Bonnyrigg’s Michael Leslie insists Scottish snooker fans are in for a treat when Event Five of the Betfair European Tour takes place at the 600-seater Ravenscraig Sports Facility in North Lanarkshire next weekend.
Leslie today revealed his own excitement about the prospect of his first appearance in a professional snooker tournament held in Scotland when he takes on world No. 10 Ding Junhui.
Leslie said: “I am really looking forward to playing in an event in Scotland. It is great for Scotland and all the Scottish snooker fans who will have the chance to watch some of the best players in the world and I hope we get some great attendances.”
Ding’s first title came at the 2005 China Open when he delighted his adoring fans in Beijing by coming from 4-1 down to beat Stephen Hendry 9-5 in the final. Seven years later Ding has five ranking event titles to his name and has become one of China’s most famous sportsmen, spearheading an emerging army of Chinese players making an impact on the professional Tour.
So, having so far this season been handed opening round draws against four former world champions – John Higgins, Ken Doherty, Neil Robertson and Steve Davis – it would be understandable if Leslie felt that he had been unfortunate to draw Ding Junhui, pictured below, in the first round.
Leslie added: “It is undoubtedly another very tough draw, but there are no easy games at this level. I went to watch Ding in Glenrothes a few years ago when he beat Stephen Hendry 6-0 in a Premier League match. He was outstanding that night and it was probably the best performance I have ever seen live. He is a fantastic player to watch and can make the game look so easy sometimes.”
The 19-year-old, in his debut season in the professional ranks after winning the European Under-21 Championship in March, has also received a boost as Edinburgh-based company Charlie Irons Coaches have generously donated one of their coaches for the day to transport Michael’s family, friends and supporters to and from the Ravenscraig venue.
Leslie added: “It is a great gesture by Charlie and the company. We met at a Hearts game after I won the European Under-21s and I was delighted when he offered to put on a coach for the day. It should be a great atmosphere in the arena and it will be great to have my family and friends cheering me on.”
It is not only Leslie among the Scottish professionals who are pleased about having an event back in Scotland. Two of the country’s top snooker professionals also hope the return of a ranking tournament will boost the profile of the game in Scotland. World number 27 Marcus Campbell said: “There aren’t as many players coming through as there used to be. I think it’s important to have a tournament in Scotland that the younger ones like Michael Leslie, Scott Donaldson and Anthony McGill can feed off, and even the ones under them might think about going to play snooker again. Having a tournament here creates a bit of interest.”
The event will run from Friday, December 14 to Sunday, December 16 and will be televised by Eurosport, with the winner pocketing £10,000 from a total prize fund of £50,000.
The giant sports hall at Ravenscraig will be transformed into an arena housing one televised table and ten other tables. Spectators will be permitted to move around the matches between frames which world number 13 Graeme Dott believes will appeal to the fans. The 2006 world champion said: “The fans are getting their money’s worth. If one game is no good they can go and watch another.”
n Tickets are on sale for Event Five of the Betfair European Tour and cost £10 for a single day and £25 for a three-day pass. To buy tickets for the event call 01698 274600 or visit www.seetickets.com