Scottish Open 2018 – Day 3

The second round, last 64, was played yesterday in Glasgow and offered two major talking points: the Defending Champion bowed out to unheralded Ross Muir and John Higgins made the ninth 147 of his career in front of  his own crowd.

Here is the account on Worldsnooker:

Scotland’s four-time World Champion John Higgins produced a magnificent display, including a 147 break, to down Gerard Greene 4-0 at the BetVictor Scottish Open in Glasgow.

Higgins eased into a 2-0 advantage after making a break of 83 in the second frame. What followed was a moment of magic in front of the 30-time ranking event winner’s adoring home crowd. He fired in a spectacular 147 break, the ninth of his career.

That puts him in line for a £22,000 payout, if no other 147s are made this week. Higgins then went on to wrap up the win thanks to a clearance of 32, which allowed him to pinch the fourth frame on the black. The Scot now faces an intriguing last 32 encounter with the talented 18-year-old Yan Bingtao.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Higgins, who just two days ago revealed that he had suffered a broken rib and has talked recently about considering retirement following struggles with his form and a heart breaking 18-16 World Championship final defeat to Mark Williams.

Higgins said: “I got a great ovation at the end there. It was some crowd. It was brilliant and is just one of those things. I think that is the first time I have had a buzz this year since the Crucible.

“When I was practising in the house I felt something. I felt a little bit better and I thought maybe I could take it out into the game and play well today. Luckily I did and it culminated in that break.

“When I played on Monday my rib was really bad because I had some physio on that day. I was in the physio room at 4 o’clock and I was playing at seven because it totally seized up. It is better now after the last couple of days.”

Higgins’ compatriot Ross Muir secured one of the biggest wins of his career, beating defending champion Neil Robertson 4-2.

The Scot, who top scored with 98, admitted after the match that he had to battle through eye problems to secure the victory.

Muir said: “It is certainly up there with the best moments of my career. Beating someone like Neil is very good. These players don’t give you anything and you certainly need to earn it. I was really struggling with my right eye. I’ve been to numerous GPs and opticians and have been diagnosed with being prone to eye migraines.

“I’m proud to have won the game. Performance-wise it wasn’t great. How I am feeling isn’t great, because my eye is a bit blurry. It is a good win though, onto the next one and go again.”

Recent Northern Ireland Open champion Judd Trump put on a blistering display to brush aside Leicester’s Ben Woollaston 4-0.

Trump fired in breaks of 102, 50, 66 and 119 to storm to an impressive victory. He faces China’s Zhang Jiankang in the last 32.

Chinese number one Ding Junhui made breaks of 76 and 111 in a 4-1 win over world number 30 Robert Milkins. Mark Allen is also through to the last 32 after defeating Chen Feilong 4-1.

2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy defeated Michael Holt in a whitewash 4-0 win. While Kyren Wilson also secured a clean sweep of the frames, beating Paul Davison 4-0.

And here is John Higgins maximum:

John’s reaction after the match shows once again that it sometimes doesn’t take much to turn a player’s state of mind around completely. If John continues to play the way he did yesterday, he certainly is a contender for the title.

Neil Robertson was obviously very disappointed and angry after the match and suggested that the referee should have stepped in and asked Ross Muir to speed up. That was before he was told that Ross was struggling with an eye problem. Hearing this, Neil immediately apologised and shortly after came to social media to reiterate his apologies, and admitting that he had “let himself down” by saying this. Neil deserves a lot of credits for that as it does take courage and honesty. It’s a shame that some in the media are not made of the same stuff. There is plenty in the press online about Neil’s outburst but nothing that I have read so far about his apology. Shame! One thing that Neil mentioned, and that Mark Allen had mentioned the day before as well are the conditions; apparently the main table isn’t playing great. Didn’t stop John Higgins to make a 147, but then how much it affects their game might depend of the players style as well.

Judd Trump played well indeed, but, once again Ben Woollaston did have chances in every frame.

Michael White, Ben Woollaston, Marco Fu, Mark Davis, Mark King, Davis Gilbert and Martin O’Donnell also lost yesterday. King lost to David Lilley, an amateur who is competing on the   World Seniors tour. It’s not the first upset that David Lilley is causing and, for me, it shows how the Seniors tour has revived the appetite for competition in a lot of mature players. David Lilley is not even amongst the very best on that tour!

