SNOOKER CAREERS are full of ups and downs, and Nigel Bond has had more of the latter of late, but last night’s remarkable comeback against Barry Hawkins in the Coral UK Championship makes it all worthwhile.

Bond was all at sea early on. In the first five frames he had mustered a highest break of only 34 and was set to be whitewashed when Hawkins stood over the green.

But the Kent man missed, Bond scrambled the frame and Hawkins increasingly scrambled his own brain as the wheels well and truly fell off.

Bond fed off the scraps but towards the end of the match started to play really well, making a century break in the ninth frame and looking by far the stronger of the two as the line approached.

It brought back memories of his epic recovery from 9-2 down to beat Cliff Thorburn 10-9 in the first round of the 1994 World Championship. If anything, last night’s win was even better because, 20 years ago, it was Bond who was the top 16 player while Thorburn was near the end of his career. Now, Bond is 49 years old while Hawkins is the world no.5 and one of the best players of the last few seasons.

Once German Masters qualifying is over, I’m sure Hawkins will welcome the Christmas break as he looks to bounce back from this capitulation in the New Year.

Hearty congratulations must go to Bond. He’s had a 25-year professional career in which he’s been a loyal servant to the game, causing no trouble and just making the valuable contribution a snooker player can: playing.

There have been great moments – his British Open success and run to the world final – and plenty of disappointment but last night had the full gamut of emotions, from despair to joy, to midnight and beyond.

Peter Lines quite rightly didn’t pretend that he wanted Ronnie O’Sullivan to continue in the competition rather the withdrawing. There’s a £6,000 hike in prize money for reaching the last 32 and, even though Lines has won their two previous meetings in PTCs, he knows he will be second favourite in a big arena like this.

As far as we know, O’Sullivan will play in York tonight. The problem he has as he goes further in the tournament though is that he will start playing every day, which will further exacerbate the pain from his injured ankle.

Two years ago, Luca Brecel came within a frame of reaching the semi-finals. He has made precious little impact since, so his match this afternoon with Mark Allen is a chance to remind everyone of what a talent he is.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.