China Championship 2017 – Luca Brecel is your champion!

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 02:59PM

Luca Brecel won his first ranking title by beating Shaun Murphy 10-5 in the final of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

Belgium’s 22-year-old Brecel came from 3-1 down to win nine of the last 11 frames against former World Champion Murphy, to land the silverware and top prize of £150,000.

Brecel becomes the first player from continental Europe to win a ranking title and makes his major breakthrough, having been touted for success since his early teens. This triumph – at a tournament carrying the joint-highest prize money of any event outside the UK – is sure to boost Brecel’s profile in Belgium, especially with the European Masters ranking event coming up in Lommel in October.

Victory launches Brecel from 27th to 15th in the world rankings and puts him in line for a debut appearance at the Dafabet Masters in January as he is up to 11th in that race. He is also sure of a place at the Champion of Champions in November and potentially the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix and Ladbrokes Players Championship later in the season.

Brecel reached his first ranking event final last year, losing to Martin Gould at the German Masters. Earlier this year he qualified for the final stages of the Betfred World Championship and squandered a 7-2 lead against Marco Fu, losing 10-9. Rather than setting him back, those defeats seem to have inspired the gifted break-builder to work harder, adding maturity and improved safety to his game. He has also shown calmness under pressure this week in China, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan and Li Hang in deciding frames to reach the final.

Luca Brecel Career Timeline
Age 14: Becomes the youngest ever European Under-19 champion
Age 16: Turns professional
Age 17: Becomes the youngest player ever to compete at the Crucible and reaches the quarter-finals of the UK Championship
Age 19: Reaches his first ranking event semi-final at the Welsh Open
Age 20: Reaches the final of the German Masters and the Shoot Out, losing both
Age 22: Wins his first ranking title at the Evergrande China Championship and jumps into the top 16

Brecel led 5-4 after the first session and won the opening frame of the concluding session with a break of 49. In the next he got the better of a safety battle on the last red and took advantage to lead 7-4.

Murphy, seeking his eighth ranking title, pulled one back with a break of 77 and looked set to reduce the gap to 7-6 when he was among the balls on a break of 48 in frame 13. Needing just to pot the penultimate red along a side cushion, the Englishman watched in despair as the red wobbled in the jaws of a corner pocket and stayed out. Brecel later won a safety exchange on the last red and cleared the table, pumping his fist as he headed for the interval 8-5 ahead.

That proved the key moment as Brecel took the next with a run of 49 to lead 9-5. Both players made mistakes in a nervy 15th frame and it came down to the colours. Brecel laid a snooker on the yellow, and from the chance that followed he cleared to the pink to clinch the title,

“It’s amazing, a dream come true,” said Brecel. “Especially to beat a player like Shaun in the final of such a big event. Hopefully there will be many more to come. Shaun played really well to go 3-1 up then I came back to go 5-3. When I lost the last frame of the first session I was devastated because I should have been 6-3 up but it was 5-4. I went back to the hotel and had some food and I was relaxed again.

“It was a massive moment to go 8-5 up because if it had been 7-6 it would have been very close. It means so much to me to win a tournament, especially beating a lot of good players and coming from 4-1 down to beat Ronnie. This is a big milestone because it puts me in the top 16 and gets me into other tournaments.

“This is what we need in Belgium because you can see what Kim Clijsters has done for tennis there – hopefully I can do the same for snooker. This is the first step.”

Murphy, age 35, banks £75,000 and climbs from eighth to fifth in the world. He said: “Luca fully deserved to win because he played much better than me throughout the day. My potting was bad, my safety was bad, my tactical play was bad, I just wasn’t good enough today. On the whole it has been a very good week, everything apart from the result today.

“This will be the first of many for Luca. He’s the best player we’ve had from Europe, and we need more like him. Maybe his success will inspire others.

“The tournament has been a fantastic success, we have to thank Evergrande, the CBSA, Star and all our sponsors and volunteers. This is one of the biggest events in the world now.”

Congratulations Luca!

And, specially for Adam, you don’t have to worry now about Ronnie losing to a guy who has never won a tournament. He has won this one, beating a 35 years old triple crown winner by 10-5 in the final … so maybe losing to Luca in the QF, at 42, in a decider wasn’t such a disgrace after all.

China Champoinship 2017 – Day 6 – Semi Finals

So tomorrow it will be Shaun Murphy v Luca Brecel for the title!

