UK Championship 2018 – Day 3

There we go … yesterday we lost one of the poster boys as Mark Selby crashed out to amateur James Cahill. Probably the biggest shock of the round, although Mark Selby hasn’t done great in Triple Crown events over the last year; in fact he has now lost in the first round he played in all three of them. It’s all the more bizarre because Mark has already won a ranking tournament in China earlier this season.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Morning and afternoon sessions

Flu-stricken Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted he could “barely focus on the balls” during his first round tie with Luke Simmonds at the Betway UK Championship but he still managed a 6-1 victory.

O’Sullivan won this title for the sixth time last year to equal the record set by Steve Davis so one more would put him out on his own with seven. He is also level with Stephen Hendry on 18 Triple Crown titles so another piece of history is up for grabs for the Rocket in York.

And despite a slow start today the 42-year-old had little trouble in booking a last-64 match with Ken Doherty, on Sunday at 1pm.

Amateur Simmonds, who works part-time in a factory making car parts, looked as if he could manufacture a massive shock when he took the first frame with a break of 56. But O’Sullivan gradually took control, taking two scrappy frames to lead 2-1.

The 33-time ranking event winner then stepped up a gear and rattled through the last four frames in just 50 minutes with breaks of 97, 118, 112 and 77. The brace of centuries brought his career tally of tons to 980.

“I must have a virus because I felt awful today, at one point I wasn’t sure if I could get through the match because I couldn’t even focus on the balls,” said O’Sullivan, who has already won the Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions this season. “I had to just grind it out. It felt like one of the hardest matches I have ever had to play.

“Every shot felt like a black ball in the world final. My back hand was shaking and I kept thinking I was going to feather the white because I couldn’t focus. I am struggling now just to keep my eyes open. I know I’m good but I can’t avoid getting flu!”

As for his opponent, O’Sullivan added: “I can’t believe Luke is a factory worker because he’s got more shots than 80% of the players on the tour. He’s got talent and he would beat a lot of players. He played as if he had nothing to lose today and played some lovely stuff.

“I could have lost today and if I had done I would have had to accept that’s how snooker is now. I’d take losing in ten first rounds this season if it meant winning three trophies. I’m not a quarter-finals or last 16 man, for me it’s all about wins and there are probably only a handful of players who have that attitude. Once the wins dry up then you won’t see me around.”

Sam BairdSam Baird enjoyed a tremendous come back from 5-1 down to beat Liang Wenbo 6-5 with a top break of 90. “At 5-1 down I was thinking about my first pint,” said world number 105 Baird. “Liang played so well to go 5-1 up, he potted every long ball and made big breaks. I was just admiring him, thinking there was nothing I could do about it.

“Usually I would fall apart, it’s easy to do that when you have no rhythm. But I still felt I could do something if I got chances. When I started coming back at him I knew it would be a horrific feeling for him. At 5-4 I knew he’d be panicking. It’s got to be my best ever come back.”

Stephen Maguire, the 2004 UK Champion, recovered a 3-1 deficit to beat Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg 6-3. Glasgow’s Maguire took the last five frames with a top break of 82.

Barry Hawkins beat Jamie Clarke 6-0 with a top break of 76 while 2003 UK Champion Matthew Stevens saw off Ross Muir 6-4 with a top run of 102.

Luca Brecel top scored with 103 as he came from 3-0 down to beat Fan Zhengyi 6-4 while Iran’s Hossein Vafaei edged out York’s Ashley Hugill 6-5.

China’s Yan Bingtao made a 106 in a 6-1 defeat of Lukas Kleckers while 2006 UK Champion Peter Ebdon made a 103 in a 6-2 win over Chris Totten.

Evening session

World number one Mark Selby was the victim of the one of the biggest shocks in Betway UK Championship history as he lost 6-3 to amateur James Cahill in the first round.

Three-time World and two-time UK Champion Selby was one of the favourites for the title but failed to even make it to the TV stages in York as he was outplayed by 22-year-old Cahill, who was handed a place in the 128-man field as one of the leading ‘top-ups’ from the Q School ranking list.

