Monday 09 January

Majestic Melling Wins Opening Champions League Group

Chris Melling opened up the 2023 Ultimate Pool Champions League with a brilliant display, although the two-time world champion needed to oust valiant youngster Luke Gilbert via a 6-red shootout in order to qualify for the last 16 of the competition later this year.

Held on Monday nights for 21 consecutive weeks, the third edition of this ranked tournament features 64 players during the live televised stages, and for the first time it is a professional player-only affair.

Melling – a former winner of this title in 2021; the first event Ultimate Pool ever organised – finished joint-top of the round robin group with Gilbert on five points after all the fixtures were completed at the Players Pool & Snooker Lounge in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Luke Gilbert 2023 CL.jpg

After the pair won their opening matches 3-2 against Gary Clarke and Cleve Thompson respectively, they drew 3-3 in a crucial fourth match of the evening – former World Under-23 Champion Gilbert (pictured above) coming back from two down to claim a very important point.

Going into the final session, three players could still qualify as Northern Irishman Clarke had earlier defeated Thompson 4-0, but Melling ended Clarke’s hopes with a 4-1 win, putting pressure on Gilbert to get a result in the final tie of the group. Gilbert, though, was up to the task, coming from behind to win 3-2 against Thompson and join Melling at the top of the standings undefeated on five points.

A subsequent 6-red shootout was then required to determine who would progress to phase two. Despite missing two pots during his effort, Gilbert still gave himself a small glimmer of hope by recording a time of 28.60 seconds. However, Melling was relatively comfortable in chasing that target down, sinking all six balls in 21.20 to advance.

Chris Melling CL 2023.jpg