I doubt Mark Williams will get carried away by winning the Rotterdam Open but it marks a welcome return for him to snooker’s winners’ circle.

It wasn’t just winning which will give him pleasure but the manner of the victory. He played ultra attacking snooker to edge Mark Selby 4-3.

Selby often has the knack of forcing his opponents to play his way. Last night the opposite happened: the more Williams attacked, the more Selby did.

This proved to be a good tactic for the Welshman, whose potting was superb. It gives him his first title since he beat Selby 9-7 in the 2011 German Masters final.

Despite the win, Williams is placed 17th in the world rankings and so will have to qualify for the Shanghai Masters, although the new flat draw system renders his position largely irrelevant outside of the Masters and World Championship, and there is time to get back into the top 16 before them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you write off the true greats at your peril.

Williams has seen his two great contemporaries – Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins – lift silverware this year and has now got some of his own.

I pondered his very predicament last month and he already has a trophy under his belt as well as an injection of confidence so early in the season.

The players seemed to enjoy Rotterdam. These events don’t just magically happen, they are down to hard work so well done to all involved.

This includes the referee, Jan Verhaas, who was rightly honoured for two decades service by the Dutch Billiards Federation in a presentation before the final.

I understand the event will be on for at least another two years but the plan next year is to move it to a later date as the middle of July is hardly snooker time.



The second European Tour event of the season marks a return for snooker to the Netherlands. It’s only taken 22 years.

The only other Dutch event to carry ranking points was the 1991 European Open, in which Tony Jones beat Mark Johnston-Allen 9-7 in the final. This was one of three events in which Johnston-Allen beat Stephen Hendry (5-0 at that).

It was played in Rotterdam, as this weekend’s tournament will be. The official poster included a shot of Jan Verhaas, a referee but also a Dutch legend, more recognisable than many of the players.

There have been a few withdrawals: Ali Carter is undergoing treatment for testicular cancer. Jimmy White has had an operation on his foot. Neil Robertson, I assume, has remained in Australia to spend time with his family (EDIT: he has a virus). Barry Hawkins is ill.

Among the big names vying for the title are Judd Trump, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire.

For players lower down the list the tournament represents another chance to gain prize money, ranking points and build confidence.

The level of interest locally remains to be seen. Snooker is not necessarily a sport that is going to flourish in Europe in the middle of July when there are so many other competing attractions.

However, the Dutch snooker community have been waiting a long time for the game to return and for those who love the game this is a great chance to see it up close.

Eurosport’s coverage starts on Eurosport2 at 8.30am UK time.



Following lengthy negotiations, World Snooker today announced a new ranking event in India, to be staged from October 14-18.

This will be the first ranking tournament held in India, where snooker was invented by British army officers in 1875.

Legend has it that British officers at the Ooty club in Jubbulpore, taking shelter during the rainy season, conceived the game of snooker by mucking about with existing cue sports.

Neville Chamberlain (no relation to the prime minister of the same name) has been credited with forming the rules. He went on to become a colonel but at the time was only 19.

A ‘snooker’ was in fact an insult used by seniors officers towards their underlings, which makes you wonder what else the game could have been called.

India is a huge market. For many years, billiards has been popular on the subcontinent and there have also been a few invitation snooker tournaments over the years.

The country has two promising professionals in Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, though they will have to qualify.

There will be six wildcards. In this instance – trying to establish a new tournament in a new market – the use of wildcards can be justified. It follows the precedent of every other new territory.

The first prize is £50,000 and 64 players will take part in the final stages. The pre-qualifying round will be in Doncaster from August 11-12.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson, who is to air miles what Joe Davis was to world titles, said: “I’ve been in Delhi this week to finalise the agreement for the event and I’ve witnessed first hand the enthusiasm for snooker in India. The people really love our game and I’ve no doubt that this event will be a great success and provide a basis for snooker's growth in India.

Let’s hope enough top players recognise the importance of supporting a new event in a new market, which certainly has the potential to grow in the years to come.

What India has over most of the circuit’s other non-British calling points is a cue sports heritage.

Snooker, after 138 years, is coming home.



After 18 years as a professional, Robert Milkins has joined the elite top 16 for the first time.

Just four years ago, Milkins was in freefall, ranked 55th in the world and in a bad place both personally and professionally.

With the help of friends he turned his life and career around. After beating Neil Robertson at the Crucible he said: “I’m happy with life. I’ve got two young kids, a lovely missus, good friends behind me, a good manager and a good coach. I don’t need much else.

“Before I had nothing – nothing at all. I was in a flat, just going out drinking every day; then I got evicted and I was 20 to 30 grand in debt. I was just going down the gutter and I was lucky that some friends of mine came along.

“They’d taken me in 15 years previously when my mum died as well, so they came back into my life and helped me out. I’d lost my mum, I’d lost my dad, I got divorced. It just blew me apart. Now It’s all turned round and I’m chuffed to bits that it has.”

Milkins has continued to make progress this season, reaching the semi-finals of the Wuxi Classic and Australian Open.

Another person who has helped him is Terry Griffiths, director of coaching at the South West Snooker Academy in Milkins’s home city of Gloucester.

The old saying is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Actually you can teach anyone anything – as long as they want to learn.

Milkins was always a great talent. I remember Ronnie O’Sullivan once saying he loved the way he bounced round the table, believing he had a right to be there. However, as he has acknowledged, his attitude sometimes let him down.

