Ronnie’s interview with Betway

Ronnie was interviewed by Betway, the 2019 UK Championship sponsor ahead of the competition. They shared this interview with David Caulfield, a prominent and well respected snooker blogger and David, very kindly, allowed me to reproduce his article on this blog.

Thank you David.

So here it is:

Ronnie O’Sullivan: Snooker’s Roger Federer

The Rocket reveals the secrets to becoming snooker’s most prolific major winner, and discusses being compared to Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.

Roger Federer
O’Sullivan is bidding for a record 37th ranking title in York. Photo credit: World Snooker

Three decades and six dozen titles into his professional career, there will be one thing motivating Ronnie O’Sullivan when he pitches up at the York Barbican to defend the Betway UK Championship title.

“Coffee,” O’Sullivan says. “There are some lovely coffee bars up there, there are a couple of fantastic restaurants.”

O’Sullivan is smirking as he says this, but the inference is clear: simply turning up isn’t enough for him anymore. There has to be something more to get him going.

Take winning last year’s UK Championship, which he celebrated with far more gusto than usual, standing on the barriers surrounding the table and lifting the trophy aloft before pouring a bottle of water over his head.

“I was being riled up by the crowd,” says O’Sullivan, who is the second-favourite to defend his title in 2020.

“Obviously, it was an important match and sometimes your emotions overspill.

“I took quite a bit of stick during the game, which I thought was a bit uncalled for. It became more emotional for me than usual.

“I just thought: ‘Two fingers up to you. You’re going to have to watch me celebrate 19 major titles.’”

By winning his 19th Triple Crown event – five World Championships, seven UK Championships and a record seven Masters titles – O’Sullivan became the most prolific major winner in snooker history, beating Stephen Hendry’s tally of 18.

The record reaffirms what several people already believed, that O’Sullivan is the sport’s greatest ever player.

In a recent Instagram post, the Rocket declared breaking Hendry’s record as “one of my proudest moments as a snooker player…a huge achievement”, apparently discovering a level of satisfaction that generally eludes him.

“It’s the consistency,” O’Sullivan says. “Anything that relates to consistency is pretty cool, and it was done over a long period of time.

“I’ve won a lot of major tournaments with a lot of pressure involved. I think it’s got to be up there with one of the best achievements that anyone can achieve in any sport.”

Reaching the top of your game inevitably results in cross-sport comparisons.

Neil Robertson referred to O’Sullivan as the “Roger Federer of the snooker table, and probably even better than that” in March, a comment that O’Sullivan admitted he was flattered by.

“The best way to be able to judge how your career’s gone is by comparing it to others,” he says.

“I look at Federer and Tiger Woods going for their majors in tennis and golf. They have four majors a year, whereas we have three, but I’ve been going a bit longer, which I suppose makes my record not look so good. I haven’t done the maths.”

Those who have, however, will see that although O’Sullivan has been going longer, his record in majors stands up next to the CV of both Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.

The Rocket has triumphed in 25 per cent of the Triple Crown events he has competed in, winning 19 of 76. Federer pips that record, winning 25.6 per cent of his majors so far, while Woods has won 17.9 per cent of his.

O’Sullivan was comfortably the youngest major winner, too – winning the UK Championship at just 17 – whereas Federer and Woods were 22 and 21 respectively.

It’s not hard to see why he has kept pace with such phenomena. The sportspeople he admires most are perfectionists, obsessed with winning, and combine it ruthlessly with their genius talent.

Consequently, O’Sullivan has become more impatient with mediocrity.

“Because I’ve played sport, I look at lesser players in other sports and just see them as the equivalent of someone down the rankings in snooker,” he says.

“I just think: ‘I ain’t got time to watch people like that.’ I want to watch someone who’s doing the business.

“I wouldn’t watch tennis unless it’s Federer, Djokovic or Nadal. I wouldn’t watch football unless Messi’s playing and I wouldn’t watch golf unless it’s Tiger Woods. I switch over to something else.”

Where O’Sullivan doesn’t compare is prize money. His career earnings from snooker sit at £10.9m – a remarkable sum, but one that is dwarfed by Federer’s £103.5m and Woods’ £118.7m.

“Tennis, golf, F1 and football are global sports,” says O’Sullivan. “I’m not stupid, they look totally glamorous.