 

 

 

Scottish Open 2018 – Day 2

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the first round in Glasgow.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker, summarising the main results of the last 128 round.

Day 1

Chinese number one Ding Junhui put on a blistering display to sweep aside compatriot Niu Zhuang 4-0 on day one of the BetVictor Scottish Open .

Ding stormed to victory this afternoon, remarkably only conceding two points in the process. Both of those came in the first frame, following which Ding went on a run of 437 unanswered points to get over the finish line.

The 13-time ranking event winner produced a barrage of breaks throughout, firing in contributions of 105, 66, 93 and 134 on his way to the victory.

Ding faces a battle to secure his place at February’s World Grand Prix in Cheltenham. With the top 32 on the one-year list qualifying, he currently lies in 31st position. The series then progresses, as the top 16 gain entry to the Players Championship and only the best eight players of the season qualify for the brand new Tour Championship.

Ding said: “My position on the one-year list isn’t very good at the moment. I need to try and win some matches and make sure I get into the top 32. I will try to enter some more tournaments, practise harder and see what happens.

“Today was a very good performance against another Chinese player. I played very aggressively and didn’t miss any balls. It felt good.”

Top Scottish star John Higgins overcame a broken rib to secure his place in the last 64 with a narrow 4-3 win over amateur Adam Duffy.

The four-time World Champion has admitted to being downbeat with his current form and that he had been considering retirement following a devastating 6-5 loss against Alan McManus at the recent UK Championship. However, Higgins did make a final earlier this season, when he was runner-up to Mark Selby in a nail biting clash 10-9 at the China Championship.

Higgins led this evening’s match 2-0, before eventually being pegged back by Duffy, who forced a deciding frame. The Scot then ultimately got himself over the line with a the help of a break of 53.

“I wouldn’t have played if it wasn’t here in Glasgow. There isn’t far to travel,” said Higgins. “I was out watching the Scottish League Cup football final a couple of weeks ago when I hurt my rib.

“It would be amazing if I could go far, but I really don’t think I will get much further in this event. Adam played well today and potted a few good balls, but he missed some crucial ones so I was lucky.”

Higgins’ fellow Scots Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill succumbed to disappointing defeats. Maguire was beaten 4-1 by Billy Castle, while McGill exits after a 4-2 loss against China’s Zhang Yong.

Defending champion Neil Robertson got his campaign underway with a 4-1 defeat of Peter Lines.

Australia’s 2010 World Champion made breaks of 88, 63 and 67 on his way to this afternoon’s victory.

Day 2

Judd Trump surged to a comfortable 4-0 whitewash of ten-time ranking event winner Jimmy White in under an hour to progress to the last 64 of the BetVictor Scottish Open in Glasgow.

Trump is enjoying a strong run of form, having scored a sensational 9-7 win over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the recent BetVictor Northern Ireland Open. However, he did succumb to a narrow 6-4 loss against Joe Perry in the last 16 of the UK Championship last week.

The last time Trump locked horns with the legendary White in a ranking event was at the 2012 China Open, where he came out a 5-3 victor.

This evening’s match was a more comfortable victory. Trump rattled off four frames in just 45 minutes, composing runs of 73, 61 and 73 on his way to the win.

Trump said: “I played some good stuff at times. Jimmy was always finishing in slightly awkward positions. The table may have been playing a bit differently to what he is used to, as he isn’t on TV as much these days.

“My game is there, you can’t win every tournament you play in. You need to look to the next event and stay positive. I had a bad match at the UK Championship in York and that can happen.”

Mark Allen, fresh off a 10-6 defeat in the UK Championship final against Ronnie O’Sullivan, earned a hard fought 4-2 win over Liang Wenbo.

The Pistol doesn’t have the best of records against China’s Liang. The 2016 English Open champion Liang had won all five of their previous meetings going into today’s clash. However, it was Allen who got the win this evening, making breaks of 69 and 78 along the way.

“It was all about the win. I knew it probably wasn’t going to be pretty after Sunday night’s antics,” said Allen. “It is nice to finally get a win over Liang. He has had my number over the years. He is a very tough player to play. He has an awkward style, pots good balls and scores heavily.”

