A superb performance from Barry Hawkins gave the Englishman his maiden ranking event title at the Australian Open in Bendigo today.
The 33 year-old produced an excellent display to comfortably see off the challenge of countryman Peter Ebdon in fine style 9-3.
Before the final, many had Ebdon as the favourite, both for his renowned style of play and his overwhelming experience over his opponent in high-profile matches.
The 41 year-old veteran was in search of his tenth ranking event crown, seeking to join Jimmy White on sixth place in the record books, while Hawkins was unbelievably only contesting his first ever final.
Unbelievably, because ever since Hawkins emerged on the scene he was heralded as a player who boasted enough talent to make serious inroads in professional snooker.
Things didn’t materialise that way and indeed, by his own admission, Hawkins would probably admit that he has fiercely under-achieved in his career so far – with only four semi-final appearances to his credit before this week – but he has firmly put that weight of expectation to bed now.
His triumph Down Under mirrors Stuart Bingham’s success in 2011, a first-time winner who has been around on the circuit for more than 15 years as a consummate pro.
In today’s final, Ebdon took a scrappy opening frame before Hawkins took control with a flurry of big breaks to lead 4-1 – including back-to-back centuries.
Ebdon salvaged the session by grounding out two of the final three frames to trail by only two at the interval but there was to be no stopping ‘The Hawk’.
Runs of 133, 74 and 51 – his seventh half century of the bout – were more than enough for a thoroughly impressive performance and victory.
For Ebdon it will be a disappointing end to what has been another superb week for the dogged competitor.
This time last year, the 2002 world champion was in complete disarray and could barely pot a sequence of balls let alone win a match.
Yet, he began to find his feet again through the Championship League in the New Year and since his China Open success has been a reinvigorated force, for want of a better word with it being his nickname.
The tournament, though, will be rightfully remembered for Hawkins and it will be interesting to see how he can push on from here.
The Kent cueist is still at an age where he has plenty of time left to achieve a substantial amount in the game – indeed, he is several years the junior of Ebdon himself and players like Bingham and Mark Davis who have both enjoyed meteoric rises in what many would consider the twilight of their careers.
Some will inevitably belittle Hawkins’ triumph by claiming that all of the best players in the world were not in attendance in Oz.
That may be so, but at the end of the day you can only beat the players who are put in front of you and Hawkins did just that, five times, to deservedly lift his first major trophy.