Chris Wakelin won his first ranking title, ten years after turning professional, by beating Julien LeClercq in the final of the BetVictor Shoot Out with the highest break of the tournament.
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Wakelin was calmness personified in the final of the unique one-frame knockout event as he compiled a break of 119 to take the £5,000 high break prize on top of the £50,000 winner’s cheque – by far his biggest pay day. The world number 47 from Nuneaton had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event but went all the way to the silverware in a tournament which has still never been won by a player ranked inside the top 16 in its 12-year history.
Before Christmas, 30-year-old Wakelin lost several first-round matches in ranking events, but has turned his form around and came into this event on a run of seven consecutive wins in qualifying matches. He has reeled off another seven this week to achieve an ambition he has dreamed of since he first picked up a cue.
The spin-offs are significant in what could be a career-defining moment – he leaps 76 places up the one-year ranking list to 15th, which puts him in contention to qualify for next month’s Duelbits Players Championship, and is up to sixth in the BetVictor Series rankings, with the list leader after the next two events to earn a £150,000 bonus. He could also earn a spot in the Champion of Champions later this year.
Belgium’s 19-year-old LeClercq showed his immense potential with a fine run to the final and narrowly missed out on joining a small group of players to have won a ranking event as a teenager, as well as the rare achievement of capturing a title in his rookie season. The player nicknamed The Beast looks to have the talent to shine on the main stage for many years to come. He banks £16,000 as runner-up and moves 24-places up the official rankings to 85th.
“It’s a very surreal moment, something I have always dreamed of,” said Wakelin. “The last trophy I won was the English Under-19s, it has taken me ten years to win another one! I couldn’t be prouder of what has happened over the last four days.
“It takes so much to be able to perform out there. In the quarter and semi-finals I wasn’t sure I would be able to push the cue through, I was that nervous. But the final was the most comfortable I felt all week and that proves the hard work is all worth it.
“Everyone goes through tough times. We are lucky enough to play snooker for a living but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got problems off the table. I have had a lot of hardship and some dark times but managed to fight through them and I’m sitting here now with my own silverware. I never thought I would have to buy a trophy cabinet.
“A year or so ago I took up ballroom dancing and that really changed my life. It gave me a new outlook, something else to focus on and a new skill to learn. I met a whole host of new people and it gave me a chance to raise money for Zoe’s Place and do my bit for a local charity. That made me realise I’m a good person deep down.
“The money is life changing, it’s inconceivable. I am from a humble background. I didn’t realise when I potted the pink in the final I had nicked the high break as well. This result will trampoline me up the rankings. I have lost a lot of hard matches which just didn’t go my way because the tour is so strong. Over the last 18 months my game has come on so much, I feel as if I’m playing the best snooker of my life.”
LeClercq said: “Chris had one chance in the final and made an amazing break, so I didn’t get a chance. It was a great experience for me and I am very motivated. I enjoyed it but Chris deserved the win. I am very happy with my level at this tournament. I didn’t expect to reach a final in my first season.”
Earlier in the semi-finals, Wakelin beat Daniel Wells, who missed out on the chance to become the first amateur to reach a ranking event final, while LeClercq knocked out Dominic Dale, who has hoped to become the oldest ever ranking event champion at the age of 51.