Coral English Open provides plenty for pool enthusiasts to be excited about
With each pool tournament covering a full three days, Friday is always important with players looking to qualify for the rest of the weekend, but nothing much noteworthy took place and Saturday night saw the first of the Coral English Open finals, which went on long into the night.
At the semi-final stage, we were left with an all-professional line-up, proving yet again that only the very best deserve the much coveted elite status.
Having been described as a Welsh Wizard and an enigma, Jordan Shepherd will be the first to admit he can blow a bit hot and cold, but when he is on fire he is a pleasure to watch, and nearly impossible to stop as James Croxton found out to his cost.
Blown away 7-1, James loudly celebrated his solitary frame to everyone’s amusement, with his frustration being fully understandable, as Jordan moved menacingly in to the final and awaited the identity of his opponent.
2016 world champion Gareth Hibbott was playing 2016 Welsh Open winner Dan Davy on the live stream table and, after missing the Wales events for a trip to China, he carried on where he left off here with a 7-3 victory. That set up a mouth-watering, if late, final that kept the watching spectators up to the small hours but proved to be worth the effort.
Everything good about blackball pool was showcased in the race to seven and, if the IPA were putting together an advert, this would cover pretty much all eventualities.
Break and clearance, tactical play, potting skills, positional dexterity, good luck and bad luck and, after the sharing of the first four frames, it was Jordan who upped the pace to break into a 4-2 lead, which his supporters thought would be enough to see him over the line.
Those who know Gareth, Jordan included, will be quite aware that as talented as he is, he is also as determined as any player in the top ranks and, after trailing he fought back to take a 4-5 advantage before being pegged back to 5-5.
On a roll, the world champion mopped up the last two frames for a 7-5 success, adding yet another prize to his overflowing trophy cabinet after a match the spectators thoroughly appreciated from start to finish.
On Sunday, with the professional and amateur events to go, by six o’clock or so the semi-final line-ups were in place. In the amateurs, Dan Harris played Steven Campbell while Andy Blurton faced Greg Batten looking for a place in the final, with Dan and Greg going through after some tightly fought battles and high quality cuemanship.
Meanwhile, in the professionals only contest, 2016 World Championship runner-up Craig Marsh saw off James Croxton 8-2 while 2015 world champion Jack Whelan beat Jon McAllister 8-4 to set up a mouthwatering battle that saw the live stream audience go through the roof. Craig took a 4-1 lead after the first five frames and despite a battling come back from Jack, it just wasn’t to be and an 8-5 score line saw the Welshman take home the trophy and the prize money to boot.
Straight after the trophy presentations, the amateur final of Dan Harris versus Greg Batten went on to the live stream table and. to be fair to both players, they refused to freeze in the spotlights and played some high quality pool.
After splitting the first four frames, it was Dan who put the first serious daylight between the two of them, when building up a 4-2 lead and then 5-3 but the efforts eventually took their toll, as Greg won four of the last five frames to sneak over the line for a 7-6 win.
In conclusion, the best players won on the day, the weekend went well, and it’s next on to the Scottish Open weekend in June (which takes place from the 10th to 12th).