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Shan Murphy 6-4 Ali Carter

Monday 21 Aug 2017 11:49AM

Shaun Murphy came from 4-2 down to beat Ali Carter 6-4 and reach the final of the Evergrande China Championship.

Carter looked in command at 4-2 up but made pivotal errors in the closing stages as Murphy won the last four frames.

World number eight Murphy is through to the 14th ranking event final of his career and will face Luca Brecel or Li Hang over 19 frames in Guangzhou on Tuesday, with the winner to bank £150,000.

Nottingham-based Murphy, age 35, will be aiming for the eighth ranking title of his career and second of 2017 having won the Gibraltar Open in March.

The first four frames today were shared, with Murphy’s 54 in the second the only break over 50. World number 13 Carter made a 52 in winning the fifth and dominated the next to lead 4-2.

Murphy made a 69 in frame seven as he reduced his deficit, then took a scrappy eighth to level at 4-4. He led 53-27 in the ninth then Carter had a chance to clear, but crucially over-cut the final brown to a baulk corner on 29. Murphy punished him by potting brown, blue and pink to take the lead for the first time.

In frame ten, Murphy missed a red to a top corner at 55-0, again giving his opponent a chance to clear up. Carter ran out of position on 32 with two reds left, then played a poor safety which proved his last shot as Murphy booked his final place.

“I have a terrible record against Ali, it’s a long time since I have beaten him,” said Murphy. “At 4-2 down I was just trying to hang on to his coat tails. Some of the safety play was very high quality but we both missed chances.

“Whoever gets through to the final will obviously be playing well. If it’s Li Hang it will be a massive thrill for the local audience, while Luca Brecel is going to be a phenomenal player. So whoever comes through I’ll have my hands full.

“We are all trying to win every week. It’s not about the money, it’s about who takes the trophy home because that’s what people remember. The opportunities to win one don’t come that often so when they do you have to take them.”

Carter said: “It was a rubbish performance all the way through, it was very scrappy. I was over-thinking everything and trying to make things too perfect, and then I started making silly mistakes. It’s a tough one to take, I had the chance to go 5-4 up but I played the green terribly and finished out of position on the brown. Then in the last frame I played a cannon on the last two reds and the white finished in a place where I couldn’t pot either of them. But that’s the game paying me back for not taking the chance earlier.”

Carter’s partner Stella is due to give birth in the next few weeks and he added: “I’m going to enjoy some time at home.”

Luca Brecel 6-5 Li Hang

Monday 21 Aug 2017 06:16PM

Luca Brecel made a superb break in the deciding frame to beat Li Hang 6-5 and reach the final of the Evergrande China Championship.

Belgium’s 22-year-old Brecel will take on Shaun Murphy over 19 frames on Tuesday for the £150,000 top prize. Even defeat would guarantee world number 27 Brecel his career biggest pay day of £75,000.

He will be playing in the second ranking event final of his career; the first coming at the 2016 German Masters when he lost to Martin Gould. Victory for Brecel would make him the first player from continental Europe to win a ranking title.

Brecel took the opening frame with a break of 81, and might have nicked the second after getting the snooker he needed on the blue, but he missed a long blue which allowed China’s Li to level. Brecel won frame three on the colours then dominated the fourth with a top break of 52 to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Li, who had never previously been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event, came from 40-0 down to win frame five then made a 60 in the next as he levelled at 3-3. Brecel regained the lead with a 107 but Li took a scrappy eighth frame then made an 86 in the next to lead for the first time at 5-4. Both players had chances in the tenth, Brecel eventually taking it with an excellent pot on the penultimate red which set him up to clear to the blue.

As the time ticked past midnight, Li had the first chance of the decider but could only make 7, and Brecel stepped in with a cool 75 to clinch the tie.

“At 5-4 down I felt as if I couldn’t win,” said Brecel, who knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan on Sunday. “I was so relieved to win and I played a good last frame. It was a lot tougher than it was against Ronnie because’s Li’s safety was incredible. Every time I thought I was going to be two frames ahead he cleared up – I couldn’t shake him off. At 5-4 down it went scrappy and I just hoped to get to 5-5 and then I thought I would have the advantage because I have more experience and I haven’t lost a deciding frame this season.

“It would be a dream come true to win my first ranking title, especially as it would put me into the top 16 and maybe the Masters.”

