Ronnie will play in the European Masters 2018 Qualifiers

He will play Eden Sharav, on August 17 at 1 pm UK time. This should be a doable match for Ronnie. I’m a bit surprised and quite pleased as I have tickets for the first three days in Lommel.

His name does not appear in the China Championship 2018 qualifier, but then the full draw isn’t out a nd maybe his match was held over.  Wait and see …

Update

The draw now shows the held-over matches as well and, indeed, Ronnie has not entered the China Championship. This surprises me a bit. The Chinsesd events carry so much points this season, except for the Shanghai Masters now invitational, that not playing in them might prevent Ronnie to qualify for the very lucrative Grand-Prix, Players Championship and Tour Championship. He’s the defending champion in the first two of those but that does not guarantee him a spot in them. 

Here are the draws and format as published by Worldsnooker

 

The Guild Hall in Preston stages the qualifying rounds of three ranking events from August 15 to 22.

Click here for the European Masters draw

Click here for the China Championship draw

Click here for the format

The draw for the Indian Open qualifying round was released earlier – for details click here

You can watch the qualifiers live on the Eurosport Player with coverage of two tables, for details click here

And you can also buy tickets to see many of the top stars live at the Guild Hall – for details click here

World Open 2018 – Mark Williams is your Champion!

Congratulations “Willo” !

WorldOpen2018WilloChampion+Ferguson

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Mark Williams came from 9-5 down to beat David Gilbert 10-9 in a thrilling final to win the Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open for the first time.

Last season was an epic one for 43-year-old Williams as he won three ranking titles including the World Championship, and he has started the new campaign in the same fashion. The trophy takes his career tally of ranking titles to 22 while the £150,000 top prize takes his earnings for the past year well over £1 million.

It was a week of comebacks for Welshman Williams as he also trailed Jack Lisowski 3-0 in the quarter-finals and Noppon Saengkham 5-2 in the semis, yet still ended up with the silverware. An aura of invincibility seemed to surround him throughout the tournament in China. He climbs one place to second in the rankings, moving ahead of Ronnie O’Sullivan, and looks well placed to take over from Mark Selby at the top of the list before the end of 2018.

And it was cruel end to a great week for former tractor driver Gilbert as he missed out on a first career ranking title and a jump into the world’s top 16. He played superbly to lead 9-5 but, inevitably, the last frame proved the hardest to win. The finishing post remained tantalisingly out of reach as Williams, who never led until the end, swept past him with a late surge. It’s a painful defeat for the 37-year-old from Tamworth though the runner-up prize of £75,000 – his best career pay day – and a jump from 29th to 20th in the rankings, are big consolations.

Trailing 5-4 after the first session, Williams had first chance in the opening frame this evening and made 58 before missing the black to a top corner. Gilbert cleared superbly with 68 then compiled a break of 95 in the next to lead 7-4.

In frame 12 Williams had first chance again, but missed the black to a corner pocket at 38-0. Gilbert was ruthless, clearing with 95 to go four frames ahead. The Englishman had another frame-winning chance in the 13th but this time could only make 15 before missing a red to a centre pocket, and Williams made 54 to claw back to 8-5 at the interval.

Williams led 27-19 in frame 14 when he missed a risky long red, and Gilbert took full advantage with a break of 84 to go four up with five to play. In the 15th, Gilbert led 39-4 when he missed a red to a corner pocket, and a run of 76 from Williams got him back to 9-6. The tide seemed to be turning as Williams took the next with a run of 41 to close to within two frames.

Gilbert had a chance to clear from 55-1 down in the 17th, and got to the final blue before missing a tough pot to a baulk corner. He later played a weak safety and Williams potted the blue for 9-8. Minutes later it was 9-9, Williams making a break of 72.

Gilbert had first clear chance in the decider but missed a red to a corner pocket at 18-1. Williams, calmness personified, made 64 to take control. And when he potted the penultimate red, one of his best ever comebacks was complete.

