Michael Hill claimed his maiden Ultimate Pool title when he defeated Neil Raybone in the final to win the 2022 Professional Series Event One at the Grand Hotel in Blackpool.
The reigning six-time world champion – arguably the greatest small table 8-ball pool player ever – was back somewhere near his best as he dropped just five frames in his final three matches on his way to lifting the trophy and pocketing £10,000.
Hill arrived in Blackpool under the weather but with fond memories of the seaside resort having won all six of his world crowns there. Off the back of a promising performance at the Grand Slam a fortnight ago, Hill began his campaign with a 7-3 victory over youngster Geo Edgar before a more challenging 7-5 success over one of his career rivals and 1998 world champion Carl Morris in the last 16.
‘The Machine’ seemed to serenely press on the accelerator for the latter rounds of the tournament, brushing aside 2009 world champion and recent Pairs Cup teammate Phil Harrison 7-1 in the quarter-finals to make it through to Saturday’s Finals Night.
Returning the next evening, the 41-year-old continued his assault with a 7-2 win over Rob Wharne to reach his third final with the organisation following runner-up finishes at last year’s Champions League and Professional Series Event Six.
A new Ultimate Pool winner was guaranteed as Hill’s opponent in the title match was Neil Raybone, who was back to form after a frustrating 2021 campaign.
The former World Masters winner had to play an extra round due to his ranking position but he managed to make his way through to his first UPG final, defeating three world champions along the way. ‘The Razor’ eliminated current BI World Champion Scott Gillespie 7-5 in the last 32, pipped Chris Melling 7-6 just before the buzzer in the quarter-finals, and then stopped a rampant-looking Tom Cousins 7-4 in the last four.
However, Raybone would be a spectator for long spells in the final, as a vintage Hill ran out a comfortable 8-2 winner against his fellow Englishman in front of the live FreeSports television cameras and a packed audience at the venue.