This is familiar territory for Cahill as he beat Ding Junhui on the way to the last 16 of the same tournament four years ago. He subsequently dropped off the pro tour in 2017 but showed today he still has the ability and temperament to compete on the big stage. The Blackpool cueman goes through to the last 64 to face Sunny Akani.

Cahill won the first four frames with a top break of 70. Selby pulled one back and had chances in frame six but missed a short-range final pink to a centre pocket, allowing his opponent to go 5-1 ahead.

A scrappy seventh frame went Selby’s way then he made a 103 to close to 5-3. The ninth came down to a safety battle on the final pink, and Cahill converted a brilliant pot along the length of a side cushion to seal victory.

“Mark didn’t play as well as he can, but even at 5-1 up against him you know there’s still a match on,” said Cahill. “In the last frame I thought if I got a chance on the pink I’d just go for it because you don’t want to be in a safety battle against Mark. I didn’t feel nervous after the first frame, there was more pressure on Mark.

“In my last season on tour I used 11 different cues, I was all over the place and losing games. After that I had some time away from snooker because I had been playing every day for ten years. Now I’m back into it, I’ve got good people around me and I’m practising hard. I feel I am playing better now than I have done in the past. I feel as if I am good enough to compete with the best and I have proved that a few times, I just need to show more consistency.”

Selby is now in danger of losing his world number one spot for the first time since February 2015. If Mark Williams goes all the way to the title in York he will go top of the rankings.

Leicester’s Selby said: “I was rubbish all match, I didn’t get going at all. I’m devastated because it’s a big tournament. I felt flat and couldn’t get myself up for the match which is strange because it’s such a big event. If I had potted the pink to go 4-2 I probably would have won because he was wilting at that stage. I have been playing really well lately so to perform like that is a real surprise for me.”

World Champion Williams had no such trouble as he beat Adam Duffy 6-2 with a top break of 68.

“This will probably be my last tournament of the year so I’ll try to have a good run,” said Williams. “The last few months have been a bit of a party for me. I’m going on holiday in December and then when I get back before the Masters I will have to knuckle down and get back to normal.”

Ali Carter saw off Thor Chuan Leong 6-3 with a top break of 96 while Anthony McGill squandered a 5-2 lead as he lost 6-5 to Lu Ning.

Daniel Wells set up a match with fellow Welshman Williams by beating Zhao Xintong 6-5. China’s Zhao led 5-4 and potted the final brown to go 23 points ahead in frame ten, but then hit the blue so hard that it flew off the table.

Wells cleared the table, won the frame on a respotted black, and went on to take a tense decider by potting the final pink. He described it simply as: “The maddest match I have ever played.”

You can of course read more about Ronnie’s win here

So, that’s three of the top 16 out: Ryan Day, Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby.

Overall the top players have not been at their best in the first round. It’s a bit of a banana skin for them, playing opponents who have very little to lose and play with freedom, whilst they are expected to win easily.

Today, there is no play as the BBC install their lighting and stuff before their actual broadcasting starts tomorrow.

One thought on “UK Championship 2018 – Day 3

  1. I didn’t see any of the Selby or Williams mateches in the evening – I was in the ‘garage’. For a while in the morning it looked like there might be upsets, with Brecel, Maguire and Xiao all losing at one point. I thought Brecel was erratic, often trying spectacular shots, and playing with extreme amounts of side all the time. He doesn’t quite get my vote at the stupidest player – that goes to someone else. But Fan’s still a kid, and wasn’t able to capitalise on his 3-0 lead. For some players now, best-of-11 seems like a marathon.

    I did watch Ronnie’s match, and also Liang Wenbo’s collapse. He started brilliantly, but then got stuck, which has been happening all too regularly.

    In the evening I watched possibly the most eventful match of all time! There were great pots, great safety battles, century breaks (including a 141), a respotted black, two frames won from snookers-behind, and undoubtably the stupidest shot I have ever seen on a snooker table.

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