Snooker fans across the world were glued to their televisions as Mark Selby and Ding Junhui battled it out in the World Championship final – and both were using cues handmade in Stamford.
Selby, 32, swept to glory at the Crucible Theatre, in Sheffield, beating 29-year-old Ding, from China, 18-14 and claiming his second world title.
The world number one, from Leicester, has been using a cue made by Stamford Cuemakers since 2006. Ding has been using one since 2004.
The business, run by father-and-son duo Paul and Lewis Roberts, is renowned among snooker’s elite players for producing cues of the very highest quality.
Lewis, himself an accomplished player once ranked at 86th in the world, said: “Both Mark and Ding are long-standing customers of ours so it was a real honour to see them at the Crucible producing some high quality snooker with cues we made for them from scratch.
“Normally, we root for whoever is playing with one of our cues - this time we were torn between the two.
“It was a pretty even match, with Mark starting well but being pulled back later, before eventually taking the win.”
Stamford Cuemakers was set up in the 1980s by Paul, a skilled engineer, who started initially by carrying out small cue repairs and alterations for local players.
As the years went by, and word of his ability as a craftsman spread, top players started getting in touch asking for cues to be made.
Aside from Selby and Ding, other big names players to have used Stamford Cuemakers’ cues and handmade cases include 2002 world champion Peter Ebdon and 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham.
The company makes roughly 120 cues a year, with prices from £498 upwards, depending on specification. Each one takes a minimum of 13 hours of labour to produce, with wood which has been carefully-selected, and allowed to dry and settle for years.
Despite the high-profile client list, the majority of sales are to enthusiastic amateurs.
Lewis added: “Once a professional finds a cue they like, they tend to stick with it for most, if not all, of their career, so we see the pros occasionally for repairs and alterations but most of our customers are members of the public.
“Ding I knew from my playing days. Back in 2004 he had a cue which got broken in transit during a flight from Scotland and I told him we could sort out him out with a new one.”
Jamie Vardy, star striker with Premier League champions Leicester City and a keen snooker player in his spare time, recently ordered a bespoke cue with blue and white inlays and the wording JV 11 on the butt - to mark his record for scoring in 11 consecutives games.
Lewis added: “It was a great weekend for Leicester - with City winning the Premier League and with Mark winning the world championship for a second time.”
Selby and Ding’s cues are both made from ash, spliced with ebony, although the length, weight and tip vary based on each player’s personal preferences.