Those of you who have missed your regular dose of pool news and action will be delighted to know that the IPA, the ONLY recognised professional pool body, continue their 2022 tour this weekend, and you can watch it LIVE via the IPA Youtube channel from 4.00pm on the Friday all the way through to the last shot of the finals on Sunday evening – happy days.
On to the pool and as many of you will know, we are talking blackball rules, red yellows and a black – the one we have all played some time or other down the pub or club – but taken to a whole new level by those at the top of the game.
With 200 or so players and over 20 tables in use at any one time, the action is going to be fast and furious, a cacophony of noise with the players and their supporters ensuring a competitive and lively atmosphere. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at the four trophies up for grabs – and my ideas of the likeliest winners – off to the Grand Hotel at Gosforth Park…
By definition, this is one of the hardest to even try to second guess with plenty battling hard for the opportunity to turn professional next season, and the luck of the draw potentially all-important. Add in a fairer format of a race to seven and we are not only talking about skill but stamina and mental focus, something those of us who play locally with a race to one or three down the pub may struggle to come to terms with (I know I do!). Almost any player entered could win this, but looking at the latest rankings gives me some idea of constancy as well as ability. Lee Anderson sits at the top at present and has to be on any shortlist, but he has a tough draw in the opening round against Gareth Higgins, and my vote goes to Matt Steeper on this occasion. Currently ranked number three he has been in good form lately and would be my each way selection in a tough one to call
Sean’s Suggestion: Matt Steeper
One thing we can all be certain of is that one or more of the top seeds will fall to a lower ranked professional or amateur at some time this weekend but it seem fair to suggest that generally speaking (famous last words), the cream will rise to the top. In the European Open earlier this season all eight quarter finalists came from the professional ranks, in the UK Open three of the last four, and in the latest event, the British Open, we had an amazing showing from the amateurs – though the final still went to professional Marc Farnsworth. Bottom line is it can be done – but it’s no easy task, and common sense suggests we stick with the professional list for any predictions. World Champion Liam Dunster tops the rankings from Marc Farnsworth and both seem likely to go very deep in this tournament as well, but I have noticed signs of a return to form from Jon McAllister in recent months, and he may be the value call. When he iso n his A game he can pull shots out of nowhere, and although keeping at that level all weekend is a huge ask, he seems overdue an Open victory to me.
Sean’s Suggestion: Jon McAllister
Difficult is the only word I can start with. When you have the best players matched up at any sport, making a judgement call is never easy, and pool is no different. Any professional is capable of walking away with the trophy (or they wouldn’t be professionals in the first place), and at this level, the smallest mistakes can mean the loss of a frame. That makes this akin to using a lucky pin as I look to find the winner, with the smallest of errors potentially decisive (including something as seemingly minor as a dry break). I surprise myself with how many times I have this the wrong way round (my professional pick wins the Open and vice versa), but so be it and poor Gareth Hibbott carries the added weight of my money here. On his day he is unbeatable, his game focus is second to none and his break is an absolute hammer – if things go his way he could well upset them all this weekend, though no doubt he will be too happy with the ”kiss of death” of being my suggestion!
Sean’s Suggestion: Gareth Hibbott
I say this every time but I cannot emphasise enough the progress made on the Ladies tour over the last few years. The standard just goes from strength-to-strength event after event and there is no sure fire winner any more. Kerry Griffiths and Danielle Randle hog the top of the rankings and deservedly so, but when Amy Beauchamp is at the top of her game she is very hard to beat. I quite like the look of the draw as well and if she can get through the early rounds, I am hoping she could prove hard to beat.
Sean’s Suggestion: Amy Beauchamp