Barry Hawkins continued his recent return to form by finishing top of Group D at the WST Pro Series.
Hawkins edged top spot by beating runner-up Ricky Walden 2-1 in the final round of matches and both players go through to the second phase in Milton Keynes.
Both players won their first five matches in the group, which meant that qualification was sewn up with two rounds of matches still to be played. Hawkins then lost to Jimmy Robertson, before beating Walden with breaks of 81 and 90 to top the group.
In recent weeks, world number 14 Hawkins has reached the semi-finals of both the BetVictor German Masters and the Cazoo Players Championship. Those results have put him on track to qualify for the Cazoo Tour Championship later this month and today’s performance further strengthens his position in eighth place on the one-year ranking list – though he can still be overtaken by Zhou Yuelong.
“I have been practising hard, and winning matches builds confidence,” said three-time ranking event winner Hawkins. “And lockdown helped because it stopped me going to the pub!
“The Tour Championship would be a brilliant tournament to be involved in, especially as I have never been close to getting into it before. It’s a chance to compete against the top players.
“I have managed to guarantee my place at the Crucible as well so I can look forward to that. I hope there will be crowds there because it’s a much better place to play with fans.”
In the last match of the day to finish, Paul Davison missed the pink on 134 when set for what would have been the first 147 of his career. Remarkably it was the second day in a row that a 49-year-old had missed the pink when two balls away from becoming the oldest player ever to make an official maximum, as Fergal O’Brien did exactly the same on Thursday. Davison won the match against Gerard Greene 2-1, but that was little consolation as he still finished bottom of the group.
Click here for the group tables
The action continues on Saturday from 10am with Mark Williams among the players in Group P. The first phase concludes on March 16th.
Click here for Groups and days of play
Click here for the detailed format of play
Fans around the world can watch the event on the Matchroom.Live website – for details click here.