The opening day of this year’s UK Championship started with very sad news: Chris Webb, “Spider”, has left us, he’s lost his battle against illness. Chris was a larger than life, warm character, always ready for a laugh. Messages of sympathy literally flooded social media. He will be missed by the whole snooker family … and by me. My heart is heavy writing these lines.
This is Chris at the World Championship 2010, the first ranking tournament I ‘covered”.
I was introduced to him by Janie Watkins. My thoughts are with his family and many friends.
On the baize, day 1 in York brough just one upset, but a major one: Ding Junhui managed to lose by 6-5, from 5-1 up to Leo Fernandez, ranked n° 128, winless until now this season and suffering a back injury. Ding had suffered from eyes problems in the recent weeks but there was none of that apparent when he built a 5-1 lead with no less than six breaks over 50. What’s going on with Ding?
Ding Junhui was the victim of a massive upset on the first day of the Betway UK Championship as he lost 6-5 to world number 130 Leo Fernandez.
It’s a familiar feeling for Ding at this tournament as, despite winning the title in 2005 and 2009, he has suffered surprise defeats in recent years to James Cahill, Adam Duffy and Jamie Jones.
Ding has been suffering from an eye infection in recent weeks but his vision seemed intact in the first six frames as he rattled in breaks of 60, 55, 80, 91, 66 and 87 to go 5-1 up.
Fernandez built a 55-1 lead in the decider, then Ding had a chance to clear but failed to nudge the pink off the side cushion in potting the blue. Ding played safe but left his opponent a tough pot to a centre pocket, and Fernandez dropped it in to clinch victory.
“It’s my best moment in snooker for sure,” said Fernandez, who has never been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event. “At 5-1 down I was thinking about the train journey home. I tried to stay calm and enjoy it.
“I’m suffering from a slipped disc in my back and sciatica so I’m lucky to be here. It was hard fighting the pain. The adrenaline kept me going and I started to play well. I’m having physiotherapy and acupuncture. I might need to have surgery which could end my career, but if that happens at least I’ll take this win with me.”
John Higgins won an all-Wishaw derby against Chris Totten by a 6-1 scoreline. Tour rookie Totten, who idolised Higgins during his junior days, fell 2-0 behind then won the third frame on the black. Higgins stole the fourth with a trademark clearance of 64 then capitalised on mistakes from his opponent to make it 4-1. Three-time UK Champion Higgins added the next two with top runs of 40 and 58 to book his second round place.
“The big turning point was the fifth frame when Chris looked like making it 3-2, but he missed a black and I got back in to make it 4-1,” said world number five Higgins. “The experience will stand Chris in good stead. He’s got two years on the tour now to try to cement his place.
“He’s already beaten Neil Robertson this season and it was in the back of my mind that he’s not frightened to beat the top players. I took him to my club a few years ago when he was just a young boy. I will try to have a few more games with him before the Scottish Open. Everyone talks about the Chinese youngsters coming through so it would be good to have a few British boys as well.
“I struggled a bit tonight so I’ll be on the practice table back home for the next few days to be ready for the weekend.”
Ryan Day saw off Jamie Curtis-Barrett 6-0, a result which boosts his hopes of qualifying for the Masters in January (for the latest on that race click here.)
Welshman Day knocked in breaks of 90, 110, 86, 122 and 83, though in fact it could have been even better as he missed the green in frame four when on course for a 147 which could have earned him a £15,000 bonus.
“The green was on the baulk cushion, I wasn’t perfect on it and I wobbled it in the pocket,” said Riga Masters champion Day. “I played with a lot of freedom today, the game came easily to me.”
Kyren Wilson make breaks of 108 and 101 as he beat Sean O’Sullivan 6-1 while Stephen Maguire saw off Yuan Sijun by the same scoreline, rattling in runs of 58, 78, 66, 128, 87 and 127. Northern Ireland Open runner-up Yan Bingtao also won 6-1, beating Zhang Yong with a top break of 103.
China’s Zhao Xintong edged out Rory McLeod 6-5 while Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh beat Elliot Slessor 6-5 with a run of 99 in the decider.
Marco Fu top scored with 110 in a 6-2 win over Nigel Bond while Mark King made a 98 in a 6-0 win over Boonyarit Keattikun.