Scotland’s 1994 Masters champion Alan McManus and three-time ranking event semi-finalist Scott Donaldson secured wins on home soil.

McManus edged through 4-3 against John Astley, while Donaldson come through a 4-2 victor against Rory McLeod.

Regarding  John Higgins this is what he told BBC about his situation

….

John Higgins has stressed he will “seriously” consider retiring at the end of the season if he continues to struggle for motivation.

The four-time world champion said earlier this month he felt he was “near the end” of his time in the game.

Despite reaching the 2018 world final, Higgins says he is living a “soul-destroying” existence.

“If I still feel the way I’m feeling just now I’d seriously think about it,” he said.

“I just feel as though I’m stuck in the house now 24/7.

“My wife works three days, which is great because she’s brought our three kids up over the years and she’s got a bit of independence. She’s out working which is great but now I realise how people can go stir-crazy when they’re in the house.

….

“I know now there’s house husbands but it can be pretty soul-destroying when you’re stuck in the four walls. That’s what I feel I’ve been doing a lot now with my practice game in the house.”

If he does continue to play next year, Higgins says he would “look at” the opportunity to take part in a breakaway snooker tour.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has mooted his desire to form a “Champions League-style” format because of his dissatisfaction with the current schedule.

“If there was something like that in the future of course you would look at it,” four-time world champion Higgins said.

“There are a lot of countries that want to see tournament play but a lot can’t come up with the money because they’ve got to fund a 128-man ranking event which is tough – it takes a lot of money to do that,” he said.

“So if other countries are wanting to put on smaller events for smaller fields and that would suit me, it could suit other players, who knows?”

And here is Alan McManus reaction to this, as well as his assessment of Ronnie as a sportsman and a person

My personal feeling is that John Higgins is going through some kind of depression. With his wife working three days a week he doesn’t need to stay at home 24/7. If he feels that way, which I don’t challenge, if he feels trapped, then maybe he needs a bit of help.

As for yesterday action, just two things.

Ryan Day’s win over Rhys Clark was one of the most puzzling matches I ever watched. Day started in all dominant form. Clark, a young pro who has only won two matches over the last two seasons and has made it known that he doesn’t intend to carry on after this one, looked unable to pot a ball for his life. Then some how Ryan missed a couple and Rhys came to life. Before you knew it, we were into a decider. It was all very strange.

Jimmy White’s performance against Judd Trump was terrible and very sad to see. I’m not saying that Jimmy should retire, that’s not for anybody to decide (or advise) but Jimmy himself. But it was painful to watch. He did have chances in every single frame …

Some ranking updates after the UK Championship 2018

Worldsnooker has published this article ahead of the Scottish Open 2018. With only two events to go before the cut-off for the first of the coral Cup events, it’s now a hot topic.

Ronnie O’Sullivan may have already done enough to secure his place in all three Coral Series events thanks to his victory at the Betway UK Championship.

The Rocket beat Mark Allen 10-6 in the final in York on Sunday to win a record seventh UK title and 19th Triple Crown in all. And the £170,000 top prize sees him fly up 20 places to second on the one-year ranking list. From the three ranking events he has contested so far this season, O’Sullivan has earned £220,000.

The one-year list will be used to determine the fields for the Coral Series later in the season. Only the top 32 will qualify automatically for the Coral World Grand Prix in Cheltenham (February 4-10), then the top 16 go on to the Coral Players Championship in Preston (March 4-10), and only the top eight will make it to the new Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno (March 19-24).

O’Sullivan is now nearly £100,000 ahead of the player in eighth position, Stuart Bingham with £120,500.

There are just two events to go until the field of 32 is set for the Coral World Grand Prix. This week’s BetVictor Scottish Open in Glasgow and then the D88.com German Masters (January 30 to February 3) are the only remaining counting events in the Race to Cheltenham. Sunny Akani currently occupied 32nd position with £41,500, but just £5,500 separates him from Scott Donaldson in 41st. For more on that race click here.

Mark Allen’s runner-up prize of £75,000 in York put him top of the one-year list with £283,000. Semi-finalist Stuart Bingham moved one place up to eighth while Tom Ford got to the semis of a Triple Crown event for the first time, and his career-biggest pay day of £35,000 sees him jump from 48th to 21st.

