The 2021 Scottish Open starts today

The 2021 Scottish Open just got underway at the time of writing…

It’s held in Llandudno, in Wales, because the Scottish venue no longer accepts events sponsored by bookies. In my views it’s the righ move, but it might just well signal the start of a sponsoring nightmare for snooker. Anyway…

Mark Williams and Neil Robertson have withdrawn 

Robertson And Williams Withdraw

Neil Robertson and Mark Williams have pulled out of the BetVictor Scottish Open, which starts on Monday.

Robertson has withdrawn for medical reasons having been diagnosed with Pulsatile Tinnitus. He has been replaced in the draw by Bai Langning, who will face Ben Hancorn in the first round on Monday evening in Llandudno.

Williams has withdrawn for personal reasons and been replaced by James Cahill, who will be up against Ben Woollaston in the first round on Monday morning.

The tournament at Venue Cymru runs until December 12th.

 

Today will see most of the top 16 in action as the held-over matches will be played

The 2021 UK Championship – Zhao Xintong is your Champion!

Zhao Xintong won his first ranking title, the 2021 UK Championship, yesterday evening in York. He beat Luca Brecel by 10-5.

Congratulations Zhao!

The match was played in great spirit, both players went for their shots, and the crowd at the Barbican gave both of them huge support.

There was also a special buzz on social media. It is clear that having two young players competing in a major final raised a lot of interest and is exactly what snooker needed.

Ronnie, Jimmy and Alan in the Eurosport studio were genuinely getting excited. Whatever some want to believe all three of them love their sport and are delighted to see young talents come through, and young talents from outside UK as well because in a global world, snooker needs to become really global.

We are now in a situation where two out of three “Triple Crowns” are held by youngsters from China. That comes after the amateur under-18 European Championship was contested between two Belgians. It’s time to break the UK centric structure of the tour.

Zhao now tops the one year list, is 9th in the World rankings and certain to play in the 2021 World Grand Prix, the 2022 Players Championship and the 2022 Tour Championship.

He will also play in the 2022 Masters of course and he will face John Higgins. Indeed the draw was made yesterday afternoon and here it is:

2022MastersDraw

Here is the report by WST:

Sensation Zhao Is UK Champion

Electrifying young talent Zhao Xintong won his first pro title in tremendous style by beating Luca Brecel 10-5 in the final of the Cazoo UK Championship in York.

Zhao’s cheerful demeanour earned him the support of the York crowd

Recognised since his junior days as a massive talent, China’s Zhao has taken the first step towards fulfilling his promise by winning snooker’s second biggest ranking event. At the age of 24, he is the youngest winner of the UK Championship since Judd Trump in 2011.

The manner of Zhao’s victory underlines his potential: his break-building class, positional sophistication, pure ball striking and unflappable temperament are all attributes of great champions. Whether he can become a regular winner in the sport’s toughest era remains to be seen, but tonight’s success has the feeling of a major breakthrough for the left-hander.

Zhao, who had never previously played in a ranking final, becomes the fourth player from mainland China to win a ranking title, joining Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Yan Bingtao. He is also the fourth non-British winner in the UK Championship’s 44-year history, joining Ding, Ireland’s Patsy Fagan and Australia’s Neil Robertson.

In the world rankings he leaps from 26th to tenth and earns a Cazoo Masters debut against John Higgins next month. Zhao’s other spin-offs include a spot in next year’s Cazoo Champion of Champions and almost certainly a place in all three Cazoo Series events this season.

This was the first ever UK Championship final between two players ranked outside the top 16

Belgium’s Brecel was the first player from mainland Europe to compete in a Triple Crown final, but missed his chance to double his tally of ranking titles, having won the China Championship in 2017. After his tremendous display in beating Kyren Wilson 6-4 in the semi-finals with four centuries, the 26-year-old couldn’t reproduce the same level in the final and was outplayed for most of the contest. The runner-up prize of £80,000 vaults him from 40th to 18th in the rankings.

Leading 5-3 after the first session, Zhao extended his lead in the first frame tonight as a long red set up a break of 87. Brecel had a chance to counter in frame ten but made just 9 before missing the pink to a top corner, and Zhao punished him with 120, his sixth century of the tournament, to lead 7-3.

In frame 11, Zhao made 27 before missing the pink to a centre pocket, and Brecel gained a much-needed foothold with a run of 64 to close the gap. But the Belgian missed a long red early in the 12th and his opponent capitalised with a run of 56 which proved enough to go 8-4 ahead.

Brecel reduced his deficit after the interval with a break of 81. Frame 14 came down to a safety exchange and Zhao, leading 28-19, trapped his opponent in a tough snooker behind the yellow, creating the opportunity for a break of 43 which put him four up with five to play. There were no signs of nerves for Zhao and nine minutes late the contest was over as he signed off with a break of 99.

“I’m so happy tonight, it’s my dream come true,” said Zhao, nicknamed the Cyclone. “I was confident because when I practise, I think that I can do anything, so I wanted to be the champion. It was very enjoyable at the end, the moment was so nice, I will remember it.

“I think this could be my new start, I can have more confidence to win more tournaments. I trust I can do it because it was my first time in the final and I won the trophy.

“I’m going to go home, get a good sleep, and maybe tomorrow do karaoke…I will sing We Are The Champions! I will try next year to be World Champion.”

Brecel said: “Zhao didn’t give me many chances. He potted a red three times from my break-off and they were 80 or 90 breaks. When I got chances I missed a couple. I thought at the end he could crumble, but he didn’t and just played the same stuff so hats off to him. He’s only 24, he’s in the top ten now and he will stay there until he dies, simple as that.

“I don’t think I’ve seen someone play so good for so long, he just played the same the whole way through and was just amazing. It would be good if me, Zhao, Jack Lisowski and Judd Trump were all in the top 16, I think it’s good for snooker and exciting I shouldn’t be too down on myself, I had a good week. It’s just a shame I didn’t play my best in the final.”

Snooker was the winner yesterday.

The big loser at the end of this event is Ding Junhui, who is now down to number 27 in the rankings, with three young fellow citizens ranked above him: Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong. Ding has been around for a long time but it’s worth remembering that he’s only 34.

The 2021 UK Championship – The Semi-finals

I was expecting a Kyren Wilson v Barry Hawkins final, instead we have Luca Brecel v Zhao Xintong and I’m delighted to have been proved wrong. It’s been ten years since we had two young players in the Final of the UK Championship: the last time was in 2011 when a 22 years old Judd Trump faced a 25 years old Mark Allen Luca is 26 years old, Zhao is 24. It’s also the first time that a UK final is competed between two players outside the top 16. Whoever wins today will get into the top 16, kicking Zhou Yuelong out of the Masters.

HendonTweetUKFinal

Here is what happened yesterday

Luca Brecel 6-4 Kyren Wilson (source WST)

Brecel – It’s A Dream To Reach Final

With one of the best performances of his career, Belgium’s Luca Brecel beat Kyren Wilson 6-4 to reach the final of the Cazoo UK Championship, becoming the first player from mainland Europe to reach the final of a Triple Crown event.

Brecel was in tears as he potted the winning balls of a fabulous match in York which featured five centuries and five more breaks of 50. “It’s a dream to play like that and win,” said the 26-year-old. World number 40 Brecel will face Barry Hawkins or Zhao Xintong over 19 frames on Sunday, with the winner to lift the famous trophy and collect £200,000. Victory would also propel Brecel into the top 16 and give him a place in the Cazoo Masters.

