Welsh Open 2018 – Last 128

The Welsh Open 2018 started on Monday in Cardiff. The tournament has an kind of random draw, with only the top 16 placed apart from each other, so it’s bound to yield some tough matches from the start, therefore some “shocks”.


Ronnie is one of those who did indeed get a tough draw: he was due to play Robin Hull first, then almost certainly Graeme Dott next. Robin Hull illness means that Ronnie got a bye, and he will indeed face Graeme Dott this afternoon. This means that Ronnie was in the studio, and in the commentary box, yesterday. He delivered this very positive and interesting interview:

He absolutely right about the amateur game state, and the consequences of it for the future of the sport.

Other than that, here is what happened at the Motorpoint Arena


Here are the reports on Worldsnooker


Judd Trump narrowly avoided a shock defeat on day one of the ManBetX Welsh Open in Cardiff, scraping a 4-3 win over Duane Jones.

World number 113 Jones was just six pots away from clearing up in the deciding frame, but missed the yellow with the rest, allowing Trump to edge into the last 64 and a match with Noppon Saengkham or Ross Muir. Bristol’s Trump, ranked third, lost 9-8 to Stuart Bingham in the final here last year and hopes for another deep run at one of his favourite venues.

Trump led 3-1 with a top break of 87 then Welshman Jones took frame five with a run of 93 and won the next on the colours for 3-3. In the decider, Trump built a 61-0 lead, then Jones had an opportunity to snatch victory but after narrowing the gap to 25 points, his missed yellow to a baulk corner proved costly. Trump potted yellow and green which was enough to put him into round two.

“It was a battle – Duane played well in his home tournament,” said eight-time ranking event winner Trump. “He is a solid player and he has improved. I missed too many balls during the match and got unlucky a few times.

“My results this season have been mixed, I have been inconsistent. Mentally maybe I am not as strong as some of the other players because I get spells where I don’t want to play and I struggle to get up for some events. But I like this one because I feel close to home, I get a lot of support and I have always wanted to win it. I was gutted to lose in the final last year.”

Jackson Page made headlines last year when he reached the third round when competing as a 15-year-old schoolboy, and he enjoyed another winning start by beating Sean O’Sullivan 4-3. Welshman Page, now 16, is still an amateur but was handed a place in the tournament after Joe Swail pulled out last week. And he took advantage by coming from 3-2 down to win the last two frames on the colours.

Page now faces defending champion Stuart Bingham, who recovered from losing the first frame to beat Chen Zhe 4-1 with top breaks of 118, 83 and 64.

Graeme Dott continued his fine recent form with a 4-0 win over Sanderson Lam, top scoring with 83 and 77. Dott will now play Ronnie O’Sullivan, who was handed a bye because his opponent Robin Hull withdrew for medical reasons.

Australia’s Kurt Dunham scored the best win of his career so far, beating Welshman Ryan Day 4-2 with top runs of 84, 57 and 103. China’s Yan Bingtao came from 3-1 down to beat veteran Jimmy White 4-3, firing 69, 58 and 110 in the last three frames.

Ding Junhui eased to a 4-0 win over Hammad Miah with a top break of 89 while Neil Robertson made an 88 in a 4-1 defeat of Mark Davis.

Masters champion Mark Allen recovered a 2-1 deficit to beat Cao Yupeng 4-2 thanks to runs of 119, 72 and 56.

In the last match of the evening to finish, World Champion Mark Selby looked in fine form as he beat Christopher Keogan 4-2 with top breaks of 143 and 100.

Some interesting comments there by Judd Trump, as close to an honest admission of the state of his game as I have seen this season. But he had to mention bad luck…

Kurt Dunham did indeed play very well but he was helped by the fact that his opponent, Ryan Day, was playing with a brand new cue and clearly struggled with his long potting. When I write “helped”, what I mean is this: Kurt has won next to nothing in the year and a half he’s turned pro, he certainly didn’t come into this match feeling confident. But Day misses allowed Kurt to build some fluency, and to construct some good breaks early in the match and it’s all he needed to start playing and doing his ability justice. It’s very bad news for Day in the context of the race for the Crucible.


Gerard Greene registered the biggest shock of the ManBetX Welsh Open so far with a 4-0 first round whitewash over Shaun Murphy on Tuesday night.

World number 90 Greene scored one of his best wins in recent years as he outplayed an opponent 83 places above him in the rankings. Greene, age 44, goes through to the last 64 to face Stuart Carrington on Wednesday.

Former World Champion Murphy made several uncharacteristic errors as Greene won the first three frames with a top break of 65. Frame four came down to the colours and Murphy got the snooker he needed on the blue, but then elected to let his opponent play again from a tricky position, and Greene potted an excellent long blue to seal the match.

“I know if I play well and I can challenge anyone,” said Greene, who reached the Players Championship final in 2014. “Once I was 2-0 up I felt if I kept taking my chances and didn’t go for any crazy pots then I had a great chance of winning. Shaun was off his game today but that’s taking nothing away from me because I played well. It’s up there with my best wins. I feel a bit less pressure now than I have done in the past. I work full time at the snooker club which is handy because I can practise a lot.”

Murphy said: “It’s confusing rather than disappointing. I prepared well for this event but then played so badly. I made at least one cataclysmic error in every frame and Gerard put me away. He played very well, which shows how strong our game is from top to bottom.”

