Not known as a hotbed of snooker, Iran finally has a champion to call its own on the green baize.
Hossein Vafaei, the world number 23, upset the odds against three-time world champion Mark Williams in the final of the Snooker Shoot Out – becoming the first Iranian to win a World Snooker Tour-sanctioned event.
Vafaei, known as the ‘Prince of Persia’, was in blistering form throughout the tournament, defeating the likes of Peter Devlin – against whom he made an astonishing break of 123 – former Shoot Out winner Michael Georgiou, and Liang Wenbo on his way to the final.
However, the 27-year-old saved his best for last, defeating Williams with a 71 break in a frame in which the Welshman only played one shot.
Celebrating his maiden ranking event triumph, Vafaei dedicated the win to his late grandmother. He spoke to reporters after the match;
“That is for you, Grandma. It’s Mother’s Day in Iran, and I am very proud I did that. It’s a big achievement for a country like Iran. Nobody knew about snooker before. Now they know.”
On the up
As well as clinching the biggest payday of his career – £50,000 – with the victory, Vafaei climbed up to 23 in the world rankings.
The Iranian ascended to number 10 in the one-year ranking list, booking him a debut spot in the Players Championship at Wolverhampton’s Aldersley Leisure Village from February 7 to 13.
The tournament, exclusively available to the top 16 on the one-year list, features £385,000 in prize money and will see Vafaei tackle the defending champion John Higgins in the opening round.
If he can break the spell of the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’, the ‘Prince of Persia’ will set up a second-round contest against the winner of the clash between Jimmy Robertson and Luca Brecel.