Player Spotlight

Player Spotlight - Barry Hawkins

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Former World Championship and Masters Finalist, 3-time ranking event winner Barry Hawkins has become one of the most consistent performers since his debut. Long-standing resident in the Top 16 and even longer in the Top 32, let’s learn a little more about ‘The Hawk’ from Kent.

Although turning pro in 1996, the former office clerk’s first spot of recognition came in 2002 when he beat Marco Fu and O’Sullivan in the Scottish Open. However, it wasn’t until 2004/5 where Hawkins started to make headway in various competitions. He reached the semi-finals for the Welsh Open two years running as well as the semis for the World Open (Grand Prix). This was also the time that Hawkins initiated himself in the Top 32, where he has remained ever since.

Barry’s first of his 3 ranking titles came in 2012 at the Australian Goldfields Open where he defeated Peter Ebdon in the finals. Despite not performing well in other tournaments that season, Hawkins was probably fine with that considering he made a substantial run all the way to the finals of the WSC. With impressive victories over the likes of Ding and Selby, it was under unfortunate circumstances that Hawkins came up against the (then) 4-time and defending champion, O’Sullivan.

Considering Hawkins is well known for being one of the best Crucible performers, he actually didn’t have a great record when he first made it to the championship. In fact, in between 2005-10 he got eliminated in the first round, making his record 0W-5L. Hawkins had never made it past the second round until he stormed to the final in 2013. Since then he’s been in 4 semis and a quarter-final year after year. Don’t give up on your dreams, kids.

The remainder of Hawkins’ 3 ranking wins came at: the Players Tour Championship Finals 2014 (aka Players Championship) where the format was significantly shorter, requiring 4 frames for victory; and most recently the Grand Prix in 2017 with a win over Ryan Day.

Hawkins hasn’t won any ranking events since the Grand Prix but he has been keeping himself in contention. In 2018 he reached the final of the Welsh and China Open, as well as the Shanghai Masters – where it has taken the likes of Higgins, Selby and O’Sullivan respectively to deny him the trophies. He did come through with a win over Wilson at the Paul Hunter Classic this year which would have added to his ranking tally, but unfortunately the event lost its ranking status for this year’s iteration, meaning Hawkins remains at 3 ranking wins to his name.

Even though Hawkins isn’t one for the spotlight in the world of Snooker he definitely is worthy of getting some light thrown in his vicinity – a consistent dark horse who performs best at the most prestigious stages; a Triple Crown victory is well within reach for The Hawk from Kent.

Fun fact: Similarly to Judd Trump, Barry Hawkins is actually right handed but cues with his left! He also switches to his natural hand when using the rest!

Player Spotlight – Neil Robertson

After a stellar 2018/19 performance which included 3 ranking titles and 3 further finals, Neil Robertson was one of the Holy Trinity of players that dominated this past season. An incredible career so far and he seems to be back in top form, so let’s find out more about the 2010 World Champion.

The Thunder from Down Under turned professional in 1998 but despite his display of talent from a young age, he had a difficult few years in the snooker environment. He had to re-qualify for the main tour a couple times before maintaining permanent residence since 2003. Robertson formerly practiced at Willie Thorne’s snooker club in Leicester.

Robertson really started to shine in 2006. He had just made the quarter-finals of the UK and World Championship (05/06 season) then went to win 2 ranking titles later on in the season; his first being the Grand Prix (06/07). At this stage of his career, Robertson was beating players like O’Sullivan, Hendry and Davis to stamp his authority in the snooker world.

However, it was 2010 which was the year of triumph for the Aussie. The first of the Triple Crowns and probably his most notable; victory over Graeme Dott 18-13 in the World Championship to establish himself as the 3rd non-UK player to win the WSC – preceded by Cliff Thorburn and Ken Doherty.

Since then, Robertson has played the game we are all familiar with today - tremendous break-building and temperament followed by the completion of his Triple Crown collection with a Masters and UK Championship secured in 2012 and 2013 respectively. He is the only non-UK player to achieve this feat.

Robertson has won 11 ranking titles since his WSC win in 2010 which takes his tally up to 16 ranking events and counting. His other significant accomplishment came in 2014 where he reached 103 century breaks in a single season – something which hasn’t come close to being replicated since then.

