2008/9 Player Reviews: 49-64

Part three of my 2008/9 review sees me look at those who managed to finish the season ranked between 49th and 64th positions…

First up is Leicester professional Tom Ford (49th, 15963pts), who has just failed to retain his top 48 status for next season, finishing a mere 37 points behind Jimmy Michie. Overall it was a tough season for Tom, though he did start well by making the TV stages of the Shanghai Masters before coming close to repeating the feat at the Grand Prix, eventually bowing out to Steve Davis 5-4.

Following this however he did not win another match in 2008 and barring a 5-2 over Daniel Wells in the Welsh Open, he headed into the World Championship qualifiers with short on both form and confidence. Importantly however, in the run up to the tournament he began working with Stephen Feeney, a well-respected coach who has helped the likes of Barry Pinches and Mark Davis, not to mention over a dozen top European Tour golfers during the last few years. His first match in Sheffield was against Patrick Wallace and despite Wallace’s greater experience and stronger temperament, Tom eventually came through to take a thriller 10-8.

Although his next match was always going to be a tough one against double world champion Mark Williams, he put up a decent fight before going down 10-5 and just by getting there has at least given himself a solid platform from which to build on next season. With a lot of hard work over the summer with his new coach, perhaps he might finally begin to deliver on the promise that saw him make a maximum break in the 2007 Grand Prix and at least get himself back into the top 48 for 2010/11.

Also falling just short of a return to the top 48 was Andy Hicks (50th, 15832pts), but having earned nearly double the amount of points that he did in 2007/8, it has been a very strong season for the former world semi-finalist in which he won all but one of his first round matches.

His best result was to come early on when having defeated Kuldesh Johal, David Gilbert and Michael Judge to reach the last 32, he then caused a shock by defeating world number three Shaun Murphy 5-1 to move into the last 16. Though he then lost out to Marco Fu, he obviously took some confidence from the result and continued to win matches, reaching the last 48 of three further tournaments and going into the World Championship with a chance to move back into the top 48. Though he just failed to do so, he recorded a really impressive win over Jimmy White in his opening match to give himself a good haul of ranking points and ensure that he will start next season up in 38th place provisionally.

It was a strange season for the next man on the list David Gilbert (51st, 15625pts), who despite falling outside the top 48 for the first time in three years, finally managed to overcome his TV hoodoo and reach the last 16 of the Welsh Open. He did not have it easy either as he had to overcome local favourite Mark Williams in the last 48 before edging through against Joe Perry to set up a tie with Mark Selby which he lost 5-1.

Aside from this excellent run, he also managed to make the TV stages of both the Northern Ireland Trophy and the Grand Prix where he was unfortunate to lose out to seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry in a deciding frame. Unfortunately however, five other first round losses including one at the World Championship to the in-form Martin Gould did his ranking no good and saw him drop down eight places to 51st. Hopefully though he will be take some confidence from that Welsh run though and be able to push on next season.

For Barry Pinches (52nd, 15570pts), however there were few highlights as after an encouraging 2007/8, he also lost five of his opening round matches and was able to qualify for the venue stages of just two. His best run was a last 16 showing in the Bahrain Championship but running into an inspired Stephen Hendry he was given few chances to go any further and succumbed to a 5-1 defeat. He also enjoyed a good run at the Welsh Open when he defeated Jamie Cope and Judd Trump before losing a close match against Shaun Murphy 5-3.

Despite this however, he will be starting next season down in 66th on the provisional list and his results will have to improve if he is to be sure of retaining his place on the main tour…

It was a similar story for veteran John Parrott (53rd, 15225pts), who endured a largely torrid season and drops out of the top 48 for the first time in his career as a result. The highlight of his season was a run to the last 16 of the Grand Prix where he overcame Atthasit Mahitthi, Ken Doherty and Mark King before suffering a 5-0 whitewash at the hands of Ali Carter.

This tournament aside though he found wins hard going and due to a clash of dates with his charity golf tournament, had to withdraw from the Shanghai Masters before withdrawing from the UK Championship and China Open events due to injury. Like Pinches he will require a much improved season to retain his place on the tour and at his age I wonder whether he has the desire to put in the hard work once again…

Next up is Paul Davies (54th, 14326pts), who experienced a mixed season, losing his opening match in four of the tournaments staged, but winning an impressive eight in the others. His best result came at his home tournament, the Welsh Open when he was able to reach the last 32 before losing to Mark Selby, but arguably the most important event was the World Championship. There in Sheffield he was able to defeat both Lewis Roberts and Jimmy Michie to reach the last 48 and though he lost to the impressive Jamie Cope to see his Crucible dream ended, the 2,300 ranking points earned give him a much stronger platform to build from that he would otherwise have had.

