Northern Ireland Open 2017 – Day 6

There was a lot of drama on day 6 in Belfast as the semi finals were played in the one table setup.

Mark Williams beat Elliot Slessor by 6-2 (report on Worldsnooker)

Mark Williams is through to the 31stranking final of his career following a 6-2 defeat of world number 82 Elliot Slessor at the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

The two-time World Champion hasn’t won a ranking event on UK soil since the LG Cup in 2003 and will be hoping to rectify that in tomorrow’s final. His opponent will be a Chinese teenager, with Yan Bingtao and Lyu Haotian clashing in this evening’s second semi-final.

Slessor will be disappointed to drop out in the last four, but he can reflect positively on a week which has seen him earn his career best payday of £20,000 and reach hisfirst ever ranking semi-final.

This afternoon it was Williams who made the strongest start. He fired in a fine run of 127 to move 2-0 in front.  Slessor responded with a break of 70 to stay in touch, but a contribution of 71 ensured Williams restored his two frame lead, to go 3-1 ahead at the interval.

When they returned Slessor pulled one back to make it 3-2, but Williams then claimed three frames on the bounce to secure his spot in the final. The normally relaxed Welshman showed a rare sign of emotion out in the arena as he clenched his fist after depositing the final ball.

“He missed a few and it could have been a lot closer. I nicked one to go 5-2 and it was pretty much over then,” said the 18-time ranking event winner. “I nearly gave up playing this year. It was only my wife that talked me around. I’m glad she talked me out of it.

“I’m enjoying it. I haven’t been in a final for a while so I am going to enjoy tomorrow. I’m still trying, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan are still winning tournaments. They are still winning tournaments and I am doing alright this season so you never know.”

Slessor was disconsolate and found it hard to see the positives in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing loss.

He said: “I felt comfortable out there, it wasn’t the pressure I just wasn’t able to play, I was really poor in the quarter-final as well – I’ve got no idea.

“I’m trying to think how I could possibly have played that badly in front of my own eyes.”

Elliot was extremely embarassed with his own performance, which is understandable because as a professional he takes a lot of pride in his own performance. However I hope that he realises soon that, having never played at this stage, it is only normal that nerves kicked in and that it’s part of the learning process. He acquited himself very well all week and we will certainly see more of him soon. Ronnie has been full of praise for his conquerer;

Yan Bingtao beat Lyu Haotian by 6-2 (report on Worldsnooker)

Yan Bingtao is through to the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open final after a comprehensive 6-2 defeat of compatriot Lyu Haotian.

The Chinese teenagers have a combined age of 36 with Yan being 17-years-old and Lyu aged 19. It was the first occasion that a ranking event semi-final has been contested between two teenagers.

Prodigious talent Yan has already shown his ability this season, defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins on a run to the semi-final stage of the International Championship earlier this month. However, tomorrow will be his maiden appearance in a ranking event final.

If the 17-year-old were to be victorious tomorrow he would become the youngest ever player to win a ranking event, eclipsing O’Sullivan’s UK Championship victory in 1993.

The first part of this evening’s clash saw both players locked together and some tight early exchanges. The opening four frames were split and they went into the mid-session at 2-2.

When they returned it was Yan, who reached the semi with a tremendous burst to the line. He won four frames in a row, including runs of 75 and 114, to book his place in the final.

Yan said: “We both felt nervous in the first part of the game. We know each other so well by practising in the academy together. After the break I adjusted and played well. I came out on top and hold my nerve.

“I’ve played so many quarter-finals and semi-finals and every time is a learning experience. Each one makes me stronger.

“Ronnie O’Sullivan is my idol. If I can put in a good show tomorrow and beat  his record it would be a great honour and I would be very proud.”

