After a near-miss with relegation in Group 1, Chris Wakelin returned as the winner of Group 2, sealing a spot in March’s Winners’ Group in style with a century against Mark Selby at the 2024 BetVictor Championship League Invitational at the Morningside Arena in Leicester, live on Matchroom.Live in the UK and Ireland, DAZN in the United States, Viaplay in Scandinavia and the Baltics as well as other broadcasters worldwide.
Play went down to the final two league games to determine the last contestant in the play-offs. Gary Wilson, who had kept himself in contention with a 3-0 victory over Matthew Selt earlier in the day, needed a clean victory over Kyren Wilson. The Tyneside Terror delivered with a 3-0 win over the Warrior but was denied a spot as Mark Selby defeated Chris Wakelin for his fourth win in the group.
It would be Wakelin that the hometown Jester would face in the group final after producing two century breaks to fire past Ali Carter in the semi-finals. As Selby led 2-0, the Carter was able to claw back the third frame and hope of taking the match to a decider, but a magnificent 132 break from the four-time world champion clinched victory and a place in the finale.
Wakelin’s form had grown throughout the tournament after a fifth-placed finish in Group 1 saw him advance to Thursday’s play. Win’s on Friday over Gary Wilson and Ryan Day were enough to accumulate the four points needed to reach the final four, where Kyren Wilson stood in his path.
Selby was coasting in the opening frame, with Wakelin requiring two snookers with Selby 33 ahead with 25 on, before drama struck. After getting himself in a snooker, Selby fouled in-off the green and the Wakelin would steal the frame.
After exchanging blows and forcing a decider, Selby looked to be carrying momentum into the final frame, but Wakelin proved most dominant on the green baize. Getting his chance, a couple of long pots opened up the table and the 31-year-old could seal his spot in March’s Winners’ Group.
He said: “It was a tough match against Mark, I’d just lost to him about an hour before in the Group stages! I’m delighted with how I Played in the end. Mark made it difficult for me but when my chance came in the decider, I’d committed to 3-4 big pots and that’s what got me started.
“I’ve had what every players done and had time off over Christmas, and you can see it in my game – my long game is nowhere near where I’d like it to be. Normally my safeties are watertight but today it’s been poor. Sometimes you get away with it but you’ve still got to pot the balls.
“There was a couple times today when I didn’t even think I was going to get out of the Group stages, but a couple of big clearances early on gave me a free run at the knock-outs.
“Every event is a bonus. Compared to where I was 12 months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of qualifying for this tournament in the first place. It’s a prestigious event and the winner gets through to the Champion of Champions. Silverware is silverware and winning takes a lot, especially up against the field we had today – all in the top 16 and well-established winners. To come through, I’m delighted with how I played.”
Wakelin joins Stuart Bingham in the Winners’ Group on March 1st-2nd in an effort to become champion of the BetVictor Championship League Snooker Invitational final.
Selby, Gary Wilson, Kyren Wilson and Ali Carter will return to join Barry Hawkins, Tom Ford and Neil Robertson in Group 3 at the Morningside Arena, Leicester on February 5th.