“Snooker’s appeal is not as great. I get it, but you make the best of what you can do.”

The emergence of Judd Trump as a serial winner should boost snooker’s profile, with O’Sullivan now facing a genuine rival in terms of winning trophies and doing so with panache.

Trump wrestled the Masters title off him last January, beating him in the final, before winning the World Championship in May.

But O’Sullivan says it is too early to judge whether Trump can challenge him for the crown of snooker’s GOAT.

“We’re best off having this conversation in ten years,” he says.

“To be an all-time great you’ve got to do it over 10 to 12 to 15 years. He’s had one good season, and great sportsmen do it for far longer than that.

“He’s a fantastic player and a fantastic talent, but talent will only take you so far. There are a few more ingredients involved.”

For all of his nonchalance, O’Sullivan thinks and speaks like a champion.

After 27 years of walking the walk, it is fair to say he belongs in the company of Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, and other all-time sporting legends when it comes to being one, too.

Ronnie was speaking with Betway ahead of the 2019 Betway UK Championship in York.

This is a nice interview, positive and rather well balanced.

If you don’t already, please follow David’s blog, SnookerHQ.

 

Two thoughts about the game …

As we have a rare break from competitive snooker, it’s a good opportunity to reflect about our sport, its exponents and its governing body.

Mark Selby’s brain freeze.

During his QF match against John Higgins in Belfast, Mark Selby took 6’13” over one single shot. Mark was 66 ahead, with 67 on. He needed just one more red to leave his opponent needing snooker. John Higgins needed all remaining reds with blacks to be able to win. The situation on the table was such that Mark had no easy red to go at. He could have gone for one along the top cushion but it was very risky because he had to cue over the black – very close to it – whilst elevating the cue. If he missed the red, there was every chance he would leave it. He did however have other options, much easier ones, if he chose to play safe, and knowing that Higgins needed all reds with blacks and all colours to follow, the obvious choice was to make that clearance as difficult as possible to achieve by sending a wisely chosen ball safe.

The above is a video showing Mark’s thinking time vs Ronnie’s fastest 147. I suppose it’s just a bit of fun. There were however quite a few nasty reactions on social media, and Mark got quite a lot of stick, even being accused of plain gamesmanship. Mark freely admitted that he had been guilty of over-thinking and showed a good sense of humour in the face of the abuse he got.

This was the reaction of the commentators:

Eurosport commentator Neal Foulds led the backlash against Mark Selby after he took six minutes and 13 seconds to play a shot during his Northern Ireland Open quarter-final defeat to John Higgins.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Mark Selby trailed John Higgins 4-2 in their Northern Ireland Open quarter-final when he suffered an almighty brain freeze in the seventh frame.

Selby returned to the table with a 66-0 lead when Higgins fluffed a shot, leaving a selection of simple safety shots available to the English Open champion.

Higgins needed to clear the table perfectly – five reds, five blacks plus the colours – to pinch the frame, but Selby decided to deliberate… and deliberate… and deliberate over his next shot.

What followed was one of the most bizarre passages of snooker as Selby cut a baffled figure, eyeing up various angles without committing, while the referee stood silently alongside him.

Six minutes and 13 seconds passed before a shot was finally taken – 53 seconds more than Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fastest 147 maximum in 1997 – as Selby’s hopeful red found the jaws of the top pocket and ricocheted away.

‘IT’S OUTRAGEOUS’ – FOULDS BAFFLED

Eurosport commentator Neal Foulds couldn’t believe what he was watching.

At 3:20: “Mark has just tangled himself up in knots here for no reason. If he doesn’t fancy a pot, he’s got to play safe. That’s all there is to it. This is ridiculous in my opinion, it’s much too long over a situation where he’s not in any trouble whatsoever.”

At 4:40: “It’s unacceptably long. I’m a big fan of Mark, but this is just not on I’m afraid… it’s outrageous.”

At 5:45: “He’s just got to play a shot. It’s stupid. He’s taken root here. How many more times is he going to sit on the table, look at that red and not play it? If only he knew this is six minutes.”

