There weren’t any big shocks on day 1, but that all changed yesterday in York as Ryan Day and Shaun Murphy both lost to tour debutants. John Higgins also was given a scare.
Read here the accounts on Wourdsnooker:
Shaun Murphy, champion ten years ago, suffered a shock 6-3 defeat against world number 124 Chen Feilong in the first round of the Betway UK Championship.
Murphy has had a disappointing start to the 2018/19 campaign, failing to go beyond the last 16 of a ranking event, but this was the most surprising defeat of his season so far. He took the UK title in 2008 and was runner-up in 2012 and 2017, but this time the world number nine misses out on the TV stages in York.
Chen, age 36, is playing on the pro tour for the first time this season and had only won one match previously, but he played some excellent snooker today. From 3-1 down, he knocked in breaks of 54, 88, 54 and 49 to go 5-3 ahead, before sealing victory in a tense ninth frame by potting the last blue and pink. He goes through to the last 64 to face Martin O’Donnell.
Murphy said: “I didn’t see that coming because I have been practising so hard, my preparation for this event has been fantastic. I have had a terrible season so far but that has left me a lot of time to practise and I feel my game is in such good shape. But I’m still waiting for that to come through.
“Chen played some great snooker after the interval and he deserved it in the end. He potted some outrageous balls when I had him in the long grass. I thought he might twitch a bit towards the end, but he didn’t. I can’t wallow in self-pity and give up, I have to keep on going.”
Ryan Day, ranked 12th, was another top 16 player to head for the exit door as he lost 6-2 to world number 121 Joe O’Connor. Leicester’s 23-year-old O’Connor, another tour debutant, made a top break of 55 as he got the better of an out-of-sorts Day.
O’Connor said: “It’s definitely the best win of my career so far. Surprisingly I didn’t get nervous towards the end, I have played on the match table here a couple of times before so that helped. It’s massive for my confidence because it shows I can beat the top players. I will always think back to this day.”
Marco Fu kept up his hopes of a place in the Masters by beating Hammad Miah 6-0 with a top break of 101. As it stands, Fu is 17th in the Race to the Masters so he must reach at least the last 16 in York otherwise he will miss snooker’s biggest invitation event for the first time since 2013.
“I was really nervous today because the UK Championship is a big event and I have been struggling so far this season,” said Hong Kong’s Fu, who missed several months of snooker after having laser eye surgery earlier this year. “Sometimes you can try too desperately to do well. After the first couple of frames I settled down a bit, tried to play a bit quicker and just let it happen rather than worrying too much.
“My eyes are still recovering from the surgery, I am waiting for the retina to settle. I still see black spots, some days it’s worse than others. I try to take it easy on my eyes by not practising too much but at this level you have to be 100% ready for every tournament. So it’s difficult, but I just need to win a few matches, a good run might be around the corner. I am not thinking about the Masters, if I’m not in it will be my own fault because I haven’t been playing well.”
Stuart Bingham ended a run of three consecutive defeats by beating James Wattana 6-0. Bingham won the English Open last month then suffered a dip in form but looked back in shape today as breaks of 92 and 78 helped him to a comfortable victory.
Joe Perry was another 6-0 winner as he white-washed John Astley with a top run of 143 – the new front-runner for the £5,000 high break prize.
Perry reached the final of the European Masters last month before losing to Jimmy Robertson. “I was really disappointed to lose that match,” Perry reflected today. “Not because they way I played, just because I lost. It was the first final I had ever started as favourite and it was a big opportunity. That knocked me back a bit and I’ve had a few poor results since. But today was the best I have played in a long time.”
Joe Swail came from 5-3 down to beat Michael White 6-5 while Tom Ford made a 119 in a 6-5 win over Craig Steadman. Eden Sharav came from 5-1 down to 5-5 against Sunny Akani, only for Thailand’s Akani to win the decider with a run of 67.
John Higgins admitted he was fortunate to win a late-night battle against Dechawat Poomjaeng 6-5 to reach the second round of the Betway UK Championship.
After the shock exits of Shaun Murphy and Ryan Day earlier in the day Higgins looked in danger of becoming another high profile casualty in the first round in York when he frittered away leads of 4-1 and 5-3. He made a break of 101 in the fourth frame but otherwise struggled for fluency as Thailand’s Poomjaeng battled back to 5-5.
Amateur cueman Poomjaeng had two early chances in the deciding frame but missed one red to a centre pocket and another to a baulk corner. Gritty Higgins made a crucial break of 60 which proved enough for victory in a match which finished at 12.30am. Three-time UK Champion Higgins now faces a tartan tussle against Alan McManus in the last 64.
“That’s the way I have been playing all season, it’s no surprise to me how badly I struggled there,” said 43-year-old Higgins. “I was really lucky because Dechawat had a good chance in the last frame, if he had potted the red to the middle I would have fancied him to make a frame-winning break because all the balls were there.
“I don’t know how I’ll play in the next game against Alan but I’ll look forward to it. There is no one who has more respect for Alan than me, I have learned a lot from him and I know how tough he is.”
“It’s a potential banana skin out of the way,” said world number seven Allen, who won his fourth ranking title at the International Championship earlier this month. “I scored when I got chances but I will need to play a lot better in the next round. I feel as if I am one of the contenders this year, which I haven’t been over the last few years. I just hope I am still here this time next week.”
Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh beat Jimmy White 6-3 with top breaks of 81, 84, 83 and 110. Local favourite Paul Davison, from Pickering, saw off Stuart Carrington 6-1 with a top run of 77.
European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson made a 133 in a 6-4 win over Jordan Brown while Yushan World Open finalist David Gilbert top scored with 128 and 122 in a 6-3 win over Ashley Carty.
Chen Feilong looked all at sea before the MSI, probably because he had never been in that situation, playing a top player on the main streamed table. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he adapted and held himself together. There were posts on twitter along the line “I’m not impressed by Murphy’s opponent”. Well I am, because Chen went for and did pot some very hard balls under pressure in the second part of the match. He just won five frames on the trot, mind.
Stuart Bingham enjoyed an emphatic win over James Wattana, without playing fantastic. I must say that I found this match hard to watch. It’s never nice to see a great player, decline and James was a great player. I will never say “he should retire” because that should always be the player’s choice and if James still wants to play and is given the opportunity, he should play. There were glimpses of his tactical astuteness but his potting is gone.
Speaking of retirement, Domininc Dale who won his first match here but is in real danger to drop off the tour at the end of the season, said that this season is very likely to be his last and that he would be gratefull if he could find a job in commentary or punditry. I’m not surprised. I last spoke to Dominic at SWSA last summer, at the Pink Ribbon. It was obvious that he was out of love with the game and, more than that, with the hectic way the tour is going.
Marco Fu’s concerns about his eyes must be a serious weight on his mind. I doubt that Marco read this blog, but if he does, here is my experience, having suffered a similar condition. The spots never go, but what happens is that your brain learns to “forget” about them. They are still there but you don’t “see” them anymore … most of the time. That’s what the ophtalmologist had told me during the first months after the accident, and he was right. However, when I very tired, or if I suffer a bout of migraine, they are back hindering my vision. Not great but manageable. Then of course, I’m not a snooker player and certainly don’t need the level of visual accuracy they need.