Nigel Slater reports on an interview with Barry Hearn on the BBC

You can read the full article here

This is an excerpt:

….

But speaking in a recent interview with the BBC, Hearn said O’Sullivan should think wisely before deciding to pull out of the 17-day event.

“Listen, we have a system that’s very clear to everybody – no player is forced to play in an event. The player’s contract is democratic – you can play if you want and if you don’t (want to) then don’t play.

“It’s his (O’Sullivan’s) choice not mine. I very much hope so (that he will play) and I think for Ronnie’s sake. Life is very strange, as you look over your shoulder when you get older – you don’t want too many ‘I should have done this’ moments on your mind.

“And missing something like the World Championship for a player like Ronnie O’Sullivan, who loves snooker, there’s no question about that in my mind. I believe we will see him there and if we don’t I think he’s making a bad choice. But I recognise it is his choice to make.”

This seems to be a rather balanced view indeed.

The basic line is that we all make decisions that we see as the best for ourselves at the time we make them. Sometimes we come to regret them, and sometimes, those regrets serve as a springboard for us to rediscover hunger and motivation for things we fell a bit out of love with.

We, as fans, have just to wait and see, and accept whatever happens. I don’t think people understand fully the level of pressure and expectations Ronnie has to cope with since 25 years and counting, not just from the fans, but from the media, from the sponsors and, last but not least, from his own perfectionist self as well.

China Open 2018 Qualifiers

The China Open last 128 qualifying round was played in Barnsley over the last four days. Ronnie has entered the event, but, just like Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo, he has his first round match held over to the venue early April.

Here are the detailed results on Cuetracker

As you can see most of the highest ranked players won their match. There were two notable exceptions though: indeed Ryan Day and Judd Trump failed to qualify. I didn’t watch those two matches so it’s hard to know exactly what happened. Day was facing the young Lyu Haotian who is extremely talented and very dangerous on his day. I saw Lyu playing in China in 2012 – he was only 14 – and he was impressive. His first experience as a pro was a disaster: clearly he was too young and didn’t have the right people around him maybe. But now, with the Vic Snooker Academy to support him, he’s starting to live to his potential. So Day’s defeat is only half a surprise. But Judd Trump going out to Jak Jones? Ok, Jak of course can play, he wouldn’t be a pro otherwise, he’s a very decent break-builder. And, yes, the match should have been on the streamed table, but wasn’t eventually because the previous match over-ran badly. Still… This is very worrying for Judd and his fans.

Other players, I would have expected to qualify, and didn’t, are Robert Milkins, Matthew Selt and Li Hang.

Anthony Hamilton looked all at sea and was playing really badly in his match against David John, but dug deep and somehow found a way to win 6-5 from 5-1 down. It only took him six hours… he’s the one responsible for shifting Judd Trump to table 4. We have to hope for Anthony that he will find a better form when he’s starting his German Masters defence this afternoon in Berlin! But as it was, it was fascinating to watch.

In general nobody played well in any of the matches I watched. The likes of Mark Allen, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy were well below their usual level. Maybe the conditions weren’t great, I’m not sure, although I’m 100% sure that the fitters work very hard and try their best, but, they only have two hands and 24 hours in their days. What I’m certain though is that playing in those qualifiers is utterly uninspiring for the top players. Neil Robertson compared this venue to a morgue earlier this season and urged Hearn to make access free for the public. It is now free but it didn’t change much to the fact that the venue looked almost empty for most sessions. I’ll say this again: if the flat draw with 128 is the way forward, then it should be played, in one go, at the venue and there should be no qualifiers.

Get well soon Marco Fu

When Ronnie trashed Marco Fu in the first round of the Masters about two weeks ago, and then complained about feeling unwell and dizzy, people didn’t take him seriously. But the truth to be said, Marco had been terrible in this match and that came on the back of a very forgettable first half of the season. The reason for Marco’s dip of form has now been revealed: Marco was suffering from a serious issue with his left eye.

