MANAMA // And then there were none. In the space of just half a dozen hours all six of the wild-cards garnered from the Gulf region were felled at the International Conference Centre. The last of them to be beaten was Abu Dhabi's Isa Ali al Hashmi. However, he can take consolation that he at least managed to win one frame in his 5-1 defeat to Rod Lawler, the 53rd best player in the world from Liverpool, England.
It was one of only three frames accumulated by the Middle East wild-cards against 30 lost. Yet, rather than be disheartened, Hashmi looked upon his defeat as an education - and as a warning to the Middle East. "Unless we get more tournaments like this then I'm afraid we are not going to improve as players," he said. Hashmi remembers the 1990s when an annual tournament was held in Dubai and sponsored by Dubai Duty Free.
That tournament inspired him and a generation of Arab snooker players. But when the tournament was scraped in 1994 a new generation of players was lost with it. "I am now 38 years of age and we need young players," he said. "Unless we have more of these high-class tournaments in the region then we won't attract those youngsters. "Young people need to see the world's best. They need to watch them emulate, be like them.
"And they need to play those players. It's all very well playing other players from the Gulf region but in those matches you get many chances to win a frame and you give many chances to win a frame. Against the top players you have one chance and if you don't take it you lose. "Let's hope that we do have more snooker here because if we do then I am sure we could produce the next generation." Only once before have two maximum breaks been made in the same tournament. Last May at the World Championship in Sheffield Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ali Carter both achieved that feat. Yesterday, while in the process of beating Ken Doherty 5-3, Barry Hawkins came agonizingly close to what Marcus Campbell did here just 24 hours earlier - only to be thwarted on the third from last red by a terrible "kick".
The player had seized on a poor break-off from Doherty to pot 12 reds and 12 blacks. With all the remaining balls in perfect position Hawkins had the misfortune to leave a red hanging over the pocket after a bad contact between the object ball and the cue ball. Hawkins was philosophical, preferring to put it down to bad luck. "Yes, that was unfortunate but that's snooker," he said. "The most important thing is that I won the match because I knew coming here that this was going to be difficult as Ken is a great player."
Doherty has dropped to No 18 in the world meaning he has to qualify for events. "All I need is a bit of confidence," he said. Hawkins next plays Mike Dunn, who beat Shaun Murphy 5-4 in his first-round match. firstname.lastname@example.org