JOE PERRY’s capture of the Players Championship title in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday was a hard earned reward for his many years of service to the game.
Perry turned professional in 1992 and 40 years of age last year. But a consistent couple of seasons, which included two Asian Tour titles, suggested a long prized ranking event success could be his.
The Cambrideshire cueist fell agonisingly short when he was beaten 10-9 by Neil Robertson in the season-opening Wuxi Classic last June but staged a great recovery from 3-0 down to pip Mark Williams 4-3 and land the £100,000 first prize.
“Obviously I am chuffed to bits, it is everything I ever wanted these past few years to win a ranking title. I’ve worked so hard for it and it feels brilliant,” Perry told Inside Snooker.
“Players talk on tour, they discuss who is the best player never to have won one – and my name has cropped up. But I didn’t want to be in that conversation, and winning this means so much after 24 years as a professional.
“Others have said I am playing the best snooker of my career at 40, and I can’t disagree with that. I feel comfortable out there.
“This was just my week, and it would be nice to think I could have another one before I pack it in, and not have to wait so long.
“It is my biggest payday by far at £100,000, probably double after the world semi-finals, but the money while nice really isn’t the thing today.
“There were moments in the decider when I was thinking back to my near miss in the Wuxi final, but I didn’t really have a chance against Neil Robertson in that.
“This time I was determined to go for it if I did, and it worked out. I have had the odd bit of luck this week, but maybe you need that.”
This was the first ranking event final to feature two 40-somethings since Ray Reardon beat Eddie Charlton to win the 1975 World Championship, the caveat being that this tournament was only awarded ranking status retrospectively to form part of the first list in 1976.
Williams had beaten Judd Trump 4-2 earlier in the day and had plenty of momentum. It was his 24th match from six tournaments in five different countries in March alone.
And when the Welshman established a 3-0 lead, he looked the only winner. Perry appeared edgy and was unable to get going as Williams made hay, a classy 103 clearance in the third suggesting he could win at a canter.
But Perry kept going for his shots. The fourth frame was scrappy, it upset Williams’s rhythm and after that Perry started to play much better.
He reached his first ranking final at the 2001 European Open in Malta but his lack of experience showed and he lost 9-2 to Stephen Hendry.
Like any player with a long career, Perry has experienced highs and lows since. He was narrowly denied a place in the 2008 World Championship final when Ali Carter beat him 17-15. The Wuxi defeat must have been hard to take.
But Perry, a little like other players successful in recent times – Stuart Bingham, Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden – has carried on turning up, carried on supporting the game, carried on trying.
The congratulatory tweets from other players and members of snooker’s travelling circuit are genuine. Perry has stuck at it all these years and has now, finally, had his moment.
He rises to ninth in the world rankings, which is the highest position of his career. It is a day to remember for Perry and his family.
There was only one sour note: the fact there wasn’t a trophy for the winner.
Why on earth not?
Photographs by Monique Limbos.