8 players set out, but it was Mick ‘the machine’ Hill, arguably the finest 8 ball player ever to pick up a cue, who returned to winning ways after a relatively lean period, to triumph in the IPA Professional Grand Prix at Bradford University.
His 8-5 victory over first time IPA finalist Craig Marsh, was his first visit to the winners circle since 2010, and was thoroughly deserved after some spellbinding performances. Routine victories over Gareth Hibbott (8- 5) and Kev Barton (8-3) were the sign of things to come for Marsh, although he was not without chances in the match, but could not prevent the Machine notching up an incredible 27th Professional title.
The day started with a somewhat shock result if the form book is anything to go by, with Marsh ejecting current IPA Number 1, and recent European Open winner Gareth Potts, in a deciding frame shoot out. The packed crowd were treated to a fast free flowing game that came to an incredible end, with Marsh snookering himself on the final black, only to masse the white around the obtrusive ball, to make the black into the corner pocket. A memorable end to a memorable match.
Lee Clough completed an impressive 8-1 victory over a subdued Ian Hubbard, to progress to a semi final meeting with Marsh, whilst IPA Chairman Kev Barton scraped through in another deciding frame contest. Opponent Craig Waddingham had first chance in the decider after a dry break from Barton, but snookered himself with 2 reds remaining. Barton proceeded to show all his experience to despatch the yellows and final black to claim victory in a thoroughly entertaining match.
Hill’s defeat of Hibbott in the fourth quarter final hinged on the pivotal 8th frame when Hibbott, trailing 4-3, had the final 2 yellows and black at his mercy, but an inexcusable miss into the centre pocket let in Hill, who never let his opponent grab a foothold in the match again.
On to the semi finals, and first up was Marsh against Clough. Marsh was fast out of the blocks racing into an early 6-1 lead – all over you may think, but a couple of lapses in concentration and the tide
began to sway with Clough, who was using his vast experience to claw his way back into the match. At 6-4 the comeback looked to be on the cards, but Marsh held his nerve to close out the match 8-4, and so reached his first major IPA final as a Professional.
In the second semi final, Hill never really needed to exert himself as Barton finally ran out of steam. A commendable effort nonetheless as he had been organising the event from 8am.
So at around midnight, the final got underway, and it was Hill who got off to the fast start, building a 3-0 lead. The next series of frames produced some quality break and dishes, enabling Marsh to close the gap to 4-5. It was nip and tuck after that, as both players had the title in their minds, coupled with some fatigue after a long day of pool. Both players had chances, but in the end it was Hill who ran out a worthy winner 8 frames to 5. A great effort by Marsh also, whose first Professional title is surely just around the corner.
Thanks must go to the camera crew and production team at Bradford University, who delivered a superb quality stream for the viewers who watched via www.ipapool.com , and also the University itself, for allowing us stage this event there. We all agree it was a great success.