x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Snooker World Cup has whetted Shehab's appetite

The UAE's no 1 cueist wants to return to the world tour as he hopes UAE's involvement in the tournament will renew interest in staging tournaments in the Emirates.

Mohammed Shehab plans to return to the world snooker tour after competing against some of the best players in the world in Bangkok.
Mohammed Shehab plans to return to the world snooker tour after competing against some of the best players in the world in Bangkok.

The UAE’s top snooker player plans to bounce back from being knocked out of the ongoing World Cup by returning to the sport’s world tour.

Mohammed Shehab also hopes to persuade the snooker bosses to stage a ranking event in the Emirates.

Shehab partnered Mohammed Al Joker in the UAE team that lost their third successive match in the World Cup yesterday, leaving them facing Australia in a dead rubber Group B match in Thailand today.

But the 5-0 whitewash at the hands of Malta, who were inspired by Tony Drago, has failed to dampen Shehab’s spirit and he has aspirations of joining the world’s elite again.

Shehab reached a personal high of No 90 in the world rankings during the 2006/07 season on the back of wins over the likes of Nigel Bond, Jimmy White and Peter Ebdon in the World Six Reds tournament, but he has since focused on a career with the Abu Dhabi police and is currently studying for a master’s degree.

Yet the win over China’s Ding Junhui on Wednesday has whetted the appetite of the West Asian champion.

“I want to get back on the main tour again and have a go there,” Shehab said. “I will put this idea forward to the association and try to find a sponsor.”

Shehab will hold talks with the Billiards and Snooker Association when he returns and hopes his World Cup experience sparks renewed interest.

“We want to create these conditions back home, but we know it will take a bit of time to change the mentality back home,” Shehab said. “I hope world snooker bosses will consider having a world ranking tournament in the UAE. It will be fantastic to have a ranking tournament in the Middle East, or something similar.”

The Emirati acknowledged he will have to work on his game as the win over Ding was the only frame he won in matches against Thailand A, China and Malta.

“On the first day, I was not in the game,” Shehab said. “If I was competing on the main tour, I would have been focused straight away. It would have been a different story then.”

The Maltese pair of Drago and Alex Borg proved too good for Shehab and Al Joker yesterday, recording the second whitewash of the whole tournament.

“They played much better than us,” Shehab said. “Tony made a 100 and the other guy [shot] a 60 against Joker. They deserved the 5-0 result.”

Drago was in sensational form, making 100 in his singles match against Shehab and then 70 in his last match against Al Joker, with both frames only taking nine minutes each.

“I’ve been a professional for 26 years, and we’re so proud of what we’ve achieved here – whatever happens,” Drago said. “I’m very emotional with the way we played, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of my man here [Borg].

“For me to play two good frames is much easier than Alex, but for him to show the character he has done over the past few days, I can’t tell you how proud of him I am.

“We’re very proud of ourselves, and the people back home should be as well. We’ve really done our best.”

The first frame provided an ominous indication of things to come as Drago blanked Shehab 112-0.

Borg, the two-time European champion, made it 2-0 with a 65-26 win over Al Joker, and the Maltese pair sealed the fate of the tie with a 63-25 victory in the doubles.

With each frame worth a point and crucial towards deciding the two quarter-finalists from each group, Drago and Borg remained relentless in the reverse singles.

Shehab could do little as Borg raced to a 80-32 win, and Drago, a former world top 10 player, completed the whitewash with a crushing 106-13 triumph over Al Joker.

“To be honest, I am not really that disappointed, because they simply outclassed us,” Shehab said. “It was a one-sided match.

“We were disappointed only on the first day, when we played the Thais. They did not perform that well to beat us. We were just not there in the game. Our name was there, but Shehab and Joker were not there.”

arizvi@thenational.ae