Was it gamesmaship? I certainly don’t think so. I have seen gamesmaship happen, more often on side tables than on television. I have never seen it restricted to just one shot. It’s usually spread over a significant period of time. It involves wasting time on most shots, if not every shot. It usually also isn’t limited to taking long thinking time at the table. More often than not, it also comes with getting out of the chair slowly, returning to drink a bit, asking the ref to clean the balls etc… and I have seen referees refusing to clean the balls and telling the player that they had just been cleaned and certainly didn’t need cleaning again. It may even involve chalking whilst the opponent is on the shot, or stirring the ice in the bucket. To me, Mark just “froze”, there was no ill intention, and John Higgins, asked his opinion after the match, said that this can happen to any player.

Should the referee have done something? Yes, probably. No formal warning, but a quiet word to get Mark back into reality.

Barry Hearn felt the need to have his say as well. 

‘I don’t want to see a player given that long over a shot again’: Barry Hearn insists there will be no repeat of Mark Selby’s six minute shot at the upcoming UK Championship

  • Mark Selby was criticised for his slow play at the Northern Ireland Open 
  • The world No 6 took a total of six minutes and 13 seconds on a single shot
  • Barry Hearn says a repeat won’t be allowed at this month’s UK Championship

The sport has made progress eliminating slow play – with a ‘name and shame’ policy dragging down average shot times.

World Snooker chairman Hearn said: ‘I don’t want to see a player given that long over a shot again at the UK Championship.

‘Six minutes is a hell of a long time, unbelievable really as there are only so many computations.

‘Mark himself said he was guilty of over-thinking the shot, and he has summed that up pretty well.

‘But I would like to think the referee after a reasonable amount of time on any difficult shot should make a point of saying something. Six minutes is too long.

‘I understand the ref’s reticence to a point at a tense moment, but generally I wouldn’t expect a player to take anywhere near that long without being asked ‘Can you make your mind up’?

‘I would add I am less concerned in principle over one shot or one frame – and more bothered with consistent offending.

‘And we are very pleased overall with the progress on speed of play by naming and shaming those falling outside the 30 seconds a shot.’

To me, it’s important that the refs feel comfortable when intervening in such situations and, maybe, there is something that can be done to help them in that respect. The referees should be reassured that the authorities will back them, and players should be explained that such intervention is not driven by the assumption that they are cheating but by the necessity to keep the game fluent for the sake of the viewing audience.

Amine Amiri

Amine Amiri, from Morocco, got on the tour this season because he won the African games. To win that he played three matches against African amateurs, lost one, won two. As a pro, he’s played just one match, at the English Open 2019. He was whitewashed by Barry Hawkins, who restricted him to 49 points. His high break in professional competition is just 30.

Now, in the UK Championship 2019, and in the Scottish Open 2019, he’s due to face Judd Trump. There is every chance that he gets beat heavily twice. I wish he can at least take a couple of frames, but I’m not to hopeful.

Unless something really unexpected happens, he will have earned nothing for his efforts so far this season. Yet, like everyone, he needs to eat, live somewhere and pay his bills.

What’s my point? Well, my point is that all the signs are there that this player is nowhere near to the level he would need to play on the main tour. It has been a pattern with African nominations, and Oceanian nominations. It’s not those guys fault either. Even if they have the talent, they most problably don’t have the structures and infrastructures, nor the type of opposition and the opportunities to play competitively that they would need to reach the required level. They are lambs for the slaughter on the main tour.

I do understand the will of WPBSA to develop snooker in those regions, to make it a truly international sport. And for those guys to progress, they obviously need to start to play against tougher opposition under professional conditions. But surely there must be a better way than throwing them to the wolves right away? When you get battered time after time, and there is a chasm in level, it can be quite soul destroying.

Why not offer those nominees a one year scholarship in an Academy in the UK, and free entries in the Challenge Tour events, along with a commitment to play in at least half of them? (visa issues might make it difficult to play in all events). Then, depending on their results, and making sure that they want to commit, they could be offered a two year card. Just a thought.

 

 

 

The 2019 Scottish Open draw is out.

Worldsnooker has today published the draw and format for the 2019 Scottish Open:

Home favourite John Higgins, defending champion Mark Allen, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy and World Champion Judd Trump are among the star names competing at the 19.com Scottish Open next month.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The tournament at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow runs from December 9 to 16, with 128 players battling for the Stephen Hendry Trophy.

