Barry Hawkins swept aside the disappointment of near misses this season to clinch the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix title in dramatic fashion last month.
Hawkins will be hoping to build on his World Grand Prix win next week in Llandudno and claim a second Ladbrokes Players Championship title, as the field shrinks from the 32 best players on the one-year list to the finest 16.
The Hawk flew to a another Preston Guild Hall victory, following his 2014 Players Championship win, holding off a comeback from Ryan Day in the final to claim the £100,000 winner’s cheque.
It was a phenomenal performance from the now three time ranking winner, whose first title came at the 2012 Australian Open. He made four centuries during the opening session, where he established a 6-3 lead, and added another after the interval. However, with Hawkins leading 9-3, Day began to mount an unlikely comeback and the Hawk’s lead was clawed back to 9-7. The world number eight eventually clinched victory with a clutch clearance of 30 and exhaled with a huge release of tension.
Hawkins recalled: “At the time it was just massive relief. I don’t know what would have happened if it went 9-8. Ryan was growing with confidence and could easily have won that. I tried my hardest and managed to pot a few balls, but under that pressure you can miss absolutely anything. I didn’t know what to do when that black went in.”
The Londoner fell two short of Stephen Hendry’s record of seven centuries in a best of 19 game, set in the 1994 UK Championship final against Ken Doherty at the Guild Hall. However, with Hawkins making further breaks of 97 and 85 it was a total which could easily have been levelled.
“I’m not a statistician like a lot of players,” said the 2013 World finalist. “However, when I was knocking in the tons I thought I must have been close to some sort of record. I just missed out on another couple as well. The main thing was how I was feeling and playing and I felt like scoring at every opportunity. That was a great feeling to have as it doesn’t come round that often.
“In that sort of situation it’s the best I’ve ever played. I played very well against Ronnie in the World Championship final over a long distance but that’s the best I’ve felt and cued in a big final. To have someone like Stephen Hendry compliment me, which he doesn’t often do, I’m really privileged.”
The match encapsulated the myriad of emotions which the 37-year-old has been through so far this season. He produced a supreme display to cast aside 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy 6-1 at the Masters, he then ended the challenge of World and UK Champion Mark Selby. However, Hawkins suffered heartbreak in the semi-final, where he let a 5-2 lead slip against Joe Perry, to lose 6-5. He also surrendered a 5-1 advantage over Mark King in the final of the Northern Ireland Open.
“When you’re getting close and you put in a bad performance or someone plays well, you think you aren’t going to get that chance again,” he said. “As I said to my family and my coach Terry Griffiths, my form was there. When it’s your week, it’s about taking your chance when you get it.”
You can see Barry in action next week in Llandudno. Tickets still remain for the Players Championship but are sure to sell out quick. Click here to book your seats or call 0871 620 7052 (calls cost 13p per minute plus the network access charge).