His only ranking title so far came at the 2017 China Championship and he now has the chance to double his tally and join the list of winners of one of snooker’s most historic tournaments, dating back to 1977. Victory for Brecel would make him the fourth non-British player to lift the trophy, after Patsy Fagan, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson, and he would be the lowest ranked winner since Ding in 2005.

Brecel made only one century in his first five matches of this event, but today with a capacity crowd gathered around a single table, he caught fire. A break of 130 gave him the opening frame, then in the second he missed a red to a top corner on 14 and world number five Wilson punished him with a 121. The high scoring continued as Brecel regained the lead with a run of 105. In frame four, Brecel made 59 before failing to split the pack and playing safe. Wilson converted a plant from long range and cleared with 69 for 2-2.

Frame five was the scrappiest of the match and came down to a safety battle with four reds remaining. Wilson slotted in a red from distance and added enough points to take the lead for the first time. But he scored just one point in the next three frames as Brecel fired breaks of 102, 97 and 80 to go 5-3 up.

Brecel is from Limburg province in eastern Belgium

Kettering’s Wilson pulled one back with an 83, but his hopes of winning a first Triple Crown title ended in the next frame as Brecel made a 112, rounding off the match with a series of crowd-pleasing exhibition shots.

It feels like the best I have played because of the stage of the tournament,” said Brecel, a pro since 2011. “I beat Shaun Murphy 4-0 once in Ireland and didn’t miss a ball. I have done it before, but to have the belief to do it today is so big to me.

It was a huge match but I felt confident in my game. I was so nervous before the match – you can ask my girlfriend because I was grumpy! I had a century in the first frame and that settled me down. When I was on 20 or 30 in the last frame, I felt as if I was going to cry if I potted the winning ball. And when I potted a red on 67 I cried a little bit, it was very emotional, there is so much pressure out there.

This will be big news in Belgium but I am going to try to block it all out, hopefully win tomorrow and then enjoy all the attention. I would love to play Zhao Xintong because it would be good for snooker to have two very young players in the final. But nothing against Barry because he is a nice guy and fantastic player. I will enjoy the final, I will be more relaxed and hopefully play the same stuff.

Wilson said: “Without a doubt the better man won on the day, he was scoring phenomenally. Good luck to him for the final. At 3-2 I had a bit of momentum but then Luca took control.”

Zhao Xinton 6-1 Barry Hawkins (source WST)

Sizzling Xintong Hammers Hawk

Zhao Xintong thrashed Barry Hawkins 6-1 at the Cazoo UK Championship to set up a final between two of snooker’s most electrifying young talents.

China’s Zhao needed just 100 minutes to dismiss the challenge of experienced Hawkins, making a century and five more breaks over 70 in a masterclass of potting and positional play.

On Sunday, over 19 frames, the 24-year-old will face Belgium’s 26-year-old Luca Brecel for one of snooker’s biggest titles and a £200,000 top prize. In an era dominated by the older guard, it’s a showcase for the sport’s next generation. As Zhao himself put it: “It could be a beautiful game.”

World number 26 Zhao will be playing in his first ranking final – his only previous semi-final appearance came at the 2018 China Championship. Victory would make him the fourth player from mainland China to win a ranking event, after Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Yan Bingtao. Whoever comes out on top in the final will become the fourth non-British player to win the UK Championship, after Ding, Neil Robertson and Patsy Fagan.

As an added bonus, the champion will also climb into the world’s top 16 and earn a place  at the Cazoo Masters in London next month. Zhou Yuelong had held 16th spot but he is now out of that race. The draw for that event will be made on Sunday afternoon.

Breaks of 78, 78 and 100 got Zhao off to a fast start tonight with a 3-0 lead. Hawkins had a clear chance in frame four but on 22 he under-hit a red to a top corner, leaving it short of the pocket. Another run of 78 from Zhao put him 4-0 ahead at the interval.

Frame five came down to a safety battle on the final green, and an error from Zhao, failing to snooker his opponent, allowed Hawkins to pot the green to a centre pocket and clear the table to pull one back.

But a quickfire 74 from Zhao put him 5-1 ahead, and in frame seven a superb long red set him up for a run of 81 to seal the result.

I played well today, better than yesterday,” said Zhao, who is based in Sheffield during the season. “Jimmy White spoke to me, telling me to concentrate today, so I have to thank him. I was just thinking one ball at a time. It’s so exciting, I’m very happy.

Tomorrow is a very important match for me and I’m so close to the title. Luca is a great player and I think it could be a beautiful game. His style is very quick and he is a young player. When I was 13 he was already world famous.

I am a little bit nervous, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I hope I can sleep well tonight.

Hawkins, who has now lost 20 of his 27 ranking event semi-finals, said: “Obviously I’m gutted. I started off too slowly, got in first a couple of times and just didn’t score. He fed off my of mistakes and then he grew in confidence and played fantastic at the end – every mistake I made was magnified.

He scores quickly and he’s such a great potter, my safety wasn’t quite tight enough. There are a lot of positives from the week, I’ve made a semi-final in a big tournament.

The final starts at 1pm with eight frames, with the balance to be played from 7pm.

I‘m relly lookig forward to this one! Good luck to both lads!

The 2021 UK Championship – The QFs

Other than Kyren Wilson’s 6-5 win over Ronnie, this is what the QFs in York brought us.

Luca Brecel beat Anthony McGill by 6-2

This is a result that I didn’t expect, nevermind the scoreline. McGill usually has a way to get under the fluent players’ skin. I  didn’t watch the match, so can’t really comment. Here is the report by WST:

Brecel became the first player from continental Europe to reach the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event with a comfortable victory over McGill. The 26-year-old Belgian has lost just three frames in his last three matches, reaching the last four of a ranking event for the first time since the 2019 China Open.

A break of 68 gave Brecel the opening frame and he took a scrappy 40-minute second on the colours. A run of 59 helped put him 3-0 up and he had chances in the fourth but McGill eventually cleared from blue to black to pull one back.

Runs of 60 and 62 helped Brecel extend his lead to 5-1. Scotland’s McGill took the seventh but his hopes of a fight-back ended when Brecel got the better of a fragmented eighth frame.

Brecel said: “I played some good frames. I will need to kill the frames off in one visit against Kyren but if that doesn’t happen I’m just going to try hard to win the scrappy frames as well. It’s going to be a big match for me. Kyren has been there, he has got more experience at that level, but we will see what happens. Hopefully I can get to the final

The first day I was here for the tournament, there is this wall with all the winners and there is a question mark on the empty one next to 2021. I said to my girlfriend – what if I just wrote my name of it just for fun? Now there is a chance to do it!”

Every win by Luca in a high profile match is a boost for snooker in continental Europe and in Belgium in particular. Asked about snooker in Belgium, Luca cited Ben Merten and Julien Leclercq as great prospects for the future. They are indeed.

In the evening, Zhao Xintong beat Jack Lisowski by 6-2. That was another unexpected result as far as I’m concerned. I only watched the four first frames. Up to that point, it was a poor match really. Jack could have been 4-0 up if it wasn’t for silly mistakes. Zhao who was playing in his first ever semi-final looked very shaky (he probably was, literally). Credits to him to make it 2-2 at the MSI. I gave up at that point. The commentators were doing their best to promote the “exciting” side of the match, but really it wasn’t exciting at all and that, combined with the time difference, got the better of my willingness to watch the second part of the match. I may do that later this week though.

Barry Hawkins got the better of Andy Hicks without playing anywhere near his best.

