Belgium To Host Snooker's European Masters

Belgium will stage a World Snooker ranking event for the first time in 23 years in October when the 2017 European Masters comes to Lommel.

The tournament will run from October 2 to 8 in the city of Lommel in the Belgian province of Limburg. Belgium hosted the European Open from 1992 to 1994, in the cities of Tongeren and Antwerp, but has not staged a full ranking event since.

The tournament will start with a 128-player flat draw, with a qualifying round to run on August 3-4 in Preston and the winners going through to the final stages in Belgium.

Judd Trump won the European Masters last season, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-8 in a dramatic final in Bucharest, Romania.

The popularity of snooker has grown in Belgium in recent years, particularly through television coverage on Eurosport as well as the success of talented young player Luca Brecel.

World number 27 Brecel is the highest ranked player from continental Europe. The 22-year-old from Maasmechelen reached the final of the German Masters last year and remains the youngest ever player to compete in the final stages of the World Championship, having made his Crucible debut in 2012 at the age of 17. Brecel is in China this week representing his country in the Snooker World Cup.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are thrilled to be growing our footprint in Europe by staging a ranking event in the beautiful city of Lommel for the first time.

“Snooker has grown at an astonishing rate in Europe in recent years and our viewing figures on Eurosport are fantastic. Our sport is extremely popular in Belgium and now the fans there have the chance to see their heroes play live.

“We want to see more gifted young players like Luca Brecel emerge from the continent, and staging major tournaments is an important way of keeping our growth going and inspiring the next generation.

Mayor of Lommel Peter Vanvelthoven added: “We are extremely thrilled to be able to host such a prestigious event in our city, Lommel. With pleasure we provide our venue and knowledge! This is an unique opportunity to see Luca Brecel – young snooker talent from our region and country – play in our beloved city. This will attract many visitors for sure.

Details of how to buy tickets for the event will be announced soon.

The 2017 World Snooker Championship - my views

The World Snooker Championship it's over for some days now and so is the 2016/2017 snooker season: a time for depression for most of us: snooker fans, bloggers, journalists and so on.

The question "And now what?" comes to mind, isn't it? So that's why I thought of sharing a few of the highlights of this year's World Championship.

I haven't done this in years, so for those of you who have forgot or have no idea what doing an "after" piece is all about, here's the bloody, bloody truth: what you will read next are just my views. It's my turn to be bias.

A special edition 

2017 marked the 40th anniversary from when snooker graced the Crucible Theater with its presence. It's been one hell of a journey, one that is bound to continue for at least 10 years as we were assured just before the kick off, of this year's edition when World Snooker Chairman, Barry Hearn signed the papers.

"The home of snooker" will remain in Sheffield, at the Crucible Theatre a place so tiny and claustrophobic, but one that guards so many lovely and painful memories nonetheless. It's actually paradoxical how a place so small can capture so many great moments.

The 40th anniversary got some great coverage from the BBC, a celebration party before the start of the new World Championship, some awesome TV-shows, plus a re-play of "The Rack Pack" - a film that presents (in a very weird mix of sad and funny) the "change of guards" from Alex Higgins to Steve Davis.

I am what you would call "old school", so I can't but be overjoyed by the fact that snooker has found such a great and cozy place as the Crucible for its home and that for 40 years this has been the stage where snooker's been the winner.

"Shocks on the rocks" 

Probably that the biggest shock of the tournament was the fact that one of the biggest favourites to win the title this year, Judd Trump suffered an out-of-this-world defeat from world number 54, Rory McLeod.

McLeod, whose last major victory was recorded back in 2015 when he won the Ruhr Open, beat Trump 10-8 in the first round.

A match that I guess proved to Trump what the expression "nerves of steel" is all about.

Marco's comebacks 

Marco Fu has been a very strong contestant and his form this season is probably his best so far. So probably is not fair to say I was surprised to see him battle his way through matches, performing more than one comeback.