He’s opened up about it on his Facebook page and on twitter.

Here is the account in the Chinese press

Don’t worry about me’ – Hong Kong’s Marco Fu assures fans after undergoing eye surgery that will keep him out ‘for some time’

The world No 9 is expected to make a full recovery after going under the knife to correct a retina problem but misses weeks of competition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 7:46pm

Posting on his Facebook page on Sunday, the recently turned 40-year-old world No 9 said he has been experiencing “some problems” with his left eye and was told by a doctor that he had been suffering from retinal degeneration.

Fu revealed that he has undergone surgery and will play no play in competition in the coming months as he rests his eye. Fu has been playing as a professional for 20 years and had no previous problems with his eyes. He did not say how long he will be out for.

“I regret to tell you that I will not be giving out any interview for now and shall arrange an online session to take questions in the near future. Thank you for your support,” wrote Fu on his Facebook page.

“I’ve had discomfort in my eye and the retinal degradation of my left eye was determined after medical examination and diagnosis. I have undergone laser surgery so no worries! The doctor has recommended that I take a rest to avoid any chance of a retinal detachment,” he added.

“2018 is an important year for me personally as this is my 20th anniversary as a pro snooker player.”

Fu has received a flood of support from his fans with more than 1,600 likes on his Facebook page within two hours of posting of his video message.

Fu’s announcement came after being thrashed by five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Masters last week at Alexandra Palace. The Hong Kong cueman lost 6-0 to the Englishman in the last 16, prompting snooker legend Stephen Hendry to comment that Fu was made to look like an amateur player.

Ironically, O’Sullivan claimed that he was feeling dizzy against Fu and that he was “really struggling”.

“I don’t know if I have got a virus or something and I just feel very dizzy. I was just playing off instinct,” said O’Sullivan after defeating Fu. “I was thinking, ‘Don’t stop, just pot balls’. I was really quite struggling and have been like that for the last five or six days.”

Fu is coming off a slightly disappointing 2017 campaign where he failed to reach a semi-final of any ranking tournament. The previous year, Fu enjoyed a banner year, winning the 2016 Scottish Open for his third ranking title while reaching the semi-final stage of the World Championship for the second time in his career.

His best result of 2017 came at the Hong Kong Masters, a non-ranking tournament, where he reached the last four in the eight-man tournament.

Marco is one of the nicest person you could ever meet. It would be really sad if his carrer was ended prematurely by health issues. Hopefully he will be back in a few months fully fit to play.

Get well soon Marco! 

China Open 2018 Qualifiers Draw an Format

Worldsnooker has just published the China Open 2018 Qualifiers Draw and Format

… and Ronnie has entered it.

The draw and format for the qualifying round of the China Open is now available.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The qualifying round runs from January 27 to 30 (Saturday to Tuesday) at the Barnsley Metrodome. Entry for fans is FREE – for details click here

The China Open in April will become the only snooker event other than the World Championship to hit the £1 million prize money mark, thanks to a new four-year agreement between World Snooker and joint promoters Star Xing Pai and Beijing Fuhua Culture Tourism Development Ltd. Co.

The world ranking event will run from April 1 to 8 in Beijing with a top prize of £225,000 and a total prize fund of £1 million. That’s almost double last year’s China Open total of £510,000, when the top prize was £85,000. The £225,000 winner’s cheque will only be topped only by the World Championship first prize of £425,000.

The final of the tournament will be best of 21 frames for the first time. It will be televised by CCTV, Eurosport and various other broadcasters worldwide.

The China Open has been staged in the country’s capital every year since 2005. Ding Junhui won the title that year as an 18-year-old, helping to spark a surge of interest in snooker in China. Since then top stars including Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and defending champion Mark Selby have lifted the trophy.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to be working with Star Xing Pai and Beijing Fuhua for the first time on what will be a truly magnificent China Open event. For many years the Gan family and their organisation Star Xing Pai have shared our vision to bring our sport to a new dimension, and they have been outstanding supporters of snooker over the past decade.