As it stands there are:

Eight players inside the top 32 of the one-year list who are outside the top 32 of the official rankings.

Four players inside the top 16 of the one-year list who are outside the official top 16.

Three players inside the top eight of the one-year list who are outside the official top eight.

In the official two year world rankings, O’Sullivan remains in third place but closes the gap on top two Mark Selby and Mark Williams and looks set for a three-way battle for the top spot over the coming months.

Allen is up to sixth, equalling his career highest, while Ford leaps eight spots to 28th.

The Race to the Masters concluded in York with Jack Lisowski finishing in 16th place and earning a debut in snooker’s biggest invitation event, to take place from January 13 to 20 at Alexandra Palace. For details of the draw click here.

Specifically about the first event, this was Matt Huart analysis before the start of the Scottish Open 2018 

Race to the Coral World Grand Prix 2019

9th December 2018

 

There are just two events to go before the field is set for this season’s Coral World Grand Prix which is set to be held at The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse for the first time.

Forming part of the new three-part Coral Series, the tournament will be played at 4-10 February 2019 and as in recent seasons will once again see 32 players contest the title, with a top prize of £100,000 to be won.

Although there are just under two months to go until then however, with invitational events including the Masters and Championship League dominating the month of January, there are in fact just two counting ranking events – the Scottish Open and the German Masters – still to be completed before the important cut-off date.

Mark Allen currently tops the one-year ranking list

Who will qualify?

As was the case last season, the top 32 players on the one-year ranking list will earn their places at the World Grand Prix. But how does this ranking list differ from the world’s official ranking order?

While the official world ranking list is calculated over a rolling two-year period, the one-year ranking list used to determine qualification for Cheltenham includes only prize money earned since the start of this season at the 2018 Riga Masters, through to and including the 2019 German Masters in Berlin. This covers a total of 11 counting events, nine of which have already been completed, with the Scottish Open due to start on Monday morning in Glasgow.

For the avoidance of doubt, this does not include prize money earned from maximum or high break prizes, or invitational events such as the Shanghai Masters or Champion of Champions.

The state of play

Last season saw the final qualifying place taken by Robert Milkins with £57,000 and this year’s final total looks likely to fall somewhere close to that tally.

On looking at the latest Race to the World Grand Prix standings, including prize money earned at this week’s Betway UK Championship, those either side of the crucial cut-off include:

24th – Xiao Guodong – £51,600
25th – Yan Bingtao – £51,500
26th – Marco Fu – £51,000
27th – Matthew Stevens – £48,000
28th – Yuan Sijun – £46,500
29st – Gary Wilson – £45,600
30th – Stuart Carrington – £44,500
31st – Ding Junhui – £44,000
32nd – Sunny Akani – £41,500
——————————————————————————
33rd – Zhou Yuelong – £40,000
34th– Eden Sharav – £39,100
35th – Luca Brecel – £39,000
36th – Robert Milkins – £38,600
37th – Anthony Hamilton – £38,500
38th – Peter Ebdon – £38,500
39th– Hossein Vafaei – £37,000
40th– Lyu Haotian – £36,000
41st – Scott Donaldson – £36,000
42nd– Graeme Dott – £33,000
43rd– Chris Wakelin – £32,725
44th– Thepchaiya Un-Nooh – £31,225
45th– Ricky Walden – £31,000
46th– Matt Selt – £30,100

Of the players currently ranked within the world’s top 32, ten are currently outside of the same positions on the one-year ranking list based on their prize money earned this season.

Perhaps most notable among them is former world champion Shaun Murphy (65), who despite currently being ranked inside of the world’s top ten finds himself well down the one-year list having earned just £19,500 during the first half of this season.

Other big names in danger include 13th ranked Luca Brecel (35), as well as Scottish duo Anthony McGill (68) and Graeme Dott (42), while Liang Wenbo (48) also needs a significant run at one of the two remaining events to bring himself into contention.

The others who currently stand outside of the top 32 on the one-year ranking list are Zhou Yuelong (33), Robert Milkins (36), Anthony Hamilton (37), Ricky Walden (45) and Martin Gould (57), the latter having not entered the Scottish Open.