Here are the reports by WST:

Zhao To Meet Hawkins In Semis

China’s talented Zhao Xintong, described this week as “our Federer” by Ronnie O’Sullivan, reached the semi-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship with a 6-2 thumping of Jack Lisowski.

On Saturday evening, Zhao will face Barry Hawkins, who booked his place in the last four with a 6-1 win over Andy Hicks. With Kyren Wilson to take on Luca Brecel at 1pm, it’s a semi-final line-up featuring four players who have never reached the final of this event before. On Sunday night in York, one of them will lift the trophy and collect the top prize of £200,000.

Asked about Zhao earlier this week, O’Sullivan said: “He is amazing, I think he is our (Roger) Federer. I’ve never seen a more talented snooker player.” World number 26 Zhao, age 24, now has the chance to live up to his potential by winning one of snooker’s biggest tournaments. He is through to his second ranking event semi-final and first since the 2018 China Championship – when he beat Hawkins 5-4 in the last eight.

Both Zhao and Brecel have the added motivation of a chance to book a place at next month’s Cazoo Masters. Reaching the final could be enough for a top 16 spot for Zhao, while Brecel needs to win the title.

Lisowski started strongly tonight with breaks of 79 and 63 to win the first two frames. And he had a clear chance to go 3-0 ahead but missed the brown to a baulk corner when leading 57-56. Xiao punished him to close to 2-1 and that proved a turning point.

Sheffield-based Zhao won the fourth frame on the colours then came from 61-0 down to take the fifth with a 74 clearance. From 3-2 ahead, he reeled off the last three frames with top runs of 56, 56 and 83.

“It was an amazing game,” said Zhao. “When I was 2-0 down, I was just thinking ‘take it easy now.’ He missed balls in the third and fourth frames and so I was able to get back into it. Then I was thinking I can do it, I can win the match.

“I’m very happy now. It’s a big tournament for me and this was a big match because it can give me more confidence, which is important in this sport. Barry Hawkins is a great player and also in the top 16. I don’t want to think to much about it, I don’t want to add pressure on myself.”

Hawkins is through to the 27th ranking event semi-final of his career and is looking for his fourth title. The 42-year-old Londoner has made serene progress through the draw so far, losing just eight frames in his five matches. This is his first appearance in the semi-finals of the UK Championship, though he has made it to the last four of the Betfred World Championship on five occasions.

Hicks, the world number 102, had chances in each of the first four frames tonight, but couldn’t take them and Hawkins went 4-0 ahead with a top break of 55. Hicks pulled one back after the interval, But Hawkins compiled a run of 57 in the sixth to go 5-1 ahead, then came from 35-0 down in the seventh to seal victory with breaks of 30 and 45.

I was hoping to play well tonight but it didn’t work out like that,” admitted Hawkins. “I’m just pleased to be through to the semi-finals. It was scrappy from the word go, we were both missing pots and couldn’t control the white. I just wanted to get the match out of the way.

It’s more mental than technical, my focus wasn’t good enough tonight. I’ll do some practice tomorrow and try to get my timing back. If I can find my A game then I have got a chance, I need to believe in myself to go out there and play well on the big occasion. There’s no getting away from the fact that the draw has opened right up. I could have been playing Judd Trump or David Gilbert but they got knocked out.

I remember the first time I played Zhao, he beat me 6-1 at the International Championship eight years ago and he potted everything in sight. He was so talented, even back then I knew he was going to do well in the game. It’s surprising he has taken so long, but the game is tough and there is a lot to learn. If I have any advantage over him I have to try to use it, but I won’t be playing in a negative way, I’ll just play my own game.”

All this means that, no matter what happens today and tomorrow, we will get a new name on the UK Championship trophy this year.

 

 

The 2021 UK Championship – Kyren Wilson beats Ronnie in the quarter-finals

After their respective last 16 matches, I wrote that Ronnie would need to improve to beat Kyren in the form he had shown. Stephen Hendry had said that this was Ronnie’s to lose and that he only had to stand up to win the title. I was in disagreement with this and rather baffled that such a great champion was unable to objectively assess what he was seeing. I was proved right and I’m not particularly happy about it because, eventually, Ronnie made it very close, and had he won yesterday, I would have made him a strong favourite for the title. Now I’m making Kyren that strong favourite.

For the neutral, it was a fantastic match, both players giving it their all and playing at a very high standard.

Here are the scores and stats.

UKC2021QFROS-Stats

UKC2021QFROS-Stats

Ronnie’s long potting was his weakness, he was otherwise excellent. Kyren had no weakness.

During the match, Ronnie sat down in protest because a lot of fans were moving around during play. He also complained about a photographer moving in his eyeline. This is usually an indication that he struggles with keeping 100% concentrated. That said, there really was A LOT of coming and going in the arena and I’m not sure why this is allowed. Even if it’s on the “other” table, because the arena open plan it’s bound to distract the players. I understand that WST doesn’t want to disappoint the fans after everything that went on, still goes on, because of the covid crisis, but there need to be some more “policing” about fans entering the arena during play. At least in the lower part of the arena, allowing large groups to enter and walk down the stairs is not on … especially when it’s obvious that some of these fans have got into the “festive mood” 🍺

Here is WST report on the match:

Superb Wilson Knocks Out Rocket

Kyren Wilson made a brilliant century break in the deciding frame to win a pulsating quarter-final with Ronnie O’Sullivan by a 6-5 scoreline at the Cazoo UK Championship.

O’Sullivan’s hopes of winning this title for an eight time ended as he was edged out in a tense finish to a high quality clash in York. His exit means that there will be a new name on the trophy this year, as none of the six remaining players have even appeared in the final.

World number three O’Sullivan went into today’s match as heavy favourite, but came across a fiercely determined opponent, and the Rocket is left waiting for a first title since the 2020 World Championship.

Wilson lost 18-8 to O’Sullivan in last year’s Crucible final, but this time was delighted to come out on top

Given the manner of victory, keeping his nerve when it mattered most, Wilson described the result as one of the best of his career. The world number five is into the semi-finals of this event for the first time and will now face Belgium’s Luca Brecel, who beat Anthony McGill 6-2. Two more wins would give Kettering’s his first Triple Crown title and fifth ranking event success.

Breaks of 92 and 117 got Wilson off to a flying start as he went 2-0 ahead, only for O’Sullivan to take the third frame then make a 115 for 2-2. Wilson came from 44-0 down to take the fifth with a 66 clearance, then the roles were reversed in frame six as O’Sullivan overturned a 46-0 deficit with a run of 76.

A break of 71 saw Wilson regain the lead at 4-3. In the eighth, O’Sullivan trailed 31-19 when he went for a risky long pot on the penultimate red, missing his target and allowing his opponent to go two up with three to play. Wilson led 35-26 in the ninth when he failed to convert a long red, and O’Sullivan punished him with a 64 before making a smooth 83 in frame ten to level at 5-5.

O’Sullivan had first chance in the decider but potted just one red before missing the brown to a baulk corner. Wilson later slotted in a long red to set-up his match winning 102.

In terms of how the match went from 5-3, it’s one of my best ever wins,” said Wilson. “I had chances to close it out and it felt like the snooker Gods were against me. So to make a century in the end was very pleasing. When you play Ronnie you play the crowd as well, so you try to stop that from getting on top of you. When I potted the match-winning ball I couldn’t help celebrating.

I have drilled my routine and practised very hard behind the scenes. It’s all to make sure I can do it under pressure and I managed to do that today. I go from the hunter to being the hunted now in terms of rankings, but I don’t see it that way. Luca will probably feel that he has an opportunity, playing me rather than Ronnie. I have to use my experience.”

