UK Championship 2017 – Day 8

Yesterday was the first day of the last 16 round in York and both of the top 16 involved, Mark Allen and John Higgins are out of the tournament. Joe Perry did play really well to beat Mark Allen, whilst Mark King showed outstanding fighting qualities and sent John Higgins home.

Li Hang missed the yellow for a 147.

Stephen Maguire and Mark King both are still in with a chance to make it to Alexandra Palace in come January, but both need to reach the  Final here in York for that to happen.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

John Higgins became the latest top star to drop out of the Betway UK Championship as he let chances slip in the last two frames and lost 6-5 to Mark King.

Defeat for world number five Higgins means that of the 14 players left in the tournament in York, only Ronnie O’Sullivan, Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen are ranked among the top 16.

Higgins, winner of three UK titles and 29 ranking events, admitted he suffered a “total malfunction” in the closing stages. It was world number 21 King who held his nerve and set up a quarter-final with Murphy or Ricky Walden.

From 2-1 down, Wishaw’s Higgins won the fourth frame with a break of 80 then got the two snookers he needed to snatch the fifth. He also won the next by clearing from yellow to pink and looked to be in control at 4-2.

Romford’s King, who won his first ranking title at the Northern Ireland Open last season,  fought back and won the next two frames for 4-4. Higgins regained the lead then had a chance for victory in frame ten but missed the last red to a top corner when trailing by six points, and King took advantage for 5-5.

In the decider, Higgins had two early opportunities but could only muster 17 points, and his opponent made an excellent 69 which proved enough.

When I got my chance I thought just be positive, strike the ball nicely and make sure you don’t miss anything easy,” said 43-year-old King. “I was in good position the whole time and I was pretty calm and confident. I’m delighted to win it.

“Even at 4-2 down I was saying ‘just enjoy it’ – if the worst comes to the worst I’d be on the train home tonight to go and see the family– there’s no better feeling than going home to them. Hopefully they’ll be coming up at the weekend. It’s nice not to have to worry about playing the bills. It’s nice just to play your game and enjoy it.

Higgins said: “When you start collapsing like that there was only one way it was going to go. It probably should have given me momentum when I was 4-2 in front but he came back stronger and I was just dreadful the whole game.

“From 5-4 it was a total malfunction. There’s just some things you can’t explain and that was a malfunction on every single shot, I couldn’t pot a ball.

Stephen Maguire won a tartan tussle against Graeme Dott by a 6-2 scoreline to set up a match with Joe Perry or Mark Allen. It’s Maguire’s first ranking quarter-final since he lost to Ryan Day in the final of the Riga Masters in June.

Breaks of 72, 57 and 116 helped Maguire go 4-1 up. Dott pulled one back but 2004 UK Champion Maguire took the next two frames to cross the winning line.

That’s the best I’ve felt since I’ve been down here,” said Maguire after reaching his ninth quarter-final in this event. “I knew it was going to be a tough match because he’s gritty and he doesn’t give up but I think I controlled the match from the word go. I don’t know if it’s the time of year or something but I do seem to do well at this tournament.

As for his next match, Glasgow’s Maguire added: “I don’t look at the draw, that’s the way I’ve been brought up. I always just think if I play well and I fancy the job that’s great. If I play bad I will lose, it’s as simple as that.

Dott said: “Stephen thoroughly deserved to win. I just couldn’t control the white. I kept losing position every time I got in. He certainly played a lot better than I did.”

Maguire and King are both still in contention in the race to the Masters though each must reach the final to have a chance.

Evening session:

Ryan Day made a total clearance in the deciding frame to beat Li Hang 6-5 and reach the quarter-finals of the Betway UK Championship for the first time.

Joe Perry also booked a spot in the last eight with a 6-4 defeat of Mark Allen.

Welshman Day was pushed all the way by China’s Li but finished in style to set up a meeting with Mark Joyce or Lyu Haotian on Friday. The result boosts Day’s hopes of a Masters spot as he moves ahead of Liang Wenbo into 15th place in that race.

Day took the opening frame tonight then Li had a chance of a 147 in the second but after potting 15 reds with blacks he missed a tough yellow with the rest. He went on to lead 3-1 with runs of 83 and 56. Frame five went Day’s way and he looked set to make it 3-3 but his opponent got the snooker he needed on the final pink and took pink and black to lead 4-2.

Riga Masters champion Day recovered to take the next three frames with top runs of 65 and 60 to lead 5-4. He might have sealed victory in frame ten but missed the last red to a baulk corner along a side cushion. But the Pontycymmer potter needed only one chance in the decider, making a brilliant 138.

“I had to dig in and work hard tonight,” said world number 19 Day. “To lose the tenth frame and go 5-5 was a sickener but I took some deep breaths and showed some steeliness in the last frame. I gave every shot 100 per cent and it was a great break. Li gave a fist pump when he went 4-2 up but after that he started missing balls.

Perry set up a quarter-final with Stephen Maguire by beating Allen, a result which means that Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy are the only top-16 ranked players left in the tournament.

Perry compiled breaks of 83, 114 and 63 in building a 3-1 lead then Allen made a 135 in frame five. A superb 64 clearance gave Perry frame six and the Chatteris cueman made an 87 in the next to lead 5-2.

Allen battled back with 134 and 75 to close to 5-4 but world number 22 Perry got the better of a scrappy tenth frame to reach his first ranking event quarter-final since the Riga Masters.

Perry said: “It was a great game, the best I have played in a long time. I felt comfortable out there and played solid snooker all the way through, until the end when I collapsed like a cheap tent. I was lucky to crawl over the line. It’s a big win for me and I’ve got to try to keep playing to that level.

This is something of a pattern I have noticed over the last year of so: John Higgins still can play outstandingly, but not under pressure. This is something that happened to Hendry as well in the final years of his career: often he started a match strongly but it only took a couple of mistakes to knock his confidence – and his game – out. At times Ronnie has looked vulnerable to that too but not to the same extend and not all that often, and, maybe, this is because he refuses to put as much pressure on himself  as they do/did because he has other things in his life.

Ronnie had a day off and decided to take the matter of the missing Masters Trophy in his own hands, with the help of the Eurosport crew. They shared this on Facebook (live as it happened!)

He also brought some cake to the press

Make no mistake. Ronnie stays in Sheffield, one hour drive away from the venue, because it gives him an easy  access to excellent practice facilities. But being bored has often been his undoing in long tournaments – nobody can do practice all day and it would be counter-productive anyway – and those little funny things probably help him as much as they give Eurosport coverage a touch of nonsensical fun that the more serious BBC lacks. Not that the ES coverage lacks professionalism in any way, it’s excellent.

And some junior Ladies players had the opportunity to watch some UK Championship action and to meet some pro players:

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