Barry Hawkins produced a scintillating display of heavy scoring to beat Ryan Day 10-7 and win the World Grand Prix in Preston.
The contest had been billed as quite a close looking affair, with both men fairly evenly matched on paper.
As the top 16 player, Hawkins naturally began as the favourite but Day, featuring in a fourth ranking event final, was hoping to ride the wave of success garnered by first-time ranking event winners this season.
However, the Welshman wasn’t ever really allowed to entertain the idea of breaking his duck as a rampant Hawkins established what proved to be an insurmountable lead to claim his third ranking event title of his career.
A few question marks surrounded the latter’s nerve of late having surrendered substantial leads in the final of the Northern Ireland Open and semi-final of the Masters, and a further advantage in the German Masters quarter-final to eventual champion Anthony Hamilton last week.
But Hawkins established an enormous cushion on Sunday with such apparent ease that his triumph on this occasion, barring a late rally from his opponent, appeared a certainty.
The 37 year-old compiled a fantastic five century breaks, and at one point was looking on course to perhaps match or even surpass Stephen Hendry’s famous record of seven in a final – which also came at the Guild Hall during the 1994 UK Championship.
Hawkins added runs of 97, 85, and 53 as every time he came to the table it looked as though he was going to construct a frame-winning opportunity.
Day offered little in response in the beginning of the contest and probably did well to even get three frames out of the first session when he trailed 6-3.
The Welshman required a quick start upon the evening’s resumption but he barely received a chance as Hawkins maintained his powerful performance, adding a 128 to earlier knocks of 141, 129, 114, and 102.
At 9-3 it looked a foregone conclusion but Day managed to put a few seeds of doubt into everyone’s minds, including Hawkins, when he quickly rattled off four consecutive frames with breaks of 93, 87, 84, and 75 to pull his arrears back to just two frames.
It could well have been even closer had Day not rattled what was effectively a frame ball red in the 17th frame, ultimately allowing Hawkins to clear with a simple break of 30 – arguably his most important of the final – to finally complete glory.
It’s a remarkable victory for Hawkins, who also overcame other ranking event winners this campaign in Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, and Liang Wenbo en route to the final.
A third trophy, added to prior successes in the 2012 Australian Open and 2014 Players Tour Championship Grand Final, bolsters a CV which was perhaps lacking in credible material for someone of Hawkins’ ability.
Winning in the manner and style that he achieved on Sunday should give him the confidence to potentially repeat these kinds of performance more often, and the Englishman is certainly coming into form at a nice time with the start of the World Championship only around two months away.
For Day, it’s obviously a disappointing end to the tournament when he was hoping to relinquish the mantle of being the best player to have never won a ranking event.
It looked as though a second fairy tale in succession, following Hamilton’s German glory at the Tempodrom, was on the cards when he dispatched of the defending champion Shaun Murphy before completing an incredible last four comeback against Marco Fu.
Yet, it would have been difficult for even the very best competitors in the game to live with the standard of Hawkins, and Day will now have to somehow conjure up a fifth opportunity at winning a ranking event final in the future.
In general, the World Grand Prix came and went without too much of a fuss.
The romantic return to the Guild Hall, the scene of so many famous moments in the past, was a long awaited one but mostly disappointed with mediocre crowd numbers, especially during the opening few days.
There are a number of possible reasons for this – schedule, format, how it was marketed, location – but the week potentially highlighted how, at ten, there are simply too many tournaments staged in the UK at present.
The Home Nations series is a clever addition to the Triple Crown tournaments but it seems a shame to waste the likes of the World Grand Prix, Players Championship, and Shoot-Out on the UK when there are several other countries, especially in Europe from the PTC era, which have already proven their ability to stage successfully and offer large audiences.
The next stop on this hectic roadshow is indeed in the UK, with the Welsh Open getting under way on Monday in Cardiff.
Barry Hawkins will head to the Motorpoint Arena as the most in-form player on the circuit and a three-time ranking event champion.