On the rise

Among those looking to qualify for The Centaur at the expense of those above are of course Martin O’Donnell (16), some 43 places higher on the one-year list than his actual ranking following his career-best start to the season.

Also performing above their ranking are Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham (18), English Open finalist Mark Davis (19) andTom Ford (21), who reached his first triple-crown semi-final this week in York.

Zhao Xintong (23) is also well inside the current qualification standings despite being on the first year of a two-year tour card, with Matthew Stevens (27), Yuan Sijun (28), Gary Wilson (29), Stuart Carrington (30) and Sunny Akani (32) also in the mix ahead of Scotland and Germany.

 

Scottish Open 2018 – Day 1

The Scottish Open 2018 started yesterday in at the Emirates Arena, in Glasgow, and, to be honest, what happened off the table was just as interesting as what happened on it.

Here is the Eurosport Preview, with Neil Robertson who is looking to defend his title:

With a review of the previous Home Nations event, the Northern Ireland Open and the UK Championship, that just finished on Sunday night.

And also, Neil’s Robertson interview ahead of his title defence

Of course Ronnie pulled out and this was Neil Robertson opinion on that:

He is right, playing at the level Ronnie did in York, for nearly two weeks, is extremely demanding mentally and emotionally and, coming to a setup like this one, in front of a comparatively poor crowd, is difficult. Fans are of course disappointed that he isn’t there, but then they would probably also be disappointed if he was there and didn’t perform. All the more credit though to Mark Allen who is playing in Glasgow. I hope that he has a good tournament and doesn’t run out of energy.

It wasn’t a great day for the Scots. Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill lost in the first round, losing to Billy Joe Castle and Zhang Yong respectively. Maguire’s “performance” was terrible. Ross Muir, John Higgins and Graeme Dott progressed, but John Higgins played very badly, except in the decider. It transpired that he was suffering from broken ribs, after a “football accident”.

“It’s a floating broken rib, it’s happened before,” he told Eurosport.

“It’s a football injury. It was the League Cup final up here last weekend (Celtic beat Aberdeen on 2 December) and I’d had a few drinks…”

Asked if he would pulled out if it had been any other tournament, the Scot replied: “Yes, without a doubt.

“My family and friends were coming to see me. It’s the only chance they get. They’ve not seen me in a final lately.”

….

John’s notion of a football accident had me smiling. Isn’t that rather a “drinking accident”? Anyway, I can’t see him going much further playing that way!

But it’s not just a rib John Higgins broke, he also broke a record yesterday, as this was his 1000th professional match win (source cuetracker.net )

John was also asked about Ronnie’s “breakaway” ideas. Here is his answer, during his post-match interview:

So, we now have John Higgins, Mark Allen, Mark Williams, Joe Perry and Stephen Maguire wanting changes, and John definitely interested in an alternative platform.

Eden Sharav also progressed, as his opponent, Hossein Vafaei, didn’t show up. Eden is a local boy, but now plays for Israel, his father’s country. That’s twice that they are set to play each others, and twice that Hossein withdraws. There were suggestions that this was related to religious beliefs – and it might be – but I rather think it’s related to the consequences he could face, being an Iranian athlete, if he accepts to play an Israeli. To get you an idea of what I mean, I suggest that you follow those links and read what happened in other sports.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/iranian-wrestler-who-threw-match-to-avoid-israeli-banned-for-6-months/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/2-players-banned-for-playing-against-israeli-team-selected-for-iran-world-cup/

https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/pg5937/israel-politics-and-the-curious-case-of-tennis-pro-malek-jaziri

It’s hard to know what could be the consequences for Hossein, or his family,  if he was to play Eden, so I would refrain from judging. What I do know though is that this places the WPBSA in a very difficult position. They obviously can’t condone such attitude, but on the other hand, it might not be the player’s choice at all, and by forfeiting their match, they lose money and ranking points.

Other than that, there weren’t many “shocks”. You can follow the tournament on snooker.org

 

 

Snooker (not great) news and a lovely podcast

The Scottish Open 2018 starts today, and maybe not surprisingly, Ronnie has withdrawn from it. Surely winning the UK Championship yesterday has taken a lot out of him and he deserves a break. His next event will probably be the Masters in January.

Meanwhile, this podcast by Rhiannon Lambert and Ronnie is worth a listen, especially with the end-of-year celebrations, and over-eating coming soon!

