x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE snooker pair face Ding Junhai and Neil Robertson challenge

The luck of the draw has not gone in Mohammed Shehab and Mohammed Al Joker's favour for the snooker World Cup in Bangkok next month.

Mohammed Al Joker pratices at Dubai Snooker Club as his World Cup teammate Mohamed Shehab, left, and UAE's rising star Khalid Kamali look on.
Mohammed Al Joker pratices at Dubai Snooker Club as his World Cup teammate Mohamed Shehab, left, and UAE's rising star Khalid Kamali look on.

DUBAI // The UAE’s World Cup snooker team will have to overcome the likes of Neil Robertson, the 2010 world champion, and Ding Junhui, the world No 4, if they are to progress in the tournament, but Mohammed Shehab and Mohammed Al Joker have promised not to baulk at the challenge.

The UAE pair have been given a tough draw in Group B along with China and Australia, the fourth and fifth seeds for the championship, which will be held from July 11 to 17 in Bangkok. “Unfortunately, the UAE team is in the toughest group,” Shehab said.

Thailand A and Malta are the others teams the group. Ding will be partnered by Liang Wenbo in the Chinese team while Robertson and Steve Mifsud will fly the flag for Australia. Thailand A will represented by James Wattana, the former world No 3, and Dechawat Poomjaeng, while the Malta team is made up of professionals Tony Drago and Alex Borg.

“The players representing those teams are top-level professionals,” Shehab said. “If we had teams like India or Egypt in our group, we would have been a bit more relaxed.

“I am not saying we would have beaten them or they would have beaten us, but being in such a tough group, you don’t feel very relaxed. There is a lot of pressure.

“Still, we are looking forward to the challenge and hope to do well. We know we are good players and the ones we will be playing against are also good players. If we play our game, we will do some damage.

“If we don’t play our game ... If you ask Mohammed what we need to do, and he will tell you the same: we need to play our best game. “At our best, I know we can beat the top players. It is only one frame and if we can play our best game, we will win.”

Shehab and Al Joker have been playing daily at the Dubai Snooker Club over the past week Prior to the World Cup, they will be in action at the Emirates International Championship, from tomorrow until Tuesday Teams from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Thailand, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and China are coming to the tournament, which will have the same format as the World Cup with two-men teams and single-frame matches.

The tournament has been organised to give Shehab and Al Joker playing time ahead of the World Cup. There will be two other teams representing the UAE: Mohammed Essa and Ahmad Abdul Kader, and Abdul Rahman Saif and Khalid Al Kamali.

“We are getting ready for the World Cup and this tournament is part of the preparations,” said Obaid Khalifa, the UAE coach.

“It’s a big tournament, not small, but basically it is to prepare Shehab and Al Joker for the World Cup. “We are using the same format as the World Cup, and I believe it will give Shehab and Al Joker good experience before they leave for Bangkok.”

After this tournament, Shehab and Al Joker will be training with snooker professionals Michael Holt, David Roe and Adam Duffy before they leave for Bangkok on July 9.

“They are all well-known players on the pro circuit, and they have been coming here, especially David and Michael, for the past seven to eight years,” said Shehab.

“They are like good friends.

“So probably for seven to nine days, we will have a serious camp, every day from 10am to 3pm or 4pm, with no rest in between. It will be a full-time preparation until the tournament.”

arizvi@thenational.ae