Seniors Set for Sheffield Return

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Reigning champion David Lilley will aim to defend the WAYS Facilities Management World Seniors Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre later this week.

Starting Wednesday night and taking place across five days, fans will be welcomed back to the championship for the first time since 2019.

The World Seniors Snooker Tour’s blue riband event also returns to a 24-player field with a preliminary round of 16 cueists looking to advance and meet the seeded players waiting in the last 16. Nine nationalities will be represented in Sheffield and there is an intriguing cast consisting of current professionals, icons of the sport, and qualifiers that have emerged from various international competitions.

The Top Half

No first-time champion has defended the world seniors title but trophy-holder Lilley will be hoping to retire that fact. The 46-year-old triumphed here 12 months ago when he dethroned Jimmy White in the final.

Lilley will meet either Bob Chaperon or Philip Williams. Former professional ranking event champion Chaperon has had to wait patiently for his Crucible Theatre return after winning a qualifying event in Toronto in October 2019.

The Canadian – who memorably defeated Alex Higgins in the final to claim the 1990 British Open – faces Welshman Williams, who has qualified for the event for a second consecutive year.

Making his debut in a world seniors event is former Snooker Shoot Out champion Michael Holt who qualifies as the highest ranked player outside the top 64 on last season’s professional ranking list.

Holt is guaranteed to come up against vast experience with either 2011 winner Darren Morgan or 2018 runner-up Patrick Wallace as his opponent in round one proper.

A quarter of a century on from his famous win here in the professional championship, Ken Doherty is back for another crack at the seniors version.

The popular Irishman was narrowly denied this title two years ago after an extraordinary recovery from White in the final which saw him come back from four frames down with five to play. A former world junior and amateur champion too, Doherty would be the first in the sport to complete this very unique quadruple.

Doherty awaits the winner of the prelim tie between Ahmed Aly and Wayne Cooper, who will have had contrasting journeys to the venue.

New York based Aly is the reigning six-time USA national snooker champion and qualified by virtue of his win in the Pan American Seniors Championship last November. He will be the first American to play at the Crucible. A qualifier in 2020, Cooper is back in Sheffield and will be cheered on by local support who will make the short trip down from his home city of Bradford.

Completing the top half of the draw is seven-times world professional champion Stephen Hendry who is seeking his maiden final appearance at seniors level.

The Scotsman will begin his campaign against either former world professional championship quarter-finalist Lee Walker or former world number two Tony Knowles. That particular duo will break the event off on Wednesday night.

The Bottom Half

Reigning UK seniors and former world seniors champion Peter Lines will be trying to make history by becoming the first player to hold the seniors circuit’s two biggest titles at the same time.

Leeds native Lines could face the man he succeeded as UK champion in the last 16, although Michael Judge – who has since returned to the professional circuit – will first have to get past former London champion and Super Series event winner Gary Filtness.

Over three decades on from his Crucible glory, John Parrott will look to go one better than his world seniors final run in 2017 where he lost to Lines.

The Liverpudlian will cross cues with either 2012 champion Nigel Bond or Stuart Watson, who won a qualifying event in Reading last December to book his return.

The most decorated player in world seniors history, three-time world title winner White was on an 11-match winning streak in this championship until his loss to Lilley in the final last year. He’ll play either world women’s number six Mario Catalano – the first woman to play in the final stages of a world seniors event – or Egypt’s Wael Talaat on Friday night in Sheffield.

Joe Johnson is no stranger to lifting trophies at the Crucible; the Yorkshireman won the sport’s biggest title in 1986, and in 2019 he tasted success there again with victory in the Seniors Masters.

Aged 69, Johnson is the oldest player in this year’s championship, but he’ll be looking forward to another challenge in the shape of either former European Tour event winner Rory McLeod or Ireland’s Frank Sarsfield, who reached the final of the EBSA European seniors championship last October.

Article by Michael Day.