The first came when he was 7-1 down in the first round, against Belgium's best Luca Brecel. What a great performance for the Hong Kong man! He went on and won the match 10-9.

The second piece of history happened in the next round, where he faced the mighty Neil Robertson. This snooker encounter was filled with a lot of mistakes and bad missed, as the man himself was going to state after the match and although the lads went hand in hand for most of the time, everything changed when Robbo went 10-8 up.

In the end though, Fu managed to win 13-11. He got beaten in the quarters though, 13-3 by the reigning world champion, Mark Selby.

Break of pattern for Ding

Ding Junhui enjoyed a pretty good run during this year's World Championship, but his most notable performance must definitely be the victory he obtained in front of his idol, Ronnie O'Sullivan.

"The Chinese Sensation" hasn't beat O'Sullivan in 10 years! So to do it here, at the Crucible, in the quarter-finals of the World Championship must really be something worth remembering. Not just for the lad, but also for us.

I guess we all remember the time when Ding ended up in tears after losing to O'Sullivan, back in 2007 in the Masters' final. 10 years later, the student was overcomes his master.

146 - the new 147 

I don't know about you, but I am a sucker for maximum breaks. It gets me all warm and fuzzy inside. So the fact that this year we didn't have a 147 at the Crucible was a bit sad.

However, we had the next best thing, which is a 146 beautifully cued by the one and only Ronnie O'Sullivan in the match against Ding Junhui.

Interestingly enough we haven't had a maximum break at the Crucible since Stephen Hendry's 147 from 2012 - the year he actually retired form professional snooker.

Selby gets 3 out of 4 & joins elite group 

Selby hasn't just retained his world title, but has also recorded a pretty special deal: he won three out of four World Championship finals!Which, despite not being everyone's cup of tea is a pretty awesome thing.

Plus, the fact that he defended his title also puts him next to snooker's elite: Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

These three gents are the only ones to have won back-to-back world titles.

Vintage Higgins

Back in 2011 Higgins won the World Championship in a splendid way. He enjoyed a tremendous season, winning the 2010 UK Championship and the 2011 Welsh Open so I guess it was only normal to end that season in grand style. Plus, if you well remember he had something to prove after the six-months ban.

Since then though, his form has been oscillating and although this season he captured the Champion of Champions title, he didn't seem to regain his superb cuing style. But this World Championship we had a very nice surprise from the Scotsman.

Although not at his best, he was strong, determined, his long potting was just superb and he reached the final where he battled like a lion. Sure, it was a time when everything came to pieces, but it was without any doubt a vintage Higgins running around the snooker table this year.

Snooker conquers Social Media 

I have been blogging about snooker for almost seven years now and I am so happy to say that this year was probably the best in regard to how snooker was present and promoted through Social Media.

Either we are talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube - snooker was there. World Snooker even decided to use Facebook as a tool for broadcasting the World Snooker Championship in parts of the world where the transmission wasn't available - which by all means is great publicity for the sport itself. Snooker reached news territories and flooded all Social Media channels with pictures, short videos, LIVE sessions, news etc.

Everything was there up for grabs. Every minute of the World Championship got coverage from the officials, as well as from us - the snooker blog-sphere - and the snooker fans from all around the world.

The snooker family got together once more and shared unique moments, ideas, jokes and so on. It really was a tremendous year for snooker to break the online. I dare to day snooker conquered the online for 17 days ;-)

So this is it, grosso modo I have stated my case (of which I am certain, as Sinatra said in a very famous song - I'll let you guess which one) of my highlights for this year's World Snooker Championship.

And now what? - the same question arises. Now it's your turn! Write me about your favourite/worst moments, the highlights, the funny parts ... whatever springs to mind. I will be sure to read them all. 

