RORY McLEOD was an unexpected winner of the Ruhr Open but fully earned the title, his second as a professional.
In 2010, McLeod won the Masters qualifying event but this did not carry ranking points or feature the world’s top 16, neither was it televised.
McLeod went to Mulheim as world no.61 having been eliminated from the International Championship qualifiers 6-1 by Daniel Wells the previous week, so the omens were not good. Yet he beat a host of solid professionals – Craig Steadman, Jamie Jones, Mark King, Ben Woollaston, Mark Davis and Mike Dunn – to reach the final before beating Tian Pengfei 4-2.
McLeod’s highest break in the tournament was only 67 but the 55 he made in the clinching frame was an accomplished effort under huge pressure.
He first turned professional in 1991 and has dropped off a couple of times in between. At 44, he is nearer the end of his career than the start.
But McLeod is renowned as a hard worker and has doggedly stuck to his guns. He will never win prizes for speed but snooker is as much a test of temperament as skill and, at the weekend, he held himself together well.
The top seeds scattered and, unusually, there were no top players left at the business end of the tournament. Stephen Hendry suggested on Twitter that this was because of best of sevens but this fails to explain why every other televised European Tour event final has featured a top 16 player.
Hendry also dismissed not only this event but every other bar the World Championship, UK Championship and Masters – which just happen to be the three he works on for the BBC – as unimportant.
Hendry is the sport’s greatest champion but the idea that top players don’t want to win the big money first prizes at, for instance, the China Open, Champion of Champions, German Masters, Shanghai Masters and International Championship – for which the winner will receive £125,000 – is laughable. Indeed, when he was playing, he tried to win everything, exactly the attitude today’s top players should be trying to emulate.
However, what has changed since Hendry was the game’s top dog is that there is greater strength in depth and certainly less fear for lower ranked players taking on top stars. We saw this when James Cahill beat Neil Robertson in Mulheim and when Hammad Miah eliminated Judd Trump.
McLeod will now appear in the Players Championship finals and has a chance to get into the Champion of Champions depending on what happens in Daqing and whether O’Sullivan plays or not, which is apparently being finally resolved this week.
There was one notable record broken, albeit slowly, in Germany. Barry Pinches won a frame against Alan McManus which lasted 100 minutes, 24 seconds. The previous record was 97 minutes, 59 seconds – this from the official World Snooker match sheet – for a frame between Dominic Dale and Dave Harold in the 2012 World Open qualifiers.
The match itself lasted five hours, leading to all manner of calls for shot-clocks, but McManus won his next match in just two hours and was one of the first to reach the last 16 on Saturday.
Frames like the one he played against Pinches are the exceptions, not the norm, and a shot-clock doesn’t stop players playing high quality safety, which was the main reason the frame lasted so long.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.