Having endured a tough start to the season, losing his opening match in the first three events, Robert Milkins (55th, 14107pts), managed to turn things around with a few good tournaments and was able to comfortably retain his place among the top 64. His best run came in Bahrain where he overcame Robert Stephen and Joe Swail to qualify for the venue, before defeating Peter Ebdon and then Michael Holt in dramatic fashion to reach the quarter-finals. This is as far as he got however as like Pinches his run was ended by an inspired Stephen Hendry, a man who proved to be something of a nemesis for him as he also ended his challenge in the China Open towards the end of the season.

On the face of it Jimmy White (56th, 14038pts), coming this low down the list looks quite disappointing but in fact Jimmy enjoyed a very successful season, reaching the venue stages of several events and suffering just two opening round exits. Next season he will start up in 46th place on the provisional list and if he can maintain his consistency, looks very well placed to continue his march up the rankings.

It has been a strange season for Mark Joyce (57th, 14001pts), who in the ranking events struggled to make an impression and made the last 48 of just one event, but went on a terrific run to the final of the Masters qualifiers in November. There he managed to beat top players such as Barry Hawkins, Andrew Higginson and Matthew Stevens, only to fall to the impressive Judd Trump in the final.

From here I expected him to really push on and take some confidence from those victories but instead it seemed to have the opposite effect and he won just one match in the last four events of the season. Starting next season down in 63rd place provisionally as a result, he will need to find his recapture his best form if he is to make absolutely sure of his tour place for the following season.

There is a bit of a gap down to the next player as far as ranking points are concerned but David Morris (58th, 13445pts), a talented young player from Kilkenny, enjoyed a decent season to consolidate his place inside the top 64. While he did suffer three opening round exits, he performed well to reach the final qualifying round of both the Shanghai Masters and the Bahrain Championship, as well as winning matches at the important UK and World Championship tournaments. With a few seasons under his belt now I have a feeling that we could see David become even more of a force next season and who knows, perhaps make a television debut.

For Liu Song (59th, 13370pts), however the season was nothing short of a disaster as following a 5-1 victory over Matt Selt in the season opening Northern Ireland Trophy, he went on a seven match losing streak in the ranking events until the World Championship at the climax of the season. Having previously enjoyed a strong 2007/8 season, he came into this event in danger of losing his tour place but thankfully for him he somehow managed to win just his second match of the season to overcome Supoj Saenla in a deciding frame and just about cling on to his tour spot as a result.

Because of his lack of wins this season however, he faces a real uphill struggle to retain his place for another season and might have to rely on finishing in the top eight on the one-year list with a vastly improved season.

It was an altogether different story for Song’s fellow Chinese player Jin Long (60th, 12976pts), however as finally he managed to make a mark on the main tour and not only managed to retain his place, but was able to move straight up inside the top 64 which is a notable achievement indeed. As well as winning all but one of his opening round matches, he was able to reach the final qualifying round of the Shanghai Masters, as well as reach the third round of a further three tournaments. As a result he will now have one less match to win next season in order to reach the TV stages and ranked 55th provisionally, stands a reasonable chance of moving up inside the top 48 for the first time.

Another much improved player was veteran Rod Lawler (61st, 12783pts), who having started the season in real danger of losing his tour place, rallied to reach the last 32 of the Bahrain and Chine Open tournaments and the final qualifying round of one other. Add to this a crucial opening round win over Matt Selt during the World Championship qualifiers and not only had he done enough to retain his tour place, but he was able to stay inside the top 64. Now starting the 2009/10 season up in 52nd provisionally, he has every chance of reclaiming a top 48 spot for the first time since 2006/7.

Like Liu Song however, David Roe (62nd, 12620pts), endured a terrible season in which he won just two matches and was only just able to keep his spot on the tour for next season. What is worse for Roe is that unlike Song, one of his wins did not come at the World Championship which carries double points so he will start next season ranked even lower provisionally. As a result unless he can make a significant improvement, the tour place which he has held since the 1986/7 season appears to be in real jeopardy now.

For Joe Delaney (63rd, 12558pts) meanwhile it was a poor season generally, but strong results in the biggest two events of the season were enough to see him hang onto his place in the top 64 for another season. At the UK Championship he managed to defeat Li Hang and Mike Dunn to reach the final qualifying round where he was hammered by Ian McCulloch, before a 10-8 over Wayne Cooper at the World Championship made absolutely sure of his tour status.

Last but not least comes Peter Lines (64th, 12238pts), who with Jin Long was one of just two of last season’s newcomers to the tour to be able to move straight up into the top 64. The secret to his success was simply that he won each of his opening round matches which under the current ranking system is crucial and in the Bahrain Championship he was able to go all the way to the last 48 before coming unstuck against Stuart Bingham. If he can maintain this level of consistency next season then he will be very well placed to consolidate his place in the 64 and who knows, perhaps challenge for the top 48.