To be honest, for what I saw neither match was actually high quality, which of course doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting or gripping. I can’t make a prediction for tomorrow, except that both players being very attacking, I would be extremely surprised if it was a slow going affair.

Coming back to yesterday’s matches, and Ronnie’s defeat, I found articles on weibo about what Ronnie said to the media after the match. In short he refused to dwell on the mistakes and expressed the hope that the fans were able to enjoy the match, that’s what’s matters most to him, to be able to give the fans pleasure whilst enjoying himself as well. He also said that he is looking forward to meet the Chinese fans again soon, which gives me hope that, despite the need to qualify, he may enter some of the coming Chinese events.

China Championship 2017 – Day 5 – Quarter Finals mixed bag!

It was again a strange day for the top seeds in Guangzhou: in the afternoon session (morning in Europe), both Shaun Murphy and Ali Carter won their match comfortably; in the evening (afternoon in Europe) both Ronnie and Mark Williams lost, having held a three frame advantage.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker.

Afternoon session:

Sunday 20 Aug 2017 01:07PM

Shaun Murphy scored a 5-2 win over prodigy Zhou Yuelong to reach the semi-finals of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

China’s Zhou, 19, missed the chance to reach his first ranking event semi-final as he was outplayed by former World Champion Murphy.

Zhou won the first frame by clearing from blue to black, and the second with a break of 59. But Murphy then dominated and reeled off five frames in a row with top runs of  55, 50 and 100.

It was pure experience which won me the match, I have been playing snooker since before Zhou was born,” said Murphy, chasing his eighth ranking title. “He is a fantastic player and he will naturally learn from some of his mistakes. Experience teaches you not to panic and to stay calm no matter what the score is.

“This is a massive and very prestigious tournament so to be in the semi-finals is a great opportunity.”

In the semi-finals on Monday, Murphy will face Ali Carter who scored a 5-2 win over Fergal O’Brien. The first four frames were shared, Carter making a break of 112 and O’Brien a 124. Chelmsford’s Carter, who won the World Open in China last season, then pulled away after the interval and took the last three frames with top runs of 65 and 76.

It’s always tough against Fergal because he gives you nothing,” said Carter. “I was a bit lucky to go 3-2 up. I’m delighted to be in the semi-finals, Shaun and I have had many good battles.”

Evening session:

Sunday 20 Aug 2017 05:54PM

Luca Brecel came from 4-1 down to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-4 and reach the semi-finals of the Evergrande China Championship.

O’Sullivan saw his hopes of a 29th career ranking title quashed as he couldn’t get past the winning line in Guangzhou. Instead, Belgium’s talented 22-year-old Brecel goes through to his third ranking event semi-final and first since the 2016 German Masters when he ended up losing to Martin Gould in the the final.

Breaks of 85 and 55 helped O’Sullivan go 4-1 up before Brecel stormed back with runs of 110 and 103 to close to 4-3. He got the better of a scrappy eighth frame to level the tie. Both players had chances in the decider and it came down to the colours, Brecel potting brown, blue and pink to score one of his career best wins.

It was unbelievable,” said a thrilled Brecel. “Against most players you think you can come back from 4-1 down, but against Ronnie you don’t fancy it because he is so good. When I made a century I started believing again. I kept really cool and made some good breaks. I’m looking forward to the semi-finals. I have felt so good this week, as if it can be my week. I am practising consistently with no days off so maybe that’s the difference.

In the semis on Monday, Brecel will face China’s Li Hang, who continued his career-best run with a 5-3 win over Mark Williams. Two time World Champion Williams compiled runs of 58 and 56 in taking a 3-0 lead before 26-year-old Li, playing in his first ranking quarter-final, won five frames consecutive frames with top runs of 66 and 103.

We both got a bit distracted by the noise from the other table,” said home favourite Li.But I didn’t give up even when I was 3-0 down. In the second half of the match Mark wasn’t cueing as well as the first half and I saw my chance. I wasn’t thinking about the result because if I had, it would have affected my performance.

“I knew Luca was 4-1 down at one point so he must have played really well to come back at Ronnie. Tomorrow will not be easy but hopefully I can settle down and enjoy it.

Here are the frame scores for the Ronnie v Luca match:

ChinaChamps2017QFROS-BecelStats.png

What do I make of what happened today?