“This is a fantastic announcement which establishes the China Open in Beijing as the flagship tournament in Asia. It’s remarkable to think that back in 2005 when this event was first staged, the total prize fund was only £200,000 and the top prize £30,000 – that shows how far we have come in the past 13 years in terms of the growth of snooker in China.

“This is a great deal for the players whose earning opportunities have never been better, and the fans who have this superb event secured for the next four years. We look forward to working with the Star Xing Pai and Beijing Fuhua teams for many years to come.

“Of course we would like to show our sincere gratitude to our strongest partner CBSA, this latest Agreement demonstrates the significant contribution to the global development of our sport. We thank Mr. Wang Liwei and Ms. Wang Tao together with their excellent team in CBSA for their long term vision.”

Ronnie is due to face Ross Muir in the last 128, however he will not need to play in Barnsley in the coming days, his match will be held over to the venue in China. Indeed, Mark Selby is both the World Champion and the defending Champion, therefore himself and the World n°2, Ronnie, get their matches held over, as do also China n°1 and 2, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo.

At the Palace … Mark Allen is the King!

Masters2018AllenChampionFamily

Forthy years after Alex Higgins won his only Masters title, defeating Cliff Thorburn by 7-5, Mark Allen brought the trophy back to Northern Ireland. He defeated Kyren Wilson by 10-7 in a very tense final.

Congratulations Mark Allen

It was a great match to watch for the fans, and it takes two to deliver that sort of match, thanks to BOTH players, Mark and Kyren.

Mark refrained to celebrate before shaking Kyren’s had, and that was great to see. He knows how it feels to be there as a loser and he respected his opponent’s feelings. Well done Mark. Kyren was in tears during his on stage interview. It was both heartbreaking and wonderful to see how much it meant to him. I hope that today, tomorrow or in the coming days, he will be able to take a step back, to see how well he did, even if he came second eventually. He should be proud of what he did last week and take the many positives. We will see more of him, no doubts, his time will come sooner than late.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Mark Allen enjoyed the best moment of his snooker career as he beat Kyren Wilson 10-7 in the final of the Dafabet Masters, winning a Triple Crown event for the first time.

Antrim’s 31-year-old Allen came from 4-3 down to win seven of the last ten frames at Alexandra Palace, before receiving the Paul Hunter Trophy and a career-biggest cheque of £200,000.

There were emotional scenes at the end of the match, with Wilson in tears as he reflected on defeat, and Allen embraced by his father Ronnie, wife Kyla, stepson Robbie and baby daughter Harleigh.

World number eight Allen was the man of the week in London as he knocked out Luca Brecel, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins to reach the final. And though he only showed glimpses of the same form today, he did enough to win his tenth career title and first since the 2016 Players Championship.

Since his junior days, Allen has been touted as the best Northern Irish player since the days of Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor, and he has now emulated those two greats by winning snooker’s biggest invitation tournament.

He struggled with his game for much of last season, after splitting with coach Terry Griffiths, but Allen made changes to his cue action at the start of the current campaign and has worked hard on the practice table to bed in his improved technique. He is now enjoying the fruits of that labour and savouring his finest hour.

Allen had played in only one Triple Crown final before, losing 10-8 to Judd Trump at the 2011 UK Championship. He becomes the first player other than Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Selby to win a Triple Crown event since 2015. He is also sure of a place in the Champion of Champions later this year.

Kettering’s 26-year-old Wilson also won his biggest ever cheque as the £90,000 runner-up prize eclipses the £85,000 he won for capturing the 2015 Shanghai Masters, his only pro title. He has now lost three finals this season, having been beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan at the English Open and Ding Junhui at the Yushan World Open. World number 14 Wilson will surely reflect on crucial chances he missed in the first session when he could have established a substantial lead.

