Marco Fu Sinks The Milkman | International Championship Qualifiers

Hawk Downs The Jester

Barry Hawkins scored a 6-4 win over close friend and four-time World Champion Mark Selby in Nuremberg to make the BetVictor European Masters final for a second consecutive year.

The Hawk is now one win away from ending a ranking title drought which extends back six years to the 2017 World Grand Prix. Since then he has appeared in a further four ranking finals, but was runner up at the 2018 Welsh Open, 2018 China Open, 2022 Players Championship and 2022 European Masters. His defeat in last year’s European Masters final came 9-3 at the hands of Kyren Wilson.

Hawkins must now face 2019 World Champion Judd Trump over the best of 17 frames, with a top prize of £80,000 on the line. The Ace in the Pack is aiming to break a drought of his own, having not won a ranking title since the 2022 Turkish Masters.

Despite defeat this evening, it has been a strong outing for Selby in his first appearance of the season. He ended last term falling short in snooker’s biggest match, after being beaten 18-15 by Luca Brecel in an all-time classic World Championship final. The four-time Crucible king appears to be gearing up for another big campaign in 23/24.

The match began at a ferocious pace, Selby took an early lead with a sublime 134 in the opener. However, Hawkins responded with 106 to restore parity. Selby moved 2-1 ahead, before Hawkins battled to take a 38-minute fourth to head into the mid-session level at 2-2.

They traded the first two frames after the interval, with Hawkins then crafting a run of 70 to take the lead for the first time in the match at 4-3. With the finish line coming into view, Selby stepped it up a gear. A contribution of 94 saw him draw level and he had looked set to move one from the win, when he strung together a break of 59 in the ninth. The frame was turned on its head though, when Hawkins hit back with an incredible clearance of 66 to steal on the black.

Selby had the first chance to force a decider in the next, but broke down on 32. Hawkins stepped in and ruthlessly wrapped up the match with a fine break of 73.

“I’m delighted. I thought it was a high quality game with not many balls missed. Overall I thought the standard was very good. To beat Mark, when it looked like he was playing well, is a feather in my cap,” said 44-year-old Hawkins.

“I’ve watched all of the greats over the years and those are the sorts of frames they win (the two at the end of the match). It looked like I was going 5-4 down and Mark had the momentum with him. It would have been an uphill battle from there. To win those sorts of frames is a massive boost in confidence. I held myself together under the utmost pressure.

“It doesn’t get any easier. I’m looking forward to the final though. It is another big match and I’ve had some great games with Judd over the years. I know what to expect. I just need more of the same from what I did tonight really. I won’t worry about who I am playing and just go out there and enjoy the occasion.”