CHRIS Melling is jetting off to China this week, where he could net himself a historic winning prize of over £700,000 at a tournament out there.

And do not bet against the Keighley native either, who is in good form on the Ultimate Pool circuit back in the UK.

Melling stormed through his Champions League group at the start of the month, despite not feeling himself that night, and he reached the inaugural British Open quarter-finals last weekend, before falling just short of an epic comeback victory over eventual champion Tom Cousins.

Reflecting on that eventual 10-6 defeat, Melling said to the Keighley News: “It was funny because I was 7-0 down at one point in that quarter-final against Tom, having not done a lot wrong.

“I fought back to close up to just 8-6 behind but I just couldn’t get a ball in off the break in the 15th frame.

“If I had, with how the balls fell, I’d have backed myself to go to 8-7 and that would have put massive pressure on Tom, and maybe made me favourite to win the match.”

Not that Melling is dwelling, saying: “All in all, I feel like I’m playing well and I’ve been doing a lot of exhibitions of late, which I use as my practice.

“Between the Champions league and British Open, I also enjoyed a week in Spain for my mate’s 60th birthday, which was nice because it was my first holiday for a while.”

It sounded like the 45-year-old needed that few days in the sun relaxing too, saying: “Just before my first group game on the Champions League night against Tom Ford, I was feeling drained and a bit down on myself, which I told people openly.

“I felt awful but played the game, did well, won 4-0 and just tried to kick on from there.

“In the end, I played really well that night, but I have done for a while.”

Melling is now in the last-16 of the Champions League after winning his group, and having won the inaugural edition in 2021, he could become the first person to lift the title twice.

He said: “Prize money is nice but so is winning tournaments.

“I’ve won five with Ultimate Pool and only Tom Cousins has more than that.

Keighley News: One of Chris Melling's fiercest rivals on the Ultimate Pool circuit is Welsh ace Tom Cousins, and with good reason. One of Chris Melling's fiercest rivals on the Ultimate Pool circuit is Welsh ace Tom Cousins, and with good reason. (Image: Ultimate Pool.)

“I didn’t play English pool for six years and I only came back when Ultimate Pool started up back in 2020 and they asked me to be one of their ambassadors.

“I think I’m second or third in their rankings currently and it’s satisfying because I and a lot of people thought my best days were behind me in English pool.”

As mentioned earlier, after a run of tournaments in England, Melling is heading to China this week.

He said: “This big Chinese event coming up won’t be easy, because the players practically live on the tables out there, where us overseas players don’t get much chance to practice on them.

“The winner of this tournament gets 730,000 dollars, which I believe is the biggest prize in pool currently, and there’ll be another five events in China for me to go to later in the year.

“I’ve been asked to play in an Expo out in Guangzhou in May, which will have 80,000 people in attendance each day and it’s something that’s important to my sponsors Cuetec.

“It clashed with the UK 9-Ball Open though, which I wanted to play in for Mosconi Cup and ranking points.

“But there was a big push to get me out there and I’ve been offered a really good deal, so I’ve chosen to do the Expo in China after all.”