Here are the pundits on Eurosport about this match:

MissingClip preview

Yan v Lyu midsession

Yan v Lyu review

Victoria Shi and Nigel Bond deserve a lot of respect for the way they run their academy and support their players. The results they get prove that they are doing a sterling job. It’s hard enough for those young men, or even boys, to be away from their family, in an alien culture, having to cope with a completely different language. They need an anchor point and that’s exactly what Vic Snooker Academy provides.

Some people on social media suggested that this is not a “proper” ranking event and doesn’t compare with Ronnie’s UK win in 1993. It is a ranking event, and trying to belittle Yan Bingtao’s achievement should he win today is petty and unfair. Records do get beaten over time in every sport, and beating them is part of the incentive for up and coming sportpersons to excel themselves. I’m certain that Ronnie will just be happy for the lad, should Yan Bingtao lift the trophy tonight. It’s good for the sport.

That’s IF we have a final at all

Indeed Mark William’s wife, Jo, has been very unwell over the last weeks. The state of he health is extremely worrying. Earlier this week, she was in hospital, then came back home, but was taken to hospital again, in an emergency, yesterday late afternoon. Under the circumstances, Mark is considering to withdraw; he is clearly horribly worried and it’s totally understandable. At the time of writing, he hasn’t withdrawn yet but Worldsnooker has already stated that, should Mark be forced to retire from the final, Yan would be awarded the win and become the champion. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Neither player would want that.

My thoughts are with Mark and his family, I really hope everything gets sorted and Jo can come back home fully healthy very soon. That’s the most important thing, far more important than any match, record or trophy. 



9 thoughts on “Northern Ireland Open 2017 – Day 6

  1. Mark won! Ronnie’s record is safe for now. (But it won’t be long until Yan Bingtao cracks the winner’s circle).

    Oh, and congrats to Mark on a big win…

  2. I think you’re being a little unfair to the people on Twitter. A lot of the fans dislike the format of these tournaments and don’t hold them in the same regard as other tournaments, especially the triple crown events.

    Ronnie had to beat the top ranked players to win the UK championship (including Doherty, Hendry, Davis, and McManus), but increasingly it seems you can win tournaments barely having to play any of the top players (e.g. I don’t think John Higgins had to play any of the top 16 players to win the Indian Open).

    Even Ali Carter was quoted as saying he is looking forward to as “proper tournament” next week so it’s not just the fans that are tired of these events.

    Yan is clearly capable of great things though, so in a couple of weeks time this may all be moot anyway!

    • I agree that Ronnie had it a lot harder, he had to win six matches, multi session ones from the top 64 on and did beat Stephen Hendry in his prime in the final. Whatever happens today Ronnie remains the youngest ever Triple Crown Event winner. And I agree too that a lot of nowadays “full ranking events” are barely more than the former PTCs that were not seen that way (Indian Open, Riga Open Paul Hunter classic and Gibraltar Open certainly are in this category). But players can only win the events they are presented with and I found some comments unfair on this very young man from China, who works very hard and who certainly hasn’t it easy in an alien culture far away from family and home.

      • I don’t read Twitter so I wasn’t trying to defend any mean comments on there, just saying that I do sympathise with the view that it doesn’t really compare to Ronnie’s UK championship win. At least it isn’t the shootout!

        I agree with everything you’ve said as well. It’s still a fantastic achievement for Yan and he has had to play 2 players ranked above him (Day and Williams, whereas I don’t think Williams has played anyone above him), and he still had to beat the others over the difficult short format.

        I really hope snooker doesn’t continue with the current format though because I’ve felt as tired watching the snooker over the past weeks as the players have looked.

        Colin Murray at the start of the week stated that it was great for snooker to have so many tournaments and so many different winners, but honestly, I feel like it devalues each one.

  3. At this moment, Yan Bingtao leads Mark Williams 4 frames to 3.

    We talk so much about Ronnie beating someone else’s records, but I wonder if this is the first time someone else has been on the cusp of breaking one of Ronnie’s records…?

    • I think Judd broke Ronnie’s record for the youngest player t make 147 ever.
      Ronnie was 15, Judd was 14.

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