The final world ranking event of the 2022/23 World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) Tour season was held last weekend at the Tradewell Snooker Club in Hull, with nine champions crowned in all at the Wilson Interiors Hull Open.
The long-standing event which was first held in 2016, saw a record 76 participants compete across eight main classification groups across three days, in addition to a Challenge Cup tournament for players who did not qualify for the final day.
The weekend was sponsored for a second successive year by Wilson Interiors, with Allan Wilson on hand during the final day to represent the company and present a number of the champions with their medals.
WDBS was also grateful to receive a visit from Councillor Christine Randall, the Lord Mayor of Kingston upon Hull during Saturday’s play, while the Friday Open Day was well-attended by groups from local support groups Active Day Care and CASE Training.
Top ranked Tony Southern consolidated his position at the head of the Groups 1+2 category after he claimed his second title of the year with a 3-1 victory against Gary Swift in the final.
Having topped their round robin groups to progress to the semi-finals, the pair saw off Gavin Gormley and Craig Welsh respectively to progress to the title match, which Southern won to avenge his defeat to Swift in the final of the Stockport Open earlier in the season.
Southern also hit the highest break of the group during the final, with a run of 36.
Over seven years and 17 events on from his WDBS debut, England’s Joe Hardstaff claimed his first ever main event title following a 3-1 success against Kal Mattu in the final.
The 40-year-old has been a regular competitor since his debut at the 2016 Manchester Classic, but had never previously won gold, with finals at the 2019 Northern Classic and the Belgian Open earlier this year representing his best showings.
Having progressed through a tight group on frame difference ahead of Nigel Coton, however, Hardstaff would go on to seal a crucial victory against Mattu that not only earned his first title, but also secured him a place at next month’s Champion of Champions event for the first time.
There was a return to winning ways for former Group 4 number one Daniel Blunn, who defeated long-term rival William Thomson to win his first title since the Welsh Open last August and a record-extending 15th in total.
Blunn came into the event needing to better the result of David Church to earn a place at the Champion of Champions and duly did so, with victories against Dean Reynolds and Carl Gibson to reach Sunday’s final.
Scotland’s Thomson also impressed on his way to the group finale, a break of 85 against Steve Cartwright representing the highest-ever in WDBS competition by a player outside of Group 7.
But it was to be Blunn who would prevail in a tightly contested final as he potted the final pink to claim victory.
Gerdy Dupont of Belgium claimed his first WDBS silverware in Group 5 following a 3-0 success against Dean Simmons in the final.
Having reached the final on home soil back in March, losing out to England’s Dalton Lawrence, the 47-year-old went one better in Hull, having topped his round robin group with two wins from three, before seeing off Jan Hughes and ultimately Simmons to secure gold.
There was some consolation for Simmons, however, who earned the group high break prize following a run of 33 during his semi-final win against Jason Ellis.
Scotland’s Alan Reynolds claimed a fourth career title in Group 6A after he defeated Michael Farrell 3-0 in the final.
It was another strong performance from Reynolds, who just one frame during six matches on his way to glory. For Farrell, his run to the final represented a third WDBS final overall – and second in a row in Hull – after he notably defeated seven-time champion Mohammed Faisal Butt in the semi-finals.
But it was group number one Reynolds who would not be denied, with a high break of 31 also earning him the high break prize.
In Group 6B there was a second victory of the season for 18-year-old Matthew Haslam, after the youngster defeated number one player Leroy Williams in the final.
It was a strong weekend for Haslam, who hit four of the five highest breaks of the category, including an impressive 69 during his semi-final win at 2-1 down in his semi-final against James Hart on his way to a comeback win.
The run also means that Haslam will qualify for the Champion of Champions for the first time.
There was a third Hull Open win for veteran Paul Smith in Group 7, after the former professional player defeated Mike Gillespie 3-2 in a repeat of the 2022 final at the Tradewell Snooker Club.
It was a busy weekend for Smith, who won seven matches in total to secure a sixth career WDBS title and third in Hull, following his previous victories in 2016 and last year. Having fallen 2-1 behind, Smith would draw level before dominating the decider with a telling contribution of 31 ultimately proving enough to get over the line.
The highest break of the group was made by Gillespie, with a run of 50 during the group stages, while he also survived a dramatic semi-final against 21-year-old Ben Chappell with a black-ball win to reach the final.
Luke Drennan claimed his maiden WDBS crown in Group 8 following a high-quality final against two-time champion Gary L Taylor in Hull.
The pair notably saw off established top two Shabir Ahmed and Lewis Knowles respectively in the semi-finals, with Taylor needing to win the title to secure a place at the Champion of Champions event for the first time ahead of Knowles.
Despite a match-high break of 59 by Taylor in the final, however, it was 24-year-old Drennan who with breaks of 54 and crucially 53 in the decider, was able to secure his first ever title.
Drennan also scored a break of 65 during the group stages to secure the high break prize.
In the Challenge Cup event for players who did not qualify for the knockout rounds, there was a victory for Group 8 player David Grant, after the Scot defeated Group 6B Peter Geronimo 2-0 to claim his first WDBS title.
The WDBS Tour will return with the Champion of Champions on Saturday 10 June at the Landywood Snooker Club, with 16 qualified players to contest the title.