With no play today (the BBC are installing their lights and stuff in the arena), and the last 128 round completed, it’s a good time to assess what happened in York earlier this week.
You can read what happened on day 1 here.
Wednesday 23 Nov 2016 09:56PM
Ronnie O’Sullivan took just 56 minutes to beat Boonyarit Keattikun 6-0 and reach the last 64 of the Betway UK Championship at the York Barbican.
It was a blistering display of attacking snooker from the Rocket as he fired breaks of 63, 129, 80, 90, 103 and 106. His victory took just three minutes more than his 53-minute 6-0 whitewash of Dominic Dale at the 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy, the quickest ever best-of-11 match.
O’Sullivan has lifted the UK Championship trophy five times, most recently in 2014 in York, and if he carries tonight’s form into the televised stages he’ll take some stopping. He now meets Rhys Clark, who won a black-ball deciding frame to edge out Li Hang 6-5.
“I got three centuries in my last match and lost, so it just goes to show that centuries don’t mean anything,” said 40-year-old O’Sullivan, who won his first UK crown back in 1993. “I don’t really read too much into it, you just play one match at a time and see what happens.
“I played alright, I am just treating it a bit like a knockabout. I have other things in my life so snooker is a bit of a distraction and getting my cue out is a pleasure. When it was all I had to do, I felt like I was trapped in a prison, now it is a bit exciting. Trying to be too serious about what you do is harmful to you.”
Mark King went from the sublime to the ridiculous as he lost 6-2 to Sam Craigie. King played brilliantly to win the Northern Ireland Open last week but today his chances were dented when he forgot to bring his cue into the arena after the mid-session interval. That meant he was docked a frame, as he was not ready to play, and went from 3-1 to 4-1 behind. A break of 141 gave King frame six, but Craigie won the next two to secure his second round spot.
King said: “At the interval I went to the tournament office to get my Betway logo stuck on my waistcoat. I had my cup of tea and my banana, then I was in a bit of a daze and I left my cue in there. Even when I was walking back to the table, and I didn’t have my cue, it didn’t even click. In three days I’ve done two things I’ve never done in 25 years: win an event and get docked a frame.”
Shaun Murphy had to rally from 3-1 down to beat Brazil’s Itaro Santos 6-3, winning the last five frames with top breaks of 66, 71 and 55. “When I was 3-1 down at the interval it was blind panic,” admitted 2008 UK Champion Murphy. “Experience got me through in the end, I tightened my game up and stopped giving him easy chances. I get a buzz here because we’ve got a great connection with this venue and it would be so nice to go on a run.”
John Higgins, snooker’s man in form having won the China Championship and Champion of Champions, saw off Alex Borg 6-3, compiling runs of 132, 68 and 71.
Luca Brecel top scored with 78 in a 6-0 win over Aditya Mehta. Mark Allen was pushed hard by China’s Chen Zhe but eventually won 6-4. The Pistol, who knocked in breaks of 95, 84, 136, 132 and 137, said: “It’s just good to be able to come here, relax and let my arm go. It’s been a long time since I’ve come to a major event as relaxed as this. I was under a lot of stress last week at the Northern Ireland Open because it was my home tournament. Who knows – I might go far here.”
Thursday 24 Nov 2016 11:47PM
Neil Robertson’s defence of his Betway UK Championship title failed to get past the first round as he suffered a shock 6-3 defeat against amateur Peter Lines.
Robertson won the title in York for the second time a year ago, but this time he was well below his best and admitted he was outplayed on the tactical side by Leeds cueman Lines.
A top break of 58 helped Lines build a 3-1 interval lead, and he maintained his lead throughout, despite Robertson making runs of 82 and 72 in frames five and seven. Yorkshireman Lines sealed the result in the ninth with breaks of 38 and 57, setting up a last 64 tie with Chris Wakelin.
“It was a daunting task but I just wanted to relax and play well,” said 46-year-old Lines, who dropped off the pro tour last season but did well enough in Q School to earn entry into most of the ranking events this term. “It’s probably the most pleasing result I’ve ever had, beating Neil in a big arena and playing that well. In the last few seasons the pressure of trying to stay on the tour got too much for me. In a way it was a relief to drop off and now I’m enjoying it more.”
