KEIGHLEY potter Chris Melling shook off some early rust to progress into the Champions League Pool quarter-finals last week and he was delighted to make his mark in an unfamiliar format.

It was a rare 8-ball tournament for Melling, who has mainly played American pool over the last few years, and one he was glad of, admitting a year away from the game due to the coronavirus pandemic had left him stuck in a rut.

Discussing his Champions League performance in Newcastle-under-Lyme, the 42-year-old said: "I felt a bit rusty as I've not been playing, or even practicing, with all the snooker clubs closed.

"I actually used a snooker cue at the tournament, as before lockdown, I was playing snooker to try and get my technique back and did well and made some big breaks.

"I've not played many 8-ball tournaments over the last five or six years, as American pool has been my main focus, so I was a bit surprised to get the call for the Champions League.

"But I just thought why not? It was a bit different but it gave me chance to play. I got through a few tough matches, then in the important last one, I won 4-0 in eight minutes, which is about as quick as you can do it."

That 4-0 win was over Scottish teenager Geo Edgar, and Melling said: "The tournament uses international rules, which is quite new to a lot of us.

"Normally, if you pot the 8-ball off the break, it's a re-rack, but in international rules, it means you win the frame.

"I did that in the first frame and it hit Geo hard and he never really recovered.

"He's part of a group of a few good young players, like Josh Kane and Ben Rowland, but there's not as many as when I was up-and-coming.

"The group I came through with, all of us have won world titles, so I don't think the strength in depth, or the standard at the top and lower end of the game, is as good as it was.

"I've been out of the game for a while, but I knew if I was somewhere near my best last week, I'd qualify."

Last week's victory has put Melling into the Champions League quarter-finals, which will take place in a few weeks, before the semis and grand final on March 8, with the winner in line for a £10,000 top prize.

But with this Melling's first tournament action since early last year, how has he kept himself occupied in the interim?

The Keighley star admitted he had struggled, saying: "I started getting really bored, as I wasn't able to practice, and there was about a two-month period where I'd be going to bed at five or six in the morning and getting up at two or three in the afternoon.

"I was feeling tired and a bit depressed, not getting to do things like meet my mates for a few beers when I come back from a tournament, but eventually I asked myself what was going on and knew I had to do something.

"I have to be careful with the jobs I take on, because I need to look after my hands, but I've got myself a delivery job and I enjoy it. I'm up at about 6:30am, but I'm usually done with my day by four o'clock.

"They're good to me (my employers) because they let me have time off for tournaments too."

And Melling should have more chance for tournaments in the coming months, even if some restrictions remain in place.

He said: "Matchroom have got about six events organised, and we'll be playing at Milton Keynes in the secure venue they have for snooker and darts, so things are looking good on that front.

"But normally I play in China a lot and at the moment, you can't go, as you're not allowed a visa, so I'm hoping to try and do some online coaching practice for people out there since I can't be there in person.

"My sponsors have been really good too, and have continued supporting me throughout the whole pandemic."