O’Sullivan said: “I’m not that disappointed, I quite enjoyed the match. I never felt like I had any of the momentum but I enjoyed digging in, it was good fun. Kyren made a good break in the last frame, if you want to win tournaments that how you supposed to close out matches.

These tournaments – the Masters, the UK and the World – are the ones where you are judged and have the most pressure. It’s where you rate the greatest players of all time. I don’t know if Kyren is favourite now, I’m just going to enjoy watching it and working for Eurosport.

I’m not sure why WST didn’t report Ronnie’s full quotes but here they are reported by the Express:

Despite clearly giving his best to win the tie, O’Sullivan didn’t show too much disappointment in his post-match interview, as he hinted at three reasons for the defeat: his age, his lack of consistency, and his opponent’s hunger for glory.

I just wasn’t good enough, wasn’t clinical enough – and you have to be,” he told Eurosport. “That’s what happens as you get a little bit older.

I missed too many balls and wasn’t clinical enough. You can’t afford to do that at the highest level, I accept that. I think I did well to get five frames.

Kyren is hungry to win titles. He wants to do what I’ve done in the game. I was like that when I hadn’t won a major.

You have all the desire at that stage. It’s great to see, it shows he’s got a real passion for the game.

And the BBC report:

UK Snooker Championship 2021: Kyren Wilson beats Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach semi-finals

Kyren Wilson reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship for the first time with a thrilling 6-5 victory over seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Wilson, 29, made three half-century breaks and two centuries in a high-quality contest between the two highest ranked players left in the tournament.

A repeat of the 2020 World Championship final had seen O’Sullivan fight back from 2-0 and 5-3 down to level at 5-5.

Wilson holds his nerve

Wilson – who is yet to win one of snooker’s Triple Crown events, having previously been a runner-up at both the Masters (2018) and to O’Sullivan at the Crucible – will go into his match against Brecel as the clear favourite.

Luca is a fantastic young talent. He won big in China a few years ago and we all probably expected him to kick on. I look forward to that game,” Wilson told BBC Sport.

Wilson showcased his prolific break-building skills early on against O’Sullivan, winning both of the first two frames at one visit, with runs of 92 and 117.

O’Sullivan responded in style, taking the next frame and then levelling the match at 2-2 with a sublime break of 115.

The players then traded frames – Wilson going back in front with a break of 66, and O’Sullivan responding with a 76 to level. But Wilson regained control with a composed break of 71, and then took the eighth frame as well to go two clear.

However, the tension increased, amid several stoppages in play as fans came in and out of the auditorium, plus an O’Sullivan complaint over background movement.

That appeared to work in the six-time world champion’s favour as he made breaks of 64 and 83 to set up a final-frame decider.

But Wilson, who had twice had an unfortunate run of the balls after splitting the reds at 5-3 and 5-4, reacted impeccably to register a composed break of 102 and record only his third win over O’Sullivan.

It was one of those [matches] where you feel the snooker gods don’t forgive you and I probably should have won 6-3. Then things started to turn and I thought I had missed the boat,” Wilson said.

“I backed myself under pressure. I have let a couple slip with Ronnie, so it was nice to get that under my belt.”

Analysis

Six-time world champion Steve Davis on BBC Two:

Kyren Wilson was delighted with himself. He withstood the pressure and the disappointments of going into the pack and not being on a red. He is able to win major events and is slowly going up the ladder.

If he wins the World Championship, the UK Championship or the Masters, I don’t think anyone would be surprised.

Shaun Murphy, 2005 world champion:

Both of the players put in stellar performances. But I think I have got that as one the best performances in Kyren Wilson’s career. He has won multiple events and has established himself as a contender every time he brings his cue to the table.

What he did today and the way he did it – standing up to the barrage that Ronnie O’Sullivan gave him at the end there – is one of the best we have seen.”

This UK Championship is over for Ronnie and, as a fan, I’m disappointed, of course. On the other hand, he really applied himself, which was good to see. Hopefully, he can keep this attitude. If he does, I’m confident that he has more titles in him.

The 2021 UK Championship – The last 16

This tournament continues to spring surprises. It’s a weird, but interesting one!

The two highest ranked players still in the draw after the last 16 round, Ronnie and Kyren Wilson, are pitted against each other in the QF. Stephen Hendry says that this tournament is Ronnie’s to lose. I disagree. Ronnie has not been the best player here in York, and hasn’t really shown his best form since his 2020 Crucible victory.

There are 5 players aged 30 or less at the quarter-finals stage which is a rarety nowadays, but it’s really good to see. Maybe it’s a sign that the change of guard is finally coming.

Amongst those is Zhao Xintong. Zhao has been seen as very hot prospect for about 5 years already but has often disappointed. He is now 24, he seemed to have matured a lot and he has been brilliant so far this week.

Luca Brecel as well is in good form. His problem since turning pro has always been consistency though.

Anthony Mgc Gill, who, to his own admission finds it hard to motivate himself for the small(er) events, is clearly up for this one and playing well. He is dangerous.

Barry Hawkins is playing well too and I expect him to reach the final. I can’t see Zhao Xintong or Jack Lisowski outsmart him.

The veteran in the QF draw, Andy Hicks, is 48 years old and currently ranked number 102 in the world… he could still get in the top 16 by winning the title. The prize money/ranking system is that top heavy!

Here are the WST accounts on the last 16 matches at the 2021 UK Championship.

Wednesday afternoon

O’Sullivan Digs In To Beat Saengkham

Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted to feeling nervous during his clash with Noppon Saengkham at the Cazoo UK Championship, but came from 3-2 down to win 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals.

Thailand’s Saengkham crucially missed chances to go 4-2 ahead when he looked to have the momentum, and O’Sullivan punished him as he made his way to the last eight of this event for the 18th time. He will meet Kyren Wilson or Ben Woollaston on Friday.

UKC2021L16ROS-3

O’Sullivan hasn’t won a title since the 2020 World Championship

Saengkham knocked out Stuart Bingham earlier in the week and posed a serious challenge to O’Sullivan’s bid to win this title for an eighth time. The Thai took the opening frame, then world number three O’Sullivan made a break of 76 for 1-1. Saengkham regained the lead with an 83 before O’Sullivan’s 98 made it 2-2 at the interval.

In frame five, Saengkham trailed 57-6 when he converted a fantastic long pot on a red which was close to a side cushion, and that set him up for a 59 clearance to give him the lead for the third time. The world number 45 had clear opportunities to extend his advantage in the sixth, notably missing the third last red to a top corner when he led 48-14. The frame came down to the colours and a missed yellow from Saengkham allowed O’Sullivan to clear and level at 3-3.

That proved the turning point as O’Sullivan won the last three frames in just 29 minutes with top breaks of 74 and 120.

“At 3-2 down I nearly gave up, I was struggling,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport. “But I dug in and kept applying myself. I should have gone 4-2 down, but when I won that frame something clicked and I was off and running again.

“I get butterflies, I get nervous. I’m under pressure in every match, you just try to disguise it and try to stay calm and relaxed. Everyone feels pressure, even the greats – I’ve heard of some of them being sick in the dressing room before going out. Maybe that doesn’t happen in team sports, but snooker is a tough one.

“I prefer watching snooker and talking about it than actually playing it. But I have to force myself to get a bit more juice out of playing. It’s going to end at some point but I’ll get as much out of it as I can. I used to hate watching it, but once you start doing punditry you start to enjoy it and get excited. I play for a hobby, not for a job.”

