Iran’s Vafaei to make World Championship history

Hossein Vafaei won his first ranking title at the Snooker Shoot Out in January
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 16 April-2 May
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV and Red Button with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website & app

Hossein Vafaei will become the first player from Iran to compete at the World Championship after winning a final-frame decider against Lei Peifan in the final round of qualifying.

Vafaei, made six half-century breaks, including a clearance of 54, to earn a 10-9 victory.

China’s Lei led 61-0 in the final frame but missed an easy red to the middle to give the world number 18 a reprieve.

“I’m so happy I have made my people proud,” said Vafaei.

“I was so nervous today, all of my body was shaking. I was eating a lot of chocolate to try to calm myself down but it wasn’t working.

“I forgot how to hold the cue. I promise I will play better than that at the Crucible, I can’t wait to get there. I hope this will inspire more people back home and make them start playing snooker, and make it as big as I can.”

Vafaei’s appearance at the tournament will mean that 20 nations have been represented at the Crucible, although Australia’s Neil Robertson and Ireland’s Ken Doherty are the only non-British players to have won the title since Canada’s Cliff Thorburn in 1980.

Jackson Page also secured a Crucible debut, with the Welsh 20-year-old making breaks of 104 and 116 on his way to a 10-6 win over David Grace.

Elsewhere, world number 19 David Gilbert, the 2019 semi-finalist, recovered from a slow start to make a century in the fourth frame as he reeled off seven consecutive frames before sealing a 10-3 win over four-time quarter-finalist Anthony Hamilton.

Matthew Stevens made breaks of 100, 115 and 139, as he came from behind to beat Ali Carter 10-8 in a high-scoring encounter of two former finalists.

World number 64 Jamie Clarke completed a 10-8 win over the 2006 champion Graeme Dott with a treble on the black.

Noppon Saengkham won the final three frames to rally for a 10-8 victory over Robert Milkins, while Chris Wakelin took four of the last five frames for a 10-7 win over Jimmy Robertson and Liam Highfield secured a 10-7 win over Yuan Sijun.

The draw for the first round of the World Championship takes place at 11:00 BST on Thursday, with the tournament getting under way on Saturday.

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