Vladislav Gradinari claimed one of the biggest titles of his young career to date as he won the 2023/24 English Junior Snooker Tour Event Four at the Woodside Snooker Centre in Dereham.
As one of the unseeded players, 15-year-old Gradinari had to qualify from Saturday’s opening phase. He won three of his four group games – only losing to eventual group winner Evan Plummer 2-1 – to finish second in his pool. Due to his results, Gradinari was one of the best three group runners-up who advanced to Sunday.
The full list of qualifiers from Saturday were: Brandon Garside, O’Shay Scott, Faizaan Mohammed, Edward Jones, Plummer, Matthew Haslam (all group winners) and Alec Chalmers, Gradinari, Shaun Liu (best three runners-up).
Gradinari – the 2022 English under-14 snooker champion – returned for the final 16 and defeated both Mohammed and Garside 2-0 on his way to coming second in Group C and making it through to the knockout rounds.
In the quarter-finals Gradinari defeated 13-year-old Shaun Liu 3-1, having lost the opening frame. Current English under-14 champion Liu was appearing off the back of his historic opening round victory at the Snooker Shoot Out earlier in the week. The result saw him become the youngest ever winner of a televised professional match, eclipsing Gradinari’s record from the previous Shoot Out earlier in the year.
In the last four, Gradinari became the player to stop Oliver Sykes’ incredible sequence of wins on this season’s Tour.
Rankings leader Sykes had won all three opening events of the campaign, but Gradinari defeated him 3-0 to reach the final.
Facing Gradinari in the title match was friend Samuel Lee-Stevens. As one of this season’s eight elite juniors, 19-year-old Lee-Stevens joined the tournament on Sunday where he qualified second from his group before eliminating Mitchell Berry 3-0 in the last eight and then twice coming from behind to oust Plummer 3-2 (Lee-Stevens – 90 break, frame two) in the semi-finals.
In a quality final, Gradinari made a great start, compiling the weekend’s highest break of 122 in the opening frame before doubling his lead with the aid of breaks of 41 and 72 in frame two.
Lee-Stevens crafted a run of 53 in frame three as he reduced the deficit, but Gradinari was not to be denied as he secured frame four for a 3-1 victory and the title.
Three-time tour event winner Sykes is guaranteed to finish the season as the Tour’s number as he has an unassailable lead at the top of the rankings, despite there being one event still to go.
The fifth and final English Junior Snooker Tour event of the term takes place at the Landywood Snooker Club on the weekend of January 20 & 21. The closing date for entries is Friday, January 12 at 12:00 midday. Players can enter here.