O’Sullivan first won this title 28 years ago and he turns 46 on the day of the final on Sunday. He added: “I no longer think my best is better than everyone else’s. Will I be comfortable with that? Winning is not so important. If I can be the best 46-year-old and compete with Higgins, Williams and people in that category, that’s enough. It’s only a matter of time before the younger guys start winning tournaments.

“I’m comfortable with losing and still having a smile on my face. Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis couldn’t accept that, while Jimmy White and I are fascinated by the game and just enjoy playing.”

Zhao Xintong booked his place in the quarter-finals with a 6-4 win over Peter Lines. China’s 24-year-old Zhao took a 4-1 lead with a top break of 122. Yorkshireman Lines battled back to 4-4, only for his opponent to take the next two with runs of 92 and 67.

World number 26 Zhao continues his best run in this event having never previously been beyond the last 32. His next opponent is Jack Lisowski or Hossein Vafaei.

“It was a very difficult match, Peter is a great player,” said Zhao, who is based in Sheffield. “When I was 4-1 up I thought I would win quickly, then he came back at me. I was under big pressure at 4-4 but I played well for the last two frames. I knew I had to keep my style and pot balls, I knew if I played slowly I would lose the game. It’s a very important win for me. It will give me more confidence if I win the tournament.”

You will find more about Ronnie’s match here

Wednesday evening

Wilson Sets Up Rocket Clash

Kyren Wilson beat Ben Woollaston 6-3 at the Cazoo UK Championship to equal his best run in the tournament – but now finds Ronnie O’Sullivan in his path.

World number five Wilson is into the quarter-finals of this event for the third time and will face O’Sullivan on Friday at the York Barbican. It’s a repeat of their 2020 Betfred World Championship final battle, which O’Sullivan won 18-8. But Kettering’s Wilson has beaten the Rocket before, notably 6-5 in the semi-finals of the 2020 Welsh Open, and will go into battle with determination and confidence.

Wilson is seeking his fifth ranking title

Breaks of 66 and 58 gave Wilson the first two frames tonight and he stole the third from 64-0 behind with a 66 clearance. He went on to lead 4-0, then Woollaston staged an impressive fight-back after the interval, closing to 4-2. In the pivotal seventh frame, Woollaston led 56-32 when he missed a tricky pot on the last red along a side cushion, using the rest. Wilson punished him with a 31 clearance.

Leicester’s Woollaston pulled one more back with an 87 in frame eight, only for Wilson to settle the tie as he made a 65 in taking frame nine.

“At 4-0 I felt really in control, then I lost concentration and allowed Ben back in the game,” said Wilson, who turns 30 later this month. “I’m usually good at crossing the line and finishing matches off, but that has not been the case this week for whatever reason.

“It’s all about getting through these matches – that’s the most important thing because as long as you’re still in it, you can improve.

“It is going to be a huge match against Ronnie. I always look forward to playing him, and to do that in the quarter-finals of the UK Championship is massive. If I turn up and produce my best against the very best, I give myself a chance.”

Anthony McGill was also a 6-3 winner, beating Jordan Brown. The Scot’s only previous appearance in the last eight in York came in 2014 when he lost to O’Sullivan. This time he will take on Luca Brecel or Anthony Hamilton.

Breaks of 117, 77 and 68 helped McGill to a 3-2 lead, then Welsh Open champion Brown took frame six to square the match. But Glasgow’s McGill was the stronger player in the closing stages and took the last three frames with a top break of 80.

“Overall I played well, I feel good,” said world number 16 McGill. “I’m playing a bit better in each match. I fancy playing well, but maybe the other guy will just be too good. I’m just happy to be in the hat.”

Thursday afternoon

Lisowski And Brecel Into Quarters

Jack Lisowski and Luca Brecel, two of snooker’s most flamboyant and attacking players, scored impressive wins on Thursday at the York Barbican to progress to the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.

Lisowski scored a 6-4 victory over Hossein Vafaei to reach the last eight of this event for the second consecutive year. In 2020 he lost to Zhou Yuelong, but this time if he can beat Zhao Xintong on Friday evening he’ll be through to the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event for the first time in his career.

Lisowski is chasing his first ranking title

World number 15 Lisowski made a poor start to the season, suffering early exits in the first three ranking events, but has found a groove in York, winning four matches to get this far. The Gloucestershire cueman has had pep-talks from former World and UK Champion Peter Ebdon to prepare himself mentally for the challenge of competition.

The first two frames today were shared, then Iran’s Vafaei had a chance to go 2-1 ahead but missed a straight-forward brown when leading 59-48. Lisowski cleared to take the lead then made a break of 82 for 3-1. Vafaei’s superb 115 saw him claw one back, before Lisowski’s 88 gave him a 4-2 advantage.

World number 63 Vafaei took two of the next three frames to close to 5-4. In the tenth, he was 44-54 behind when he went for a tough pot on the last red along the top cushion, dismissing the option to play safe. But the red wobbled in the jaws, handing Lisowski the chance to clear to the brown which proved enough for victory.

“We both felt pressure and missed shots, but we also put on a good game and the crowd seemed to enjoy it,” said 30-year-old Lisowski. “Hossein is a lovely guy and if he does well it will be great for snooker. On the red in the last frame, I could see in his eyes and his body language that he was going for it, he wasn’t playing safe. Maybe I would have gone for it as well. Some of the top players would have snookered me, like Robertson, Selby and Trump. I was hoping he went for it because I could see it was a tough pot. Luckily for me he missed it.

“Zhao Xintong is my favourite player to watch, he goes for all his shots, he’s fast and he doesn’t play any safety. We will play it on our terms, the analysts will be saying which shots we should be playing, but that’s not going to happen. We’ll be going for everything, it will be a pot-fest. This was a big match for me in terms of the rankings and getting into the World Grand Prix. It’s a good opportunity to kick on from that.

“I got Peter Ebdon’s number and spoke to him for a couple of hours. He’s a winner and it’s great to have someone like that in your corner. He has given me things to think about. I’ll chat to him later and ask him what he thought of that match.”

Belgium’s Brecel thumped Anthony Hamilton 6-1 with top breaks of 72, 72 and 69 to reach the quarter-finals of this event for the third time. World number 40 Brecel has shown consistent form this season and also reached the last eight of the BetVictor English Open. His next opponent will be Anthony McGill.

“Safety is always massive in such a big game and I didn’t really do a lot wrong today on that side,” said Brecel, whose only ranking title came at the 2017 China Championship. “Today was the best I felt in the whole tournament. Since being 5-4 down against Tom Ford I’ve won 14 out of 15 frames. I’m feeling good, confident and relaxed.

“It would be good if me or Jack Lisowski could win more tournaments because we have a nice style, I think, we play crazy shots sometimes. I’m not busy with entertaining, I’m a real winner, I hate losing so I just try to win. When I go for shots some people say I’m pushing the boat out, but it is just the way I play and I am confident in my shots so that’s why I play them.

“There’s still some very good players, Anthony McGill next, then Ronnie O’Sullivan or Kyren Wilson. Ronnie is obviously the big favourite to win it, but I can beat anyone. I’ve proven that over the years so we’ll see what happens.”

Thursday evening

Hicks Keeps Epic Run Going

World number 102 Andy Hicks won a fourth consecutive match by a 6-5 scoreline, beating David Gilbert to reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.

Hicks was one of snooker’s leading players in the mid-1990s, reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship, UK Championship and the Masters, but other than an appearance in the semi-finals of the Shoot Out in 2017, this is his best run in a ranking event since 2004. The 48-year-old is now guaranteed £24,500, his biggest pay-day since the 1996 Masters.