“At 9-5 down I was almost out,” said three-time World Champion Williams. “To win three matches I have looked like losing is unbelievable. I never give up or let my head drop, no matter what the score is. I never let my opponent see that I’m losing heart, and then sometimes it does turn around. Whatever is going on, you have to stick in there.

“I feel for David, he didn’t have that many clear cut chances. I played really well from 9-5 and put him under pressure. I won it more than he lost it. It’s a good shout to say my all round game is as good if not better than it ever has been. Perhaps my long potting is not as good as it used to be, but my all round game is probably better now and the results are showing that at the moment.

“When I get home I’ll be straight to the caravan park then I have to decide whether to have a drink to celebrate the World Championship win or a drink to celebrate this one. Or I might just double up and do both.”

Gilbert, whose only previous ranking final ended in defeat to John Higgins at the 2015 International Championship, said: “It has been a good week but sadly it has ended in one of the most disappointing things that has ever happened to me. I have to congratulate Mark because he saw it through.

“I’m confused about what happened because I felt fine at 9-5. I butchered a red in that frame then it turned around. In the last frame I didn’t feel good, I couldn’t get position and I missed a red I would normally pot. The occasion got to me. I’m playing in the qualifiers next week so we go again.”

Defeat for Gilbert means he misses out on next month’s invitational Shanghai Masters, with Anthony McGill clinging on to 16th place in the rankings. For the provisional seedings click here

And full marks for the players who thanked the volunteers on duty all week. They are only too often the forgotten people in those events. Mark Williams did a group pictures with them all and David Gilbert thanked each of the personally (this was reported on twitter by Jason Ferguson).

Here is  the winner’s presser

 

Unexpected Final in the World Open 2018

Well, at least, it’s unexpected to me.

Tomorrow, Mark Williams, the reigning World Champion, will face David Gilbert, ranked n°29. Gilbert though has reached a final before this one, in China, at the International Championship 2015. He then lost to John Higgins by 10-5. The interesting bit is that both players are part of the sightright stable…

Here are the semi-finals reports on Worldsnooker

http://www.worldsnooker.com/gilbert-downs-hawk-to-reach-final/

David Gilbert remained on target for his first career ranking title as he beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open.

World number 29 Gilbert is already guaranteed his highest career pay day of £75,000, and he will double that to £150,000 if he can win Sunday’s final against Mark Williams or Noppon Saengkham. The title would shoot Gilbert into the world’s top 16 for the first time in his career, and also earn him a place in next month’s invitational Shanghai Masters. For more on that race click here.

Former tractor driver Gilbert reached his only previous final at the 2015 International Championship, also in China, where he lost 10-5 to John Higgins.

Breaks of 101 and 65 helped put Gilbert 3-0 up today, then world number seven Hawkins pulled one back with a 59 and made a 40 clearance in frame five to close the gap to 3-2. A run of 67 from Gilbert gave him frame six then Hawkins responded with a 91 for 4-3.

A scrappy eighth frame went Gilbert’s way and he had a chance for victory in frame nine but failed to get position on the final green, and Hawkins got the better of a safety exchange and cleared for 5-4. But Gilbert took control of the tenth with a break of 45, and when his opponent missed the third-last red he added the points he needed.

“I’m over the moon,” said Tamworth’s Gilbert. “For 90% of the match I played great, then the wheels came off towards the end and someone nearly had to pick me up off the floor. It means a lot because it’s a lot of money on offer.

“I didn’t think I could win a game here this week. I got lucky in the first round because Matthew Stevens pulled out with a bad back, that was a very tough draw for me.

“Last time when I got the final I only had about £10 to my name so I was just so happy to have £60,000 in my back pocket and I didn’t really think I could win. I was a bit in awe of John Higgins. Tomorrow I will have to play to the level I did for the first eight frames today, and then be stronger if I get close to the winning line. Hopefully I can just settle down, start well and get into the game.

“It would mean everything to me to win the title, the only thing I’ve always wanted to do is go home a winner. I haven’t won anything since the Tamworth Open about 25 years ago. To be in the top 16 as well would be where I’ve always wanted to be.”