FoodforThoughts

Regarding the sports itself, it was announced in the media last week that a ban will be enforced on adds for gambling and betting on TV during sports events. There were many articles in the press about it, and this is one of them, by the Guardian.

UK betting firms back live sports advertising ban

Online gambling firms such as Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes agree ban amid fears of impact on children

Online gambling companies have agreed in principle to a voluntary “whistle-to-whistle” ban on advertising during live sports, in an effort to address concerns about their impact on children.

Companies such as Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes would agree not to advertise during live sports, including after 9pm if the event started before the watershed.

While the proposals have yet to be approved, they are likely to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the five major gambling industry associations next week, with a view to implementing the ban within six months.

A senior gambling industry figure said he would be “surprised and disappointed” if the measures were not agreed and said that while not every online betting firm would support them, all were likely to comply.

“It would be a very brave company that would stick its head above the parapet in isolation,” he said.

The whistle-to-whistle ban, which excludes horse racing, would involve the industry falling into line with Labour party proposals.

The advertising proposals, first reported by the BBC, have been put forward by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which represents online betting firms.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said: “I’m delighted that gambling operators have adopted Labour’s proposal of a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling advertising during live sport.

“With over 430,000 problem gamblers in the country, many of them children, the number of adverts during live sports had clearly reached crisis levels.

“There was clear public support for these restrictions and I’m glad that for once the industry, led by [the RGA], has taken its responsibilities seriously and listened.”

Several chief executives in the gambling industry, including the bosses of William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair, have said they would support greater restrictions on advertising to protect children.

Concern about the normalisation of gambling has risen due to the sheer volume of ads during televised sport.

Research by the Guardian during the World Cup found that children were “bombarded” with 90 minutes of gambling adverts during the tournament.

Shares in gambling companies fell on reports of a plan that would restrict their ability to reach TV viewers, while broadcasters are also likely to take a significant hit on lost advertising revenue.

One senior executive at a media agency told the Guardian that gambling ads were worth £200m to broadcasters last year, with the majority going to Sky and, to a lesser extent, ITV.

Online gambling companies are thought to have learned a lesson from the resistance shown by the Association of British Bookmakers, which fought tooth and nail against the cut in maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals.

Their campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and caused considerable damage to the industry’s reputation over efforts to prevent curbs on machines that the government branded a “social blight”.

RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood is thought to be determined to get the measure approved by the gambling industry before he steps down in January.

It requires agreement from the National Casino Forum, Association of British Bookmakers, Bingo Association and the amusement arcade body Bacta, although their blessing is likely to be a formality as the online industry is by far the biggest TV advertiser.

The RGA has also put forward other proposals but is expected to stop short of adopting Labour’s stated policy of banning gambling companies from sponsoring football shirts.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for campaign group Fairer Gambling, said: “This is long overdue but to be truly effective it should have also included bans on shirt and league sponsorship and pitch-side rolling displays.”

This is indeed good news as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not just about children either. But for snooker, a sport that is relying so much on the gambling industry, at least outside China, this might be only the start of a massive issue, very similar to what happened with the tobacco ban. If the bookies see their TV adds cut off, they will be less likely to sponsor live sporting events because the whole point for them is to expose their “brand” and promote their “products”. This was coming, and it baffled me how much in denial so many fans were when I raised the point earlier. I very really hope that WS will act wisely and diversify their sponsoring sources. And it might not be that easy because the strong association with the gambling business has created an image already that many other businesses don’t want to be associated with, especially in mainland Europe.

Speaking of mainland Europe, Snookerstars have announced on Facebook that the Paul Hunter Classic 2019 will take place, but as an invitational event for 16 players only. I’m not sure at this stage what the status of the event will be, nor if it will still be a pro-am. My guess is that no amateurs will be involved in the main competition. This is both a good news and a bad news. Good because I really feared that he would disappear entirely, bad because this was the best pro-am you could play in, or watch, and it has been ruined. Making it a full ranking event, without the financial backing to attract top players has killed it. And getting financial backing from sponsors in mainland Europe is extremely difficult (see above!)

 

UK Championship 2018 – Ronnie is your champion!

