26 february 2021 publish date

Barry with Ronnie in semis. QF Players Championship 2021

Barry Hawkins has rededicated himself to hard work on the practice table this season and his impressive run of results continued with a 6-2 defeat of Stuart Bingham to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo Players Championship.

The former world number four has slipped down the rankings in recent years and is currently 18th. But his form has improved this term and tonight’s result leaves him well positioned for a place in the top eight of the one-year list in time for next month’s Cazoo Tour Championship.

Hawkins goes through to play Ronnie O’Sullivan or Jack Lisowski on Friday evening and is just two wins away from the £125,000 top prize in Milton Keynes. He will hope to improve his success rate in ranking semi-finals, having won just seven of his previous 24.

“Dropping down the rankings has given me a goal,” admitted the 41-year-old Londonder.  “I needed a kick up the backside. I have dedicated myself this season and prepared properly for tournaments, rather than being half-hearted. It’s starting to pay off.

“I feel as if I am slowly improving. I have been consistent this season. I’m close to my best but until I win a tournament my confidence will not be sky high.”

From 2-1 down tonight, Hawkins made breaks of 80 and 54 to go 3-2 ahead. Frame six lasted 54 minutes and came down to a long safety battle with two reds left. Hawkins knocked in an excellent long pot on the penultimate red and took the frame, then added the next with a break of 70 for 5-2.

Three-time ranking event winner Hawkins led 40-0 in frame eight when he was unlucky to knock a red in as he split the pack from the blue. But he later made a crucial clearance on the colours, including a superb pot on the brown along the baulk cushion, to seal the result.

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“It was a cagey start then the fourth frame was the pivotal moment, I got into the match after that,” said Hawkins. “The rankings issues have been going on in the background and it has been hard to put it out of my mind. It would be great to be at the Crucible at a seed because qualifying is every tough. If I could get into the Tour Championship as well that would be a bonus.”

Bingham, the 2015 World Champion, lies 22nd in the Race to the Crucible so must now hope for a deep run in the BetVictor Gibraltar Open or WST Pro Series, otherwise he’ll face the qualifiers in Sheffield.

ITV commentator Stephen Hendry compared Ronnie O’Sullivan’s cue to a “magic wand” as the Rocket beat Jack Lisowski 6-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo Players Championship.

In a magnificent display which can rank alongside his best of his recent years, O’Sullivan made two centuries plus four more breaks over 50, and averaged just 16.9 seconds a shot. He is still seeking his first title of the season but on tonight’s form, O’Sullivan will be hard to stop. He meets Barry Hawkins on Friday night for a place in the final.

A bamboozled Lisowski said simply: “It’s as if he is playing a different game. It’s not like playing any other opponent. I didn’t do a lot wrong in fact I’m proud that I kept trying and avoided losing 6-0”

Breaks of 63, 79, 124, 93 and 125 put O’Sullivan 5-0 ahead. Lisowski showed his own talent and fluency in frame six with rapid breaks of 57 and 68. But the match was soon over as O’Sullivan converted an excellent pot on a red to a centre pocket early in frame seven to start a break of 59. Lisowski’s chance to counter ended when he went in-off in potting the black, and the elbow bump soon followed.

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World Champion O’Sullivan, seeking his 38th ranking title, has now won all three career meetings with Lisowski.

“I had a good practice session today, I wanted to find something to take out there,” said O’Sullivan. “I got into the match early. I hit a little purple patch, but tomorrow the wheels could fall off and I might not pot a ball for three or four tournaments.

“Jack is an unbelievable talent. He’s a bit like me, he can be really good or a bit loose and open. When he’s on, he’s very dangerous. When I stop playing, if he picks the phone up and asks me if I can add anything to his game, I wouldn’t hesitate. He’s such a nice lad and fans want to see players like Jack do well. All my friends who follow snooker enjoy watching him.”

Asked about Stephen Hendry’s return to the tour at next week’s BetVictor Gibraltar Open, O’Sullivan said: “I support him, he’s a true great of our game. I hope he enjoys it and has some fun. If people want to see him in the game they should support him, and not be on his back if he doesn’t play so well.

“I said to him he shouldn’t expect anything for a long time, because it will take time for him to bed himself in. At some point he’ll get up to speed, but the game has changed, it’s really tough now.”

The article is based on WST.TV