Stunning Selby wins 2016 UK Championship

Mark Selby beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-7 in the final of the 2016 Betway UK Championship. This is Selby's second UK title, the first being won back in 2012 when he beat Shaun Murphy by 10-6.

It's been one hell of a year for the Leicester man, Selby winning the World Championship, the Paul Hunter Classic, the International Championship, being a runner-up for the Shanghai Masters and not to mention retaining his world number one spot. None of these were easy tasks.

So, when we saw him reaching the final of this year's UK Championship and having to face one of the finest and most talented snooker players in the sport's history, we knew this was going to be a real treat.

There's a bit of rivalry between these two, not to mention the fact that they have very different ways of  playing and approaching certain situations, so we were on for something really dramatic.

The start of the match was a very balanced one O'Sullivan opening in grand style with a tremendous 124 break, while his opponent was drawing by taking the next frame.

The scoreboard was showing a perfect 2-2 tie at the interval, but things changed dramatically after the 15-minutes break as Selby stormed in with breaks of 63, 51, 58 and 87 to end the first session in the leading chair, at 6-2.

When, hours later, the lads returned into the arena Selby used a top break of 56 to continue his good run, but this time O'Sullivan answered with a 56 and a break of 80 to win his first frame of the evening to which he added a very elegant steal in frame 11 and a brilliant 134 clearance to trail 7-5.

After the mini-session interval Selby seemed more composed and managed to raise the bar with a gorgeously cued 137 break, to which Ronnie responded with a 130 and an 82 thus reducing his deficit at just one frame, 8-7.

However, Selby had other plans in mind, "The Jester from Leicester" securing his victory with beautiful breaks of 134 and 107.

The champion received a standing ovation and was soon hugged by his sweet daughter Sofia and wife Vikky.

Oh, and he also cashed the prize money (aka. £170,000) and got to lift one of the most beautiful snooker trophies ever (admit it, it's very nice!)

Just one day of rest for the snooker players, that's how the snooker schedule looks like, as from December 6th until the 9th, the lads will be crossing their cues at the Barnsley Metrodome, in the German Masters qualifying rounds.

Stunning Wenbo wins English Open

Liang Wenbo beat Judd Trump by 9-6 in order to win the English Open's first edition, but most importantly his first ever ranking title.

The Chinese player is well known for his explosive way of expressing his feelings and today was no different, as he potted the last ball in a tremendously well-played final where he clearly dominated from beginning until the end.

Wenbo was sure to take the first frames of the match with two identical breaks of 95, while the recent winner of the European Masters was drawing level as the first mid-session interval was starting.

But Liang had other plans, so he fired in breaks of 76 and 93 to restore a two-frame lead but also added another one to go 5-2 up.

Just as the first session was coming to and end, Trump managed to cue a 52 break in order to pull back a frame and start the last session like he did with the first - with a two-frame deficit.

When the game resumed, it was really no surprise to see a furious Judd Trump storming in an making a beautiful and typical 132 break to go just one behind his opponent, but his run of the ball stopped there as Wenbo used runs of 76 and 92 to go 7-4 up.

"The Juddernaut" didn't give in though and answered with breaks of 51 and 50 to pull back two consecutive frames, but that was about it as Liang used a top break of 62 to close the match and win by an outstanding 9-6 scoreline.

An overexcited Liang Wenbo made his classical "jump up and down" act around the table and humbly accepted the trophy from the snooker legend Steve Davis (the tournament itself carrying his name as a homage for his contribution into making snooker what it is today).

Beside all that Wenbo also cashed a pretty impressive check of £70,000 and has the first chance  in the race of winning £1 million bonus, chance given to the player who manages to win all four events of the Home Nations series.

Photos credit: World Snooker

The European Masters - a personal note

Professional snooker hit Romania for the first time last week, Bucharest becoming for no less than seven days the capital of snooker for staging the inaugural edition of the European Masters.

A ranking tournament which was happy to present (to a hungry public) genuine snooker players at work, fighting for a shiny trophy. Well, a trophy and 75.000 euros to be fair.

For me it was, as usual, a match made in heaven because I had the chance (for the first time) to report from the heat of the action. And this time it wasn't an exhibition match. This time it was the real deal.

So this is my personal note on how LIVE snooker looks like, on how things happen, on how much pressure you can feel in the air, on how many dreams survived in a arena, or how many were crushed.

It's only fair to say that this tournament wasn't the easiest of jobs for no-one involved. Starting with where it would take place (Bucharest or Cluj) and finishing on how the set-up of the tables would be like.

In the end though, the qualifying stages took place in Preston, UK with only two matches held-over here (starring the likes of Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan) plus the Last 32.

On Monday 3rd of October the balls started rolling on the green, green baize from Globus Circus in Bucharest and I started my daily pilgrimage.

Although I wasn't able to be there for the first part of the day (until the weekend when I practically slept in the arena) due to ... well, work, I enjoyed every minute of what I saw.

The media room wasn't always packed, which was somehow to be expected due to the fact that football is the name of the game everywhere, but I had some colleagues there, ones that I am actually proud to call colleagues. As for the rest, well ... good journalists are a dying breed so, no surprise there.

What shocked me the most was the pressure and the tension that could be easily felt floating in the air from the very first touch of the balls.

For us, the spectators, the bloggers, the photo-reporters, it might be fun to watch them, but for the players it's work. It's work and with every ball that rolls down into the pocket they come closer in cashing their salary ... or not.

