2008/9 Player Reviews: The Extra Eight

Time for part two of my 2008/9 players review and today I look at the eight players who despite having finished outside of the top 64 on the two-year list, have done enough to retain their places on the main tour via the one-year rankings…

Top of the list was Matt Selt (67th, 12113pts), who by earning 6,825 points this season has comfortably retained his place on the tour via this route for a second successive season. They key to his success was both his consistency in the early rounds as he won his opening match in seven of the eight tournaments staged, and his strong performances in the ‘big three’ tournaments. To illustrate, not only did he win his opening match at the World Championship against Robert Stephen, but he was also able to reach the third qualifying round of both the Grand Prix and the UK Championship.

Taking all of this into consideration, the only disappointment for Matt is that he was not able to break into the top 64 on the two-year list for the first time which would have meant one less qualifying round to negotiate next season. He did have a chance at the World Championship qualifiers as ultimately the winner of his second round match with Rod Lawler would take the spot, but it was Rod who ran out a 10-5 winner. Still, he has done the main thing and has given himself a strong platform from which to build on next season.

Just behind him was Lee Spick (68th, 11975pts), who like Selt has managed to retain his tour status for another year via this method. While Lee did not have Selt’s consistency as he lost three of his opening round matches, he did perform well in the big events as he reached the third round of the UK Championship before going on a fabulous run to the final qualifying round of the World Championship where he lost out 10-8 to Steve Davis having led 5-0 early on. Disappointing as it was to lose, the 2,300 points gained from this run have put him in a strong position to finally crack the top 64 next season and move up the rankings.

Next up is Matt Couch (69th, 11838pts), who of these eight is the highest up the list of those players who were not on the tour during the previous 2007/8 season. As a result it has been a good job from Couch who like Spick reached the third round of the UK Championship qualifiers and final round of the World Championship qualifiers before coming unstuck against Andrew Higginson and Joe Swail respectively.

Fourth in the list is promising Welsh youngster Daniel Wells (70th, 11688pts), who after a solid but not spectacular time in the first half of the season went on a fantastic run to the final qualifying round of the World Championship to retain his tour status. His round one exit to Li Hang in the UK Championship had put him under pressure but in February he avenged that defeat in a deciding frame, before seeing off Ian Preece and Marcus Campbell in similarly dramatic fashion to move him up into the top eight. Though he lost out to Barry Hawkins in the final round, the signs were good and hopefully the 2007 Paul Hunter Scholar will be able to push on into the top 64 next season.

Speaking of Li Hang (71st, 11338pts), it is the Chinese youngster who is the fifth player on this list following a fabulous debut season which saw him win seven of his eight opening round matches and ten in total. He started off well with a run to the third round of the Northern Ireland Trophy in which he came back from 4-0 down to defeat David Morris 5-4 before reaching the same stage of the Grand Prix in October.

The wins continued to come until rather unfortunately he was drawn against Wells in the first round and was unlucky to lose out 10-9, meaning that he would end the season sweating on other results to see whether he would remain on tour. Thankfully results went his way and it will be very interesting to see if he can maintain this level of consistency during the course of next season and perhaps move up into the top 64.

Next up come Simon Bedford (72nd, 11288pts) and Patrick Wallace (73rd, 11150pts), who both enjoyed similar seasons, both losing three opening round matches as well as enjoying two excellent tournaments to retain their places on the tour. Simon’s best tournament was the be the Grand Prix when having already seen off Liu Chuang, Andy Hicks and Mike Dunn, he pulled off arguably the biggest shock of the season to edge out double world champion Mark Williams in the final qualifying round. He also reached the third qualifying round of the World Championship before losing out to Jamie Burnett.

Having endured a torrid start to the season losing three of his first four opening round matches, Patrick managed to save his season and in fact his tour status with a run to the final qualifying round of the China Open, before a win in the Welsh and finally progression to the third round of the World Championship qualifiers confirmed his revival.

The final player to retain his tour status via this route was 2007 IBSF champion Atthasit Mahitthi (75th, 10938pts), who enjoyed a mixed season, losing his opening round match in three tournaments including the 2009 World Championship, but did exceptionally well in the others. Highlights included a run to the third round of the Grand Prix where he lost a nailbiter 5-4 to John Parrott and a last 48 clash with Steve Davis in the following Bahrain Championship which he again lost 5-4. Ultimately his World Championship disappointment left him waiting until the China Open to learn his fate but thankfully for him, David Gray’s loss to Tian Pengfei meant that he had just about done enough to stay on the tour for 2009/10.