Since 1996, Hicks has reached the quarter-finals of a ranking event on just two other occasions

Devon’s Hicks has scored win over Liang Wenbo, Michael Holt, Dominic Dale and now Gilbert in York, each time getting the better of the deciding frame. Hicks, by far the lowest ranked player left in the field, will now face Barry Hawkins, who scored a 6-3 victory over Matthew Selt.

The first four frames tonight were shared, Gilbert making breaks of 81 and 54 while Hicks fired in 67 and 88. Frame five came down to a safety battle on the brown, and Gilbert converted a clever double to a centre pocket before adding the blue to edge ahead. Hicks won two of the next three frames with breaks of 67 and 82 to level at 4-4, then got the better of a scrappy ninth to take the lead. Frame ten was another fragmented affair and Gilbert built a 51-10 lead, then an excellent long pot on the third last red helped him to 5-5.

A missed red to a centre pocket from Gilbert early in the decider let Hicks in for a fine run of 56. World number 22 Gilbert battled for a chance to counter, but Hicks picked off loose reds and eventually took the frame 75-0.

“I’d like to say I’m losing my hair but that happened many years ago!” said Hicks, who, away from the baize, runs a business painting houses. “In the deciding frames I have just tried to take my time and not do anything rash or silly.

“Last season I needed to beat Reanne Evans in the World Championship qualifiers to keep my tour card. I won that match and it was still touch and go, but in the end I got the two year card. That took the pressure off because I know I have got two years. If I had fallen off the tour I definitely would have retired. Here I am, still punching.

“My aim was to have one more big run. My expectations of winning tournaments have gone down over the years but I’m really pleased just to have a chance, and there are not many bigger tournaments than this one. I try not to look at the money, but it does give me a bit of security.

“Barry probably thinks it’s a good draw for him and he’s a great player, but I’m going to be trying my very hardest.”

Hawkins came from 3-1 down to win five frames in a row against Selt, reaching the quarter-finals of this event for only the second time in his career and first since 2013. The Londoner has conceded just seven frames in the tournament but was in danger of being knocked out when he started slowly tonight.

Hawkins has reached the semi-finals five times at the World Championship, but never at the UK Championship

Selt led 3-1 at the interval with top breaks of 73 and 88, then Hawkins pulled one back with a run of 99 and added the sixth to square the tie. Frame seven came down to the last red and Hawkins missed a mid-range pot to a top corner, but Selt then failed to convert a tough pot to the opposite corner and soon found himself 4-3 behind.

In the eighth, Selt made 27 before running out of position as he attempted to split the pack, and Hawkins later converted a long red to initiate a break of 103 which put him two up with three to play. Selt had an early chance in the next but after potting an opening red he missed a tricky blue to a baulk corner, and that proved his last shot as world number 14 Hawkins sealed victory with a run of 92.

“I was all at sea in the first four frames,” admitted 42-year-old Hawkins. “I’m really pleased because I stuck to my task and got stronger as the match went on. I felt as if I was going to score heavily and I hope I can take that into my next game. According to Stephen Hendry we should just give the trophy to Ronnie O’Sullivan, but everyone still in it can play.

“It’s fantastic for Andy, I have always rated him highly and he has a good temperament. If it goes 5-5 I might as well shake his hand!”

Quarter-final line-up

Anthony McGill v Luca Brecel
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Kyren Wilson
Barry Hawkins v Andy Hicks
Jack Lisowski v Zhao Xintong

 

The 2021 UK Championship – Ronnie beats Noppon Saengkham in the last 16

Ronnie book his place in the quarter-finals at the 2021 UK Championship yesterday afternoon. He beat Noppon Saengkham by 6-3 but it was far from a comfortable win: Ronnie really struggled during the first half of the match.

Here are the scores:

UKC2021L16ROS-Scores

And the match stats

UKC2021L16ROS-Stats

Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Digs In To Beat Saengkham

Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted to feeling nervous during his clash with Noppon Saengkham at the Cazoo UK Championship, but came from 3-2 down to win 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals.

Thailand’s Saengkham crucially missed chances to go 4-2 ahead when he looked to have the momentum, and O’Sullivan punished him as he made his way to the last eight of this event for the 18th time. He will meet Kyren Wilson or Ben Woollaston on Friday.

UKC2021L16ROS-3O’Sullivan hasn’t won a title since the 2020 World Championship

Saengkham knocked out Stuart Bingham earlier in the week and posed a serious challenge to O’Sullivan’s bid to win this title for an eighth time. The Thai took the opening frame, then world number three O’Sullivan made a break of 76 for 1-1. Saengkham regained the lead with an 83 before O’Sullivan’s 98 made it 2-2 at the interval.

In frame five, Saengkham trailed 57-6 when he converted a fantastic long pot on a red which was close to a side cushion, and that set him up for a 59 clearance to give him the lead for the third time. The world number 45 had clear opportunities to extend his advantage in the sixth, notably missing the third last red to a top corner when he led 48-14. The frame came down to the colours and a missed yellow from Saengkham allowed O’Sullivan to clear and level at 3-3.

That proved the turning point as O’Sullivan won the last three frames in just 29 minutes with top breaks of 74 and 120.

At 3-2 down I nearly gave up, I was struggling,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport. “But I dug in and kept applying myself. I should have gone 4-2 down, but when I won that frame something clicked and I was off and running again.

I get butterflies, I get nervous. I’m under pressure in every match, you just try to disguise it and try to stay calm and relaxed. Everyone feels pressure, even the greats – I’ve heard of some of them being sick in the dressing room before going out. Maybe that doesn’t happen in team sports, but snooker is a tough one.

I prefer watching snooker and talking about it than actually playing it. But I have to force myself to get a bit more juice out of playing. It’s going to end at some point but I’ll get as much out of it as I can. I used to hate watching it, but once you start doing punditry you start to enjoy it and get excited. I play for a hobby, not for a job.”

O’Sullivan first won this title 28 years ago and he turns 46 on the day of the final on Sunday. He added: “I no longer think my best is better than everyone else’s. Will I be comfortable with that? Winning is not so important. If I can be the best 46-year-old and compete with Higgins, Williams and people in that category, that’s enough. It’s only a matter of time before the younger guys start winning tournaments.

I’m comfortable with losing and still having a smile on my face. Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis couldn’t accept that, while Jimmy White and I are fascinated by the game and just enjoy playing.”

This is the detailed account “As it happened” by Eurosport

O’SULLIVAN 6-3 SAENGKHAM

Some Ronnie stats to chew over:

Total points 634
Balls potted 181
Pot success 93%
Long pot success 57%
Safety success 74%
Hghest break 120

O’SULLIVAN 6-3 SAENGKHAM

All done and dusted and in some style as a break of 120 secures O’Sullivan’s passage to the quarter finals. He will have a day off tomorrow, before facing either Kyren Wilson or Ben Woollaston as he continues his quest for a 38th ranking title.
There is a steely determination about the Rocket this week, as he weathered a storm from Noppon before taking control of the match.

O’SULLIVAN 5-3 SAENGKHAM (24-7)

Ronnie is one of the very best at closing out matches, and in a couple of shots a difficult table looks promising as he frees the black.

O’SULLIVAN 5-3 SAENGKHAM (0-7)

Noppon edges a safety battle and has a chance. He needs to take it in order to stem the bleeding. He does not, as a red into the right corner, one he was making earlier in the match, stays above ground. Chance for O’Sullivan.

