Fairytale of York can turn out to be Grace’s big break in snooker

It’s been dubbed the ‘Fairytale of York’ but this morning David Grace was back cleaning snooker tables.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 7th December 2015, 6:00 am
David Grace enters the Barbican for his semi-final match.
David Grace enters the Barbican for his semi-final match.

For while those with sore heads were waking up after last night’s Betway UK Championship final at the York Barbican, 30-year-old Grace was back brushing tables at Leeds’s Northern Snooker Centre with his usual 7.30am start.

It is a job for which Grace gets out of bed every morning, earning extra cash to help pay the bills and fund his snooker career.

The Leeds potter could have been playing Australian Neil Robertson in last night’s climax, but he missed a simple pink to the centre – after some breathtaking potting at 5-4 down on Saturday evening had handed him the chance to take his semi-final with China’s Liang Wenbo to a deciding frame.

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David Grace.

His “shocking miss” left Grace gutted, but the world No 81 had stunned the sporting world by simply reaching the last four.

He was the underdog in every match he played, but came out victorious against Andrew Higginson, world No 17 Robert Milkins, Jack Lisowski, former world champion Peter Ebdon and Martin Gould.

Against Gould, Grace was 5-1 down on Friday evening, but rallied to reel off five successive frames to win 6-5 in a late night finish.

He was back on the baize less than 14 hours later for his lunchtime semi-final with Liang, but any fears of exhaustion were erased when he moved 3-1 and then 4-2 in front.

Liang rallied to take the next three frames, but Grace refused to wilt and looked to have forced a deciding frame, only to strike the pink against the jaw of the centre pocket.

“Calling it a rollercoaster is about right,” said Grace. “I was never in total control, even at 4-2 up.

“He made a nice century and he started to get all the table time. I couldn’t get anything going – even when I had half chances, things that had been going right all week were going wrong.

“It was a shocking miss on the pink at the end – it was just a twitch to be honest. I potted harder balls than that in the break and I’d done the hard work. Maybe I should have taken a few more seconds over it because I might have rushed it, but there’s no excuse for missing.

“I’ll be back to work on Monday cleaning snooker tables – and I deserve to be after that loss I think.”

For reaching the semi-finals – by far his best result since turning professional in 2008 – Grace banked £30,000.

This will rocket him to 63rd in the world rankings – into the coveted top 64 who earn Tour spots for next season – and along with the £9,000 he collected at this year’s Shanghai Masters, Grace has doubled his career earnings. For a player who ran out of clean shirts during his extended stay in York – he had to return to his Bradford home and fiancee Gemma for clean laundry – Grace’s rise from obscurity was truly amazing.

After his first-round win over Higginson, Grace revealed how the £4,000 prize would help pay for his wedding in the Spring.

In an interview with The Yorkshire Post, he joked how his fiancee wanted a honeymoon a little more exotic than Barnsley for the China Open qualifiers.

Now, after making a mockery of the rankings system, Grace can afford to look further afield than South Yorkshire.

“I’ve loved every single minute of this experience – just being involved in such a big tournament and going through the rounds,” said Grace.

“I was dead and buried against Martin Gould in the quarter-final, so if you’d have said to me then I would be in the semi-finals I would have taken it.

“But obviously the way that’s (the semi-final) gone, I’m gutted. I’ve said all along that I’ve not been consistent enough, but you can have one really good week and that’s your best chance of getting in the top 64.

“I’ll still need plenty more results to stay on the tour, but at least I have given myself a chance.

“It’s good money and money like I’ve never seen before in my life, so when that comes through into my bank account that will be unreal.”

For world No 29 Liang – a former player at Sheffield’s Star Snooker Academy, but now based in Romford – victory saw him jump into the world’s top 16 and a place at next month’s Masters.

“I played really badly in the first four frames but before the second session my coach just told me to control the table,” said Liang. “Two years ago I’d have lost this match. This year I’ve learned a lot – I’ve watched John Higgins and Neil Robertson who are good players under pressure.”