UK Championship 2018 – Day 1

The UK Championship started yesterday and Worldsnooker published this extended preview.

Except Ricky Walden being beaten by Jak Jones, there weren’t any real big surprises. There weren’t really any interesting matches on streaming either, all being firmly one-sided. None of the seeds on the streamed tables played really well either, Ding, in particular, was very poor; I suppose that it’s hard to get fully focused when the match is … a mismatch.

Anyway, here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui both made winning starts as the Betway UK Championship got underway in York.

Australia’s Robertson, champion here in 2013 and 2015, eased to a 6-2 win over Kishan Hirani with a top break of  110. He had a glimmer of an opportunity for a 147 in frame six but broke down on 72 after potting nine reds with blacks.

“The first round can be tricky here so I’m happy to get through,” said Robertson, who now meets Thepchaiya Un-Nooh or Jimmy White in the last 64. “It’s a bit strange coming here not knowing what to expect, because I had never seen Kishan play before.

“I had a great chance of a 147 but didn’t get a good cannon on the reds on 72, otherwise I probably would have made it. I am loving practice and coming to tournaments now, if I had won the International Championship final (which he lost to Mark Allen) it would have been my best ever season up to this point.

“There’s something a little bit different about the Triple Crown events, even on the way up to York I could feel it. The crowds are always good, the conditions are good and the top players all feel the importance of it.”

China’s Ding, UK Champion in 2005 and 2009, saw off Adam Stefanow 6-1 with a top run of 66 to earn a match with Matthew Selt or Zhang Yong.

“I didn’t play well today,” said Ding. “Adam had chances and it could have been different if he had taken them. I have been practising hard and hopefully I can get better each day.”

Jack Lisowski eased to a 6-1 win over Zhang Jiankang in just 89 minutes, knocking in breaks of 82, 120, 56, 53, 51 and 115. The result boosts Lisowski’s position in the Race to the Masters and his hopes of making his debut at Alexandra Palace in January. He remains in 16th place, now £11,100 ahead of 17th-placed Marco Fu.

“It’s a good start, the tables played well and it was easy to score,” said Lisowski. “Everyone is talking about the Masters race but I’m just focused on this one because it’s a massive tournament. If I get into the Masters that will be a bonus but I’m just riding the wave at the moment.”

Ken Doherty set up a last 64 match with either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Luke Simmonds thanks to an impressive 6-2 defeat of Yuan Sijun. From 2-1 down, 49-year-old Doherty reeled off five frames in a row with top runs of 130 and 82.

“It was nice to play well, it was good quality stuff,” said Doherty, who reached the UK Championship final in 1994, 2001 and 2002 but has never lifted the trophy. “You have to be on your game from the start in every tournament now, otherwise you’ll be at home watching it on TV or in my case sitting in the commentary box.

“If I do play Ronnie next I’ll really look forward to it. The last time I played him in this tournament was the 2001 final when he beat me 10-1 so I’ll try not to think about that because it’s a really bad memory. These are the type of matches I really want to play, and I’ve got nothing to lose because everyone expects Ronnie to win. I still love snooker and trying to compete and that’s why I’m still playing.”

Up-and-coming Chinese teenager Luo Honghao thrashed Michael Georgiou 6-0 with a top break of 74.

Evening session:

Kyren Wilson has never been beyond the last 32 of the Betway UK Championship but hopes this year will bring his first deep run, having beaten Andy Lee 6-0 in the opening round in York.

Wilson is a multiple title winner and has reached the final of the Masters and the semi-finals of the World Championship, but surprisingly is yet to reach the last 16 of UK Championship in his six previous attempts. The Kettering cueman fired breaks of 94 and 101 today as he strolled into the last 64, where he will face Mike Dunn or Allan Taylor.

“This tournament is at the top of my list to do well in,” said Wilson. “I have done well at the World Championship and the Masters so now this is the one I am targeting.  From the second round the TV cameras come in and it gets more exciting.

“I am getting close to the big titles, I’ll keep knocking on the door and I’m sure they will come. Hopefully people enjoy watching me play because I wear my heart on my sleeve, it means so much to me and I try so hard every time I play.”

Judd Trump arrived in York at the top of his game having won the Northern Ireland Open earlier this month, his first ranking title in over a year. And he continued his winning streak by beating David Lilley 6-0 with top runs of 128 and 113.

“I didn’t think I played very well, I made a couple of important clearances but otherwise I felt rusty out there,” said 2011 UK Champion Trump, who now meets Dominic Dale or Gerard Greene. “I got a bit of luck and the scoreline was flattering. I just wanted to get through the first round so I can get into the tournament. When you win a tournament then you start the next one in the first round you are a bit deflated and you’re trying to get up for it again.”

It was a good day for the seeded players in York as all four top 16-ranked players made it through to the second round. There were wins earlier in the day for Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui.

Robert Milkins top scored with 82 in a 6-1 win over Sanderson Lam while Michael Holt saw off Chen Zifan by the same scoreline.

Surprise result of the day was a 6-5 win for world number 102 Jak Jones over three-time ranking event winner Ricky Walden. From 5-3 down, Jones made breaks of 98 and 114 to recover to 5-5, then took a tense decider by clearing from green to pink.

Looking at the young ones, Luo Honghao confirms the quality he showed in winning the inaugural WSF Championship in Malta last spring. I was expecting a much closer match between Yuan Sijun and Ken Doherty, and, if I’m completely honest I expected Yuan to win it. I can only suppose that Ken had too much on the tactical side for the young Chinese. That said, Ken can still play; he will be Ronnie’s second-round opponent, provided Ronnie gets through his first-round match tomorrow.

Today, it’s exactly 25 years since Ronnie won his first ranking event, the Royal Liver Assurance UK Championship at Preston Guild Hall, in a time when not all events were backed by the gambling industry.

Today we are in for more mismatches on the stream, I’m afraid. One of the streamed matches though will be John Higgins v Dechawat Poomjaeng. I hope that “Poomy” is fully over the health issues he suffered over the last years, I’m wishing him well. At least that match could be very funny although I’m not sure that John Higgins will see it that way. I still remember a shocked and traumatised Stephen Maguire after his first-round defeat at the Crucible in 2013


2 thoughts on “UK Championship 2018 – Day 1

  1. No, I watched the Yuan-Doherty match, and Ken played extremely well. Possibly the teenager got a bit desperate near the end, but Ken scored heavily every time he got in.

    The reason for the ‘mismatches’ is that the draw is not actually random, but completely seeded, from 1-128. With only 124 active professionals, and Rhys Clark missing again, in fact the top 5 seeds play amateurs. However, the way the rankings work (or DO NOT WORK) is that some of the weaker players are still in the 80-90 range, but haven’t yet been overtaken by the players in their first year of a 2-year card. But in general, the best players should be assured of reaching the 2nd round, which is when the BBC coverage starts, which is probably what you’d want in such a major tournament.

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