Asked if he had any plans for the £75,000 he is already guaranteed, Gilbert joked: “My wife keeps telling me how bad my teeth are and she wants me to get a new set of dentures so I can smile in a picture with our little baby Taylor. Maybe she’ll talk me into that, but I quite like my teeth.”

Hawkins, who has now lost 15 of his 22 ranking semi-finals, said: “There was a new cloth on the table and I just couldn’t get used to it. The table played beautifully but the speed was different to how it was before. I’m disappointed to lose.”

http://www.worldsnooker.com/relieved-williams-earns-gilbert-final/

Mark Williams got the better of a late night thriller against Noppon Saengkham, coming from 5-2 down to win 6-5 at the Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open.

Williams goes through to the final in China to face David Gilbert, with first to ten frames to take the trophy and a top prize of £150,000. That would bring the Welshman’s earnings since the start of last season to well over £1 million.

World number three Williams recovered a 3-0 deficit to beat Jack Lisowski yesterday and once again had to fight back from well behind, but showed his trademark calmness under pressure at the business end of the match. Thailand’s Saengkham was left to rue a missed opportunity as he passed up the chance to reach his first ranking final.

On Sunday Williams will be playing in the 34th ranking final of his career and aiming for his 22nd ranking title. Three of those have come within the past nine months as he won the Northern Ireland Open and German Masters last season before capping off the campaign by landing the World Championship. He’ll start strong favourite against Gilbert, who has never won a ranking event.

The first two frames tonight were shared, then Saengkham could have taken the third but missed the final brown, allowing Williams to snatch it by clearing to the black. A superb 142 total clearance – the highest break of the tournament so far – got Saengkham back to 2-2.

Williams looked likely to win the fifth frame when he led by 21 points on the blue, but his opponent laid an excellent snooker behind the black to gain the points he needed. Saengkham then got the better of a safety exchange and potted blue, pink and black to go ahead.

The Thai dominated the next two frames with top runs of 56 and 59 to go 5-2 up. But Saengkham potted just two balls in the next three frames as Williams battled back to 5-5 with breaks of 44, 40, 56 and 64.

Both players missed chances early in the deciding frame, then the crucial moment came when Saengkham botched a safety shot leading 20-17. Williams made a crucial break of 34 which proved enough for victory, the match ending at 11.40pm local time.

“When you’re free-rolling you get the rub of the green,” said Williams. “When I went 3-2 down everything went against me. He was the much better player and I found it hard to get a rhythm going. At 5-2 I just wanted to keep him under pressure, I found another gear and got a bit of fluency going. At 5-5 I fancied my chances because we were playing for over £40,000 for one frame and that’s a lot of pressure so I knew he would start feeling it. I got out of jail.

“If I lose I don’t care because I’ll be living off the Crucible win for the rest of my career. If I can nick another tournament along the way then great, if not I don’t mind. There’s no pressure tomorrow, I’ll just enjoy it.”

From all this I only saw the second mini-session of the Williams v Saengkham match. To me it was obvious that Noppon was feeling it as soon as Willo won one frame back. Yes, the World Champion was playing very well, but he didn’t win frames in one visit. Noppon was making mistakes he wasn’t making in the previous frames, be it missed pots or misjudged safeties. It’s true that he didn’t much wrong, but he had not many opportunities to do much at all. The ones he had, he failed to make anything of them.

As for Barry Hawkins he had to deal with some awful abuse on twitter after his loss. I have no doubts that this came from someone who had bets on him and suffered heavy financial loss. I have zero sympathy for them. Anyone with a brain should realise that if so many betting companies flourish and prosper, it’s because the punters do lose much more on average than they win. Much, much more in fact. In the vast majority of cases it’s not because sports(wo)men don’t try their best or are corrupt, it’s because they are human. Form is not a tap you can turn at will. Everyone, in every type of job, has good and bad days in office. To me, nobody should be allowed to post on any social media anonymously: real identity should always be exposed. I’m certain that it would make the Internet a far better place: the coward keyboard warriors and malevolent trolls would soon decamp and people would think twice before spreading libel.

