All-time great Phil Harrison added another major title to his collection and banked £10,000 after defeating Simon Fitzsimmons in a pulsating final to win the 2021 Apply Mortgages Ultimate Pool Masters.
Former world champion Harrison will never have won a tournament in more dramatic and frenetic circumstances having ousted Fitzsimmons by less than two seconds in a 6-reds shootout in front of the live FreeSports television cameras and enthralled crowd at the Players Pool and Snooker Lounge.
The popular Cambridgeshire cueist had to dispatch a gauntlet of world-class opponents just to get to Finals Night – testament to the strength and depth of this prestigious event. He had already ended the hopes of Greg Batten, Marc Farnsworth, Rob Chilton and Jordan Shepherd.
Beginning the evening as the favourite, “The Farmer” got his session off to a perfect start, recording two reverse clearances and a break clearance to take a 3-0 lead over youngster Josh Kane in the opening semi-final.
Former World Masters winner Kane registered break and reverse clearances of his own as he chalked up three of the next four frames to get back in contention, but a further two break clearances from Harrison helped him keep his opponent at arm’s length on his way to a 6-4 success.
In the second final four tie of the night in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Fitzsimmons was effective as he comfortably eliminated local star Rob Wharne 7-2.
Reigning Shootout Grand Finals winner Fitzsimmons led the overall tournament break clearances chart and had an impressive break success rate of 80% going into the encounter. “The Bouncer” once again showed his power in those areas, legally potting from all four of his breaks, making a break clearance in frame eight and punishing with two reverse clearances.
An Epic Climax
After 62 matches, spanning five months and featuring 64 different players from across the UK and beyond, the final showdown brought together two players who had never faced each other before in major competition.
Typically – and just like his triumph over Kane – Harrison got off to an ideal start, capitalising on a rare dry break from Fitzsimmons to clear for the first frame and then crafting a break clearance in the second to double his advantage.
However, Manchester man Fitzsimmons built up momentum, constructing a break clearance in the third and twice levelling up at 2-2 and then 3-3.
The pendulum swung again as Harrison nailed a crucial double in frame seven to help retake the lead before a dreamy break clearance of the highest order saw him on the cusp of glory at 5-3 up with time wearing thin.
Fitzsimmons, though, is no stranger to conjuring up heroics against the clock; he was the beneficiary of a timely golden break in frame nine and squared proceedings up again with the tenth. There was time for frame 11 to break off and establish itself – in which Harrison had a last gasp chance where he was unable to get position on the black – but the title would have to be decided via a 6-reds shootout.
The only player to have come through two 6-reds shootouts previously in the Masters, Fitzsimmons went first and would have been confident after setting a very competitive target of 27.84. However, in a finish that will live long in the memory, Harrison dashed – literally – to victory, scoring a winning time of 26.70 - just over a second quicker than his opponent.
Speaking straight after his win, a jubilant but exhausted Harrison said: “I don’t know what to say – it's been mental. To be honest, I thought that Simon played a little better than me – that 6-reds shootout is absolutely mental.
“I think it is probably my best ever tournament win. I’ve had some good memories in the past but under this sort of pressure in front of the tv cameras and everything – I've never felt anything like it. I was probably shaking all the way through the match.”
Runner-up Fitzsimmons was magnanimous following the narrow defeat: “He (Harrison) was class throughout the tournament – them counter clearances really hurt you.
"It’s amazing to be a part of (this event). The feeling you get with those last 15 seconds, it’s unbelievable. I’m dead proud to get to the final; I’m made up to get through such a tough field but just come up short this time.”
Televised Ultimate Pool action on Monday nights returns on September 6th with the start of the Ultimate Pool Pairs Cup where 64 teams look to claim the latest major title on the circuit. Keep posted on ultimatepoolgroup.com and social media for announcements of who will be involved.