Ronnie started well, and lead 4-1, but as the scores show, he wasn’t winning the frames in one visit, except for the first one. Both players were making mistakes, and Ronnie was the one able to take advantage when it was going scrappy. At 4-1 down, with nothing to lose, Luca changed his approach: he became far more aggressive, took more risks, and it paid. He took long ones, and got them, he split the pack wide open as early as he had the opportunity and cleared. He kept Ronnie cold in his seat for two frames whilst he was scoring two centuries. It boosted his confidence, whilst Ronnie lost his rhythm totally. Yet Ronnie would probably have won the match by 5-3, if it wasn’t for a massive fluke on the last red for Luca at a crucial time, at the end of frame 8. But it happens, it’s part of the sport, and 4-4 it went. Ronnie had chances in the decider, he missed the final green, and later the final brown, both played at pace. This is something I had noticed earlier in this tournament, and also in Hong Kong: he isn’t as reliable as he used to be playing at pace for whatever reason.  Anyway, it’s history. Luca is in the semi final, and good luck to him, he kept believing, played positively and deserves it.

Here is the match:

The question was raised on twitter as to why Ronnie took the brown with the final red in the decider rather than the blue. Only him will know for sure. But, as far as I can judge by the television image, I can see only one reason: I think that where it was the brown was going in only one pocket, the green bag, the pink preventing it to go into the yellow pocket, and it required precise position too because the brown was very close to the pink.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 18.26.19

Ronnie was in  that position, and, maybe didn’t trust to be able to get there again from the green later. Of course, he knew the brown was going to the black spot and would require the white to travel a lot, but at least it was then in completely open play.

Thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those images!

China Championship 2017 – Day 4

There weren’t that many surprises today and all four surviving top 16 players are through to the quarter finals.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session (morning in Europe):

Saturday 19 Aug 2017 01:47PM

Shaun Murphy hammered Stephen Maguire 5-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

A 62 clearance in the opening frame set the tone for world number eight Murphy, the highest ranked player left in the event. And he followed up with runs of 52, 71 and 104 as he cruised into the last eight, where he will face China’s Zhou Yuelong.

The first frame was massive because Stephen had a chance but I managed to nick it in the end,said Murphy.That set the scene for the first half of the match. I had some good fortune at the right time while he had some bad luck with some kicks which weren’t his fault. On another day it could have been me losing 5-0 and going home so I’m relieved and lucky to get through.

“I played nicely towards the end which gives me confidence. I have been struggling with my game for the last few months which made me re-evaluate things.

“When the top boys go out the rest of us have a look around and think ‘who fancies it?’ When the likes of Selby, Robertson and Trump go home it gives everyone else a better chance and it’s not a negative thing to say that. But you can’t win the tournament in the quarter-finals so there’s a long way to go and there are a lot of good players left.

“I have played Zhou a few times and he is very dangerous, he’s a great player in the making.”

Home favourite Zhou, who knocked out Mark Selby yesterday, wasn’t at his best but still did enough to beat Martin Gould 5-2 with a top break of 51.

Belgium’s Luca Brecel saw off Mike Dunn 5-3 with a top run of 58. Brecel led 3-0 and 4-1, and though Dunn pulled two frames back, Brecel  secured victory in the eighth.

Two-time World Champion Mark Williams, who was runner-up at the China Open in April, booked his quarter-final slot by beating Tom Ford 5-3. Williams compiled two breaks of 64 and one of 58.

Evening session (afternoon in Europe):

Saturday 19 Aug 2017 02:52PM

Ronnie O’Sullivan needed less than an hour to beat Graeme Dott 5-0 and reach the quarter-finals of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

O’Sullivan fired breaks of 78, 75, 62 and 139 as he won in 59 minutes to book a meeting with Luca Brecel.

It was a very good crowd, they come here for entertainment and I want to put a smile on people’s faces,” said O’Sullivan, chasing his first ranking title in 18 months. “It’s important for me to show people what I can do. I play to enjoy it and hopefully everyone else does. I like to play quickly, make breaks and play the first shot I see without thinking too much. When I do that I enjoy the moment and forget about everything else. Now the match is over I am happy to have won.

“I want to play the way that allows me to enjoy the game, and tomorrow will be the same.”

Ali Carter eased to a 5-1 win over Mark Davis with top breaks of 51, 73, 50, 53 and 70. He will now face Fergal O’Brien, who came from 4-2 down to beat Alan McManus 5-4 in a marathon 4 hour 50 minute battle which finished at 1am.