Ronnie has been spoiled … first up against Dominic Dale who beat him in Yushan, next, if he wins, James Cahill or Sunny Akani. 😉

The 2019 UK Championship draw is out.

UKChamps2018ROSChampion-3

Worldsnooker has yesterday published the draw and format for the coming UK Championship:

Ronnie O’Sullivan will start the defence of his Betway UK Championship title against amateur Ross Bulman at the York Barbican next week.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The tournament runs from November 26 to December 8 and tickets are still available – for details CLICK HERE

The entire first round will be played over the first three days – November 26, 27 and 28.

Judd Trump will be up against African champion Amine Amiri. Mark Allen takes on Jimmy White and Mark Selby faces Andy Hicks.

Ronnie will play his first match on 28th of November, evening session (7pm UK time). Ross Bulman is a very talented young man.

 

Judd Trump successfully defends his Northern Ireland Open title.

NIOpen2019Final-Scores

Judd Trump beat Ronnie by 9-7,  again, to win the Northern Ireland Open 2019. It was a match of the very highest quality as you can see by the above scores.

Congratulations Judd Trump!

NIOpen2019Final-JudTrumpWin

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Session 1:

Defending and World Champion Judd Trump leads Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3 after the first session of the 19.com Northern Ireland Open final in Belfast.

The clash is a repeat of last year’s final, where Trump emerged a 9-7 victor in a thrilling encounter. The first player to reach nine frames this evening will pick up £70,000 and the Alex Higgins Trophy.

Victory for 36-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan would see him overtake Stephen Hendry and become snooker’s outright most prolific ranking event winner.

If Trump were to take home the title he would become the first World Champion to win three ranking titles in the season following their maiden Crucible win, since Hendry achieved the feat in 1990/91.

This afternoon’s session was played to a remarkable standard, with eight breaks over 50 in the eight frames played. That included two century contributions.

Trump started fastest with runs of 68 and 56 to move into an early 2-0 lead. The Rocket got his first frame on the board with a sublime 126.

However, Trump wasn’t to be denied the lead at the mid-session, crafting his own century break of 123 to make it 3-1.

O’Sullivan pulled within a frame when they returned, continuing the streak of single visit snooker with a break of 88. Trump moved 5-2 ahead by claiming two on the bounce, before O’Sullivan secured the final frame of the session to finish 5-3 down.

Session 2:

World Champion and world number one Judd Trump has defended his 19.com Northern Ireland Open title, defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in a scintillating Belfast final.

It’s a 14th ranking title win for Trump, moving him ahead of Ding Junhui the all-time ranking event winner’s list. His victory, in what was professional snooker’s 350thranking event, earns him £70,000 and sees him retain the Alex Higgins Trophy.

The rivalry between the sport’s two biggest modern day superstars, Trump and O’Sullivan, couldn’t be a more tightly contested one. With them now being locked together at 11-11 in their head-to-head record.

This evening’s blockbuster final was a repeat of last year’s showpiece clash in Belfast. 30-year-old Trump also got the better of O’Sullivan on that occasion, winning again by a 9-7 scoreline. This was the first back-to-back repeat final since Paul Hunter and Ken Doherty at the 2001 and 2002 Welsh Opens.

Bristol’s Trump has further solidified his place at the summit of the sport, following his first World Championship title in May. This evening’s victory, along with titles at the International Championship and World Open, has made him the first player since Stephen Hendry in 1990/91 to win three ranking titles in the season after maiden Crucible win.

36-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan will have to wait for another chance to surpass Stephen Hendry and top the all-time ranking event winner’s list on his own.

Trump established a 5-3 advantage after a high quality afternoon session at the Waterfront Hall.

The pair continued to produce fireworks when the action resumed this evening. O’Sullivan immediately pulled within one, taking the opening frame to make it 5-4.

Trump then turned up the heat to pull three clear at 7-4. A fine century run of 104 was then followed up by a spectacular 147 attempt. Two intricately played plants along the way put him in position for the perfect break, but he missed a tricky 15th black to break down on 113.

Despite that Trump onslaught, five-time World Champion O’Sullivan refused to wilt. Breaks of 72 and 76 saw him pull within one at 7-6.

