Chris Wakelin Dedicates Shootout Win To Long-Time Mentor After Debut Title

Gary Morris played a major role in Wakelin's development
12:26, 29 Jan 2023

Chris Wakelin dedicated an emotional debut ranking title to long-time coach and mentor Gary Morris. The 30-year-old from Rugby claimed a sensational breakthrough success with a 119-0 victory in the final over Belgian teenager Julien Leclercq.

The ‘Belgian Beast’, in his rookie year on tour, had breezed through the draw in the rapid-fire single-frame event up to Saturday night’s final at the Morningside Arena in nearby Leicester.

But world No47 Wakelin won the climax in the most incredible style with a break of 119 that also secured the extra high-break prize.


The title saw Rugby’s Wakelin pocket the £50,000 first prize plus another £5,000 for his century in the showpiece - and also secure a place in the lucrative Champion of Champions tournament.

Earlier in the tournament Wakelin, a former practice partner of Mark Selby, beat Farakh Ajaib, Alfie Burden, Joe Perry, Jak Jones, Michael White and Daniel Wells.

Wakelin, who had never even made a ranking event semi-final before this success after four lost quarter-finals, said: “I have had a guy coach me since I was 10 years old who has done wonders for my life in terms of having the opportunity to be a professional snooker player.

“Unfortunately at the moment he is not very well so sending all my best wishes to Gary, thanks for all your help and this one’s for you, mate.

“The feeling is everything I could have ever have dreamed of. You work day in and day out, I have been 10 years a pro and until now without ever doing anything spectacular. And here it all came together.

“It is the first time ever I have made a break of over 50 in the Shootout, so I will celebrate that one. 128 players turned up and gave it their best shot, and I am lucky to come out on top.

“Julien has come here and given a great account of himself and he has a big future in the game.”

Leclercq said: “He made an amazing break and I didn’t get a chance to come in in the final, so many congratulations to Chris.

“It is beyond my expectations to get to the final and a great experience. It is my first year on tour, my first Shootout – and I am turning 20 in a few days.”

The Shootout, a competition viewed as some sort of snooker heresy when first introduced by former World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn has come to be widely accepted tour-wide for being just what it says on the tin – a quickfire tournament drawing on slightly different skills, a bit of fun, and a break with the everyday formats.

There remains a genuine debate as to whether a format so far removed from the traditional merits having conferred on it full ranking status with the money and points that so affect a player’s world ranking and entries to various events on the circuit. But even that controversy has subsided from where it was at its howling zenith.

And this year’s tournament, taking place in Leicester with the sport under the shadow of the match-fixing crisis that sees 10 Chinese players suspended and a host of extra top-up players in addition to those few big guns that shun the spectacle, offered up some welcome good news stories.

Two 14-year-olds amateurs made a splash winning matches – Welsh teenager Riley Powell, one of so many youngsters inspired and mentored by three-time world champion Mark Williams, and Moldova’s Leeds-based Vladislav Gradinari, who is starting to make great strides in the junior game despite the fact there are only around four tables in the whole of his home country.

The quickfire format with single-frame matches of 10 minutes maximum and a shot-clock starting at 15 seconds and then dropping to 10 seconds for the last five minutes certainly should lend itself to upsets and shocks and offer some more unlikely names the chance of success – and once again the Shootout delivered.

Virtually a lottery – but one that offers real opportunity.

Gradinari became the youngest player ever to win a Shootout match with his 40-1 win over three-time women’s world champion Ng On Yee, and older by just two months Powell then stunned former World Championship finalist and world No8 Kyren Wilson with a 41-31 success. He went on to win again against Brazil’s Victor Sarkis, before losing to Tom Ford.

Reanne Evans, the record 12-time women’s world champion, also made full use of the stage became the first woman to win a Shootout match with a 60-8 victory against former world champion Stuart Bingham.

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