Lee Storms To Galway Glory

Congratulations to Stephen Lee who has tonight defeated Neil Robertson 4-0 in this evening’s final to become the 2012 PTC Grand Finals champion. In doing so, Stephen secures not only the top prize of £70,000, but also a place in next season’s Premier League. Neil meanwhile sees his run of victories in televised finals come to an end, though will nevertheless be quietly confident as the World Championship looms large…

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Heading into tonight’s final there were some calling for a longer final than a best of seven, but although there were in fact only four frames played, the crowd were still given value for money during a tension-filled evening.

Pre-match favourite Neil Robertson had opened his previous two wins in the competition with century breaks, but tonight was to be a different story as he and Stephen played out a 50 minute marathon, Lee eventually securing it as Robertson ‘fluked’ the pink while attempting to play for snookers.

Unable to make the most of his opportunities, as he had done during his victory against Stephen Maguire earlier in the day, Robertson struggled to assert himself on the match and Lee took full advantage, adding the next two frames to move one away at 3-0.

What would prove to be the final frame proved to be the most dramatic of all however as having potted match-ball, Lee could only watch at the cue ball headed in-off, leaving him 35 ahead with 35 remaining. Eventually Robertson was able to clear to force a re-spot, a particularly brave shot on the black  helping him on his way, but it was to be Stephen’s day as he dropped the black into the left-centre to secure a 4-0 win.

Earlier in the week during my Tournament Preview I posed the question as to how Stephen would react having lost the final of the recent Haikou World Open as heavily as he did to Mark Allen, and how has he answered that question with a superb run in Galway. To defeat both Mark Selby and Neil Robertson, unquestionably two of the toughest men on the circuit to beat at the moment, to nil shows how well Stephen is playing at the moment and he is rewarded by a rise up to seventh in the latest projected seedings list.

As well as securing the top prize of £70,000, Stephen also joins Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Allen, Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby in the line-up for the 2012 Premier League next season.

Stephen told World Snooker:

“I didn’t let Neil get going, and in these short matches if you don’t settle in the first couple of frames then you can lose 4-0.” 

“It’s a cracking feeling, it makes all the hard work and travelling worthwhile.”

“A big thanks goes to Barry Hearn because he’s got all the lads buzzing about the game again. I knew I was good enough, I just couldn’t cope with playing six tournaments a year. There was so much pressure on every event and it was a horrible feeling.”

“The game is in a great situation now and I just wish I was ten years younger. I’ve got the belief in myself back and I’ve beaten top players which is very satisfying. I appreciate it more now I’m older.”

Turning to Neil, while his run of finals success is now at an end, his reaction post-match when interviewed by Mike Hallett was that of a man disappointed, but not devastated to have lost tonight with the sense that there are bigger fish to fry in the coming weeks as he bids for a second world crown at the Crucible. It has been an encouraging week for Neil following his post-Masters run and you can count on him being there or thereabouts come Sheffield.

Neil commented:

“The first frame set the tone, I had chances to win it but just couldn’t take them. All the other frames were similar, I just lost the cue ball or missed something tricky when I was in the balls. Stephen’s safety must be the best in the world at the moment and the way he’s been playing recently it would have been a travesty if he hadn’t won a tournament. Good on him because he looked dead and buried a few years ago but he has resurrected his career.

“It’s disappointing to lose a final but it doesn’t feel as bad as I thought it would. I’ve won nine out of ten finals which is still a good record.”

Overall then we were given a good finish to an interesting week in Galway, a welcoming venue by all accounts and it was nice amongst other things to see the Eurosport crew given an outing at a venue, as well as to see players such as Jack Lisowski and Xiao Guodong show us what they can do at a venue.

Next stop – Crondon Park as the Championship League comes to a conclusion.