Oliver Sykes defeated Jake Crofts 3-1 in the final at the Cueball Derby to win Event One of the 2023/24 EPSB English Junior Snooker Tour.
The opening of the five-event campaign heralded a new era and structure for England’s junior snooker circuit. Open to all EPSB members under the age of 21 on the 31st of December 2023, proceedings were split across the weekend, with qualifiers from Saturday advancing to the final stages on Sunday where the seeded players from the new Junior Elite Performance Programme joined the action.
South coast cueist Sykes – a four-time national championship finalist in several different age groups in recent years – began his challenge on Sunday as one of the seeds. The 17-year-old navigated his group without dropping a frame, defeating Kian Dennett (with breaks of 101 and 56), Daniel Boyes (57) and James Pears all 2-0 to qualify for the last eight knockouts.
He continued his clean sheet with a 3-0 quarter-final victory against Andrew Robson with runs of 56 and 92 before a blockbuster semi-final encounter alongside reigning English Amateur Champion Paul Deaville.
Deaville – the youngest winner of the English Amateur Championship since 2003 – took the opening frame with the help of a 54 and crafted a 52 in frame four to put the match into a decider after Sykes had secured consecutive frames. However, aided with a run of 85, it was Sykes who booked a place in the final.
Meeting Sykes in the title match was 18-year-old fellow seed Crofts. The 2022 World Snooker Federation Junior Championship runner-up also reached the final with a 100% record.
After finishing top of Group C, Crofts came from a frame down to defeat 14-year-old Edward Jones 3-1 in the last eight. Earlier in the day, the unseeded Jones compiled a break of 108 – the highest of the weekend.
In the last four, Crofts ended James Pears’ run via a deciding frame. Pears went the furthest in the competition of all the unseeded players and was one frame away from the final at 2-1 up. Crofts, though, made breaks of 40 in each of the final two frames during a 3-2 win.
Sykes began the final well as he deposited the opening frame along with breaks of 35 and 51. Crofts subsequently levelled at 1-1 but Sykes was not to be denied the title as he won the next two frames (60 break, frame four) to claim the biggest title of his career to date and take an early lead at the top of the national rankings.
Event Two of the 2023/24 EPSB English Junior Snooker Tour is set to take place on the weekend of October 14 & 15 at the Waterlooville Sports Bar. You can enter the event here.