World Open 2018 – Last 16 and QF stages

But before looking at those stages … Ding surely can be excused for, maybe, not being fully focused on his snooker this week. Indeed, his first child, a little girl, was born on Wednesday!

Pictures shared on weibo

Congratulations to the Ding family and all the best to the little one!

The last 16 stage saw both Mark Selby and Kyren Wilson depart, at the hand of Noppon Saengkham and Jack Lisowski respectively. Both matches ended in a long scrappy decider. Noppon could have won by 5-2, Mark needed a snooker in frame 7, but in typical Selbiesque fashion he got it and went on to force a deciding frame. I watched only the decider, it wasn’t pretty! However Noppon wasn’t to be denied, and Mark honestly stated that he wasn’t playing well enough to win. Jack was 3-0 down, despite making two breaks over 50 in those three frames whilst Kyren had none, but then found another gear and proved to be the better player.

Marco Fu put up a remarkable performance, beating Robert Milkins in double-quick time, by 5-2, with 6 breaks over 50, including 2 centuries and two other breaks over 90.

Here are the results of the QF stage:

World Open 2018 - QF results

Marco Fu wasn’t able to repeat his last 16 performance and bowed out to a very solid David Gilbert. Barry Hawkins v Gary Wilson was a good match with both playing well. Jack went 3-0 up Mark Williams, with breaks of 60, 82 and 100, in about half an hour and then lost his way … allowing Williams, who was far from perfect, to win 5 on the trot. I can’t comment on the last match, having seen none of it.

Today will see Barry Hawkins take on David Gilbert, and I expect a close affair, whilst Mark Williams will face Noppon Saengkham. If Mark wins, which I expect, he will overtake Ronnie as n°2 in the rankings. Not that it matters much as Mark Williams himself explained

“All the players know that the best player in the world is Ronnie O’Sullivan, and the only reason he isn’t number one is that he doesn’t play in a lot of tournaments. It makes virtually no difference now what your ranking is, because in most tournaments everyone starts in the same round. To be world number one might sound nice but it means nothing now.”

The World Open 2018 – Last 64 and Last 32 round-up

Three days into the World Open, and as we reach the last 16, this is what tomorrow has in store for us:

World Open 2018 L16 line-up

This means that the likes of Ding, the defending champion, Liang Wenbo, Yan Bingtao, Neil Robertson, Ali Carter, Judd Trump, Luca Brecel, Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire and Ryan Day are all on their way home. This does not mean that they all went through the same story…

Ding admittetly did not come in Yushan to defend his title under the best circumstances. His wife, Apple, is about to give birth to their first child any day now and this has been a huge source of distraction for Ding. Apple herself insisted that Ding should play, but he came ill prepared and struggling to focus on his snooker. Understandably.

Liang had been playing in Haining the week before this one and there too had got an early exit, plus a fine for conceding the match in a petulant fashion with still enough points on the table to win the frame in progress. This week his performance was simply terrible. Something isn’t right, but what is anyone’s guess.

Neil Robertson who has won the first ranking event of the season, the Riga Masters, less than two weeks ago, has been raking in the centuries but lost to Ricky Walden today despite making two centuries. But a century wins you only one frame and Neil wasn’t able to win the scrappier ones today.

Luca Brecel managed to lose from 4-0 up … to Fergal O’Brien. The always hard as nail Fergal absolutely needs results this season to stay on tour and by the looks of it is firmly determined to do just that!

Ali Carter as well was 3-0 up, then lost 5 on the trot to David Gilbert.   Mark Allen was outplayed by Jack Lisowski – the runner-up in Riga – and admitted that he struggled to sleep properly. That said, Jack is class when on form and seems to finally be playing the way he can.

Now, something that probably doesn’t help is the humid heat that affects both the players and the conditions. Mark Williams was seen putting a towel on his head – towel that had been put in the ice bucket first – in an attempt to cool himself a bit.