The exhilarating standard continued under intense pressure as the duo traded centuries. First Trump fired in a break of 124 to move a frame from victory. O’Sullivan then kept his hopes alive with a 135 to make it 8-7. However, it was Trump who wrapped up a superb victory with a break of 84. Next up Trump will travel to York aiming to win the UK Championship and complete consecutive victories in all three of the sport’s Triple Crown events.

Trump said: “It was an amazing atmosphere out there at the end. Both times I have played him here in the final it has been unbelievable. The arena is made for snooker. I managed to save my best for the final. I wasn’t feeling particularly great in the matches leading up to that. The end of that semi-final against John Higgins inspired me and that gave me the confidence to go out there against Ronnie and play my best.

“I think for the fans we do bring the best out of each other. We have had some amazing games recently. It is always pretty close. When I have played him recently, I have played my best. That is what you have to do against him. If you miss chances he walks all over you.

“I can’t wait to get started at the UK Championship now. I am full of confidence after the last few events. It is one I’ve had my eye on since winning the World Championship. I’d love to be able to win all three in a row.”

O’Sullivan said: “I’ve had a good week. I’ve enjoyed it. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser. That is sport.

“As far as Judd is concerned there is nobody out there to compete with him. You look at Ding, he isn’t doing much. There’s nobody out there. All you have is me, Higgins and Selby that seem to be lingering about.

“I’m looking forward to the UK Championship. The coffee is good up there and I enjoy York so it will be good to get up there and have a bit of fun.”

Judd played extremely well all day. His potting was scary – it usually is when he is on form – and his safety game was excellent as well. If there is one weaker aspect in his game it’s the cue ball control. Ronnie won most frames he won because Judd made a mistake at some point, and more often than not because he kept running out of position and was forced to take increasingly difficult pots to stay at the table. Also Judd had a number of kicks during the match, with Neal Foulds commenting that “he didn’t cue that one very well”. Kicks are not just random bad luck, a lot of them are related with how the player cues the ball.

Ronnie didn’t play badly by any means. His breakbuilding was excellent, sublime at times. His main weakness at the moment is clearly his long potting: around 40% success isn’t good enough. This means that he has to rely on his opponent’s mistakes to get in. He did take the opportunities he got very well. Make a mistake … he will punish you. That of course puts pressure on his opponents. I can’t help to wonder what would have happened if the match had gone to a decider. Judd made a mistake at the beginning of the last frame and was very lucky not to leave a starter for Ronnie … Oh, and Ronnie’s attitude was totally professional. Some may say that he should have played more conservatively, but that’s not his game, never has been, and his game has won him the record he has. Despite the defeat, there are a lot of positives to take: his form has improved massively and h’es played himself into the one year list top 32 bracket.

One last remark: Ronnie is right when he points out that there isn’t anyone to stop Judd right now, at least anyone in his generation or younger. This season he’s been beaten only by Neil Robertson (37), Joe Perry (45), Lee Walker (43) and Mark Allen (33). In the finals he won he met Ronnie (43), Theppy (34) and Shaun Murphy (37). ALL those players developped through the tiered system. For me the flat daw system is a plain failure and, with the shoter formats that come with it, a cash cow for the bookies.

Coverage:

Session1

Session 2

 

Huges thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those wonderful images

 

Northern Ireland Open 2019 – It’s Judd vs Ronnie in the final

NIOpen2019FinalPoster

We have a repeat of last year final in Belfast! Being a Ronnie fan, I hope for a different outcome this time of course. However, if at the start of this week I had been told that Ronnie would reach the final, I would have taken it with both hands. Already now he has secured his spot well inside the top 32 on the one year list, which is important in the context of the Coral Cup.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Judd Trump beat John Higgins by 6-3

Defending champion Judd Trump is through to a second successive 19.com Northern Ireland Open final after a 6-3 defeat of John Higgins at the Waterfront Hall.

Trump’s victory last year here in Belfast marked the start of a golden season. He defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in a thrilling final and went on to win maiden titles at the Masters and the World Championship. Tomorrow Trump will face either O’Sullivan or Joe Perry in the final for the Alex Higgins Trophy and a top prize of £70,000.

