WHEN we last spoke to Keighley pool maestro Chris Melling, he was set to be jet-setting around the world for the rest of 2020.

But then the coronavirus pandemic changed everything.

After a tournament in Las Vegas was abandoned at the last minute in mid-March, Melling has missed out on further dates in the likes of Gibraltar, Romania and China already.

And with pool a truly international sport, he expects it will be a long time before the world’s best players can reconvene at big tournaments.

He said: “I flew out to the Predator World 10-ball in Vegas after being in China, Italy and Belgium.

“We were there for a few days and I took part in a warm-up tournament but then we had a big meeting, with about 8,000 of us at this hotel, and the sponsors said Vegas was shutting down, so I had to get back home.

“This year was going to be the biggest year for the sport. Barry Hearn’s Matchroom took over the big five tournaments and they were all going to be televised.

“That’s the Mosconi Cup, the World 9-Ball Championship, the World Pool Masters, the World Cup of Pool and the US Open 9-ball Championship.

“And that was just five tournaments, let alone the likes of the China Open.

“There’s not much happening at all at the moment and we could be looking at maybe October time before we can be back playing, because of all the laws around travel.

“We’d be playing people from different countries and those countries all have their own rules around coronavirus.

“It’s gone from looking like one of the best years ever for pool to a disaster really.”

Asked about finances and how he has been keeping busy in the absence of competitive pool, Melling said: “I’m quite fortunate in that I’m self-employed and can claim on the government’s furlough scheme, but other players may be affected.

“I’m still in touch with my sponsors and they’re able to send me bits of equipment too.

“The government have basically said social clubs can open (from Saturday) but we still can’t play the likes of pool and snooker.

“I’ve been playing virtual pool though. My friend’s got a massive place in Wakefield so I’ve been playing there, not with him, just in a separate building from the main house.

“You have to make sure you wipe the table and clean up everything you’ve used when you’re finished too.

“In terms of the format, you’re basically playing 20 to 30 games against other players doing the same around the world.

“If you break and clear up you get two points, if you clear up off your second shot you get one point and if you don’t clear up you get no points.

“It’s just a little bit of fun and gives you something to do. I think you’ve just got to keep playing and keep yourself busy.”

Outside of pool, Melling said: “I've not done a great deal but I've been doing the shopping for my dad.

“He's had four strokes so he's worried about catching something. He's not left the house since lockdown, apart from driving his car around the block.

“I've just joined East Morton Golf Club too. I've started playing there and I'm enjoying that.

“Other than that, and getting to play pool now and again, there's not really a lot to do. Nobody expected this and now you've seen Leicester is back in lockdown, so we're going to have be strict with it (dealing with the virus) to get through it.”