CHRIS Melling is in the middle of a bumper run of Ultimate Pool competitions, and is enjoying himself more than ever, even in practice.

The wins have not quite arrived for the veteran Keighley potter, who lost a Pro Series final to the in-form Tom Cousins earlier this month, and bowed out in the last-eight to old sparring partner Mick Hill as he attempted to defend his Champion of Champions Shootout title on Saturday.

But unlike several big names, he has made it through to the televised stages of the Pro Cup, which is being shown on BT Sport between Christmas and New Year.

The Champions League, which he won in 2021, returns on January 9 too.

Reflecting on the end of his Champion of Champions defence, he said: "I thought I played okay in my quarter-final against Mick, and I was 2-0 up.

"I should have gone 3-0 ahead because he hit the ball off the table from his break, so I had the ball in hand for the next shot.

"I attempted a controlled cannon, but just flicked the wrong side of the ball I was trying to hit.

"That let Mick back in and the game changed after that, but in truth, he didn't really make a mistake all game apart from that dodgy break in the third frame."

There was a mammoth £15,000 prize on offer for the winner on Saturday, Ultimate Pool's biggest prize to date, with Melling saying: "Anybody would be lying if they said they didn't think about the prize money.

"But it doesn't affect me, and I often play better when there are more eyes on me and more money on offer.

"I just tend to do better under pressure, as I know any big game, against the likes of Mick and Gareth Potts, it's just a flip of a coin for which of us wins.

"I got to the Pro Series 7 final the week before the Shootout, and though I lost 8-2 to Tom Cousins, I think I only got to the table three times in the whole game, so there wasn't a lot I could have done."

Like Melling and Cousins, Hill is another man playing well, but the six-time world champion will not be involved in the Pro Cup's televised stages, having suffered a surprise 10-7 defeat to Craig Lakin in the preliminary round on Sunday.

Other big names like Stevie Dempsey and Karl Sutton also bowed out, but Melling made it through with a 10-6 win over Wade Morley.

The Keighley star said: "The standard down the rankings is remarkable, especially now we've got a few snooker lads playing on the Ultimate Pool circuit too.

"I thought I played unbelievably well in my win over Wade but it was a strange one, as I had to check out of my hotel at midday, so I was sat about for hours.

"We weren't meant to play until 8pm, but Wade lives in Hartlepool, and there was a weather warning up there, so with him having to dash home, they pushed our game forward to 6pm."

As for those snooker players Melling mentioned, he added: "It's exciting to have them involved.

"I've known a few of them for a while, and played the likes of Mark Selby and Mark Allen before.

"The general conception from people is that if you can play snooker, you'll be good at pool, and that's true to a certain extent.

"But the big boys on the circuit will still usually catch them out, as we know the patterns you need to go for in a pool match.

"Saying that, I think the two Marks, Tom and Joe O'Connor, of all the snooker players that are also playing pool, are the four that will really stand out in our sport at the moment."

If any of them come up against Melling soon, they will face a tough encounter, with the Keighley man saying: "I'm playing well, but I've also been practicing a lot and enjoying it.

"That enjoyment of practice had gone out of my game over the last four or five years.

"While I admit I hadn't been doing as much of it as I should have been, it's going well for me now."