This will be Trump’s fourth final in what has already been a very impressive campaign for the Bristolian. Victories at the International Championship and the World Open have solidified his position at the top of the world rankings. 30-year-old Trump also narrowly lost out 10-9 to Neil Robertson in a thrilling final at last week’s Champion of Champions.

Higgins leaves Belfast disappointed, having lost his third consecutive match against Trump. The Wizard of Wishaw fell short in the World Championship final back in May and was also pipped 6-5 in the semi-finals of this season’s World Open.

Both players struggled in the early stages of this afternoon’s encounter. However, it was Trump who edged to an early 2-1 lead. Higgins then composed a run of 78 to restore parity at the mid-session.

When they returned Higgins carried forward his momentum with a break of 88, which saw him take to the front at 3-2.

However, from there Trump seized control of the game. He edged scrappy sixth and seventh frames to move 4-3 ahead. A break of 67, aided by a sublime development shot from the black, saw him move one from victory. Trump then wrapped up the tie with a break of 136 to emerge with a 6-3 win.

Trump said: “It wasn’t up until 4-3, when I played a good shot off the black, that I started to play well. It just gave me a bit of inspiration and I was able to close the match out. John has come back at me a million times before, so I know how dangerous he is.

“The crowd support I have got here over the last couple of years has helped me. It certainly helped me last year and it did again today. At times I was very patchy and missed easy balls. Them calling out and giving their encouragement helped. I think they have warmed to me. Especially at the end when I won I felt the love out there.”

Higgins said: “I missed a trick there I think. Judd wasn’t as sharp as he has been for the rest of the tournament, but when he had to he stepped up.

“I have no complaints. I had enough chances there and I didn’t take them. If you look at the quality of chances that I got  and didn’t take advantage of, I have nobody to blame but myself.”

Neither player played well for most of the match. The table had been recovered, and, in the studio, Judd said that he really struggled to adapt to the different conditions, with the cloth being fast, but the cushions playing slow. The whole match turned on one – fantastic – shot actually.

Ronnie beat Joe Perry by 6-1

NIOpen2019ROSSF-1Ronnie O’Sullivan produced a superb display to thrash Joe Perry 6-1 and set up a mouth-watering meeting with Judd Trump in tomorrow’s 19.com Northern Ireland Open final in Belfast.

The clash with the Ace in the Pack will be a repeat of last year’s final, where Trump came through a 9-7 winner in a thrilling match.

If 36-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan can get the better of Trump tomorrow, he will move ahead of Stephen Hendry and gain the outright record for most ranking titles won.

The on table rivalry between five-time World Champion O’Sullivan and Trump has become the sport’s ultimate heavyweight clash in recent years. They’ve met 21 times, with O’Sullivan holding an 11-10 advantage in the head-to-head.

O’Sullivan leads today’s opponent Perry in their head-to-head record by a much more substantial margin. After victory this evening he has now won 16 of their 18 professional meetings.

World number 15 Perry will now turn his attentions to the UK Championship, where a strong showing could clinch his place at January’s Masters, with the cut off to be in the top 16 and qualify coming at the end of the event.

Breaks of 58, 54 and 72 helped O’Sullivan stride into a 4-0 lead at the mid-session interval this evening. When they returned a further run of 90 moved him just a frame from victory.

NIOpen2019ROSSF-2Perry claimed the next frame to get on the scoreboard. However, O’Sullivan then wrapped up a one hour and ten minute win with a break of 71.

“Joe didn’t play his usual standard tonight. He made it quite easy for me. I didn’t play great, but I picked up the pieces. Sometimes that is what you’ve got to do. I’m pleased to be in the final,” said O’Sullivan. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I haven’t played in many tournaments this season. I’ve done alright in the ones I have played in. It is just nice to be in another final.

“I think they love their sport here. They love their snooker. I’m sure it will be a very good crowd. Hopefully it is a good occasion and hopefully we can put on a show for the fans who have paid their money to be here and that are watching on television.

“It is up to Judd (what he goes on to achieve). At the end of the day it is how long you want to be in the sport, how much you want to dedicate to it. I’ve dedicated all my life to it. That is what you have to do. I have talent, John Higgins has talent, Mark Williams has talent and Judd has talent. But if you don’t put the hours in and dedicate your life to it then it is easy to go off the boil.

