AHMED Saif will never forget Day Two of the BetVictor Welsh Open in Cardiff after grabbing a first ever ranking tournament win, and first victory over a fellow professional.
The 32-year-old from Qatar, in his second season on the main tour, probably still needs a near-miracle to keep his place on the circuit this season.
But that paled into insignificance after an astonishing 4-0 victory over Anthony Hamilton at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.
The win was sealed with a superb break of 95, Saif’s highest as a professional, and the world No123 looked taken aback as World Snooker press chief Ivan Hirschowitz requested his presence in the media centre. There was an element of ‘What, me?’ about the exchange.
Incredibly Saif, admittedly backed by the Qatari Federation, had won just £200 in almost two full seasons on tour before Tuesday in Cardiff.
Saif did not a win a match of any description at all in his first year on tour after making it through Q-School in 2013.
This year has been little better, although there was one solitary victory over Chinese amateur Long Yun in an Asian Tour event.
The win over former Crucible quarter-finalist Hamilton, bringing him £1,500, meant he had earned seven and a half times in one day what he had pulled in over the previous two years.
But what was immediately clear was that Saif was far more pleased about repaying albeit in a small way some of the faith shown in him by his home country.
He said: “I am very happy – and I just wish I had done it a long time ago. It took me a long time to get used to playing in pro tournaments.
“Many, many matches I lost due to lack of experience, and many frames also, ones I knew I should have won were taken frame me.
“Even today against Anthony when he was going for snookers in one frame I could see that happening again.
“But I played better today and I have beaten a very good and experienced player, the first professional I have beaten. It is a big moment, because if I had dropped off tour without winning a match like this I would have been very sad.
“Now I want to do more, but hopefully now I can relax and play more like I do in practice because I have proved something to myself. I don’t think I will feel as much pressure for the rest of the season.
“I have wanted to do something, make some kind of mark for a long time, and at last I have done that – even if it is very little.
“I live in Qatar and fly a lot to the UK and China, I should live in the UK really. Most of the time, I arrive two days before my matches from home. That is not good preparation and it is very difficult.
“If I do drop off the tour and get back on I will come and live in the UK to give myself a better chance.
“But I don’t care about the money, I just want to do something for my country, that is the most important thing.
“Qatar sent me here and did everything for me to help me become a professional. So it is foer them first, and then myself – and not about the money.”
Saif was not allowed too much time to wallow in his success, as he was due back on table against former Masters champion Alan McManus in the evening. But the breakthrough had been made, and nothing was going to spoil it for him.
Photograph by Monique Limbos