One of the surprises of the 2017 UK Snooker Championship saw Basem Eltahhan come close to eliminating reigning champion Mark Selby, helping the Egyptian to put his name firmly on the map. He is ranked 131 in the world and only turned professional earlier in the year, but the former pool player is beginning to make a name for himself.
Source: BBC Snooker via Twitter
Eltahhan always dreamed of becoming a pool player from an early age and turned down a number of jobs in order to concentrate on his game. Unfortunately, his pool career didn’t take off and he was forced to have a re-think. After reverting from pool to snooker due to better accessibility to the game in his home country of Egypt, he remained undeterred by his lack of progress. He adopted the attitude of “just play and see what happens” and with a little support from his family, he was able to continue his development at the table.
He joined his first club at the age of 18 and waited an incredible 17 years before turning professional. He made significant strides when triumphing at the African Continental Snooker Championship beating fellow countryman Wael Taalat 6-5 during a pulsating final. As a result of that success, he was offering a two year World Snooker tour card and he is relishing the life of a professional sportsman.
Hatem Yessen was the last African player to feature on the tour but following his demotion in April, the continent has been significantly under-represented but Eltahhan is aiming to change all that. The future of Egyptian snooker looks bright with 10 of the last 16 to feature in the African Continental hailing from the North African country and many of them can take inspiration from the winner and will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of the 36-year-old.
Source: Imran Bimbo via Twitter
Eltahhan is now based in Sheffield, just a stone’s throw from the Crucible and is aiming to make the most of his opportunity. He’s already competed in the English and Northern Irish Open and although he left both events with little to show for it, the experience of competing in the main draw will surely help his progress long term.
Mark Selby beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2016 UK Championship and was the favourite going into this year’s tournament. He was given a real scare by the Egyptian but came through 6-4 to progress to the next round. The jester from Leicester may have held his nerve against Eltahhan but crashed out to Scott Donaldson in the second round. The world number one will be aiming to bounce back at the 2018 World Championship which gets underway in May and he has been priced up 3/1 favourite in the snooker betting markets ahead of Judd Trump and Ding Junhui.
For former pool player Basem Eltahhan, he has learnt a lot from facing Selby and must continue to make progress with every passing tournament. He has targetted small steps with the goal to one day clinch a major but from his humble beginnings at the pool table, Basem Eltahhan has already come a long way.