WorldOpen2018WillosTowel

I haven’t had much time to watch the snooker, but for what I saw, a lot of players were struggling, with jet-lag, with the heat and with their positional game. Mark Selby was far from his best but got out of jail against Elliott Slessor, and similarly Mark Williams could easily have gone out against Lukas Kleckers.

Interestingly, Marco Fu, whose career looked in jeopardy last season because of eyes problems is still in this. As is also Ricky Walden who has suffered so much from back issues but now looks definitely on the mend.

Anthony Hamilton, another one who looked finished – plagued by neck and back issues –  is still in the draw as well and dead set to pull out the  miracle he needs to stay on the tour.

So, even if the last 16 line-up isnt what most expected, it certainly offers interesting matches!

The World Open 2018 in Yushan is upon us

Tomorrow the World Open kicks off in Yushan, China and it’s the fits of the “heavy” price money tournament of the season. Most top players did enter – main exceptions being Ronnie and John Higgins – but Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham failed to qualify.

Ding is the defending Champion.

Getting to Yushan is a gruelling trip, it takes between 20 and 30 hours involving planes and cars. Mark Williams posted this picture yesterday … it says it all!

WorldOpen2018GruelingTrip

Others will be fresher, having traveled to China about a week ago to take part in the Haining Open, a CBSA pro-am. Mark Selby was the defending Champion and defend he did. Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Mark Selby won the CBSA Haining Open for the second consecutive year by beating Li Hang 5-4 in the final on Saturday.

World number one Selby trailed 3-0 and 4-1 but took the last four frames with a top break of 68. To reach the final at the CBSA Tour event he knocked out Simon Lichtenburg, Paul Davison, Zhang Anda and Gary Wilson and Mark King. He is the first player to win the Haining title twice.

“Li played really well to go 3-0 up,” said Selby. “I’m happy that I managed to fight and come out winning. Snooker can be a cruel game because sometimes the better player doesn’t win. Li was the better player but maybe he felt a bit of pressure towards the end. I had a tough draw so to win the title here again is fantastic.”

He now heads to the nearby Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open which starts on Monday.

As usual in China, the players , and the referees, were made welcome with a red carpet ceremony. Here are images shared on weibo

 

More info about the coming Shanghai Masters

This was published by Worldsnooker today. It explains a bit better how players will be selected and what it means being a “mentor”.

A press conference looking ahead to the 2018 Shanghai Masters and National Amateur Masters was held in Shanghai on Friday.

This year the tournament will become an invitation event for the first time, with an elite field of snooker’s top stars. Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan was at the press conference to interact with fans. He gave away signed posters, took pictures with fans and played snooker against two of them.

Also there were Jason Ferguson, Director of World Snooker and Chairman of WPBSA, Zhang Xingmin, Deputy Director of Shanghai Sports Bureau, Liu Chunsheng, Deputy Secretory of CBSA, Yang Guohao, Secretariat Director from Shanghai Sports Federation, Weng Weimin, General Manager of Great Sports Media and Yang Yibin, General Manager of Shanghai Juss Event Management Co., Ltd.

The 2018 Shanghai Masters will be held at the Shanghai Regal International East Asia Hotel from 10th to 16th September. The total prize money will be £725,000, with a top prize of £200,000. And that total prize money figure will grow over the next five years to reach £825,000 in 2022.

The 2018 Amateur Masters is a very important part of the Shanghai Masters, providing opportunity to the talented amateur players to compete against the world’s best. This year’s Amateur Masters will start at Shanghai Bawanren Snooker Club on 4th August. There will be four events to be held in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Xi’an. Top four at each event will attend the final held in Shanghai on 8th September. The winner and runner-up of the Amateur Masters event will qualify for the Shanghai Masters.

Another innovation this year will be an interactive reality show called ‘Next Stop, The Master’ on 9thSeptember. Instructors Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams will each team up with four amateur players (including the winner and runner-up of 2018 Amateur Masters) for an exhibition match.

And here is a little trailer featuring Ronnie