Today saw the last 32 round played to a completion and there were a few surprise results with defeats from Joe Perry, Mark Allen, Stuart Bingham, Ryan Day, Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui. John Higgins was pushed to a decider by Mei Xiwen and it’s only experience that got him through.
This means that we now have five Chinese players in the last 16: Liang Wenbo, Yan Bingtao (who beat Bingham), Yuan Sijun (who beat Ding), Lyu HaoTian (who beat Perry) and Zhao Xintong (who beat the very tough Fergal O’Brien). The last four on this list are 21 years old or younger. The “veteran” Liang Wenbo is only 31.
We have another young Asian player in the draw in Hossein Vafaei, the 24 years old Iranian, who beat Ryan Day.
Facing them, we have nine UK players and one Australian, with only two, Scott Donaldson, 24 years old, and Judd Trump, 29 years old, under the thirty threshold, and actually six of them above 35.
Recently both Ronnie and Hendry have expressed concerns about the future of the game in the UK and Europe and I can see where they come from. For many years now there have been predictions that the Chinese might take over the game, and this was laughed at by many, but, by the looks of it, it’s coming.
I couldn’t watch much, but for what I saw, Shaun Murphy played decently but not at his best, John Higgins was unconvincing despite the win and Mark Selby markedly improved from his previous match.
Speaking of Selby, who was playing the only amateur still in the draw, 16 years old Chang Bingyu, apparently he wasn’t happy about it…
I have said this before but here again is my view on this, as I put it on Facebook:
There is another aspect as well. The Q-school is held in UK only, the qualifiers are held in UK even for the Chinese events and because of those two factors both the top-up system and the challenge tour mainly benefit UK/Irish amateurs who gets the opportunity to hone their skills against top opposition. China injects a lot of money in the game, and CBSA wants similar opportunities for their young players. Until Chinese events are played from last 128 in China and the promised Asian Q-school is reality they will continue to insist on wildcard, and IMO rightly so. The bias in favour of UK players is a reality.
Yuan, who turned professional last year, took a dramatic deciding frame to score the best win of his career so far and reach the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time. He will now meet Mark King, who thrashed Masters champion Mark Allen 5-1.
After sharing the first six frames, Yuan took the seventh with a superb break of 108. He could have sealed the match in the eighth, but missed a red when leading 66-6. China’s top player Ding, winner of 13 ranking titles, fought back and got the snooker he needed to take the frame to the final black. After a safety exchange, Yuan went in-off the black to leave the score at 4-4.
Yuan made 55 in the decider before missing a tricky red, and Ding had a chance to clear, making 40 before leaving the final red in a the jaws of a baulk corner. That proved crucial as Yuan added the points he needed for victory.
“I was so nervous, I’m still feeling it now,” admitted Yuan. “It might take a while to get over the emotions. I took one shot at a time today. I still got a bit emotional towards the end but I got the luck I needed. I think I can play better in my next match and it’s a boost of confidence to beat Ding.”
Ding said: “Given his ability, Yuan has got a lot of potential. It was tough today because I couldn’t control the white ball in the conditions. But Yuan played well so I’m not surprised to lose.”
John Higgins came from 4-2 down to beat Mei Xiwen 5-4. China’s Mei had chances to win the match but couldn’t take them and four-time World Champion Higgins took the last three frames with a top run of 85.
“I was very lucky to win,” said Higgins, who now meets Scott Donaldson in an all-Scottish clash. “Mei had a great chance to go 4-1 up. There’s no way I can go any further if I keep playing like that.”
Donaldson came from 3-2 down to beat Jack Lisowski 5-3 with a top run of 105.
World number one Mark Selby scored a 5-1 win over Chinese wild card Chang Bingyu. A break of 60 gave promising 16-year-old Chang the opening frame, but Selby then took control, winning five frames in a row with runs of 66, 62, 64, 88 and 59.
China’s Yan Bingtao made a 111 in a 5-2 win over Stuart Bingham while Iran’s Hossein Vafaei top scored with 93 in a 5-3 win over Ryan Day.
In a repeat of the 2010 World Championship final, Graeme Dott beat Neil Robertson 5-2 with a top break of 126. Dott, age 41, said: “That’s the best I have played since last season when I got to the German Masters final. The game gets tougher every year but I still enjoy competing, I’m always working on things, tinkering with things, and that keeps me going.”
Thursday’s last 16 line up:
Martin O’Donnell v Liang Wenbo
Lyu Haotian v Shaun Murphy
Judd Trump v Yan Bingtao
Scott Donaldson v John Higgins
Mark Selby v Hossein Vafaei
Mark King v Yuan Sijun
Barry Hawkins v Graeme Dott
Zhao Xintong v Mark Williams
Detailed results (and some footages) on snooker.org