Lines, who reached the quarter-finals of the UK Championship in 2009, added that his cause was boosted by the fact that son Oliver, the world number 61, scored a 6-5 win over Martin O’Donnell on Tuesday night. “I was in turmoil watching that game,” joked the proud dad. “If Oli had lost there was no way I would have won either.”
A dejected Robertson, by far the biggest name casualty of the first round, said: “His safety was incredible, I was outplayed in that department. He constantly denied me any openings and the frames went messy, which suited him. When I saw the draw I knew it would be tough and that Peter wouldn’t be scared. I’m really disappointed to lose my title. I prepared well but sometimes you get on a run where things don’t go your way.”
World Champion Mark Selby eased to a 6-1 victory over Andy Hicks, though he gave up the chance of a possible 147 in the opening frame when he missed the 12th red on 88. Selby, the 2012 UK Champion, went on to compile runs of 93, 59 and 100 in a comfortable win.
“A 147 is always nice but it still only wins one frame,” said world number one Selby. “I didn’t make up my mind when I played the red I missed. I should have got up off the shot and started again.”
Stuart Bingham’s first round success was even more emphatic as he beat Poland’s Adam Stefanow 6-0 with top runs of 70, 127, 108, 72 and 70.
“My game is in good shape, it’s just winning titles that is missing,” said world number two Bingham. “I’m only losing to people playing outstandingly well.”
Two-time UK Champion Mark Williams top scored with 121 in a 6-1 win over Jason Weston but revealed his is suffering from a neck injury. “I was in a lot of pain all through the match,” said the Welshman. “I need to get some treatment before I play again.”
There was only one contender for comeback of the first round as Alan McManus recovered a 5-0 deficit to beat Michael Wild 6-5, sealing the result with a 130 clearance in the decider.
Last year’s surprise semi-finalist David Grace suffered an early exit this time as he lost 6-2 to rising Chinese star Zhao Xintong. Ali Carter looked sharp in a 6-1 win over Chris Keogan, firing runs of 66, 100, 74, 62, 111 and 78.
Mark Davis beat Sydney Wilson 6-3 and now faces an all-Sussex derby against Jimmy Robertson, who beat Thor Chuan Leong 6-0.
And now this is what I took from what I watched …
I won’t go over Ronnie’s victory again, you can read my thoughts about it here.
Out of 64 matches, 46 were won by the highest seed, and 18 by the lowest seed.
The biggest surprise is, of course, the Defending Champion, Neil Robertson, losing by 6-3 to former professional Peter Lines; for once I would even use the word “shock”. Peter Lines has all the experience in the world and is a very hard match player, so it was never going to be a walk in the park. Neil Robertson however has now lost his first round match in all three last tournaments he played, and had skipped the Northern Ireland Open to be rested and prepare for his title defense. That’s a bit worrying. From what I watched of the match, before the MSI, Peter played very well, but Neil DID have chances.
Three of the semi finalists of last week’s tournament fell at first hurdle here: Kyren Wilson, Anthony Hamilton and Mark King. Whatever Barry Hearn’s claims, I’m not convinced that playing snooker day-in, day-out is what brings the best out of the players. Like everyone, in every job, they need time to rest and refresh, physically and mentally. They also need time for practice. With 128 players in York, from what I read on twitter, this was restricted to one hour/day on 1/2 a table this week. Not good enough. Mark King of course could be expected to have a bit of an anti-climax after last week triumph, the cue incident clearly showed that he was slightly “distracted”. But what about Kyren? He looked in great form against Ronnie and Mark Williams, then somehow crumbled.
Ding came out the winner in his last 128 match, but it went to a decider. He was anything but convincing, except in the last frame. John Higgins wasn’t at his best neither, nor did Mark Selby, but they didn’t need to, so it’s hard to draw any conclusion from that.
Three young Chinese players won their last 128 match: Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong. Those three will do some damage in the coming years, I expect. Ronnie rates Zhao and Yan very highly and is coaching Zao a bit, as he still has a lot to learn when it comes to tactics. That’s how impressed he was by the young man after he played him in Manchester. He was there BTW to talk to him after his match in York.
Another youngster who won his last 128 match is Wang Yuchen from Hong Kong. I met him in China in 2012 and he impressed me, not so much because of his talent, but because of his intelligence and maturity despite being only 16 at the time. He beat Peter Ebdon here in York! I’ll keep an eye on his progress.
Other than that, Ronnie is today in Sheffield for a book signing session. And his “conversation with God” on twitter inspired this drawing …