With his unshaven appearance and iron determination, Stephen Maguire looked mean and moody for the final of UK PTC1 in Gloucester last night.
He was not, in fact, magnificent as well throughout the whole match, which grew increasingly edgy as it progressed, but he held his nerve to beat Jack Lisowski 4-3 on the final black to win the title.
Lisowski, who hung on with two good clearances along the way, was set to win but, needing green and brown in addition, missed the yellow from its spot.
This was pressure. He was within touching distance of his first professional title. Nerves overcame him.
He is in good company. He isn’t the first to have done this and he certainly won’t be the last.
Ronnie O’Sullivan said recently: “The only players I played who never choked were Stephen Hendry and John Higgins.”
In fact, even they, at times, missed pressure balls. Higgins did so against Mark Williams in the 2000 World Championship semi-finals. Hendry lost 9-8 from 8-4 up to Williams in the 2001 UK Championship semi-finals.
Lisowski will have been gutted last night and most probably gutted this morning. Hopefully in a couple of days he will be able to take the positives.
After all, he beat Judd Trump and Williams – ranked second and third in the world – in successive matches.
He displayed great guts, a positive attitude and self belief right up until that last scoring visit in which he missed the yellow against Maguire.
Lisowski is a fine prospect and exactly the sort of player snooker needs: attacking, exciting and articulate.
He enjoyed a good debut season in 2010/11, which culminated in him being named Rookie of the Year at the World Snooker awards.
Last season was not so good. He found himself becoming too caught up in his ranking position.
I’m told he also pegged his practice routine too much to that of Trump. This is understandable but the two players are at different stages of their careers and need different things. Trump is already a top player; Lisowski is still playing qualifiers.
This season he is doing things differently. He is already seeing the benefits. He is only 21 and there is plenty of time for him to recover.
As for Maguire, it was at Gloucester last year where I interviewed him about the PTCs.
He wasn’t a fan, saying: “I feel like a bit of a prostitute, turning up for these events because I have to.”
Last night, his quotes were less negative: “I think everyone has realised now that the ranking points from the PTC events are important. Plus £10,000 is a lot of money to be won in a weekend. It’s easy to be up for it on the final day.”
The point is, whatever job you do you will find aspects of it that you don’t enjoy. You have a choice to either complain about it or look for the positives.
Maguire has done that. He has now qualified for the Grand Finals, which could have a top prize as high as £100,000.
He hasn’t won a full ranking event since the 2008 China Open. He came very close last year, losing tight finals to O’Sullivan at the German Masters and Peter Ebdon at the China Open.
Law of averages suggests Maguire will land a big title soon. He’s playing well enough, but the problem is that so are plenty of others.
The circuit moves on this week to Sheffield at the Shanghai Masters qualifiers, which start tomorrow.