Ashley Hugill defeated Iulian Boiko 5-3 to win the World Snooker Federation Open title in Malta.
The victory sees the 25-year-old succeed Luo Honghao as champion and will also see him earn a two-year tour ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of the 2020/21 season.
Hugill was previously on the professional circuit from 2017-19, reaching the last 16 of the Scottish Open and is currently second on the Challenge Tour ranking list having won Event Four in Bruges.
The Englishman emerged from a difficult round-robin group which included Junior Open finalist Sean Maddocks and fellow former professional Chris Totten, before winning five knockout matches to progress to the final.
Awaiting him was Iulian Boiko from Ukraine, who at just 14-years-old had lit up the tournament by taking the scalps of players including Sean O’Sullivan and Ross Muir, both among those favoured to take the title.
It was Hugill who would assert himself upon the final in its opening stages, a clearance of 113 and a further run of 56 enough to give him a 2-0 lead in their best of nine frames final.
The attacking Boiko – who earlier in the tournament had dispatched O’Sullivan 3-0 in under 27 minutes with an average shot time of just 13.58 seconds – responded in style by taking three frames in a row, a break of 62 enough to put him into the lead for the first time at 3-2.
It was Hugill’s turn to raise him game however as he countered with breaks of 65, 50 and finally 89 to claim his own hat-trick of frames and seal a 5-3 victory.
“It is an incredible feeling to claim this title,” said Hugill, from York. “The thing that made it better was my family being here. It would have been the best day of my career if they weren’t here and to have them here to see it was perfect.
“I felt really calm all the way throughout the tournament. I was most nervous in the quarter-finals against Allan Taylor but I was just in the zone tonight. I felt great, even at 3-2 down I hadn’t made that many mistakes. I just couldn’t get in around the black spot during those frames.”
Having left as the last man standing from a high-quality field of over 150 players, Hugill added that he had arrived at the event with confidence and now feels that he is well-placed to return to the professional circuit as a better player.
“I came here both expecting to win and I was hoping to win,” said Hugill. “You don’t come here to lose in the final and after I beat Kuldesh [Johal] in the first knockout round I hardly missed a ball and I knew I was in a good place to win it.
“It was awful not getting through Q School. I had a tough second year on the tour especially and I went into Q School with low confidence and I was devastated to be off the tour. What turned it around was my maximum break at Challenge Tour in Leeds. That gave me the confidence and the belief that I was good enough to earn a living at this game.
“Without a doubt I am better equipped for the main tour now. I have learned a lot more about the mental side of the game, controlling my mind and thinking clearly under pressure. That’s almost more important than your cue action.”
Hugill also had words of praise for his opponent, who despite defeat leaves with a number of new fans around the globe who have followed his progress during the event.
“He is an incredible talent,” added Hugill. “When his game develops further in respect of shot selection and safety, he can go as far as he wants in the sport and I told him that after the match.
“This has been a superb venue including the TV table and facilities at the Academy where we have also played are fantastic. I am sure that Malta will see some great young players coming through the ranks with those facilities.”
Full information about the WSF Open including results and standings can be accessed here: https://snookerscores.net/tournament-manager/2020-wsf-open