ROBIN HULL’s resurgence, which included a run to the Crucible last season, continues apace as he takes his bow in the quarter-finals of the Wuxi Classic today.
Hull, Finland’s leading player, is playing in his third ranking event quarter-final but first since the 2006 Malta Cup.
The 39 year-old has endured a decade of health problems, which appeared to have ended his career. Last year, he won the European amateur title to earn a return to the professional circuit. He won four matches to qualify for the World Championship this year, losing on the first day to Ronnie O’Sullivan.
In Wuxi, he was particularly impressive against Graeme Dott in the last 32, making breaks of 139 and 132 in the first two frames.
What it all proves is that talented players find a way. Whatever happens today, Hull has underlined what we all knew ten years ago: that he’s a really good player who deserves to be rubbing shoulders with the elite.
Hull is one of three players in the quarter-finals yet to win a full ranking title. Martin Gould and Joe Perry have triumphed at PTC tournaments and are now looking to make the next step up.
For Perry – Hull’s opponent – it would cap the most consistent year of his career, starting 12 months ago when he won an Asian Tour title. It was 2001 when Perry appeared in his only ranking final, losing heavily to Stephen Hendry in the European Open in Malta.
This week he has been impressive, building still further on all the confidence he has accrued of late. He knows, though, that the business end of a tournament is the time to really shine.
Gould is a much better player than his current ranking of 30th. He’s been in the top 16 but he’s also been inconsistent. However, it wouldn’t be any great shock to the snooker world if he won the title on Sunday.
Neil Robertson remains favourite, however. The defending champion was authoritative in beating Michael Holt yesterday, although Holt did gift him chances.
Robertson plays another former world champion, Shaun Murphy, such a regular in quarter-finals that it almost wouldn’t be the same without him.
These two are of the same generation and of similar styles: brilliant long potters and heavy scorers. In recent times Robertson has enjoyed more success but knows he will have to be on his game to continue his title defence.
Barry Hawkins, as he has done now for the last two years, has made quiet but effective progress through the tournament. His emergence as a top player has come about through hard work, self-belief and the steady accumulation of the confidence which comes through winning matches and, in his case, tournaments.
Marco Fu, another player who has enjoyed a fine 12 months, stands in Hawkins’s way today in what is a really good line-up for the quarter-finals of the season’s first TV tournament.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.