovskii in his opening qualifier in Sheffield.

The six-times world finalist – runner-up in 1984, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 – last played at the Crucible Theatre in 2006, but has not given up hope of returning to the sport’s biggest stage by coming through four qualifying rounds.

“My focus was in and out. I was expecting great things, but it didn’t happen. I’ve been practising hard and producing good stuff, but when you come to a tournament you want to win so bad and make so many unforced errors, it’s mind-blowing sometimes.

“But that’s why the game is so exciting. I’ve got a bit of conjunctivitis and I think that’s because I’m revved up and ready to go.”

White’s 21-year-old opponent was not even born when he lost 18-17 to Stephen Hendry in his last world final appearance 26 years ago, but he still had too much for his young rival at the English Institute of Sport.

Kakovskii made a break of 60 to level at 1-1 and a 76 to close to 4-3 behind, but the 1992 UK champion finished strongly with runs of 54 and 58 seeing him progress to a match with former Shoot-Out champion Michael Georgiou on Thursday afternoon.

“From 4-2 up, I stole a couple of frames, but when it went 4-3 I felt okay then and it is nice to know I have it in the armoury when I’m under pressure to feel okay,” added White.

“I’ve got to stay focused against Michael and can’t get too ahead of myself. Everybody wants to get to the World Championship and show your class over the longer distance.”

This is Jimmy speaking to WST after his first round win:

Round 2: Jimmy White 6-4 Michael Georgiou

World Snooker Championship: Jimmy White keeps dream alive with tense win over Michael Georgiou.

Jimmy White - R2 of the 2020 WC Quals

Jimmy White fought back from trailing 3-1 to complete a 6-4 qualifying victory over world number 62 Michael Georgiou, who is set to lose his tour card after a tense defeat.

The six-times world finalist – runner-up in 1984, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 – used all his matchplay skills to progress to the third qualifying round despite struggling for any fluency in a nervy and often scrappy encounter at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

At the age of 58, White, the oldest player on the professional tour who competes via an invitational tour card, dominated the final frame of the match to secure a meeting with Robert Milkins in the penultimate round of qualifying, but will know he will have to score heavier with a 54 in the fifth frame his best contribution of the day.

“I was in out and out of focus. At 3-1 behind, I was dead and buried the way I played,” said White.

“In the fifth frame, Michael let me off a couple of times. I thought, ‘I’m going to have to make him win this’ and when it went to 3-3 I really fancied the job.

“During lockdown, it’s been really strange times, but about 10 weeks ago I was lucky enough to get into my club and I just practised solid.

“The last two weeks, I’ve played some good players and was competing against them so my game is there.

“Hopefully, I can gain a bit of confidence and get out the traps quickly against Rob Milkins because the standard is getting better and you have to win a lot more frames at one visit.

“I’m very confident in my game. I know it’s there, it is just finding it. When you are younger, it is easy to switch into the zone. I’ve got through today so I’ll kick on from there.”

‘The Whirlwind’ is only two wins away from his first visit to the Crucible Theatre for the first round of the sport’s biggest tournament since 2006 in what is astonishingly his 40th appearance at the World Championship.

It is a bitter pill to swallow for former Shoot Out winner Georgiou, who enjoyed breaks of 70, 53 and 121 yet still fell to defeat as he faces up returning to qualifying school to win back his tour card a year after himself reaching the Crucible.

Here is Jimmy’s interview after beating Michael Georgiou:

Tomorrow, next up for Jimmy is Robert Milkins.