China’s Li Hang reached his first ranking event quarter-final by edging out Matthew Stevens 5-4. Li trailed 4-3 but dominated the last two frames with top runs of 41 and 54.

“It has been my goal for a long time to make my first quarter-final. It came true today and I’m so happy,” said Li, who now meets Mark Williams. “I have loved the sport since I was a kid but there was a period when I wasn’t in form and I almost quit.

“I have to thank my family, especially my dad. I dropped off the tour in 2009, my technique was totally out of shape. For some reason I came back and persisted so I’m happy with where I am now. This tournament does not really give me pressure as I’m trying to improve myself as a player and collect as much experience as I can. I’m able to enjoy the game now. You guys (the media) mentioned a potential final of me against Zhou Yuelong and I guess we’re both trying.”

Sunday’s quarter-finals:
2pm
Shaun Murphy v Zhou Yuelong
Ali Carter v Fergal O’Brien

7.30pm
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Luca Brecel
Li Hang v Mark Williams

You can read a bit more, and see more pictures, about Ronnies win here.

Fergal O’Brien needing nearly 5 hours to beat Alan McManus raised the question of the shot clock once again, and it was Mark Williams who prompted it on twitter:

Personally, I don’t mind a reasonable shot clock, like the 30 seconds used in the Eleven30 format. I don’t think that any player needs more than that to see the shot and get ready to play it, except in rare occurrences where the situation is really complex, and time-outs are there for those cases. But, that said, rather than having a shot clock, what I would like to see is referees enforcing section 4 of the rules. Indeed taking unnecessary long time either for shot selection, or shot execution, is deemed ungentlemanly conduct by the rules. Of course the issue is that referees have to use their judgement and discretion to determine what is “unecessary long time” and it depends of a lot of factors: the difficulty of the shot,  the situation on the table, the context of the match/tournament, the player natural pace … to list only a few. It’s not easy, but on the other hand a rule that’s never enforced doesn’t make sense in any sport: either it needs scrapping or rewriting, or it needs to be enforced, and I, personally, would love to see this one enforced. The problem is not the length of the match, sometimes it just gets very tactical and it takes time despite the players playing at a normal pace. But we do know that a lot of those marathons always feature the same players, and THAT can’t be pure chance. I think that most fans who regularly watch the sport know who the serial “offenders” are, and, no, NOT Mark Selby, not nowadays certainly. It may be that the players in object don’t do it on purpose, actually it’s probably a case of over-thinking more than deliberate ungentlemanly conduct. But even then, enforcing the rule would probably help them. Players who are over-thinking, and looking for problems, often get bogged down and play better when they play a bit faster and trust their instincts more. And, let’s be honest, it’s no fun for the paying public either. A good tactical battle is interesting and entertaining. Looking at a player contemplating the balls for a couple of minutes before every shot, and eventually taking the one everyone had seen with 10 seconds, is simply boring. I remember a first round match at the Crucible where a lot people left the arena, totally fed up (clue it involved Ricky Walden). People pay to be entertained, not get bored out of their skulls.

China Championship 2017 – Ronnie books his place in the QF in no time

Ronnie beat Graeme Dott by 5-0 in no time at all this evening (afternoon in Europe). The first frame saw both players struggle and there were many errors on both sides. But Ronnie took it and from there it was one way traffic!

ChinaChamps2017ROSDottL16Stats

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Saturday 19 Aug 2017 02:52PM

Ronnie O’Sullivan needed less than an hour to beat Graeme Dott 5-0 and reach the quarter-finals of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

O’Sullivan fired breaks of 78, 75, 62 and 139 as he won in 59 minutes to book a meeting with Luca Brecel.

It was a very good crowd, they come here for entertainment and I want to put a smile on people’s faces,” said O’Sullivan, chasing his first ranking title in 18 months. “It’s important for me to show people what I can do. I play to enjoy it and hopefully everyone else does. I like to play quickly, make breaks and play the first shot I see without thinking too much. When I do that I enjoy the moment and forget about everything else. Now the match is over I am happy to have won.

“I want to play the way that allows me to enjoy the game, and tomorrow will be the same.”