O’SULLIVAN 5-3 SAENGKHAM (0-1)

O’Sullivan is one frame away and this performance has been typical of his efforts in York. He’s been a step short of his best but has been prepared to roll his sleeves up and battle. He’s still got to get over the line, but if he finds his best form, watch out!

O’SULLIVAN 4-3 SAENGKHAM (92-0)

Noppon is continuing in attack mode and an audacious effort down the right rail just fails to drop, but he gets a slice of fortune as he covers the pocket. Noppon rolls the dice again, but this time he is out of luck and hands a second chance to O’Sullivan who knocks in a break of 48 to move within one frame of victory.

O’SULLIVAN 4-3 SAENGKHAM (44-0)

It’s now Noppon who is making errors and this one looks costly as O’Sullivan knocks a red into the centre of the pocket of the bottom right. He gets to 44, but runs out of position. Noppon is still alive.

O’SULLIVAN 3-3 SAENGKHAM (74-14)

Accelerating like a Ferrari, O’Sullivan races through the gears with a glorious break of 74. For the first time in the match, he has the cue ball under tight control and it shows with a superb contribution. A red does not drop into the left middle and Noppon comes back to the table, but it does not come to anything as O’Sullivan moves into the lead.

O’SULLIVAN 3-3 SAENGKHAM (16-0)

An excellent starting red from O’Sullivan, beautifully cued into the bottom left. The split of the reds is not brilliant, but he has one into the left middle and is up and running in the seventh.

O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (64-48)

Ronnie does not pot the yellow, but gets a second bite as Noppon’s effort at a fiendishly difficult yellow does not drop. His attacking play is a good sign, but there are times when erring on the side of caution is the way to go. Ronnie mops up the colours to draw level. Turning points, anyone?

O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (37-48)

It’s more miss than hit at the moment, with Noppon missing a red into the left corner, O’Sullivan following with a miss into the right middle and Noppon hitting back by missing another to the bottom left. O’Sullivan finally gets in and is back in the frame with on red remaining on the table. He knocks in a glorious red along the bottom rail and has a massive chance.

O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (14-29)

The black O’Sullivan missed in the previous frame came as a surprise. Surprise was more like shock in the sixth, as he missed a simple blue into the right middle. He was trying to force it coming in and out of baulk, but it was not good. Noppon misses shortly afterwards and it’s getting very edgy – and we’re only in the sixth frame.

O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (1-22)

Commentator’s curse strikes as he misses an albeit tough red into the left middle and it hands O’Sullivan an easy starter.

O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (0-22)

Noppon gets a lovely split of the pack off the black and he’s in with a great chance again. After the previous clearance, he is full of confidence.

O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM (57-65)

Noppon knocks in a fantastic red down the right rail to get his chance. He takes full advantage with a clearance of 59 for an unlikely steal. O’Sullivan had the frame at his mercy but missed the black. I’m sure someone somewhere is talking about turning points and momentum shifts.

O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM (57-1)

Ronnie gets in again off the back of a poor safety from Noppon. Handing chances to arguably the greatest player to pick up a cue is not the wisest strategy, but O’Sullivan breaks down on 45 when missing a black into the left corner.
“The black stays out, incredible,” said David Hendon on Eurosport comms. True, very true.
Frame is still alive.

O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM (12-0)

Noppon misses a long red by some distance and O’Sullivan gets in and immediately splits the pack. An excellent red goes cleanly into the left middle, but he runs out of position and misses a long red. It’s still very stop-start.

O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM

We’ve back underway with the match well poised. Will Ronnie find another gear, or is Noppon primed to keep the shocks coming?

JIMMY’S THOUGHTS

Ronnie took quite a bit of time to settle,” White said. “He’s not really got going.
I think we are going to see some bigger breaks and better quality after the interval.

O’SULLIVAN 1-2 SAENGKHAM (98-8)

O’Sullivan’s break reaches 33, and the crucial split of the reds from the blue works a treat. With reds split nicely, he knocks in a break of 98 to draw level at the interval. It was a good break, but the cue ball got away from time to time suggesting he is still not fully happy with the table. He’s spoken before about enjoying difficult conditions as he seems them as a challenge. We’ll find out if that’s the case after the interval. See you shortly.

O’SULLIVAN 1-2 SAENGKHAM (12-8)

A good safety from O’Sullivan draws a mistake from Noppon and with his hand on the table, Ronnie knocks in a good starting red and he’s in the balls. He could do with a decent contribution to settle things.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-117)

Noppon knocks an excellent long red into the green pocket and it’s an excellent chance. This time he takes full advantage, as a break of 83 is enough to secure the third frame. The camera pans to O’Sullivan who now knows he is in a match.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-34)

Noppon does not take full advantage as he break down on 33. Fortunately, he’s not left Ronnie an easy starter and it’s a case of O’Sullivan being patient as his opponent is having a favourable run of the balls.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-20)

Noppon has a hug slice of luck as a missed red flies round the table, flicks the pink and drops into the middle. He has an excellent chance with the balls favourably split.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-1)

Tense stuff at the start of the third. O’Sullivan lays an excellent safety after Noppon missed a routine blue into the middle – with his mind more on splitting the pack. O’Sullivan not at his best yet, he’s playing solid snooker.

O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (106-8)

It appears it was the marker who alerted the referee to the issue, but after everything settles down O’Sullivan gets back to the table and mops up a break of 76 to level the match.

O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (30-8)

In an amazing act of sportsmanship, O’Sullivan called the miss rule on himself. He missed the brown twice and should have been warned by the referee, as the black was available to hit. O’Sullivan told the referee.

O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (30-4)

O’Sullivan looks good with a break of 30, but runs out of position and fouls trying to get a safety on the brown.

O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (11-0)

Noppon plays what looks a good safety, but Ronnie sees a long plant to the bottom left and he manoeuvres the first red onto the second and he’s at the table with a chance.
“Well played from Ronnie O’Sullivan who had no choice but to play the shot,” Dale said.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (18-91)

O’Sullivan plays on requiring snookers, but it appears more a case of him getting a feel for the table.
Noppon knocks in a red and finally seals the opening frame.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (13-77)

A massive error from O’Sullivan who fouls the black attempting a safety and it allows Noppon to take a commanding lead in the frame.
“Ronnie has a bit to think about early in this match,” Dale said.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (13-43)

Dale faces Ronnie in the first round of the Scottish Open next week. And jokingly, Dale said: “Let’s hope Ronnie gets to the final here, has a really long game and opts not to play in the Scottish Open.”
On the table, we have a safety battle.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (5-43)

O’Sullivan goes desperately close with a long red, but it wiggles in the right corner. Noppon plays an awful safety to let Ronnie in, but he misses a black off the spot – not for the first time this week – and it’s all a bit nervy.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (4-43)

Noppon’s breaks comes unstuck on 32 as he fails to get a cannon on a red from the black. It’s a decent lead, but he’d have hoped for more.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (4-27)

Dominic Dale on Eurosport comms impressed with Noppon’s tip. “I’ve never seen a top quite like it, it’s like a fruit pastille.”
It seems to be working as he knocks in another long red and is in with a chance.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (4-6)

A nerve-settler for Noppon who knocks in an excellent long red, but he is unable to take full advantage and runs for cover.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM

An unfortunate start for Noppon who goes in-off with his opening shot, but better there than at the bottom end of the table. No damage done in the end.

HERE WE GO

MC Rob Walker is doing his thing (sadly for Rob, John Higgins is out so he can’t make a bad joke about him losing loads of weight) and the players are in the arena.