Photos credit: World Snooker

2017 World Snooker Championship - Selby wins third world title

Mark Selby beat John Higgins 18-15 to win the 2017 Betfred World Snooker Championship and retain the trophy he lifted last year, when he defeated Ding Junhui by a pretty similar scoreline, 18-14.

Selby's had a tremendous season, winning the UK Championship back in December by defeating the one and only Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-7 and the recently ended China Open where he beat Mark Williams 10-8.

Talk about breaking a curse for we all know that since the China Open was moved in the snooker calendar before the World Championship, no China Open winner managed to also cash the world title.

In the 2017 World Snooker Championship final, Selby was led 10-4 by a furious John Higgins who displayed such an outstanding cue action throughout the first two sessions.

But something changed, or better to say, Selby's grit made an appearance, when the players returned for their third session, "The Jester" being led 10-7.

The current world number one took the first two frames, some genuine scrappy affairs, with just a top break of 40 before Higgins could make a great 78 clearance and restore the three-frame advantage, 11-9.

Selby managed to win the frame before the interval on the colours and carried on by firing in breaks of 67, 58 and 72 to complete his comeback and take the lead, 13-11.

That's how the scoreline was looking when the forth and last session kicked off, Mark being the one to quickly get the run of the balls and get one more frame under his belt.

An out-of-sorts Higgins tried his best and managed to win the next frame, but by the mid-session interval Selby's breaks of 71 and 70 were putting him 16-12 in front.

After the 15-minutes break the Scotsman produced some magnificent breaks of 88, 111 and 43 to win three frames in a row and keep his hopes alive, but Selby was sure to respond with a powerful 131 and a 75 to close the match at 18-15.

Selby's victory means even more since it puts him alongside with three great legends of the game, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan for winning back-to-back world titles.

"The Jester" is now a thee-time world champion and £375,000 richer, but most importantly continues to retain his world number one spot and tells the story of what determination, stamina and hard-work is all about.

Congrats Jester! You did it again!

Photos credit (1&2): World Snooker

2017 World Snooker Championship (Day 16 - The Final) - Higgins leads Selby after two sessions

The mighty and much-craved for final of the 2017 Betfred World Snooker Championship has exhausted its first two sessions, John Higgins holding an overnight advantage of 10-7 over Mark Selby.

The pair got together in a re-enactment of the World Snooker Championship final from 10 years ago, when Higgins was the winner, this definitely adding a bit more pressure on both players, as it was easily seen at the beginning of the match.

Selby was the one to take the first frame of the final with a great 76 break, while Higgins was drawing level after winning a scrapper.

Runs of 62 and 58 were helping "The Jester" put his nose back in front, Higgins responding with a perfectly cued 141 to make the scoreboard go 2-2 at the mid-session interval.

It was a nervy start from both players, but as the match re-started "The Wizard of Wishaw" got a bit more settled in and used runs of 63 and 33 to take the lead for the first time since the start of the match, to which he carefully added a 95 clearance, a 7th frame won on the black and a 49 to end the first session at 6-2 up.

When returning into the arena for their second snooker encounter, Selby seemed determined to produce one of his well-known comebacks as he crafted a break of 86 to pull one back. But that wasn't in Higgins' plan, who took the next two frames to open a five-frame lead.

Luckily, the current world champion managed to produce runs of 26 and 38 just as the mid-session interval was starting, thus trailing 8-4.

A vintage Higgins, whose long potting was just superb, was furiously taking no less than two consecutive frames thanks to a top break of 76 to go 10-4 up, when Selby's determination decided to make a full appearance.

The world number one hit in breaks of 81, 121, 47 and 49 to reduce the gap at just three frames, 10-7 and get into a much better position than the one he was into when the second session started.

Monday will see the conclusion of this match, the lads meeting for their third session from 2pm (UK time) and for the forth and last, from 7pm (UK time).

And since vintage-Higgins is on the cards and comeback-Selby has finally decided to show up, then we have a cracking final on our hands!

Photos credit: World Snooker