x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Shehab still dreams of turning professional

Abu Dhabi's Mohammed Shehab hopes an impressive 5-1 win over the former world No 10 Joe Swail yesterday could help him back towards life as a professional snooker player.

BANGKOK // Abu Dhabi's Mohammed Shehab hopes an impressive 5-1 win over the former world No 10 Joe Swail in the SangSom 6-red World Grand Prix yesterday could help him back towards life as a professional snooker player. The win came in the group stage of the event and followed a narrow 5-4 loss to Joe Perry, the world No 12. Perry and Swail are both professionals on the lucrative UK-based tour.

Shehab, 31, played on tour two years ago before losing his place after poor results, but the 2007 Asian Games gold medallist is confident his game has improved since then. "I never made a final venue and lost my place, but if I make it again, rest assurred it will be different," he said. "I wasn't sharp enough then and just couldn't get going. I also struggled for sponsorship." Shehab's win over Swail gives him a great chance of reaching the last 32 of the tournament as the top four of each six-player group goes through.

But he is aiming this year for an even bigger prize in India, the world amateur championship. That would set him up nicely for an automatic return to the lucrative professional circuit. Shehab is the leading snooker player in the Emirates, helping the UAE win the Arab Championship for five of the last six years and the Gulf Championship for 13 successive years. "Hopefully in the future a ranking event can be staged in Abu Dhabi and my local association are working hard towards that objective," he said.

Shehab, a first lieutenant in the Abu Dhabi police force, began playing snooker at the age of 12 when he was introduced to the beize table by his father. He finds that his work in the police force, he is an IT supervisor responsible for some 40,000 pieces of equipment, operates smoothly with his snooker career. "Snooker doesn't interfere with my police work at all and there is no problem when I play in countries outside the UAE, though sponsorship isn't easy as snooker does not rank as highly as some other sports like football and tennis," he said. "Everyone in Abu Dhabi encourages me and depending on my police work, I usually put in between two and six hours a day at the practice table. I'm lucky though as there is a full sized table at my home and my police hours are 7.30am-2.30pm. Shehab hails the seven times world champion Stephen Hendry as his guiding light.

"I admire so much just what he has achieved, he is a fantastic player and a great ambassador for our sport," he added. A match break of 141 is Shehab's highest so far, but at the practice table he has recorded three perfect frame 147s. A bachelor of arts, he is currently studying for a masters degree which will help him up the next rung of the police ladder and to the rank of colonel. Shehab's win over Swail moved him back into contention for a place in the knock out stages of the SangSom 6-reds World Grand Prix following his 5-4 defeat at the hands of Joe Perry. His UAE colleague Mohammed al Joker, who is a Dubai police officer with the rank of lieutenant, was also in winning form yesterday as he defeated the Australian Daniel Thorp 5-0 after losing 5-2 to England's Judd Trump on Tuesday England's Michael Holt was responsible for the first mini-maximum in the tournament. Holt recorded his 75 clearance gaining a 5-2 victory over Singaporean Ang Boon Chin. The world champion John Higgins looks certain to reach the knock out stages despite losing 5-0 to Pakistan's Mohammed Sajjad in his opening match. The Scot, docked three frames for arriving 15 minutes late, won his next two games to move ahead at the top of his group. He defeated Thailand's Noppdaon Noppachorn 5-2 and Welshman Matthew Stevens 5-1.