2020 World Championship finalist Kyren Wilson topped Group B at the new WST Pro Series ranking event – then revealed he feels lucky to be earning money from playing snooker.
World number five Wilson qualified for the next group stage with five wins from seven matches, a feat emulated by Thailand's world number 55 Sunny Akani, who finished behind Wilson on frame difference but ahead of world number 85 Pang Junxu on head-to-head with the top three all ending on 15 points respectively.
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Wilson and Akani return to Milton Keynes for the last 32 in March when four more groups of eight are contested to decide who reaches the final group stage.
Wilson – nicknamed 'The Warrior ' – has already won the Championship League this season and again showed he has a penchant for the shorter format by hitting five centuries on Tuesday, including a 135 break in a 2-0 win over Dean Young.
Wilson won his first five fixtures of the day rendering defeats to Yuan Sijun and Li Hang ultimately meaningless from his final two group games. Akani's 2-1 win over Pang in his opener of the day proved priceless in ensuring his progress.
"It's a cut-throat format. Any mistake and you can lose the match before it's even started," said Wilson, who lost 6-5 to David Gilbert in the quarter-finals of the Masters last week. "I'm pleased with my performance and I'm delighted to have topped the group.
"All the top guys are just pleased to be playing snooker because of the situation we are in at the moment.
I wouldn't say I'm a fan of the shorter matches, but I feel lucky to just be playing snooker with what is going on in the world and earning money playing the game I love.
"I've won the Championship League so something about the format must favour me.
"Making five centuries in these best-of-three matches is quite impressive."
Joe Perry and Xiao Guodong booked their places in the second group phase in March by finishing in the top two places in Group M on Monday.
This will be the first edition of the WST Pro Series, which has arrived on the snooker scene for 2021.
The legendary Stephen Hendry was set to make his eagerly-anticipated comeback, but withdrew on Friday January 15 and was replaced by John Astley. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Mark Selby are also in the draw.
The WST Pro Series will offer up total prize money of £420,500 and will take place at Arena MK in Milton Keynes.
What is the format?
The players have been split into 16 groups of eight for the initial round-robin phase. All matches are best-of-three frames, and the top two in each group will progress to the second group stage.
The second phase will feature 32 players split into four groups of eight, and the top two in each group will then progress.
The player who finishes top of the final group of eight players will be crowned the champion of the inaugural edition of the event.
- January 18-25: Groups 1-8
- March 9-16: Groups 9-16
- March 17-20: Second group stage
- March 21: Final group