UKChamps2018ROSChampion-1

Ronnie beat Mark Allen by 10-6 to win his seventh UK Championship, setting a new record. Steve Davis with six, is now second. This win also brings his tally of “Triple Crowns” to a record of nineteen, one better than Stephen Hendry.

This is the first time that a player defends the UK Championship crown since Stephen Hendry in 1996, and for this to be achieved 25 years after winning his first UK title, at only 17, is an extraordinary achievement.

Ronnie was clearly delighted and a bit emotional whilst being interviewed by Hazel Irvine and celebrating with the fans. Great to see!

Congratulations Ronnie, this was superb!

UKChamps2018ROSChampion-2

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Ronnie O’Sullivan won a record seventh Betway UK Championship title – and a 19th Triple Crown victory in all – by beating Mark Allen 10-6 in the final.

O’Sullivan outplayed his opponent to take the £170,000 top prize in York, coming from 2-1 down to win nine of the last 13 frames, scoring a century and seven more breaks over 50.

After receiving the trophy O’Sullivan jumped on to the barriers around the table to hold it aloft in celebration, then climbed, Pat Cash-style, into the crowd to share the moment with friends and fans. It was a rare show of emotion which revealed just how much these landmark achievements mean to him.

It was 1993 when O’Sullivan lifted the UK trophy at the age of just 17, beating Stephen Hendry in the final. A quarter of a century later he has surpassed several of Hendry’s records and, now 43, year by year he continues to strengthen the argument of those who claim that he is snooker’s greatest ever player.

Rocket’s Records
Seven UK Championship titles (ahead of Steve Davis’ six)
19 Triple Crown victories (ahead of Hendry’s 18)
986 centuries (ahead of Hendry’s 775)
15 maximum breaks (ahead of Hendry’s 11)
Seven Masters titles (ahead of Hendry’s six)

…and those he is still chasing
Hendry’s seven World Championship titles (O’Sullivan has five)
Hendry’s 36 ranking titles (O’Sullivan has 34)

O’Sullivan has dominated the Betway UK Championship more than any other event in recent years, capturing the title in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Losing to Mark Selby in the 2016 final was his only defeat among his last 28 matches in York. His previous UK crowns came in 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2007.

And the Chigwell cueman has made a tremendous start to the current season, adding this title to the Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions. In the five tournaments he has contested, he has won 26 out of 28 matches and earned £531,000.

Allen missed out on his second Triple Crown title having landed his first at the Masters in January. Still, 2018 has been by far the best year of his career as he also won his fourth ranking title at the International Championship last month. Tonight’s runner-up prize of £75,000 moves the 32-year-old Northern Irishman up to sixth in the world rankings, equalling his career best.

Leading 6-2 after the first session, world number three O’Sullivan extended his lead in a tense opening frame tonight, sealing it by potting the penultimate red with the rest to a top corner. Allen pulled one back with runs of 56 and 37 to make it 7-3.

O’Sullivan made 30 in the next before missing a red to a top corner, and after a safety exchange Allen converted a difficult three-ball plant to set up a run of 105 and close the gap again. But frame 12 went O’Sullivan’s way as breaks of 46 and 41 put him 8-4 up at the interval.

Allen led 59-6 in frame 13 but could only watch as his opponent made a brilliant 57 clearance to go five up with six to play. In the 14th Allen potted nine reds with blacks, but then on 72 missed a red to a centre pocket when the balls had looked well placed for a 147.

O’Sullivan missed a red to a centre pocket early in frame 15 and Allen made breaks of 59 and 30 as he raised his chances of a fight back by closing to 9-6. But O’Sullivan quashed his hopes in the 16th with a match-winning break of 78.

“It was a pleasure to be a part of that final, and if I had lost I would have been devastated,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s about cherishing these moments and enjoying them. Mark is a fantastic competitor, he has got great bottle and courage and I think he’ll win the world title. He has that ingredient and you need that at Sheffield.

“To beat Hendry’s 18 majors, to get to 19 is crazy. I don’t want to stop there, I want to put some distance between me and the next players to make it harder for them to catch me.

“I was emotional at the end because I’m playing for the fans and I want to give them enough to smile about. It’s pay back time, I owe it to them. I have a special rapport with them, I’m the people’s player and I understand that. They go through it with me, when I get victories they feel it with me.