The first frame of the evening session lasted 40 minutes and came down to the colours. Wilson played a weak safety on the brown, allowing Allen to pot brown and blue to take a 5-4 lead. In frame ten, Allen led 23-8 when he missed a tricky green to a baulk corner, and his opponent punished him with a break of 84 to level the contest.

Allen then stepped up a gear with breaks of 73 and 119 – the 28th century of the tournament – to lead 7-5 at the interval. In frame 13 he made 34 before running out of position, then Wilson had a scoring chance but potted just one red before missing the black with the rest. Allen’s 50 put him three frames in front.

Wilson, who had never won a match in the Masters before this week, stemmed the tide with a break of 73 to pull back to 8-6. In the 15th, Allen made 49 before missing a tough red to a centre pocket. Wilson replied with 47 to take it to a safety battle on the last red, then took advantage of a missed pot from Allen to clear to the pink and reduce the gap to a single frame.

Allen bounced back impressively with a break of 69 to go two up with three to play at 9-7. And a few minutes later the match was over as Allen’s run of 71 gave him the title.

“It is surreal,” said Allen, who was making his tenth consecutive Masters appearance but had never previously reached the final. “It has been a long time coming. I was never sure it was going to come to be honest, I have knocked on the door for so long but now I can say I have won a Triple Crown title.

“What a competitor Kyren Wilson is. He is the nicest guy you could meet and he has a great family with him too. I know what it is like to sit in that seat after losing a major final, I lost to Judd in the 2011 UK, but how far has he come in the last two years?

“He is going to be in major finals for years to come. I have felt calm all week, apart from the first session, I was very on edge. I felt like as the match went on I got stronger and I felt at ease with myself and was playing the way I had been the rest of the week.”

Wilson said: “I am devastated. You can’t make mistakes against a player of his class. I just made things a little bit too easy for him, I kept putting him in the balls and you can’t so that against him.

“He will punish you and that is what he did. The last frame of the first session, when he potted an awesome long red, changed it. I could not see how I was not 5-3 ahead and then he did very well to see it through.”

Big boost for the China Open

Worldsnooker published this today

The China Open in April will become the only snooker event other than the World Championship to hit the £1 million prize money mark, thanks to a new four-year agreement between World Snooker and joint promoters Star Xing Pai and Beijing Fuhua Culture Tourism Development Ltd. Co.

The world ranking event will run from April 1 to 8 in Beijing with a top prize of £225,000 and a total prize fund of £1 million. That’s almost double last year’s China Open total of £510,000, when the top prize was £85,000. The £225,000 winner’s cheque will only be topped only by the World Championship first prize of £425,000.

The final of the tournament will be best of 21 frames for the first time. It will be televised by CCTV, Eurosport and various other broadcasters worldwide.

The China Open has been staged in the country’s capital every year since 2005. Ding Junhui won the title that year as an 18-year-old, helping to spark a surge of interest in snooker in China. Since then top stars including Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and defending champion Mark Selby have lifted the trophy.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to be working with Star Xing Pai and Beijing Fuhua for the first time on what will be a truly magnificent China Open event. For many years the Gan family and their organisation Star Xing Pai have shared our vision to bring our sport to a new dimension, and they have been outstanding supporters of snooker over the past decade.

“This is a fantastic announcement which establishes the China Open in Beijing as the flagship tournament in Asia. It’s remarkable to think that back in 2005 when this event was first staged, the total prize fund was only £200,000 and the top prize £30,000 – that shows how far we have come in the past 13 years in terms of the growth of snooker in China.

“This is a great deal for the players whose earning opportunities have never been better, and the fans who have this superb event secured for the next four years. We look forward to working with the Star Xing Pai and Beijing Fuhua teams for many years to come.”

There will be a qualifying round  from January 27 to 30 in Barnsley, with players needing to win one match to get through to the final stages.

At the Palace … day 7

Both semi finals yesterday delivered a winner most people didn’t expect.

