Quarter finals day in Cardiff promised to be enthralling and didn’t disappoint.
It started mildly though with Ronnie on twitter engaging with the fans about how to kill boredom, visiting Cardiff markets, diet and fitness …
Then came match time, and the afternoon session delivered two high quality matches.
Neil Robertson was imperious in beating Ding Junhui by 5-2, but somehow Ding stole the show … with a marvelous 147:
2016 Welsh Open: Ding Junhui 147 – Neil Robertson
Next came Ronnie v Mark Selby, that ended in a 5-1 win for the Rocket. The turning point of the match was frame three, when Ronnie went for a maximum, missed a black at 57, sending it safe, and Mark looked certain to take the frame only to miscalculate and realising too late he needed that black. A black ball game ensued, Ronnie won it and the rest is history.
All this triggered a bit of stir in the media room as Hector Nunns explains, much better than I could, on inside-snooker:
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui may have been in different quarter-finals – but the fates brought their stories together on Friday afternoon.
It was almost inevitable after O’Sullivan’s snubbing of a 147 maximum break chance on Monday, and all the resulting publicity, that someone else would make one at the BetVictor Welsh Open.
The script was too perfect, the narrative possibilities just too endless for that not to happen. In the end it was Ding making the sixth of his career, albeit in a losing cause against Neil Robertson.
O’Sullivan, who made surprisingly quick work of despatching world No1 Mark Selby 5-1, is a long-time admirer of Ding, one of few players he bothers to watch on TV (or at least, when not being paid as a pundit to do so).
But although the comments were made with a smile and a dose of good humour, the three-time Welsh Open winner appeared mildly irked by Ding’s undermining of his public stance and protest.
O’Sullivan said: “Ding has really let the lads down there, I’m very disappointed with him – and I’ll have to have a few words over his 147! I said I would shake the hand of anyone who did – but I lied.
“I have done brilliant for this tournament, probably most people didn’t know it was on before this week. It would cost the sport a few quid to buy the headlines and I have played decent snooker.
“This week has been hard work, the pressure of playing top players every day – I feel like I have been fighting Mike Tyson every day.”
Ding, ironically snooker’s biggest earner from huge sponsorship deals in China, took something of a pot shot back at O’Sullivan.
He said: “I heard someone offered Ronnie £61,000 if he made one – but it is not about the money for me. It is about history, records and making 147 breaks.”
The obvious additional point to make here was that if O’Sullivan was attempting, however good-naturedly, to claim that Ding was in some way ‘strike-breaking’, there was a clear problem.
And this was that the solidarity O’Sullivan was hinting at was in fact restricted to a group of one – him. No other player would have passed up the chance of a £12,000 payout on a maximum as he did on Monday.
If Ding was doing the equivalent of crossing a picket line, never a good idea in south Wales at the best of times, then it was past O’Sullivan all on his own at the gates.
O’Sullivan ruthlessly took advantage of a Selby blunder in frame three with the match level at 1-1, the Leicester Jester miscounting when clearing up and forgetting he still needed the final black.
Selby, 32, said: “The third frame was a big turning point, I just miscounted on the clearance thinking I only needed the pink whatever colours I was taking.
“And even after that I could have moved the black from the brown if I had realised. It is one of those things, I haven’t done that many times.
“I don’t think I need to go back to school for maths lessons, but in the heat of the moment I wasn’t expecting the chance and forgot myself.
“But he played really well and has been all week. I have obviously done something to upset him, he has played at the same level against me as he did at last month’s Masters.”
O’Sullivan will play Joe Perry in Saturday’s semi-final after he beat last year’s runner-up Ben Woollaston 5-1.
Robertson, who now plays Mark Allen, could not have been less shaken by Ding’s 147 in frame six that closed the gap to 4-2 – winning the match in the next frame.
Ronnie who is no stranger to contraction then went on to celebrate with a (healthy?) kebab and some tweeting whilst watching the evening snooker on his tablet …
The evening matches were not of the same stellar standard but the Mark Allen 5-0 win over Michael White certainly brought it’s share of emotions …
Again I’ll leave it to Hector to explain it all:
Mark Allen started his BetVictor Welsh Open quarter-final in angry mood – but it was beaten opponent Michael White that was himself left fuming at the end.
The 29-year-old Allen will now take on former world champion Neil Robertson in Saturday’s semi-final at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.
And the world No9 from Antrim, enraged by a comment on TV from legend Steve Davis before his 5-0 win, took it out on White. Davis had suggested that Allen was “more Championship than Premiership”.
After a pivotal second frame that saw Allen hit back from needing a snooker after White unluckily fouled the pink and left a free ball, the Northern Irishman clenched his teeth and pumped his fist.
World No17 White, 24, later admitted the triumphalist behaviour left him seething given it was not Allen’s good play but some good fortune that saw him go 2-0 up.
Allen said: “The fist pump was part of the gameplan, as was not apologising for some good running in the next frame. I thought it might get to him.
“He was playing in a big match in front of his home Welsh crowd, I have done the same in Northern Ireland and you are under a lot more pressure.
“I tried to get him more frustrated, and when he smashed the reds in frame three I knew I had him. He is such a good player, I needed a game plan to contain him.
“If he said afterwards that he won’t forget the fist pump next time we play that’s fine – but it shows my game plan worked. It is exactly what I wanted to happen, add more pressure.
“I got a lot of criticism today, a few things I saw and read that really spurred me on. Fellow professionals were criticising me for my style of play and all sorts.
“Steve Davis made a comment. Shaun Murphy made a comment, but I know him well and we have had a chat about it privately, I sort of know where he was coming from.
“Some of these comments were very derogatory and I said to my coach Terry Griffiths I couldn’t wait to get out there.
“I have only won two major ranking events, it is very disappointing, but altogether I have won eight events as a pro which not many can say. They are the same fields.
“Neil has beaten me a few times in big events, and tonight’s plan won’t work on him as he is far too experienced so I will have to be somewhere near my best.
“He is flying, won the UK and the Champion of Champions, and the player of the season to date but there are only four left now and I can beat him.”
White said: “I would like to apologise to all the people from Wales who came to support me tonight. After the way I lost the second frame I lost it for a while.
“I didn’t like the fist pump, really because of the way he won the frame. It wasn’t his good play, I have been very unlucky to knock in the pink and leave a free ball.
“It is something I won’t forget for a long time, certainly when I play him again next time.”
The last match of the day saw a quiet 5-1 win from Joe Perry over last year finalist Ben Woollaston. The match was in fact closer than the score suggests, but Joe, albeit not spectacular, was very efficient in punishing Ben’s mistakes.
This leaves us with a semi finals line-up to savour: four top ten players in best of 11…
All the results and statistics are available on cuetracker.net . Thank you Ron Florax.
And if you love snooker and want to read about it from a slightly different angle then follow Hector Nunns on inside-snooker.