RONNIE’S THOUGHTS

I normally feel pretty strong towards the end of tournaments,” O’Sullivan said. “I never struggle to want to play, but sometimes think ‘do I want to give blood, sweat and tears?
Ronnie O’Sullivan has never lost to Noppon, but is wary of his opponent
He is a very dedicated, very attacking, very aggressive player,” O’Sullivan said. “I am going to have to play well. Stick to my own game and see how it works out.

The assessment by the BBC:

UK Snooker Championship 2021: Ronnie O’Sullivan reaches quarter-final

By Shamoon Hafez BBC Sport

UKC2021L16ROS-1

O’Sullivan’s last UK title triumph came in 2018

Record seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed a routine 6-3 win over Noppon Saengkham to reach the quarter-finals of the UK Championship.

Thailand’s Saengkham held his own in first four frames, making 83 in between O’Sullivan’s 76 and 98 breaks for 2-2.

He edged 3-2 ahead but O’Sullivan reeled off four frames in a row, including a century, to seal the match.

O’Sullivan will face Kyren Wilson or Ben Woollaston in the next round on Friday at the Barbican Centre in York.

‘I no longer think my best is better than anyone else’s best’

‘The Rocket’ is firm favourite to lift the trophy for the eighth time after seeing heavyweights including defending champion Neil Robertson, world champion Mark Selby and Judd Trump all make early exits.

Winning tournaments is not going to make a difference to my life,” O’Sullivan told BBC Two. “It would be great, but we all have different perspectives and at this stage in my career I don’t get excited by winning tournaments. I get excited by having a good life.

I have been relaxed for a while. I much prefer watching and talking about it than playing it, I have to force myself to get some juice out of it. It is going to end at some point so might as well try and get as much out of it.

I no longer think my best is better than anyone else’s best. That is always a sign, will I be comfortable with that?

Winning is not so important, it is not going to change anything. If I can be the best 46-year-old in the world and can compete with John Higgins, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson, in that age category, then I am quite comfortable with losing and putting a smile on my face.”

The 45-year-old was far from his fluent best, but showed his proven class as he fought back from behind to triumph.

In control at 3-2 ahead, Saengkham had opportunities for a two-frame advantage, but he did not capitalise when in among the balls and O’Sullivan to begin his revival.

He did not lose a frame thereafter and finished off the match in style with a composed 120 clearance.

O’Sullivan added: “I don’t even talk about my games anymore, I just get upset thinking about it. Leave it out there, it is what it was. I am still in the tournament.

“Every match you get spells like that. At 3-2 I nearly gave up, but I kept applying myself because I was struggling. Something clicked and I was off and running again.

“Everybody is under pressure, it is that type of game. I have heard greats being sick in the dressing room before they went out. In team sports you get people to help you out but snooker is a tough one.”

Analysis

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry on BBC Two:

That is what O’Sullivan does, as soon as Saengkham gave him the opportunity, we said put the chair in. He is the best that has ever been at clearing matches out and getting over the line. There is no hesitation, he knows what he has to do and I thought it would be the last visit of the match.

BBC Sport pundit Joe Perry:

The best thing about that for me was that he didn’t look at this best but went 3-3 and it flicked a switch, there was only one winner after that. It is incredible how he can go through the gears so quickly.

“You can’t let the top players off, once they sense a little bit of weakness they will trample all over you.

And yet another account by the Irish press 

‘I don’t care. I’m going to have a couple of Guinnesses tonight ’ – Ronnie O’Sullivan’s view on UK Championship

UKC2021-ROS-6

Ronnie O’Sullivan may be closing in on more snooker history in York, but the 45-year-old continues to give the distinct impression he would rather be anywhere else than on the cusp of a record eighth UK snooker title.

After reeling off the last four frames to sink Noppon Saengkham 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals, O’Sullivan insisted he had no interest in his performance, and shrugged off the prospect of claiming the crown on his 46th birthday on Sunday.

O’Sullivan insisted: “I don’t care – if I win it, great, and if I don’t it will have no impact on my life and what I do. If anything I’d rather be sitting with Jimmy (White), having a laugh.

I really don’t celebrate birthdays to be honest. I don’t get excited by that either. I get excited by my work and some little projects I’m working on.

Even a break of 120 to wrap up a tight contest in which he had looked out-of-sorts in the early stages failed to kindle any evident enthusiasm in O’Sullivan, who will return for his last eight match on Friday.

I’m just happy to be through and still in the tournament,” added O’Sullivan. “It is what it is out there. I really haven’t got a clue how it all works.

I don’t care, I really have no interest. I’m going to have a couple of Guinnesses tonight and a bit of mulled wine and some nice food.

Of course an Irish paper had to mention Guiness …

For what it’s worth, here are my views on Ronnie’s comments: I’m certain that he would be delighted to add to his tally of Triple Crown events and that he feels it out there because he does care. On the other hand, he doesn’t want the pressure everyone piles on him, especially now that he is the highest ranked player remaining in the tournament and seen as the “favourite”. There was nothing in his game yesterday to justify that tag. He had to cope with that pressure and huge expectations for nearly 30 years, they have sometimes been his downfall. He doesn’t want that anymore. He doesn’t want to hurt anymore. He has nothing to prove.

To me, the most “authentic” and revealing is this last one – I promise – by Hector Nunns. Hector is someone Ronnie trusts because they have known each other for many, many years, and he knows that Hector will not misrepresent his quotes for the sake of sensationalism.

Ronnie O’Sullivan: I’d Rather Be A Monk Than Take Snooker Too Seriously

Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he will never go back to treating snooker like a ‘proper job’ – and would rather go and be a monk. The Rocket moved up through the gears against Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham at the UK Championship to seal a 6-3 victory at the York Barbican on Wednesday.

World No3 O’Sullivan is hoping to celebrate his 46th birthday on Sunday by extending his own record with an eighth UK title success. But the winner of 20 Triple Crown tournaments says that while he remains professional about his craft, the game will never again drive him to distraction.

O’Sullivan, who at one time studied Buddhism, said: “Everyone is under pressure, don’t believe anyone who says they aren’t, it’s that type of game. Even the greats – I know of one great player, that I won’t name, who was often sick in the dressing room before going out.

I still get butterflies and nerves  – but I prefer watching and talking about snooker to playing it these days, and I have to force myself to get some more juice out of it. It will all end sometime.

It is hard going out there, I reckon if you asked most players if they’d rather a job in TV they’d rather that than be sweating and under pressure.

And I’m not that person anyway, I would sooner retire and go and be a monk and meditate 12 hours a day than do hard labour, even if I’ll always work at my game.

I no longer think my best is better than everyone else’s best, so that’s always a sign of what might be to come in the future. I’m still in, and the win’s everything. I did manage to finish it at the first attempt 6-3 – you don’t get paid for overtime, do you?

I almost gave up at 3-2 down, I was struggling and he should have been 4-2. But something clicked and I was off and running again.

I just want to be the best 46-year-old snooker player in the world, competing with the John Higginses and the Mark Williamses, and maybe even the Neil Robertsons.

But it’s only a matter of time until the younger guys start winning titles. And I am comfortable with losing and still smiling, where Stephen Hendry couldn’t do that.

I have to try still because there is a crowd out there, the fans have been loyal to me and I would never sell them short. Today was a day where I dug in. Anyone left in this is there by right, they are there because they have beaten people.”

Ronnie will need to play better in the quarter-finals, and,importantly, to start the match better He will face Kyren Wilson who was impressive yesterday evening, especially before the MSI.