“I’ve learned from Hendry. You have to be very disciplined. I wasn’t the most disciplined and I had to learn that side of it. I think Judd has been similar to me. He has had to learn that side of it. He is definitely the man to beat and he age on his side.”

Joe Perry had a nightmare out there, and Ronnie himself wasn’t at his best, but he did more than enough. He will have to improve though if he is to win today. In particular, he needs to get more of the long pots in order to create his own chances. He can’t rely on Judd to miss too much. Judd will probably start as favourite today, but… good luck Ronnie!

Coverage:

images shared by Worldsnooker on twitter

Both players have a “milestone” in sight today: Judd could become the first player since Hendry in the 1990/91 to win three or more tournaments as a  first time World Champion (*), Ronnie could surpass Hendry’s all times record by winning a 37th ranking title.

Studio coverage to be added if/when available

(*) Hendry won five that time.

 

 

 

Northern Ireland Open 2019 – Ronnie books his place in the SF

Ronnie beat Shaun Murphy by 5-1 yesterday evening and booked his place in the semi finals where he will play Joe Perry.

NI Open 2019 - ROS QF Scores

Despite a highest break of “only” 78, it was breathtaking snooker from Ronnie.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker (excerpt):

Five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan produced a sublime display to beat Shaun Murphy 5-1 and reach the semi-finals of the 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

It’s a fifth consecutive win over 2005 Crucible king Murphy for O’Sullivan. He also now commands a 13-3 lead over the Magician in their head-to-head record.

This week comes as a big boost to O’Sullivan’s chances of qualifying for the Coral Series later on in the season. He’s currently ranked 83rd in the one-year list and requires to move up to 32nd position to gain a place in the World Grand Prix. He will now have his eyes on the £70,000 top prize on offer this week and the Alex Higgins Trophy.

Murphy, who won the China Championship earlier in the season, will turn his attentions to the upcoming UK Championship as he aims to add to his Triple Crown silverware collection.

The Rocket came flying out of the traps this evening. A run of 76 saw him take the opening frame to move 1-0 ahead. Murphy led in the second frame, but a crucial clearance of 42 allowed O’Sullivan to steal it on the black and double his advantage.

Further breaks of 52 and 78 helped him into a 4-0 lead at the mid-session.  When they returned Murphy got off the mark with a fine century run of 104. However, it proved to be nothing more than a consolation, with O’Sullivan stealing the sixth frame on the black to clinch a 5-1 victory.

O’Sullivan said: “I just went for everything and waited to see what happened really. If they went in great. If they didn’t then I would have expected Shaun to do some damage. It just was what it was.

“Sometimes if you are enjoying it then win or lose it doesn’t really matter. You have to look at the bigger picture. The more you can enjoy it the better. It is either a passion or a job and for me it is a passion.”

O’Sullivan will face Joe Perry in the last four.

Coverage:

NI Open 2019 – Day 5 evening session review with ES pundits

And some lovely pictures thanks to Tai Chengzhe

The other winners on the day were Judd Trump, John Higgins and Joe Perry.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker (excerpt):

O’Sullivan will face Joe Perry in the last four. The Gentleman booked his semi-final spot with a 5-3 win over Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher.

World number 15 Perry had trailed 3-1, but battled back after the mid-session to turn the match on its head.

Perry said: “I’m confident in my own game. Whether it is good enough to beat Ronnie I don’t know. I’ve played Judd Trump three times this year and for me he is the best player in the game at the moment. I’ve beat him once, given him a game once and been annihilated once. They are the best players in the world. If they turn up and fire you will be watching. If not then you have a chance.”

John Higgins emerged victorious in an enthralling quarter-final clash with Mark Selby, winning 5-4 to reach the semi-finals and book a meeting with World Champion Judd Trump.

Four-time World Champion Higgins is now through to his second ranking semi-final of the season. His other came at the World Open where he also faced Trump, losing out 6-5.

19.com English Open champion Selby’s hopes of the £1 million bonus associated with winning all four Home Nations events in a single season have come to an end.

Higgins stormed to a 4-1 lead before Selby mounted a comeback charge. A century run of 109 made it 4-2. Selby then compiled a run of 62 on his way to taking the seventh frame, which included a shot which he deliberated over for six minutes and 13 seconds as the pressure mounted at the Waterfront Hall.

