Hawkins Downs Ebdon To Win Australian Goldfields Open

Congratulations to world number 23 Barry Hawkins who today produced a terrific performance to defeat a below-par Peter Ebdon 9-3 and capture his first ranking event title in Bendigo.

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Leading 5-3 after the first session of today’s final, but having dropped two of the last three frames of the opening session, there were more than a few observers who had expected Barry Hawkins to come under pressure in the evening with the redoubtable Peter Ebdon in for the long haul.

As it happened however, Barry was to start the session with a magnificent total clearance of 133, started by a terrific long red not dissimilar to Ding Junhui’s re-spotted black against Ebdon earlier in the week, to extend his lead to 6-3. From there the final quickly got away from a struggling Ebdon, further breaks of 74 and 51 from Barry helping him to a 9-3 victory, celebrated with a fist-pump as the match-ball brown dropped into the green pocket.

A professional of 16 years, Barry has come close in the past, reaching four ranking event semi-finals in a three-year period between 2005-7 as he surged into the top 16 of the rankings for the first time. During the past few years however, Barry has struggled to make it to the latter stages of events, indeed before this week he had not reached a quarter-final since 2008.

Over the past year however there have been a number of confidence boosting milestones achieved by Barry, notably his deciding-frame victory against Stephen Maguire at the 2011 World Championship, his first win at the Crucible Theatre, having lost his previous five matches at the venue. He followed that up with another last 16 appearance in the competition this year, as well as taking victory at the invitational Snooker Shoot Out earlier this year. While that tournament was a one-frame format, taking home the trophy would nevertheless have done him no harm.

With the absence of established names such as Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams this week, on paper there was a real opportunity for a number of players to go on a run this week, and every credit to Barry who has taken full advantage. Take nothing away from him, in defeating Xiao Guodong, Matthew Stevens, Matt Selt, Mark Davis and now Peter Ebdon, he has shown improvement throughout the tournament and against Ebdon today in particular, he was a fully deserving winner as the match statistics would indicate.

Taking home a top prize of $70,000 and 5,000 ranking points, Barry moves up to 20th in the latest projected seedings list, ever closer to regaining a place inside the top 16 for what would be the second time in his career.

For Ebdon meanwhile, despite never really getting started in today’s final, it has been another positive week in 2012 and one that keeps him in contention for a return to the top 16 if he is able to sustain the level of form that he has produced during recent months.

Overall the tournament has again proven to be a successful addition to the calendar, well supported by the local crowd, despite the early exit of local favourite Neil Robertson and the absence of a number of top 16 players. There of course continue to be dissenters, citing the expenses and the local tax rate which makes playing in the tournament prohibitive to all but those making it to the latter stages, but from a pure fan perspective, I have enjoyed following the event.

Still, the snooker circuit doesn’t stop for anyone these days and the action will soon resume at the PTC1 event in Gloucester, which starts later this week…