Masters2017SFWilsonWinner

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Kyren Wilson continued his brilliant run at the Dafabet Masters by coming from 5-2 down to beat Judd Trump 6-5 and reach the final.

Rising star Wilson had never won a match in snooker’s biggest invitation event before this week, but having knocked out Barry Hawkins, Mark Williams and now Trump, he is through to the final to face either John Higgins or Mark Allen over 19 frames at Alexandra Palace on Sunday.

Wilson is already guaranteed £90,000, which would be his biggest career pay-day, eclipsing the £85,000 he won for taking the 2015 Shanghai Masters title, when he beat Trump  10-9 in the final. It could be an even more lucrative day for the 26-year-old from Kettering as the champion will take home £200,000.

Wilson had never played in the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event before today but showed tremendous composure in the closing stages as he reeled off the last four frames. Victory tomorrow would give the world number 14 his first pro title since that Shanghai triumph 28 months ago. He will be playing his third final of the season having lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the English Open and Ding Junhui at the Yushan World Open.

Trump, who has now lost all three of his Masters semi-finals, took a scrappy opening frame then Wilson cleared from yellow to black to snatch the second.  World number three Trump took the next two with breaks of 83 and 52 to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Wilson pulled one back with an 81 but his opponent looked to be cruising towards the winning line as runs of 96 and 69 made it 5-2. But Trump potted just one ball in the next three frames as Wilson won them all with top breaks of 57 and 107.

Trump had first chance in the decider and made 23 before running out of position. After a brief safety exchange, Trump went for a risky plant to a top corner but missed his target. Wilson compiled a superb match-winning run of 72 which included several daring pots.

“Even if it was 5-2, I was just going to fight until the end,” said Wilson, who had support among the crowd from wife Sophie and parents Sonya and Rob. “It’s one of those venues where funny things can happen. Many come backs have happened over the years here. I like to think I drew some inspiration from the late Paul Hunter. I felt like it was maybe my time to do that.

“Judd’s safety game really impressed me in the first few frames. From 5-2 I started to take my chances with good breaks. I felt nervous but good going into the decider. Lady luck was on my side.

“I’m quite good under pressure with a sound technique. To win it in one visit was very pleasing. It’s been a great week for me and my family. Hopefully I can give them something else to cheer about tomorrow.

“I have been a top 16 player for a couple of years so I feel like I deserve my right to be in this tournament. I’m not just here to make up the numbers, I’m here to lift the trophy, which would mean absolutely everything to me. I promised my mum I’d get it for her dining room table!

“It’s nice that three out of the four lads in the semi-finals are of the younger generation, which is good for snooker. The Triple Crown events are the ones the players turn out for. The whole world stops to watch them.”

Trump said: “It’s disappointing. I think I was the better player, it’s tough to take. Kyren got away with missing balls in every single frame. When someone gets away with so many shots you’ve got to take a chance because you can’t rely on him giving you an easy chance, so I wanted to grab the match by the scruff of the neck.

“When it’s not your day it’s not your day. When you know the run is like that then it might be Kyren’s week.”

Where should I start about this match? Once again Judd Trump managed to lose after leading comfortably. At 5-2, he went for a ridiculous shot, missed it and it turned the match around. Yes, that shot, had it gone in, would probably have won him the match. But what were the chances for that shot to go in, really? Very low I reckon. And he did it again in the decider. By missing that shot at 5-2, he gave his opponent a life-line, one that Kyren grabbed with both hands. By taking it Judd sent a double message to his opponent: “I’m in a hurry and will go for risky shots, AND, I can do this because you aren’t good enough to beat me”. I’m not saying that those thoughts were going fully consciously through Judd’s mind, but it certainly how it could be read. Showing that you are in a hurry is showing a weakness in your temperament, wounding your opponent in their professional pride is never a good move, they are likely to draw extra motivation from it. And then, reading Judd’s quotes only tells me that he’s deluded about the whole situation. This has happened too often in the last couple of years to be down to “luck” for his opponents. He may have been the better scorer, he wasn’t the better player. His comments were disrespectful to Kyren in my opinion, and a sign that defeat hurt badly but that, alas, Judd isn’t ready to face his own responsibility in what has now become a pattern. He has all the talent in the world, more than Kyren, even more than John Higgins or Ronnie, but he does not have the right state of mind at the moment.