Thanks to Tai Chengze for more great images

And you can enjoy the match (again) here:

China Championship 2017 – Day 3 – It’s a day of shocks but Ronnie survives…

To say that day 3 brought the unexpected is an understatement. Here are the results:

ChinaChamps2017Day3Result

And here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

the afternoon session (morning in Europe):

Friday 18 Aug 2017 12:47PM

Chinese teenager Zhou Yuelong stunned World Champion Mark Selby 5-4 to delight the home crowd at the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

Zhou is one of the brightest prospects on the World Snooker Tour and has already claimed World Cup glory, lifting the title in 2015 for China alongside Yan Bingtao. He reached his first ranking quarter-final at this year’s Welsh Open and he is one win away from replicating that feat this week.

Selby was making his first ranking event appearance of the season this week, having missed the start of the campaign due to a toe injury.

Zhou got off to a tremendous start, going 2-0 ahead thanks to a run of 124 in the second frame. Selby fought back to take the following two frames and head into the mid-session at 2-2.

When they returned it went 3-3 before a tense seventh frame. Both players spurned opportunities, but eventually it was Zhou who missed a straightforward final black to allow Selby to go 4-3 up. The 19-year-old then was in first as he looked to force a decider and made 72. That proved to be enough after a missed brown by Selby which could have allowed him to steal.

The deciding frame once again saw the Jester looking to steal from behind, but another miss on the brown allowed Zhou to cross the line for one of the biggest wins of his career.

Ronnie O’Sullivan overcame David Gilbert 5-3 in what proved to be an edgy encounter. The win for the Rocket sets up a potential meeting with Judd Trump in the last 16, who faces Graeme Dott later on.

Gilbert started well and established a 2-0 lead. However, the Rocket immediately propelled himself back into the tie making a sublime 130 clearance, before restoring parity at 2-2.

The second half of the match was characterised by missed opportunities from both players. However, it was O’Sullivan who was the more clinical of the pair. He made further breaks of 42 and 68 on his way to securing the win.

It is important that you put on a good show for the fans. It was an exciting match and I think the fans enjoyed it,” said O’Sullivan. “Whether I win or lose the tournament will go on and this is a great event here in China.

Shaun Murphy is through to the last 16 after Anthony Hamilton was forced to concede the match at 1-0 down. Hamilton suffers from chronic neck pain and was unable to continue after the opening frame.

Mark Davis recorded a surprise 5-3 victory over world number six Barry Hawkins. There were breaks of 40 and 94 for Davis, as he booked a last 16 meeting with Ali Carter.

Carter came through a thrilling clash with David Grace 5-4. The pair contested a high quality match, but it was the Captain who eventually emerged with the spoils. This was largely due to his heavier scoring in the early stages of the match. Breaks of 68, 96 and 133 allowed him to establish a 3-1 lead. Grace fought valiantly, but it was the two-time World finalist who progressed.

and the evening session (afternoon in Europe):

Friday 18 Aug 2017 04:04PM

Alan McManus whitewashed home favourite Ding Junhui 5-0 on a day of surprise results at the Evergrande China Championship, with the top six players in the world all knocked out.

John Higgins, Judd Trump, Marco Fu and Ding all suffered defeats in the evening session in Guangzhou, following the earlier exits of Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins.

Friday’s results leave Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams as the only top-16 ranked players left in the draw, with the last 16 to be played on Saturday (click here for the match schedule).

Veteran McManus, age 46, struggled with a back injury for much of last season but played some superb snooker to knock out China’s Ding. Breaks of 48, 73 and 49 helped put him 4-0 up at the interval, and he clinched the result in frame five with a 49 clearance.

“It’s a bit of a thrill, I must admit,” said Glasgow’s McManus, who lost 17-11 to Ding in the semi-finals of the World Championship last year. “I’ve had some battles with Ding and usually I play decent against him. He was off colour tonight, I won a couple of close frames and that was the difference. He wasn’t scoring, which is unlike Ding, and I felt comfortable on the TV table.

“I am trying to prolong my career as much as I can. I have had some real problems with my sciatic nerve, I could barely walk for a while. It has almost cleared up and it’s getting gradually better, so I can stand at the table and I’m able to practise. When you have something wrong and you can’t bend down and execute the shot then you are in deep trouble. I have been through it but I hope I’m fit enough to continue now, and if I can work hard then I’ll get the odd result.

“It would be nice to go deep here. I’ve got Fergal O’Brien next and you know what you will get with him, he prepares perfectly for every event.”

Defending champion Higgins went down 5-2 to Tom Ford, who made breaks of 85, 59 and 133.