Further breaks of 62 and 52 saw Selby force a decider. However, Higgins composed himself and sealed victory with a sublime 110 break to close out the match.

World and defending champion Judd Trump came through in the opening match of the day with a 5-1 defeat of 2017 German Masters winner Anthony Hamilton.

The Ace in the Pack composed breaks of 106, 66, 73 and 105 on his way to a comfortable victory this afternoon.

Trump said: “I think since winning here last year I have gone on to win quite a few. It was a real turning point and a special atmosphere here last year. This is somewhere that I enjoy coming back to.”

I expected Anthony Hamilton to give Judd Trump a bit more resistance, but I had overlooked something rather important: Anthony had never played on that match table before; in fact he had not even played in the main arena before this match. This means that he had to compete against Judd under conditions that were very different to what he had known all week whilst his opponent had played on that table every day. I think that it would be only fair under such circumstances to allow the player to have five to ten minutes practice on the match table before the start of the match.

During the Higgins v Selby match, there was a strange incident. Mark Selby was leading by 66 with 67 on in frame 7. He pondered his next shot for 6′ 13″ … He could have attempted a pot along the top cushion, but it was very akward cueing over the black. Now John Higgins needed a black with every remaining red to win and there was no particular problem for Mark to play a safety, which he eventually did. This triggered harsh criticism from the commentators

Eurosport commentator Neal Foulds led the backlash against Mark Selby after he took six minutes and 13 seconds to play a shot during his Northern Ireland Open quarter-final defeat to John Higgins.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Mark Selby trailed John Higgins 4-2 in their Northern Ireland Open quarter-final when he suffered an almighty brain freeze in the seventh frame.

Selby returned to the table with a 66-0 lead when Higgins fluffed a shot, leaving a selection of simple safety shots available to the English Open champion.

Higgins needed to clear the table perfectly – five reds, five blacks plus the colours – to pinch the frame, but Selby decided to deliberate… and deliberate… and deliberate over his next shot.

What followed was one of the most bizarre passages of snooker as Selby cut a baffled figure, eyeing up various angles without committing, while the referee stood silently alongside him.

Six minutes and 13 seconds passed before a shot was finally taken – 53 seconds more than Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fastest 147 maximum in 1997 – as Selby’s hopeful red found the jaws of the top pocket and ricocheted away.

However, Selby soon returned to wrap up the frame as he steadied to threaten a comeback. Ultimately though, and perhaps justly, Higgins came through 5-4 to book a date with Judd Trump in the semi-finals.

‘IT’S OUTRAGEOUS’ – FOULDS BAFFLED

Eurosport commentator Neal Foulds couldn’t believe what he was watching.

At 3:20: “Mark has just tangled himself up in knots here for no reason. If he doesn’t fancy a pot, he’s got to play safe. That’s all there is to it. This is ridiculous in my opinion, it’s much too long over a situation where he’s not in any trouble whatsoever.”

At 4:40: “It’s unacceptably long. I’m a big fan of Mark, but this is just not on I’m afraid… it’s outrageous.”

At 5:45: “He’s just got to play a shot. It’s stupid. He’s taken root here. How many more times is he going to sit on the table, look at that red and not play it? If only he knew this is six minutes.”

‘MAYBE HIS MIND WENT TO MUSH’

Higgins was diplomatic about the situation in the Eurosport studio.

“I was just thinking it was going to be a long shot for me to get back into it [the frame],” he told Andy Goldstein and Jimmy White.

“He played the shot to nothing and put the white behind the red, which was probably the shot all along really. Listen, when you’re out there, that’s what can happen, your mind can go to mush and that’s maybe what happened to Mark.”

When asked about whether the referee should have intervened, he added:

There will be people back home in the qualifiers that are being warned by the referee after two or three minutes. They might now turn around and say, ‘why are we getting warned?’ when someone is taking six minutes.

 

Now, to be fair, Mark wasn’t looking his usual self in that match and I never was under the impression that it was some weird tactics. It’s just as if Mark’s brain froze and he couldn’t think clearly. Maybe the referee should have told him something, not necessarily a formal warning, to take him out of this bizarre state.