Many of our younger members won't remember Mike Hallett prior to his "What a shot!" commentary on Eurosport. But back in the late 80's and early 90's he was the equivalent of someone like Mark Allen is today and a lot of people tipped him for bigger things than he eventually achieved.
He partnered Stephen Hendry in the World Doubles to win the last of those events playing the "Tony Meo" role in the partnership. He famously beat Dennis Taylor 10-6 in the first round of the 1986 World Championships when Dennis was defending his famous title that he still likes to talk about. Mike managed to get Dennis to put a handkerchief on the end of his cue to make a white flag in surrender such was his dominance in that match.
Probably the most famous event featuring Mike was the B&H Masters from the Wembley Conference Centre. In 1988 he faced John Parrott in the semi-final. Parrott thought he'd got over the line in the deciding frame at 5-5 and had Hallett needing 4 snookers and duely gave the air a punch and the cue ball a thwak in celebration which lead to a foul. But instead of shaking hands Hallett carried on, whether fuelled by the body language of Parrott remains a mystery, but it was a fantastic comeback from the brink of defeat and a memorable match for those who saw it. As an impressionable teenager it certainly stuck with me!
He ended up being whitewashed in the final 9-0 by Steve Davis and was subsequently ditched out of the World Championships a few months later by the same man 13-1 in round 2. But then Davis won the 1989 World Final 18-3 against Parrott after again beating Hallett convincingly along the way (13-3) so that's how good Davis was in the late 80's! 9-0 seems harsh but Hallett was probably lucky to get 0 with the form Davis was in around that time.
Unfortunately for Mike he will be best remembered for blowing the Masters final against Stephen Hendry a couple of years later. He opened up the final in fine style with a total clearance following Hendry's break-off shot and proceeded to open up a 7-0 lead on his practice partner at the interval. He could have lead 8-0 but a missed frame ball saw to that, and he did get to 8-2 but then lost the last 7 frames in a row. At one point when yet again a ball from the winning post he ran out of position and quipped to the crowd "Anybody got a rope?", but in retrospect that sort of thing must've been music to Hendry's ears.
Since that final which occurred before his first ever World Title, Hendry has shown that the reason for this result was more down to him than to Hallett, because he produced the sort of performance time and time again that steamrollered the opponent once he kicked into gear. But at the time no one knew Hendry was about to become even better than Steve Davis and it proved to have a massive impact on Mike who then gradually slipped down the rankings into obscurity and eventually dropped off the main tour and spent several seasons on the Challenge Tour trying to get his place back; the equivalent to the Q School which he is trying his hand at right now (admirably) at the ripe old age of 51. He briefly made the main tour a few years ago but dropped off again without doing anything of note.
Mike's peak years occurred at the end of the Davis and start of the Hendry eras in snooker. He was a fantastic potter and he didn't hang about and would have gone down well with today's tv audience. His demise as a professional was pretty shocking considering how good he was at his best. He is obviously hoping for an Indian Summer and the reports from World Snooker say he is enjoying the game and wants to come back so the signs are good. I personally wish him all the best and hope he can fulfill whatever potential he still has. If he played like he did 20 years ago, he would easily be top 16 in today's game.
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