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Victory Hands McLeod Qualification

Rory McLeod beat Robert Milkins 5-2 in the final qualifying round to book his place in the Australian Open next month but it will be his post-match actions that will be the talking point of the week.

The Englishman, of Jamaican parentage, outplayed his countryman in a one-sided affair but caused controversy when he refused to shake hands with female referee Ivy Zhu.

The speculation is that his dismissive attitude to the China woman was because of his Muslim beliefs but nothing official has been released. The source came from fellow referee Jan Verhaas via his Twitter account so is unlikely to be false.

“Rory McLeod refused to shake female ref Ivy Zhu’s hand this morning because of his muslim believes. You may think what you like about it…”

The issue at hand is a tricky one. McLeod has his own opinions and is personally entitled to them.

However, this is a professional sport that encourages both genders to participate.

Michaela Tabb is widely regarded, along with Verhaas, as being among the best referees around and her participation has helped bring snooker to a wider audience.

Similarly, although she didn’t perform very well, female professional Reanne Evans competed on the professional circuit last year along with McLeod.

Both Tabb and Evans – who has a child with Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen – and especially Zhu, who has flown from China in her aspiration to carve a successful career in a growing era for the sport, deserve the utmost respect.

That said, if the sport is opening up globally then it is inevitable that a more diverse cultural background will be in evidence.

It is something for World Snooker to look into and it is unhelpful that a statement before or after the event has not been released as, for all anybody knows, it could have been a harmless occurrence.

Meanwhile, back on the table there were crucial wins for Ken Doherty and Liang Wenbo.

Dublin’s Doherty has endured a mediocre couple of seasons on the Main Tour after a meteoric slip down the rankings.

The 1997 World Champion dispatched Scott MacKenzie 5-2 and will hope to build on the confidence gained when the Australian Open gets under way in Bendigo on the 18th July.

MacKenzie was one of a number of players who had progressed from the first round of qualifying back on Monday.

Recently married Ben Woollaston was another but succumbed to a 5-3 defeat to China’s Wenbo.

Wenbo took to professional snooker like a duck to water when he originally emerged on the scene and it appeared like he was going to become as big a name as compatriot Ding Junhui.

Yet, the 24-year old suffered a nightmare season last year as he failed to win any of his main ranking event encounters, dropping out of the elite Top 16 as a result.

David Gilbert, however, was able to triumph through all four rounds and did so in spectacular fashion as he ousted fellow Englishman Mark King 5-0 in Sheffield.

With the talent that Gilbert has at his disposal it was a travesty that he fell off the Tour at the end of the last campaign but earned an immediate return through Q-School and has continued his fine form into the summer.

Elsewhere, there were deciding frame victories for Andrew Higginson, Marcus Campbell, Mark Davis and Nigel Bond in a marathon while Barry Pinches perhaps caused the shock of the day by knocking out four-time ranking event winner Stephen Lee.

Lee has been on the verge of a return to the Top 16 for quite a few months now after a terrific season in qualifying last year but this will be a disappointing start for the former world number 5.

Pinches, though, has forever been a dogged journeyman who has loitered around the middle of the ranking list for many years. It is admirable and his minimal success, when garnered, is deserved.

Another surprise result was Matthew Selt’s whitewash of 2008 Shanghai Masters champion Ricky Walden

Welsh duo Ryan Day and Dominic Dale enjoyed comfortable wins while Englishmen Martin Gould, Tom Ford, Stuart Bingham and Joe Perry – who beat Irishman Fergal O’Brien 5-2 – will also be on the plane Down Under.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.