“As long as I am healthy and fit I think I have another ten years of entertaining. I will always play snooker, that’s a given. I’ll always find a platform, it has to happen. I’m really looking forward to the future, it’s exciting.”

Allen said: “Hats off to Ronnie, he played awesome. It was fine margins, I was a little flick here and there from being a lot closer. I didn’t feel I’d done much wrong in the first session but got punished and was 6-2 down. His long game was devastating. It’s up to me to go away, keep practising and try to get closer to Ronnie’s level because he is a long way ahead of everyone else.

“Even at 9-4 I was still positive, then at 9-6 I fancied it. I hung in there but it was too much to do. I hate losing, I’ll never be happy with second, but I’ve had a really good year. I’ll keep working hard and hope to have an even better 2019. I’m looking forward to the Masters now and the chance to defend the title.

“At the end I gave Ronnie massive congratulations for making history. I don’t think there’s any question now that he’s the greatest ever.”

And on the BBC website:

UK Championship: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Mark Allen to win seventh title

Celebration!

images shared on social media and by Worldsnooker

And these great ones are from Tai Chengzhe. Thank you Tai!

Coverage

First session

Previews

MSI analysis

Action

Reviews

Second session

Previews

MSI Analysis

Action and celebration!

Reviews

Interviews

Highs and lows of the Championship

What a match! What an achievement!

This win places Ronnie in second place on the one year list, a certainty for the first ITV event, the Grand Prix, and for the second one the Players Championship most probably as well. And he’s well placed for the third one too!

Now it’s onto Glasgow for the Scottish Open. I don’t expect miracles from Ronnie there… this one must have taken a lot out of him, mentally and emotionally, but hey, lets just enjoy the moment!

 

 

 

The Masters 2019 Draw is out

The draw for the 2019 Masters was done today during the MSI of the first session of the UK Championship 2018 Final.

Worldsnooker has now published it, along with the format

Defending champion Mark Allen has drawn Luca Brecel in the first round of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace next month.

The draw has been made for snooker’s biggest invitation tournament, to run from January 13 to 20 in North London. It’s an elite field with only the world’s top 16 players earning the chance to compete for the £200,000 top prize and famous Paul Hunter Trophy.

Northern Ireland’s Allen won the title for the first time last season, beating Kyren Wilson 10-7 in the final. He’ll start the defence of his title against Brecel.

Crowd favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has won the Masters a record seven times, will start his bid for an eighth crown against Stuart Bingham.

World Champion Mark Williams faces Neil Robertson, while Judd Trump will take on Kyren Wilson in a repeat of last season’s semi-final which Wilson won 6-5.

The full draw is:

Mark Allen v Luca Brecel – Sunday January 13 at 1pm 
Ding Junhui v Jack Lisowski – Monday January 14 at 7pm
John Higgins v Ryan Day – Sunday January 13 at 7pm
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham – Monday January 14 at 1pm
Mark Selby v Stephen Maguire – Wednesday January 16 at 7pm
Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson – Wednesday January 16 at 1pm
Barry Hawkins v Shaun Murphy – Tuesday January 15 at 7pm
Mark Williams v Neil Robertson – Tuesday January 15 at 1pm

Quarter-finals:
QF1 (Allen / Brecel v Ding / Lisowksi): Thursday January 17 at 7pm
QF2 (Higgins / Day v O’Sullivan / Bingham): Thursday January 17 at 1pm
QF3 (Selby / Maguire v Trump / Wilson): Friday January 18 at 1pm
QF4 (Hawkins / Murphy v Williams / Robertson):  Friday January 18 at 7pm

Semi-finals:
Winner QF1 v Winner QF2: Saturday January 19 at 1pm
Winner QF3 v Winner QF4: Saturday January 19 at 7pm

Final: Sunday January 20 at 1pm and 7pm

Televised by BBC and Eurosport, the Dafabet Masters is one of snooker’s Triple Crown events with a history dating back to 1975.

This is not an easy draw at all for Ronnie who could face Stuart Bingham, John Higgins and Mark Allen before possibly getting a crack at the final.

Despite this being a random draw when it comes to players ranked 9 to 16, the defending champion has probably be handed the easiest draw, unless Luca Brecel improves massively.