And since the European Masters was a huge event, so was the fight for the title. You don't have to be a genius to figure that out. The lads are really stressed and need their time in making decisions, in choosing what shot selection to perform, in having a total and perfect silence on a shot etc.

This is something that the audience needs to understand and it pains me to say that some of the people present weren't on their best behaviour in this regard. But they learned and by the end of the tournament we had a much well behaved crowd.

Snooker is elegant. Every shot has a touch of elegance and style. Even the most furious ones. There's something that makes you stay up straight and be cautious even when you clap your hands in sign of respect for a certain shot.

The sound of the snooker balls is actually a song. It tells the story of a snooker player that is giving his best to entertain you, to put on a show, to earn his living, to do what he loves the most. You can't but respect that.

The European Masters was a LIVE lesson of what dedication and organisation means and not just for the people directly involved, but also for us. The ones that covered the event, the ones that followed it, the ones that took pictures of it.

The venue, Globus Circus, has a very intimate vibe this helping you understand what it's really going on in the arena.

There was noise all over the internet about the outrageous price of the tickets, the fact that people didn't fill the venue in the first days, about the fact that the set-up for the second table wasn't the best of works, that certain sponsors shouldn't have been on the list etc.

Sure, things could have been better. WE can always do better. But I guess, no-one really prepares you for such an event. You can't but do your best and learn from your mistakes when things end.

For me it was a dream came true. Seeing the players, witnessing LIVE snooker, smelling the tension, taking my notes in the arena, writing my articles late at night or early in the morning. I waited six years for this to happen and I loved every minute of it.

And the funny thing is that snooker has this power of bringing people together. I have always said that and this time was no different for I was able to know so many people that are passionate about this sport and connect with them.

Also, it was so nice to have my virtual #SnookerFamily with me. Although I was there and they were on Twitter or Facebook. Their support was enormous. Thank you for that (you know who you are).

My biggest thanks go to two very special people from World Snooker, Ivan Hirschowitz and Lewis Ward. These tireless men who stayed in the press room and took care of us, the players, the website, the social media channels, basically more than one could think of.

I reckon that I don't just speak for myself when I say that we had such a tremendous final. Two amazing players (Judd Trump and Ronnie O'Sullivan in case you didn't know that already) who played all the given frames. And as a friend of mine said after the match, the audience would have stayed for more.

The curtain fell over the European Masters, but not over this marvellous experience that I will always cherish.

The silence, the passion, the drama, the miscues, the cracking shots, the press conferences after the match, the photo sessions, the bloody mobiles ringing, the people feverishly applauding the players, the love and hate relationship with those colourful snooker balls - all of these are part of a story that will stay in my heart forever.

I do admit I was a bit quiet on social media this past week. Been a bit selfish and enjoyed snooker on my own, I guess, but then again I don't get too many opportunities.

Seems cheesy and emotional, right? Of course that I get emotional when I talk about snooker, have you seen the name of the blog? But that doesn't mean I can't be objective, so let's get back to work with the next tournament, right?

P.S. All these crappy photos were taken by me!

Trump is European Masters champion

Judd Trump beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-8 in a cracking final held at the Globus Circus from Bucharest, Romania, in order to lift his first ranking title this season - the European Masters.

In a final refereed by the German Marcel Eckardt, both players displayed tremendous cue action and wonderful shots selection, in other words a genuine snooker show.

Everything started in a pretty classical way, with the lads sharing frames, until O'Sullivan used breaks of 53 and 62 to fly at 3-1 up.

Trump managed to pull back one with a gorgeous break of 120, but as the first session was coming to an end "The Rocket" was sure to restore his two-frame advantage with runs of 59, 44 and 55, for a 5-3 lead.

In all fairness, Judd was in an extreme attacking mood, the balls being hit at full speed and this causing him to either miss of lose position.

But all that changed when the evening session started and we saw a more composed and chill-out Judd Trump.

Breaks of 47, 36, a brilliant 105 clearance and a 67 were enough to restore the balance of the match. It was game on!

But O'Sullivan was also in great form, the five-time world champion firing a perfect 93 and a 72 to go back into the lead, at 7-6.

The 14th frame proved to be quite huge, as both players took their time at the table. It was a under-pressure, scrappy snooker affair which Ronnie won with runs of 42 and 33 to go just one away from victory, 8-6.

However, "Bristol-boy" had other plans and so he cleared the table with an outstanding 109 to which he added a 48 to force the decider.

What more could you wish for? The inaugural edition of the European Masters had two great players in the final and all will be decided in the last frame.

It didn't took Trump much time to cue a winning 74 break (and puff his cheeks in sign of relief) in order to put his name on the trophy.

In the press conference after the match, Trump said he got a bit frustrated when his opponent managed to draw level at six apiece, but kept going and managed to cope with the pressure.

I took the liberty of asking the man if he has his eyes set on any tournament in particular his season and he said:

"I think that at the start of the season I set my target to win two ranking events. I won one now, so maybe I'll try to win a bigger event like the World Championship or the Masters."

At the opposite corner, O'Sullivan was gracious in defeat congratulating his opponent in dealing tremendously well with the pressure and for his unique way of playing.

So, after seven day of snooker madness (a beautiful madness, though) we have a champion in the person of Judd Trump and such a great, great set of memories.

But the show much go on so without any further ado, let's crack on with the English Open show in Manchester!

Photos credit: Lewis Ward