Home favourite Mark Williams made a strong start with a 4-2 win over Mark King. Breaks of 134 and 129 helped put Williams 3-0 ahead. King made a 104 as he fought back to 3-2, only for Williams to take frame six with a run of 60.

“I played well, it’s good to keep my form going,” said Williams, who has won the Northern Ireland Open and German Masters ranking titles within the past three months. “I have barely lost in the first round all season. I never thought I would have won two ranking events this season, and if I could get a third here that would be brilliant.”

Williams refused to be drawn into a war of words with Darren Morgan, who had accused his fellow Welshman of being a “bully” and a “keyboard warrior” in a dispute about the awarding of wild cards for this event. Asked about Morgan’s comments, Williams said: “I have nothing to add, I would rather talk about that match and the tournament. He has said what he’s said.” Watch Williams interviewed by BBC Wales

Four-time Welsh Open winner John Higgins came through a high quality match against Matthew Selt 4-2. Wishaw’s Higgins made breaks of 100 and 107 to lead 2-1, then compiled an excellent 65 clearance to win frame four. Selt pulled one back with a 71 before Higgins clinched the result in frame six with a 99.

Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou kept his fine run of form going with a 4-0 win over Mitchell Mann, while World Grand Prix semi-finalist Stephen Maguire made a 102 in a 4-2 win over Joe Perry.

Iran’s Soheil Vahedi impressed in a 4-0 win over Alex Borg while former Masters and UK Champion Matthew Stevens beat Ken Doherty 4-1 with a top run of 98.

Kyren Wilson was on for a possible 147 – and a £20,000 bonus – in the third frame of his 4-1 win over Robert Milkins, but missed the black with one red left on 105.

Other than Ronnie playing Graeme Dott, we have some interesting matches today:

John Higgins will play Stephen Maguire, the latter needing points to secure his crucible spot. Mark Selby faces Liang Wenbo in a serious clash of styles, Jack Lisowski vs Lyu Hao Tian should be an all out attack potting fest, and it will be interesting to see how Judd Trump copes with the dangerous Noppon Saengkham.


World Grand Prix 2018 – Ronnie is your Champion!


Ronnie won his 32nd ranking title tonight, beating Ding Junhui by 10-3 in Preston. It was his 4th ranking title this season, and it’s the first time in his career that he wins more than three ranking events over the course of a season.

Congratulations Ronnie!

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those images!

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ding Junhui 10-3 in the final of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix, and has now won four ranking titles in a single season for the first time in his career.

O’Sullivan made three centuries and three more breaks over 50 in a dominant display at the Guild Hall in Preston to take this title for the first time and capture the £100,000 top prize.

It’s the 32nd ranking title of his career, leaving him just four behind Stephen Hendry’s record of 36. O’Sullivan has now won over £600,000 in prize money during the 2017/18 campaign and could become the first player to go past the £1 million barrier in a single season – indeed the £425,000 winner’s cheque at the World Championship alone would take him past that mark.

He had only once previously won three ranking titles in a season – back in 2004/05 – but having landed the English Open in October, Shanghai Masters in November and UK Championship in December, he has now surpassed that – and with five ranking events still to go this term. One more crown would see him equal the record of five in a season, held by Hendry, Ding and Mark Selby.

At the age of 42, O’Sullivan has produced the most consistently excellent snooker of his career over the past five months, with his long potting, break building and tactical game all in superb shape. He remains second behind Selby in the world rankings but the gap is closing.

China’s Ding missed out on the 14th ranking title of his career and second of the season, having won the Yushan World Open in September. The world number four banks £40,000 as runner-up.

The first four frames today were shared, then Chigwell’s O’Sullivan pulled away as breaks of 124 and 105 put him 4-2 ahead. Ding won frame seven on the colours to stay in touch, but his opponent made 59 and 120 (his tenth century of the tournament) to lead 6-3 at the end of the first session.

O’Sullivan took the first two frames of the evening session to extend his advantage to 8-3. Ding had a scoring chance in frame 12 but made only 16, then banged his head on the side of the table in frustration as the contest slipped away. O’Sullivan punished him to make it 9-3, and a quickfire break of 83 in the next completed the scoreline.

“It wasn’t the best performance, I dragged Ding down to my level,” said O’Sullivan, who won his first ranking title back in 1993 at the same venue, when the UK Championship was staged in Preston. “He lost his concentration and I took bits and pieces. I’m always going to score, even when I’m not at my best my cue ball control is still good.

Asked whether he felt when he won that 1993 title he would still be collecting silverware a quarter of a century later, O’Sullivan replied: “Yes, I always believed I could dominate the table, if the form is there titles will just come. It’s great to have 25 years since my first title and hopefully this isn’t my last.

O’Sullivan now heads straight to Cardiff for the Welsh Open which starts on Monday (click here for the match schedule). He added: “It sounds weird but it might be good to lose early there, spend a week in the punditry box, do some analysis and watch the others slug it out. I’ve got my title in the bank.

And looking ahead to the Crucible in the Spring, where O’Sullivan has triumphed five times, he said: “I don’t think I’m capable of winning another world title. You need a lot of staying power there and I am too old. I can play well over a few days, but the World Championship is all about stamina and consistency which is not suited to my game at the moment. But we’ll wait and see.

Ding said: “I had chances in the first session but didn’t take them. It looks like I played rubbish. It is a always dream to play Ronnie in a final and I wanted to play well against him – it doesn’t always happen, but I tried. For the last few months I didn’t play well, but I felt good this week.

Here is part of the Worldsnooker interview:

Those are the stats:

WGP2018FinalStats.pngTo be honest, I agree with Ronnie, he wasn’t at his best, at least not consistently. In the first session of the final, he made a lot of mistakes and got visibly frustrated, but the good thing is that he didn’t let this affect him over time. After bad shots, he regrouped and focused on the next opportunity, something Ding didn’t manage and that, more than anything else, made the difference. Also, Stephen Hendry in the ITV commentary mentioned, several times, that the table wasn’t playing great, that the players were getting a lot of big bounces from the cushion. Both Ronnie and Ding are known for their accurate positional play, and they heavily rely on it,  so this would affect them badly. Hendry said that when you can’t trust the table it’s hard to have any confidence in the shots you play.

Regarding the Crucible comments, I believe they are motivated by two factors. Yes, the Crucible is a test of endurance and consistency. We saw it last year: Ronnie had one bad session, the second of his QF against Ding, and he wasn’t able to recover from the deficit he accumulated in that one against a top player like Ding. I don’t think that Ronnie feels that he currently has the level of consistency required to win the World this year. But there is, in my opinion, another factor: he doesn’t want the “favourite” tag, nor the expectations that come with it. He has to cope with more than his share of expectations as it is. And he’s right in that approach. I stay convinced that the way Trump had put pressure on himself by boasting about “this being his year” played a big part in his first round defeat, he put himself under unnecessary high pressure.

Before the match Ronnie had shared this picture on social media, stating it was “Rocket fuel for peak performance”. Well it worked! And it looks yummy!



World Grand Prix 2018 – Preston Day 6

So after yesterday’s semi-final, it will be Ronnie vs Ding in the best of 19 Final later today. He came out the winner of a marathon match against Mark Selby, a match that lasted for nearly 4 hours 3/4, finished well past midnight and featured two frames lasting over 45 minutes and going to the decider.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Ding Junhui produced a resolute display to win a marathon last four encounter with world number one Mark Selby 6-5 and reach the final of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston.

The Chinese number one was playing the more fluent snooker of the two in an epic semi-final, which amassed four hours and 38 minutes of playing time. Ding now faces a quick turnaround as he prepares to do battle with five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan for the £100,000 top prize.

The clash will see the pair meet in a major final for the fifth time. The Rocket has prevailed in three out of their four showpiece showdowns so far. However, their most recent meeting in a ranking event was at at the 2017 World Championship, where Ding came out on top of a captivating quarter-final 13-10.

That last eight clash was followed by another blockbuster semi-final against Selby, who was a 17-15 victor on the way to his third world title. The year previously Ding also lost out to the Leicester cueman, this time in the 2016 World Championship final 18-14. Those gut wrenching Crucible defeats will make this victory all the sweeter for Ding, who is aiming to lift ranking silverware outside of China for the first time since the 2014 German Masters.

This evening’s Guild Hall tie got underway with a 47-minute frame. Selby eventually took the initiative with a fine long range green to clear the remaining colours and go 1-0 up. Ding restored parity in the second, before the pair proceeded to move up a level in the break building department.

The World Champion regained his advantage with a contribution of 87 in the third frame to go 2-1 up. However, breaks of 91 and 94 either side of the interval saw Ding take the lead for the first time at 3-2. They then traded blows before two-time UK Champion Ding moved to the verge of victory at 5-4 with a century run of 104.

A remarkable tenth frame lasted 52 minutes saw Ding require two snookers, which he got, before Selby eventually forced a decider. It was a final frame where Ding showed his metal, firing in a break of 83 to reach his 19th ranking event final.

The final will be played over 19 frames with the first session kicking off at 1pm.

This is Ronnie 6th final of the season and I’m sure he’s mightily relieved to face Ding rather than Selby, not because he doesn’t believe he can beat Selby, he’s ahead in their head-to-head, nor because he hates him, but very simply because he prefers to play a more fluent snooker and at this stage of his career, enjoying the game is very important to him. This should be a good match between two good friends who appreciate each other.


World Grand Prix 2018 – Preston Day 5

Again it was a day with two halves, the afternoon session seeing the conclusion of the QF round, whilst the evening featured the first SF.

Mark Selby and Ding Junhui emerged the winners of their respective QF, and will play the second SF tonight. Ronnie awaits the winner in the Final tomorrow. 

Here is Worldsnooker report on the afternoon session:

Mark Selby reached the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix with a 5-2 win over Michael White, then expressed his admiration for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s current form.

World number one Selby continued his bid to win a second ranking title of the season, and first since the International Championship in November. He now meets Ding Junhui in the semis on Saturday evening at the Guild Hall in Preston. O’Sullivan made four centuries last night in a 5-0 win over Xiao Guodong and faces Stephen Maguire in the other semi tonight.

Selby was far from his best today, making several unforced errors, but breaks of 69, 59 and 52 helped him to reach the last four and remain in contention for the £100,000 top prize.

I was practising last night then at the interval I saw Ronnie had a 99% pot success rate,” Selby told ITV. “He came in to practise on the other table and I thought he must be looking for that extra 1%! Like Roger Federer he seems to be getting better with age, which is worrying for the rest of us. If I end up meeting him in the final I would prefer that because I’d know if I don’t play well I’d have no chance.

“I got frustrated today because I’m playing well on the practice table but it’s not happening out there in matches. Any pot over six foot, I am not timing and cueing across it. I’m glad I’m still in the tournament but I take pride in my performance so I’m not happy with that. In some frames I am getting three or four chances and only getting 20 points in front. I was trying to force myself to play well today rather than just focusing on trying to win.

Asked about O’Sullivan’s comment earlier in the week that only Selby, Ding and John Higgins have the “bottle” needed to thrive at the top level, Selby added: “That’s harsh on the likes of Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy because they have won the Triple Crown.

China’s Ding got the better of a tough battle against Anthony McGill, winning 5-3. After sharing the first four frames, Ding made a 96 to lead 3-2, then McGill levelled again at 3-3. World number four Ding regained the lead with a superb 134. Scotland’s McGill had a chance to make it 4-4 but he missed the penultimate red when trailing 47-35 in frame eight, and Ding took advantage to reach his first semi-final since he won the Yushan World Open in September.

Everything has been good this week, I have been winning matches with good performances,” said Ding. “It will be very tough against Selby, I will just try to play well. If I could win the first tournament of the Chinese New Year that would be great.

The Selby vs White match was pretty poor standard, but, as so often Mark found a way to win it.  I find it interesting that, asked about Ronnie’s comments, Mark Selby’s reaction was not one of denying the point, it was to stress that a couple of others should be included in the list of “players with bottle”.

Ronnie’s win over Stephen Maguire was anything but straightforward.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

WGP2018ROSSF-1.jpgRonnie O’Sullivan came from 4-2 down to beat Stephen Maguire 6-4 and reach the final of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston.

O’Sullivan will now meet Mark Selby or Ding Junhui on Sunday at the Guild Hall, with the winner to take the trophy and a top prize of £100,000. World number two O’Sullivan has already won the English Open, Shanghai Masters and UK Championship this season and is aiming to win four ranking titles within the same campaign for the first time in his career. The only time he had previously won three in a season was back in 2004/05.

The Rocket is now into his sixth final of the season as he was runner-up at the invitational Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions.

It was Scotland’s Maguire who made a fast start tonight with a break of 103 in the opening frame, and he went on to lead 3-1 at the interval. O’Sullivan pulled one back with a break of 50 then Maguire recovered a 45 point deficit to win the sixth frame on the colours.

Chigwell’s 42-year-old O’Sullivan found another gear when he needed it – as he does so often – and reeled off the next four frames within 42 minutes. Breaks of 72, 83 and 128 (his seventh century of the tournament) put him 5-4 ahead, then runs of 39 and 25 were enough to give him the tenth frame for victory.

I hustled my way through the match, there wasn’t really any good ball striking,” said O’Sullivan, chasing his 32nd ranking title. “I had to draw on my experience and will to win. After the way I played last night (beating Xiao Guodong 5-0) everyone says ‘Ronnie’s flying’ but it was just one match. I’m not flying – I have played three patchy games and one very good one. There’s a lot of work to be done on my game to try to get a higher level of consistency.

Asked whether he feels this is the best form of his career, O’Sullivan added: “No, I think my best was 2011 to 2014 or 2015 when I was dominating and crushing everyone and winning tournaments pretty easily. These days I have to struggle more, I have had to reinvent myself because I can’t attack as much as I’d like to. I have to find ways of breaking my opponents down, a bit like Roger Federer has done in tennis. You can’t keep playing the same game because people will work you out.

The last point Ronnie makes about reinventing one-self is interesting as I feel this is exactly why himself, and Mark Williams, have such longevity, whilst someone like Stephen Hendry didn’t. Hendry never accepted to make changes to his game, and, IMO, it wasn’t because he was past it that he didn’t win a major after the age of 30, he was still in his prime, but because the younger players had learned from him and had found the answer to his game by adopting it, only with an added safety side that Hendry never really wanted to apply himself to.

Watching the match was quite stressful for a Ronnie fan, but very interesting psychologically. Maguire was playing very well, and was taking extremely aggressive shots, getting most of them. His long potting was excellent too: he took an impressive  number of plants, from distance, splitting the pack everywhere in the process. But, at the same time, he adopted a very slow pace. This combination meant that he put Ronnie under a lot of pressure, and, kept him cold, out of rhythm. If I remember correctly, at the MSI, Ronnie only had 31% table time and 83% pot success as he hadn’t been able to construct any telling break. Ronnie was 3-1 down, and it could easily have been 4-0 down, and visibly struggling. Importantly Ronnie managed to win the first after the MSI with a 50 break, but the real turn-point came in the 7th frame. Maguire was 4-2 up at that point, he was first in again, and in a break. At 26, he ran out of position slightly, decided to go for yet another plant and, this time, missed it, leaving Ronnie in with a chance. It’s all it took. Ronnie made 72, and, from then on, he was the one dictating the pace. Both players body language changed. At 4-3, Maguire was still in front, but you could see that the doubts were planted.

There were also additional quotes by Ronnie in the press (excerpts)

“I would rather play Ding because Selby is going to kill me,” O’Sullivan said.

“They better put some late trains on for the public if I play him.

[Against Maguire] was a Selby-like performance, I stuck in there, you cannot play well all the time.”

“Before I did not believe I could turn it around but now I do, miracles can happen.”

World Grand Prix 2018 – Preston Day 4

Yesterday in Preston saw the last 16 round conclude in the afternoon, and the quarter finals start in the evening.

Afternoon session – Worldsnooker report

Mark Selby sealed an emphatic 4-0 defeat of Neil Robertson to progress to the quarter-finals of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston.

The world number one looked out of sorts in yesterday’s last 32 clash with Jimmy Robertson. However, he did turn on the style at the crucial moment, by firing in a run of 75 in the decider to win 4-3. Selby carried that momentum over to this afternoon’s clash.

The Thunder from Down Under dropped out of the world’s top 16 for the first time since 2006 last December, but bounced back immediately with victory at the Scottish Open the seven days later. However, this afternoon’s loss marks the end of Robertson’s quest to add to his trophy cabinet this week in Preston.

Selby began the match in commanding fashion, potting a long red from Robertson’s break off in the opening frame and compiling a sublime 134 to move 1-0 ahead. He didn’t take his foot off the gas and further breaks of 56, 68 and 55 helped him to storm to a comfortable whitewash victory.

He’ll face Michael White in the last eight, who eased to a 4-0 win over Joe Perry. Afterwards Selby admitted he was pleased with the improvement shown this afternoon following his first round display.

“I seemed to stamp my authority on the match from the start,” Selby told ITV. “I have pride in my performance and if I’m not playing well I do get down on myself. I think yesterday’s performance was a kick up the backside.”

Ding Junhui also put on a commanding performance to defeat Mark Joyce 4-1 and join Selby in the last eight.

China’s top star is locked with Robertson and Selby on 13 career ranking crowns and will be hoping that he can be the one to claim a 14th this week and move clear.

The two-time UK Champion’s largest contribution of the tie saw him hammer in a break of 134. Joyce takes the consolation of producing the highest break of the tournament so far with a run of 140 and is in line for the £5,000 high break prize if things stay that way.

Ding’s quarter-final opponent will be Anthony McGill, who was clinical in a 4-1 defeat of 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham.

Victory for McGill, who is currently ranked 15th in the one-year list, is an important one in his bid to be one of the 16 players to progress to next month’s Ladbrokes Players Championship. Bingham will now need a strong showing in his defence of the Welsh Open next week to remain in the race to Llandudno.

The Scot rounded off this afternoon’s win in style with a break of 125 to get himself over the line with two frames to spare.

Every day is different! Mark Selby had been really poor in the first round, but looked very sharp in the the last 16. To his own admission, pride kicked in … and how! His opponent, Neil Robertson was far from his best though.

McGill produced a clean, efficient performance. As Alan McManus put it “Nothing fancy but excellent”. Stuart Bingham on the other hand was well below the form he had shown the day before.

In the evening, Ronnie neeeded only 55’59” to demolish Xiao Guodong, by 5-0, with a 99% pot success and 4 centuries to boot… what can you say? Even him was happy with the performance!

Here is the report on the evening session (Worldsnooker)


The Preston venue has seen some astonishing displays throughout its 40-year history of hosting major snooker events, such as Stephen Hendry’s 10-5 UK Championship final win over Ken Doherty in 1994, where the Scot compiled seven centuries. The Rocket went into overdrive this evening and the standard was up there with the best seen at the Guild Hall.

The 31-time ranking event winner opened proceedings with three consecutive century runs of 105, 102 and 101. Further breaks of 48 and 55 saw O’Sullivan go into the interval 4-0 up. He made short work of finding the one frame he needed when they returned, firing in a fourth century contribution of 106 to seal victory in just 75 minutes.

Xiao had already secured defeats of illustrious opposition this week in recent Masters champion Mark Allen and four-time World Champion John Higgins. However, he was no match for the five-time Crucible king O’Sullivan this evening. The Rocket clocked up a monstrous 522 points throughout the match to Xiao’s 45 and garnered a 99% pot success ratio in the process.

O’Sullivan, who is currently clear at the top of the one-year ranking list on £425,500, has already won three ranking titles this season at the English Open, Shanghai Masters and UK Championship. Few would bet against him adding to that tally this week, based on his display this evening.

“I do sometimes praise myself and that was a very good match. I can play like that quite a lot of the time, so you can understand when I don’t play like that why I get frustrated,” the 42-year-old told ITV. “I think a lot of it is to do with looking after myself. I’ve been working with a nutritionist and I feel like I’ve got more energy and feel a lot healthier.

“I think I have a slight advantage because I don’t need to chase ranking points and I’m not motivated by that. So I come in a lot fresher and that is where my longevity will come through.”

Stephen Maguire defeated 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy 5-2 to reach his third semi-final of the season, where he will face O’Sullivan.

Maguire currently sits in 17th spot in the race to the Crucibleand a strong showing this week could prove to be pivotal as he aims to force his way into the top 16 on the latest provisional seedings and avoid having to go to World Championship qualifying.

The Scot was a finalist at the Riga Masters earlier in the season and reached the last four at the UK Championship in December, where he also faced O’Sullivan. On that occasion the five-time World Champion came out on top in an enticing battle 6-4 and tomorrow evening’s semi-final promises to be an equally exciting spectacle.

Of course today is another day and Stephen Maguire, who is battling to get back in the top 16 before the Crucible will be 100% up for the fight. He will probably have the strongest motivation of the two and he played well against Shaun Murphy (who was far from his best , it has to be said). The stats are against the Scot though as in 21 encounters, Ronnie has beaten him 17 times (source cuetracker). Whatever, it should be a good match!

Thanks to Tai Chengzhe, and Ronnie who shared on FB, for these images!

World Grand Prix 2018 – Preston Day 3

Yesterday in Preston saw the last matches of the last 32 played in the afternoon, and the first four matches of the last 16 played in the evening.

Here is Worldsnooker report on the afternoon session (last 32)

World number one Mark Selby scraped through his opening round clash with Jimmy Robertson 4-3 at the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston.

The manner of Selby’s victory was far from convincing. However, the Leicester potter showed his trademark tenacity and dug deep to set up a mouth watering last 16 clash with fellow 13-time ranking event winner Neil Robertson.

The World Champion suffered disappointing early exits at the season’s first two Triple Crown events the UK Championship and the Masters and is now looking to build momentum as the season gears towards the Crucible.

The opening frames saw both players craft good chances among the balls,  but neither were able to fully capitalise and construct significant contributions. There was never more than a solitary frame between the pair this afternoon, but it was the Jester who produced his best at the vital moment.

With the scores locked at 3-3, Robertson spurned the first opportunity in the decider. Selby then stepped up to the plate and made a break of 75 to force himself over the line.

“I probably should have lost it,” said the World Champion. “I didn’t expect Jimmy to miss in the final frame and I thought he was going to win it in that visit. I was just happy to get a chance and when I did get one I managed to capitalise.

“Winning breeds confidence and if you aren’t winning then it goes the opposite way and you start doubting yourself, no matter what you have achieved in the past. Sometimes you start questioning yourself and go back to the practice table.”

Stuart Bingham secured a fine 4-2 victory over an in form Mark Williams to keep his hopes of clinching a place in the Ladbrokes Players Championship alive.

Bingham has just returned from a three-month suspension for breaching betting rules and he is hoping to hit the ground running this week, in a bid to climb into the top 16 of the one year list and qualify for Llandudno.

Williams produced a blistering display at the recent German Masters, winning 15 of 17 frames in the last four and the final to clinch his 20th ranking title. However, he surrendered a healthy lead this afternoon and fell at the first hurdle.

The 2015 World Champion Bingham trailed 2-0 and was 56-0 down in the third frame, before potting a superb red and clearing with 64 to mount an impressive fightback. He claimed four frames in a row to book a last 16 clash with Anthony McGill.

Ding Junhui brushed aside 2016 Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King 4-1 to secure his last 16 place.

China’s top star hasn’t won a ranking title outside of his home country for four years and will be hoping to end that run this week. He top scored this afternoon with a break of 75.

Ding will face Mark Joyce in the last 16, who came from 3-1 down to defeat Masters finalist Kyren Wilson 4-3.

Mark Selby was indeed very poor in his win over Jimmy Robertson, but he’s through and, at the end of the day, it’s all that matters. Jimmy should have won it really, but most certainly a mix of lack of experience on the biggest stages and a certain frailty under pressure cost him eventually. He’s improving though and he certainly can play! As for Mark Selby, his tenacity can only be admired but if his game doesn’t improve I doubt that it will be enough against another Robertson, Neil, who he faces this afternoon.

Stuart Bingham is out to prove himself after his suspension. He played really well in beating Mark Williams. He looked a man on a mission out there!

And here is Worldsnooker report on the (first part of the) evening session (last 16) :

WGP2018ROSL16-1Ronnie O’Sullivan came through a tough battle against Yan Bingtao 4-3 to reach the last eight of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston – then accused snooker’s younger generation of being “flaky under the cosh.”

O’Sullivan, chasing his fourth ranking title of the season, had to come from 3-2 down at the Guild Hall to beat talented 18-year-old Yan. The Rocket will now meet John Higgins or Xiao Guodong on Thursday evening (tickets still available – click here for details).

A break of 121 gave O’Sullivan the opening frame then China’s Yan took the second on the colours and made a 71 to lead 2-1. O’Sullivan’s 58 made it 2-2 then his opponent compiled a run of 84 to regain the lead.

Yan had a chance for victory in frame six but could only make 49 and O’Sullivan cleared with 75 for 3-3. Both players had chances in the decider but O’Sullivan eventually won it 81-38 to progress to round three.

“I don’t think either of us played really well,” world number two O’Sullivan told ITV. “I had to dig in because I had no touch and feel. My timing was all over the place but my competitiveness kicked in and that’s why I won.

“Yan is a very good talent. I don’t know if he has got any bottle. A lot of the players that are meant to be doing the business, they’re not doing it because they don’t seem to be able to do it under pressure. It doesn’t matter how good you are – if you can’t perform under pressure then you’re going to get to quarters, semis and finals but then get found out.

“I think there are only four or five players on the circuit who have got any bottle. John Higgins has it, Stephen Hendry had it in abundance, Ding Junhui and Mark Selby have a bit of it – other than that they all get a bit flaky under the cosh.

“If you want to get to quarters and semis and be a journeyman that’s fine, but if you want to win tournaments you have to learn to win under pressure. Stephen (Hendry) taught me that when I was a kid, I watched him and realised I had to change my game and do certain things at certain times in a match.”

Michael Georgiou’s winning streak of eight consecutive matches ended as he went down 4-3 against Stephen Maguire. Coral Shoot Out champion Georgiou came from 3-0 down to 3-3 with top breaks of 57 and 68, only for Maguire to win the decider 70-17. Glasgow’s Maguire now meets Shaun Murphy or Jack Lisowski.

Personally I think that Ronnie was too harsh, both on himself and on his young opponent. For what I’ve seen so far this week, this was one of the best matches on display. yes, there were a few mistakes, but frankly, not that many. both played excellent safeties, both made big breaks.


Ronnie’s reflections on Yan maybe lacking bottle were probably motivated by the feeling that his young opponent should have beaten him yesterday, and didn’t because himself managed to get the better of Yan mentally. It may well be so, but, of course, Yan is only 18 and Ronnie has 25 years experience as a top pro. Give the kid some time to develop Ron!

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for these images

There was also an incident with the ref, Jan Scheers, who insisted in replacing the cue ball in a certain spot, when the TV image clearly showed it wasn’t there originally and Ronnie sticking to his guns and refusing to play the shot until it was right. I was watching on ES with French commentary (they are clueless, honestly, not knowing the rules, not recognising a “snookers required” situation, not even knowing the players names sometimes!) and the commentator was giving Ronnie a lot of stick, claiming that the ref was right and that Ronnie was trying to disrupt the match … when the images before/after on the screen were clearly showing that the ball was definitely not where it should be by about 10cm!

I also watched most of the Higgins vs Xiao match. The standard was not as good as the ROS vs Yan match, but Xiao certainly doesn’t lack bottle. He showed his will to win again yesterday evening, against an inconsistent John Higgins who mixed the sublime with the poor. Once again, this match exposed the fact that Higgins isn’t anymore the man he used to be under pressure IMO. Xiao will be Ronnie’s opponent tonight and, although I make Ronnie slightly favourite, I expect a close match.


World Grand Prix 2018 – Preston Day 2

Yesterday in Preston saw eight more last 32 matches played and yielded two “upsets” with Mark Allen and Judd Trump going out.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

Masters champion Mark Allen suffered a shock first round exit at the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston, following a 4-3 defeat to Xiao Guodong.

The Antrim potter enjoyed the finest moment of his career last month, as he lifted a Triple Crown title for the first time by winning the Masters at Alexandra Palace. However, Allen now needs to put in some strong showings in ranking tournaments for the remainder of the season.

He currently occupies 16th position in the race to the Crucible, with his prize money from winning the 2015 Players Championship set to come off of his tally next month. Allen needs to remain in that top 16 to avoid having to qualify for the World Championship.

2013 Shanghai Masters finalist Xiao is enjoying his best campaign in several seasons, having reached two ranking quarter-finals. That has helped him to qualify for this week’s event, which involves the top 32 players on the one-year ranking list. Xiao defeated world number one Mark Selby at the recent German Masters. However, he needed an impressive fightback to claim his latest scalp this afternoon.

It had looked as if the Chinese potter was heading for an early exit when Allen made breaks of 86 and 51 to storm into a 3-0 lead. However, Xiao showed his resolve by winning four frames on the bounce, with breaks of 89, 78 and 71, to reach the last 16.

John Higgins won a thrilling clash with Ali Carter 4-3 to book his place against Xiao in the last 16.

The four-time World Champion enhanced his already strong head to head record against Carter and has now won 13 of their 18 professional meetings. Higgins gave himself an opportunity for a 147 in the second frame, after potting 12 reds with blacks. However, he eventually broke down on 96.

Higgins said: “I’m delighted to have won because I was away for a week’s holiday with the family after the Masters, as I knew there were a big couple of months coming up. I’ve not really touched my cue for two or three weeks. That win has given me a bit of confidence for what is ahead.”

Stephen Maguire secured an important victory in his bid to gain an automatic Crucible spot for the World Championship, whitewashing China Championship semi-finalist Li Hang 4-0.

Maguire currently lies in 18th place in the race to the Crucible, but he knows that a string of good results and qualification for the Ladbrokes Players Championship in Llandudno, which hosts the 16 best placed players on the one-year money list, could prove to be pivotal in his bid for Crucible qualification.

The Scot matched compatriot Higgins’ 147 attempt, potting all blacks and reds before missing on 96 in the last frame as he ran out a comfortable winner.

It wasn’t all good news for the Scottish contingent in Preston, as Joe Perry defeated 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott 4-2.

Dott was aiming to reach a third consecutive ranking final this week after appearing in back-to-back showpiece ties at the German Masters and the Shoot Out.

However, Perry looked the sharper this afternoon and composed runs of 62 and 60 on his way to the victory.

Evening session:

Michael White produced an impressive display to defeat Judd Trump 4-1 and progress to the last 16 of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston.

World number 28 White, who won his second ranking title at the Paul Hunter Classic earlier in the season, has made a habit of claiming big name scalps at the Guild Hall. He beat four-time World Champion John Higgins in the first round of last year’s event.

Trump’s disappointing start to 2018 continues. The 2011 UK Champion surrendered a 5-2 lead in his Masters semi-final against Kyren Wilson last month, eventually losing out 6-5. Trump will also miss out on the season’s penultimate event, the China Open, after losing his qualifying clash with world number 86 Jak Jones.

White compiled runs of 55 and 89 on his way to establishing a 3-1 advantage. The fifth frame then went to a re-spot with the scores tied at 42-42 and White forced himself over the line with a sweetly cued black from long range.

The Welshman punched the air after scoring a fine win and revealed afterwards that he is in the process of implementing some changes with his game.

“I’ve been practising hard over the last week or so. I’ve tweaked a couple of things with my game and it didn’t quite come out as I would have liked tonight,” said the 26-year-old from Neath. “I felt that my cue action was too short and I have just tried to lengthen my backswing. I still need to work on it.”

Anthony McGill recorded a 4-1 defeat of Scottish Open finalist Cao Yupeng.

It was an important clash in the race to qualify for the Ladbrokes Players Championship. Only the top 16 in the one-year list will progress to the lucrative Llandudno event and this evening’s match saw the 15th and 18th ranked players meet.

The Scot top scored with a century run of 102 and will face either Mark Williams or Stuart Bingham in the last 16.

2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy continued one of the best seasons of his career with a 4-1 defeat of Ricky Walden.

The Magician picked up a significant victory at the Champion of Champions earlier in the season, when he defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final. He’s also been runner-up at the China Championship, Paul Hunter Classic and UK Championship this term.

Murphy sealed his victory this evening in impressive fashion with contributions of 84 and 105 in the last two frames and will face Jack Lisowski in the last 16.

Neil Robertson also racked up a 4-1 win, defeating David Gilbert to book his last 16 spot.

The Thunder from Down Under dropped out of the world’s top 16 before Christmas, but instantly bounced back with a 13th ranking event victory at the Scottish Open in December.

Robertson looked to be in impressive touch this evening making four breaks over fifty and top scoring with 102 to clinch victory.

Some thoughts about the action I had the opportunity to watch.

This defeat is of course very bad news for Mark Allen, although with Marco Fu’s future in doubt, and his participation in the World Championship anything but certain, even a 17th spot might be sufficient to avoid the qualifiers. Allen had a 3-0 lead and at that stage every signs of a likely whitewash were on the board. But somehow, with nothing to lose, Xiao seemed to relax and started to play, really well. To be fair to Allen, he didn’t do much wrong in losing the last four frames. Xiao is very solid under pressure and it showed again in the decider. He’s certainly capable to cause John Higgins a few problems tonight.

Higgins and Carter served us a high quality match, the safeties in particular were excellent. Higgins started very impressively, lead 2-0, then made one bad mistake that seemed to knock him off and allowed Carter to win three frames on the bounce. This is something that I have noticed quite regularly about Higgins’ game in recent years. It’s up to his opponents to pounce when he’s rattled. He makes mistakes, he’s vulnerable, especially in the first rounds, BUT if you don’t kill him off there and then he’ll come back at you with a vengeance!

Judd Trump was quite simply poor in his defeat to Michael White who was far from his best himself. Michael explained afterwards that he’s making adjustments to his game which probably explains the number of unexpected mistakes he made. But there is no explanation for Trump’s string of debacles, other than, probably, low confidence, and, in my view, the wrong attitude. Once again he took some very low percentages shots that cost him dear. Why? I know that players have to play their own game, but when it clearly doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to question a few things? Players like Ronnie and Mark Williams have reinvented themselves in the course of their careers, whilst at the same time staying true to their natural game. They both have worked on their mental side, albeit in different ways. I think it’s time for Judd to sit down and calmly, honestly, assess where he stands and take the necessary steps to do himself and his talent justice. There wasn’t any report of a post-match this time, but only too often, in the last year and a bit, his reaction to a defeat has been: I was the better player, but he got all the run. Such thing may happen, once in a while, but when it becomes a pattern, sorry, but no, that’s delusion. As usual the reactions on social media were a mixed bag: some slagging Judd off for his “arrogance”, others blaming his management for his poor performances. I believe that both camps are in the wrong. I have no doubt that Judd isn’t in a good place at the moment, doubts have clearly undermined his self-belief and confidence and he needs help. A brazen attitude is often a facade and an attempt to hide inner uncertainties. But you can only be helped when you actually accept that there is a problem and accept to work on it. Judd’s manager is the man who eventually convinced Ronnie to work with Peters, I’m certain that he would advise Judd wisely, provided that Judd would be ready to take the step. It’s in BOTH interest that Judd succeeds. And it’s not the manager, it’s the player, and them only, who decide on the shots during matches.

Finally, Shaun Murphy was far from faultless, but had far too much for a still struggling Ricky Walden. Ricky is slowly improving after the nightmare he suffered with his back injuries. I’d love to see him play as well as he can again, but I’m not sure about his future, alas. It’s hard to assess Murphy’s form accurately from this match, he didn’t need to be at his best.