Although the following years may not have seen the success one would expect from Robertson, he has now recently found the form that had brought him these success stories some years ago. Robertson is one of those players that prove to be unbeatable when he is in top form and now that flame has been rekindled this past season, he is a danger to others who may be looking to steal the spotlight. And Robertson is a huge video game fan, which is a plus in the eyes of Snooker Shorts!

Player Spotlight – Marco Fu

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Hong Kong’s finest, and one of my personal favourite players to watch, Marco Fu is one of those players that will probably fly under most people’s radars. He may not have the character of other players but he is one of the classiest players on the tour. Combined with his skill on the table, makes him an incredible player to watch.

Born in Hong Kong, but raised in Canada, Fu had a fair amount of success with Under-21 tournaments. He turned professional in 1998 and since has claimed 3 ranking titles, most notably the Scottish Open in 2016 where he overturned a 4-1 deficit against favourite, John Higgins to win 9-4.

Since turning professional, Fu’s performance for the next decade or so has been fluctuating, along with his rankings. His first ranking title came in 2007 when he won the Grand Prix against Ronnie O’Sullivan. It wouldn’t be for 6 years until Fu won his second ranking event – this would be against favourite Neil Robertson at the Australian Open.

Fu has gotten close on quite a few occasions. He’s won a couple of non-ranking events throughout his career such as the Premier League and Gibraltar Open. However, when it comes to Triple Crown the furthest he has made it is the Masters final in 2011 and the incredible semi-final effort in WSC 2016 against Mark Selby,

Fu’s stellar performance in the 2016/17 season included a final in the Players Championship, a nail-biting semi-final in the Masters as well as the Grand Prix and of course, the Scottish Open victory which saw him finish at his highest ranking position at No. 6.

Despite a relatively small list of ranking titles to his name, Fu isn’t a player who should go unnoticed. Top level players like O’Sullivan and Higgins will be the first to tell you how good Fu’s game is and how much of a threat he is to play in events. Most probably wouldn’t even know that Fu is up there with almost 500 career centuries and 4 maximum breaks to his name. Not to mention, he can scrap with the best in the tactical game.

Although the past couple of seasons have been difficult for Fu due to his laser eye surgery and the impact that has had on his game, I am hoping he can bounce back to his previous form and be back to contesting with the top once again. If there’s one thing I can say about Fu, it’s that he does not shy away from taking down the bigger players. And he has.

Fun fact; When Marco Fu turned pro, he was ranked No. 377 in the world.

Player Spotlight – Jack Lisowski

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Runner up in the 2018 Riga Masters and 2019 China Open (only to lose to Neil Robertson both times), what do we know about the 27 year old multiple time quarter-finalist? A player with a tremendous talent and ability to pot balls; will we soon be seeing him lift his first ranking title?

Like many others, Lisowski displayed a flair with the sport from a young age, making his first century at 11 years old. He has since been training and practicing his craft with coaches and other players to become the player we know him as today. Most are probably aware of the dire health issues that Lisowski had to overcome at a young age but fortunately, he wasn’t halted in his snooker dream.

Cheltenham-born Lisowski turned professional in 2010 and has since been becoming more of a regular face to look out for in big tournaments. He is now currently ranked 11 in the world but still yet to win a ranking event. He has steadily risen in the rankings since turning pro so perhaps his residence in the Top 16 and maybe even the Top 8 going forward this season will provide the confidence to lift that maiden trophy.

Lisowski first attended the Crucible in 2013 but was eliminated in the first round by Barry Hawkins. His next appearance wouldn’t be until 2018 where he reached the second round but suffered a near whitewash against Higgins. His luck didn’t change this year where he came up against Ali Carter in the first round.

My view of Lisowski is that he suffers from what Judd Trump used to. What I mean is that we have a player with a bucket of potential who is still trying to get experience, not only with big events; but particularly making significant distance in these big events. There are a few occasions off the top of my head this season alone where Lisowski has lost a decider or a big lead in a match.

This will only change with more experience and titles which I am certain Lisowski will possess in the future. I mean, you don’t get rank 11 and amass over half a million in career earnings without having good game.