Graeme Dott beat Trump 5-3 in a high quality match which featured two centuries and five more breaks over 70. Trump led 3-2 having compiled runs of 104, 128 and 85. But 2006 World Champion Dott won the sixth frame with a 74, a crucial seventh on the colours, then made an 87 in the eighth to secure victory.

“I played really well, it’s the best match I have been involved in for a while,” said Larkhall’s Dott. “It was like a game of nine-ball pool, whoever was getting in first was clearing up. I won the one close frame in the seventh and then made another good break in the last.

“I have been working a lot with (coach) Chris Henry so I am glad to have kicked on this season. I have got Ronnie O’Sullivan next so I’ll have to play the same way as today to have a chance of beating him. I enjoy playing him because he is the best. If you don’t play well he just makes you look like a silly wee boy.”

Belgium’s Luca Brecel enjoyed a 5-2 win over Fu  with a top break of 91. That was a welcome result for Brecel who lost 10-9 to Fu at the World Championship after squandering a 7-2 lead.

Matthew Stevens top scored with 81 in a 5-2 win over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh while Mark Williams won a Welsh derby against Ryan Day 5-0 with a top run of 93. China’s Li Hang edged out Michael White 5-4 with top breaks of 139 and 133.

bold” added by me.

Regarding Ronnie’s match, David Gilbert started really well and never allowed Ronnie to settle before frame 3. That marvellous 130 got him going and he played decent for 3 frames and 1/2. He applied himself and his safety was rather good. After that both players looked out of sorts, missing unexpectedly and losing position more often than not. Maybe they both were tired. It’s not unusual when playing in Asia that players concentration is iffy due to jet lag. Whatever, Ronnie’s last clearance was, under the circumstances, a very good one, and overall he deseved the win as the match stats prove:

ChinaChamps2017ROSvGilbertStats

and here is the match:

Also enjoy a few action pictures thanks to Tai Chengzhe

So it’s Ronnie vs Dotty tomorrow evening (afternoon for us in Europe). Dott said he will need to play well, but the same is true for Ronnie in this clash of former World Champions.

China Championship 2017 – Day 2

Before analysing what happened today, lets go back to yesterday evening (afternoon for us in Europe): there was an Opening Ceremony, as is usual in China, just before the start of the evening session and here are a few images shared by Worldsnooker on twitter:

The players were represented by Shaun Murphy, Marco Fu, Mark Selby and Ronnie. You know, he’s that guy who isn’t in a suit …

Now about today’s action. Here are the results:

ChinaChamps2017Day2Results

There weren’t many surprises today, in general the favourites went through. From the top 16 involved, only Mark Allen lost, and his conqueror is Matthew Stevens, a player who was tipped as a future star at the start of his career and has probably massively under-achieved. A number of private issues certainly had an impact on his career, but Matthew seems to be playing better again, and looks healthier as well. That’s really good to see.

Matthew Selt’s defeat to Tom Ford is also a surprise, particularly with 5-1 score. Of course Tom is a very dangerous player on his day, a very heavy scorer, but still, I would have expected a much closer match. Not sure what happened there, as I didn’t see it, but … maybe Matthew Selt spent the night watching his good friend Stephen Hendry in the MasterChef cooking show? Only joking.

About the matches I watched here is my take on the Ronnie 5-2 win over Sam Baird .

As I expected, Mark Selby played much better today in beating Noppon Saengkham, than he did yesterday. He looked his very solid self again, scored well and was always in control. He finished with a beautiful 123:

Judd Trump had little trouble in beating Daniel Wells by 5-2, although the way the first frame went, one could have feared a repeat of the World Open disaster. The commentators were discussing the impact of Judd’s laser surgery on his ability to sight the balls properly as he was regularly hitting them too thick or too thin but seldom as he intended. However from frame two he adjusted and normal service resumed. After the match Judd explained to Worldsnooker what the situation is about his eyes and the surgery he’s had:

“I was going into a lot of the later matches at night and my eyes would dry up. Anyone who has worn contact lenses knows how hard it is to keep them in daily, let alone play snooker. I felt like it was holding me back a bit. I’ve had it done and although its not quite right just yet hopefully the more I play the better I will get. That is probably why my confidence hasn’t been quite as high as usual because I sight the ball slightly differently.”

Judd also had a good chance to make a 4th competitive maximum break in frame 5, but couldn’t get position on the black with the last red, was forced to take the blue instead and the break ended at 105. Watch it here: