As well as being a huge day for close friends Neil Robertson and Joe Perry, the Wuxi Classic final was a very significant occasion for their home club base WT’s Snooker and Sporting Club in Cambridge.
Robertson made Cambridge his base when famously arriving for a second crack at the tour with just £500 in his pocket, and he and Perry have played at WT’s for six years, since switching from the Cambridge Snooker Centre.
The down-to-earth pair are both popular with regulars at the club, and even with the Sunday early-afternoon scheduled finish for their first clash in a final club officials were expecting a big turnout for the concluding frames.
Most players receive a devoted and loyal following from their home club, and with the tournament in China the emphasis was clearly even more on being there to follow the action on the TV rather than snaffle up tickets as would often be the case for UK events.
WT’s Stephen McNamara admitted that sentiment dictated many regulars would have liked Perry to pick up a first major title in his 24 year as a professional – but that there would in all likelihood be a big homecoming party whoever walked away with the trophy.
McNamara said: “It is obviously a great occasion for the club and a special day, probably the biggest in many ways even given Neil’s world championship win with Joe having been here for so long as well.
“The club feels so proud to have two such top players in the world based here – but forget even that, they are both just top people and great lads.
“We follow it all year at the club on all the various channels. If I am honest at the start the club was probably leaning slightly more towards Joe to win, only because Neil has already won so much and done so well, and Joe was yet to win a major title.
“Anyone who knows snooker knows what a competitive animal Neil is and no quarter will be given…but even him, deep in his heart, wouldn’t mind Joe winning a title.
“I am sure there will be a party here in the club whoever wins, but especially if it is Joe. And both of them tend to put a few quid behind the bar for the regulars, so they will be cheered on for two motives.
“Joe is called The Gentleman for a reason, both he and Neil you wouldn’t know who they were in the snooker club the way they are with people in the club. They sit at the bar, have a coffee and argue about football, mix with the regulars and make time for everyone.
“And then obviously when they are up there practising properly we just try and make sure they are not bothered.
“If there is one slight regret it is that it was in China on the timings for their first major ranking-event final, the snooker and pool regular crowd tend to come out at night and it would have been even more rocking here with a 7.30pm start to the second session.
“But we will still get a good few come in around lunchtime away from the barbecues. And to think that a city like Cambridge, and I played for many years myself, would have the pair of them is incredible.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos