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.



One thought on “World Grand Prix 2018 – Preston Day 2

  1. Hooray! Ronnie just beat Yan Bingtao in a decider. I haven’t watched the match yet, but I followed the scores online and it was very stressful…

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