English Open: Hard graft finally paying off for York rookie Hugill at Metrodome

Ashley Hugill
Ashley Hugill
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Ashley Hugill is determined to make it as a professional snooker player after years battling to join the World Snooker tour.

The 23-year-old from Melbourne, near York, finally graduated from Q-School last summer at his fourth attempt, winning six matches to earn a two-year card.

But it’s been a harsh baptism for Hugill - who first came to prominence when he beat former world champion Neil Robertson in 2015 - with several first-round exits.

That losing run came to end on Monday with a 4-2 first-round win over veteran Nigel Bond at the Dafabet English Open, at the Barnsley Metrodome, securing him his biggest pay cheque of £2,500 as a professional.

Hugill now plays Robert Milkins - a surprise 4-0 winner over world No 20 Stephen Maguire - on Wednesday and admits his early days as a professional have been tough.

“It’s my first season as a professional, but I have played two seasons prior as a top-up from Q-School,” said Hugill.

“Playing as a top-up there is no real pressure to get results, you are just there for the experience.

“But as a full pro, there is pressure to earn ranking points and keeping your status as a pro.

“It's been tough. I have been playing fairly well, but just losing out. Lost a couple of deciders in high quality matches, but it’s just a relief to get another win. Hopefully I can now kick-on.”

Hugill has not been afraid to get his hands dirty to help support his fledgling snooker career.

“I have worked part-time for my dad’s business in the past,” he said. “It’s an industrial cleaning business, so poultry houses.

“But my parents have been really good in supporting me over the years, with my snooker.

“Ever since I was seven, started playing pool, and got a table at home when I was 13. That’s when I knew this is what I wanted to be, a snooker pro.”

Hugill, who combines training between his home and the Star Academy in Sheffield, was 3-0 up against Derbyshire potter Bond, before holding off a fightback to win 4-2.

“It was very tough,” he said. “I played solid to go 3-0 up, but I knew Nigel was a fighter, he is famed over the years for his comebacks. So I knew even at 3-0 that the match wasn’t over.

“In the fourth, I was on a 40 break, went into a cluster of reds, and if I potted the red into the middle I would have won 4-0.

“But I missed, lost the frame, then he won the next and it was getting a bit edgy but I had a 50 in the last frame to get over the line.”

Hugill shocked the snooker world when he beat Australian Robertson 5-1 in the German Masters in 2015.

But he revealed beating the in-form Anthony Hamilton last season gave him the impetus to achieve Q-School success.

“Beating Neil Robertson in the German Masters was the breakthrough win, a couple of years ago,” said Hugill.

“Last year I had a really good win against an in-form Anthony Hamilton in the China Open qualifiers, winning 5-2. The event after that he won his first ranking event, the German Masters.

“But that was probably my biggest win, because it gave me the confidence and belief - just before Q-School - that I could get through Q-School.

“I beat Anthony in the March, then got through Q-School in May.

“It was my fourth time trying to qualify through Q-School. The first time I didn’t win a match, then the next two years I finished in the top 10.

“But I have worked really hard, and every year I went to Q-School I knew I was a much better player because of all the hard work I had put in.”