Thursday, 30 June 2011

Gallopping Gilbert leads the way to Oz

David Gilbert is starring in the kind of comeback dreams are made of.

At the end of last season, he had just been relegated from the professional tour and was probably feeling as low as ever.

Despite runs to the final qualifying rounds of both the UK and World Championship, a mere one win in the opening 13 events of the campaign meant he was fighting a losing battle to survive.

But Barry Hearn handed him a lifeline, as he did so many players. Q School saved his skin. From the grim reality of facing life back on the amateur scene, he managed to dig deep, find some form and bounce straight back into the big league - without taking a single look back.

Four wins this week mean he's the only player to have come through all the qualifying rounds to reach this year's first Australian Goldfields Open. Given the shear strength and depth of the game today, that's an achievement in itself.

But the way he's done it, has been pretty special too. The English cueman has won two deciders against Passakorn Suwannawat and Dave Harold, swept aside experienced Alfie Burden 5-2 and tonight put the icing on the cake with a whitewash against long-time top 16 man Mark King.

From the doldrums, I bet he can hardly believe it. Now, he faces the prospect of playing 2006 world champion Graeme Dott in Bendigo, if he can come through the wildcard round, and he must be brimming with confidence.

I'm delighted to see Gilbert back firing on all cylinders. The former World Snooker Young Player of Distinction has enjoyed his fair share of success in his career, including a memorable match-up with the great Stephen Hendry at the Crucible in 2007.

But, I still get the feeling he hasn't quite enjoyed the kind of life in the sun on the senior tour we would have expected after such promising junior years. The great thing about snooker now is that it's not too late for players to make their mark. Maybe at 30-years-old, his best days are still in front of him.

Full list of qualifiers for Australian Open:

David Gilbert, Joe Perry, Barry Pinches, Martin Gould, Stuart Bingham, Matt Selt, Rory McLeod, Liang Wenbo, Barry Pinches, Marcus Campbell, Ryan Day, Andrew Higginson, Tom Ford, Ken Doherty, Dominic Dale, Mark Davis and Nigel Bond

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