He came close to playing O’Sullivan in the 2005 Irish Masters final when he led Matthew Stevens 8-5 in the semis. Stevens then potted the ball of the week – a great green – and came back to win 9-8.

The years that followed saw a decline. Now comes the rise.

Paul Mount and the SWSA have clearly helped give Milkins some stability and he is now playing measured, solid, good snooker. What was noticeable against Robertson at the World Championship was how disciplined he was throughout.

It’s all come from the only thing that ever provides sporting success: hard work.

Yesterday Sir Nick Faldo, a six times major winner at golf, gave a misfiring Rory McIlroy some free advice.

It seems obvious enough: practice really hard and treat your profession as just that – a profession not a hobby. But in sport there are many distractions and it's easy to take things for granted.

Milkins, at 37, may have left it late but not too late. In snooker, longevity is more possible than in physical sports.

He said yesterday: “I’ve got to make sure I keep my place. I want to get into the Masters and of course at the end of the season to be seeded through to the Crucible.”

Such talk would have seemed wildly deluded just a couple of years ago but Milkins has made it a reality.

Out of the snooker darkness has come light, which serves as hope for any player in a similar position that there is always a way back - if you’re prepared to work for it.



Marco Fu would be a leading contender to be the nicest man in snooker so his Australian Goldfields Open title triumph today was welcome, though obviously not popular in Bendigo where the local hero, Neil Robertson, finished runner-up.

Marco has throughout his career kept his head down, kept his mouth shut and just played the game he loves.

Having grown up in Happy Valley, Hong Kong a big part of his snooker education came when he moved to Canada, then a hotbed for the game.

His breakthrough came when he won the 1997 world amateur title. In his first season on the circuit, indeed in his first tournament, he reached a final at the 1998 Grand Prix.

In 2000 he became the first player to make a live 147 on the internet. He also won the 2003 Premier League and earned a reputation as a match for anyone but it was not until the 2007 Grand Prix that he won his maiden ranking title.

His success in Bendigo is his second, although he’s been close in the Big Three, finishing runner-up in the UK Championship and the Masters and losing in a decider in the 2006 World Championship semis.

Fu has suffered from inconsistency down the years. Some days he’s a world beater, others he looks flat. This can be said of many players but the disparity between Fu’s best and his worst is vast.

When he’s playing well his metronomic cue action is deadly. He’s a heavy scorer – 46 centuries last season – and has no fear of reputations.

At other times his game just isn’t there, hence his joining and then falling out of the top 16 on a number of occasions.

Marco, married to Shirley, is now a father to their daughter Alicia, which brings with it extra responsibilities. Indeed, balancing time and family life has become an increasingly important trick for snooker players.

Fu was a player who did not emerge from the fall of 110sport unscathed but has bounced back well and is now back in the top 16.

As I wrote before the event began, viewing figures in the Far East will play a large part in whether the tournament is staged again, so his run to the final and eventual success could be significant.

As for Robertson, it wasn’t a great day to be an Australian sportsman but he has increased his lead at the top of the rankings and will again be among the favourites for the next event, the European Tour event in Rotterdam which gets underway later in the week.



The Australian Goldfields Open begins on Monday with a field of recognisable faces but also missing several star names.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire and Mark Allen were the leading players who elected not to enter.

However, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui and the defending champion, Barry Hawkins, are among those who have made the trip to Bendigo.

I’m sure we’ve all seen rotten matches between big names and great matches between lesser lights but perception is everything and the perception of the Australian Open is that it’s a poor relation of the other ranking events.

Its first prize is around £42,000, which is still pretty good but of course not everyone can win the first prize. It’s a long way to go for a mainly British tour and, if players are told they can pick and choose then it therefore follows that this is what they will do.

This is the final year of a three-year deal for the Australian Open. It remains to be seen whether the contract will be renewed.

It would be a rather cruel irony if it was not. Australia currently has the world’s top ranked player. However, Robertson’s progress through the tournament is actually less important than Ding’s. I have it on good authority that viewing figures in China are the key to the survival of the event, so Ding’s fortunes will be monitored closely.

One of the problems for players seems to be Bendigo itself, which is not one of Australia’s major cities.

But the television production values are among the best on the circuit. Between frames they show tourist shots of Melbourne rather than just watching the referee rack the balls up again. Michael O’Dwyer, the executive producer for IMG and master of ceremonies, is really enthusiastic and professional in pulling it all together.

Time difference, scheduling and a depleted field has seen Eurosport pass on covering the event live. Despite this it remains blocked in Europe on liveworldsnooker.tv although it is apparently available on Bet365.

With various title contenders not present the event gives the chance for players a little further down the list to grab some glory, as Hawkins did last year and Stuart Bingham in 2011.

It’s also a chance for Selby and Murphy, surprise casualties at the Wuxi Classic qualifiers, to regain some momentum.



Some sad news today that Ali Carter has been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Ali will undergo surgery tomorrow and then receive chemotherapy treatment.

The three times ranking event winner and twice World Championship finalist has had to contend with Crohn’s disease and its effects on his career since 2003.

He is one of snooker’s toughest characters and will doubtless meet this latest health setback with trademark grit.

Everyone in the snooker world will wish him all the best for his treatment and recovery.

Jimmy White also battled testicular cancer in the 1990s. More than 2,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with the condition every year.