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Shehab wins Q-Tour qualifier to enter Global Play-off

Shehab wins Q-Tour qualifier to enter Global Play-off
30 Jan 2024 09:45

KUUMAR SHYAM (ABU DHABI)

The UAE’s Mohammed Shehab has qualified for the Global Play-off on the newly introduced Q-Tour for amateur players looking to get on the Main Snooker Tour. While the Abu Dhabi-based cueist is one step closer to playing the prestigious professional circuit, it is the conditions around his exploits which embellish his efforts on the snooker table.

This season, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) expanded the Q-Tour qualifying criteria and invited expressions of interest from other regions, other than the conventional step of players coming to UK/Europe in attempts to qualify. Shehab offered to sponsor and organise one in the Middle East at his own club, Cue Sports Academy, at the Zayed Sports City.

Not only did Shehab play admin-host to the first ever Q-Tour tournament in the Middle East, which comprised of three events, he also won the third and final leg. The first two events were won by Iran’s Amir Sarkhosh, thus claiming the one spot available in the 24-player field for the Play-off in Bosnia & Herzegovina from March 13-15.

A day after the Middle East legs were over, the WPBSA met to amend the structure on Friday. Shehab got some welcome news.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Shehab told Aletihad, “but they called to inform that there would be two places, instead of one, from the Q-Tour participants because they were impressed with the quality of organisation and the depth of the players in the field.”

A statement from the WPBSA said they were increasing slots for UK/Europe from 16 to 18 and they would be joined by two players from each of the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Americas series.

Shehab took up the responsibility of playing host, at short notice, to 34 more players. “I was expecting 64 actually,” he said. Planning the logistics for the three qualifiers would have been less challenging at his own academy, but the 35-year-old veteran also had to play last month at the Masters Tournament in Doha, Qatar. He went all the way to the final, where he narrowly missed out on the title.

Before the rule change this week, Shehab was left ruing another missed opportunity in Abu Dhabi when he and Sarkhosh were in the final of the second event and Shehab led Sarkhosh 3-0. “Despite having won the first event, the format I devised meant the players still had a lot to play for improving the world ranking which can prove beneficial,” Shehab explained.

And that motivation spurred the Iranian to stage a comeback and secure a 4-3 victory and back-to-back titles in the series. When Shehab competed in the third event, he thought he was doing his bit towards boosting his own ranking on the Order of Merit.

Shehab set aside the disappointment of losing to Sarkhosh to beat compatriots Ali Albahadra and Ali Al Ameri in the first two rounds. He defeated Habib Humood, first event’s runner-up, in the quarters before securing a 4-1 win over Ismail Turker in the semi-final.

In the final against Syria’s Yazan Haddad, Shehab took charge with two breaks of 70 each in the first and third frames respectively on his way to a 4-0 whitewash in the long-frame format. Incidentally, Shehab also registered the highest break of the competition with a score of 137.

He received a prize money of £500 for winning the third event while shelling out $12,000 out of pocket to conduct the tournament without any sponsors.

“It would have been ideal with 64 players and some sponsorships, but it is also understandable that not many are aware or just that the players were reluctant to come here rather than compete for the UK/Europe spots… though this makes sense to play in your local region,” Shehab said in signing off.

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