Don’t get me wrong: I certainly don’t “hate” Judd Trump, I’ve met him, spoken to him and he’s a nice person, without a trace of arrogance outside the snooker match context. I believe that, maybe, he has got too much expectations on him, too soon. That, maybe, he’s been drawn to create an “image” of “cool, self-confident dude” that isn’t the real Judd and it’s not helping him. He’s clearly not in a good place right now. Maybe he should seek help, like Ronnie did with Steve Peters. But the first step towards that is to accept that there is a problem. Yesterday, in the post-match review, Neal Foulds also expressed concerns.

Kyren has shown incredible mental solidity, very similar to Peter Ebdon with whom he practices. I don’t make him favourite in the final today, but I’m sure that he will fight to the last ball, and who knows?

Masters2017SFAllenWinner

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Mark Allen scored a 6-3 win over John Higgins to reach the final of the Dafabet Masters for the first time.

Allen knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals and scored another victory over one of snooker’s all time greats with a fine display tonight.  He has now won all four of his Masters meetings with Higgins.

In Sunday’s best-of-19 final, Northern Ireland’s Allen will take on Kyren Wilson for the £200,000 top prize and the Paul Hunter Trophy. Both will be contesting their first Masters final, both aiming to win a Triple Crown event for the first time.

Allen struggled with his game for much of last season but has shown signs of a return to form in recent months, notably in a run to the final of the International Championship. This week in London has brought the best out of the 31-year-old from Antrim and he’ll be determined to win his first title since the 2016 Players Championship.

Scotland’s Higgins won the first frame of a high quality match tonight then world number eight Allen hit back to take the next three with top breaks of 63 and 90.

Two-time Masters champion Higgins took the next with a 131, the 700th century of his glittering career. But Allen bounced back with runs of 64 and 65 in the next two to go 5-2 up. A 127 from world number five Higgins, the 27th century of the tournament, saw him pull one back, but in frame nine Allen fired in a cracking long red and made 75 to seal the match.

“It’s two good wins for me, to beat Ronnie and John Higgins,” said Allen, whose only previous Triple Crown final was the 2011 UK Championship when he lost to Judd Trump. “I don’t want to get too excited because I still need to win ten more frames. My game is in good shape and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

“I’ve never won a Triple Crown event but playing the best players does bring the best out of me. If you don’t play well you will lose so it takes the unknown away. It’s a new day and a different game tomorrow. I’ll have to control my emotions as I have all week. My safety has been good and I know I can score well.

“The long matches have momentum swings, hopefully I’ll be in control of them. It will be a dream come true for one of us tomorrow night, and completely devastating for the other. I see this as the biggest event after the World Championship, it was one of the ones I dreamed of winning when I was younger. If I win I’ll probably go ballistic and you might see me running around here with my top off! I just have to try to stay as calm as possible. My approach to the match will be no different, I always go for my shots. I have to go out there and play well, that’s the bottom line.”

Higgins said: “My tactical game was poor. I made some elementary mistakes and didn’t keep him close to the baulk cushion. He punished me – every credit to him because he played great. I think he’ll win the final, he’s had that look about him this week.”

The final starts at 1.30pm

Mark Allen showed against John Higgins the same kind of form and self-belief that he had against Ronnie. He’s a handfull for anyone in that form. His long potting has been incredible this week, which means that he’s in first more often than not. His break building is very solid. If he can play at the same level today, he’s got to be favourite.

Whoever wins today, it’s a new name on the trophy. It should be a great final.