Yesterday we saw the conclusion of the last 32 round.
It produced this last 16 line-up, with 10 of the last 16 still there plus Jack Lisowski who is likely to get into the top 16 after this tournament. Judd Trump is probably the one with the easiest path to the semi-finals although Joe Perry is more than capable to cause him problems. Ronnie faces Jack Lisowski today and they are unlikely to get warned for slow play. Jack is certainly dangerous and I don’t think he will offer Ronnie any gift for his birthday, not during the match anyway!
Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:
Lisowski will face defending champion O’Sullivan on Wednesday at 1pm in York for a place in the quarter-finals. Tickets are still available – for details click here.
Gloucestershire’s Lisowski is enjoying the most consistent season of his career having won 32 matches in nine ranking events. As a result he could climb into the top 16 for the first time and earn a place at the Masters in January. He could still be edged out of the elite by other players, notably Joe Perry if he reaches the final, but with every win Lisowski’s place in the Race to the Masters looks more secure.
Breaks of 69 and 109 helped Lisowski take a 3-0 lead today. Fu took three of the next four with a top run of 119 to close to 4-3, but Lisowski got the better of two scrappy frames to seal victory.
“It could be a cracking match against Ronnie, I think we are the second and third-fastest players on tour,” said 27-year-old Lisowski. “I hope I can keep up with him and score. The way I play, if I go for my shots and have a really good day then 99 per cent of the time I will win because I can be hard to play against. But Ronnie is the same and a real handful as we all know.
“My recent consistency is still all new to me and maybe I can start to believe I will beat these top players. It will be a really good test to see where my game is at. Ronnie can blitz people and beat them 6-0 – but I have a chance if things go my way and he has an off day.
“I am trying to win every tournament I enter now, until it happens I won’t really believe it is possible. But I am very happy to be in the last 16 here, and have done a lot to help my Masters chances.”
Judd Trump earned a match against Joe Perry by beating Mark King 6-2 with a top break of 100. World number five Trump is going for back-to-back titles having captured the recent Northern Ireland Open and has now won ten consecutive matches.
“You keep putting yourself in position, that is what you have to do,” said Bristol’s Trump, whose only Triple Crown title came at this event in 2011. “It is never nice losing big matches but you hope you learn enough to do better next time. I certainly hope I have learned from some of the semi-finals and final losses I have had over the years in the biggest tournaments. Maybe I have just mis-timed my best form for some of the smaller events.”
Neil Robertson edged out Graeme Dott 6-5 in an exciting contest. Two-time UK Champion Robertson came from 2-0 down to lead 5-4 with a top break of 86. Dott forced a decider but Australia’s Robertson took it with a run of 71. He now meets Mark Allen or Hossein Vafaei.
“It was a fantastic match, a great standard from both of us,” said Robertson, who has won all seven of the deciding frames he has played this season. “I played a killer safety shot early in the last frame which put him in a lot of trouble and that set up the chance. If I play Mark Allen in the next round I hope he gives me some table time because the International Championship final (which Allen won 10-5) was the best anyone has ever played against me.”
Stuart Bingham also showed superb form as he beat David Gilbert 6-2. The match started with four consecutive centuries; one for Gilbert and the other three for Bingham, including a 145 which is the new front-runner for the £5,000 high break prize. English Open champion Bingham clinched the result in frame eight with a run of 67 to set up a match with Sunny Akani or Jak Jones.
Mark Allen has already won the two biggest titles of his career in 2018, but remains hungry for more silverware having beaten Hossein Vafaei 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the Betway UK Championship.
Allen won his first Triple Crown title at the Masters in January, then last month he beat Neil Robertson in the final of the International Championship in China. From those two events alone he has banked £375,000. The Northern Irishman now meets Robertson again in York on Wednesday evening with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
Breaks of 87, 83 and 56 put Allen 3-0 up then Iran’s Vafaei took the next two frames with a top run of 94. Allen finished the match strongly as breaks of 87 and 60 helped give him the last three frames.
“The big turning point was the sixth frame when I missed a red to the middle but got my first fluke of the season – it must be Christmas!” joked Allen. “Overall I played well and didn’t make many mistakes.
“I know the problems Hossein has had with visas, he would be much higher in the rankings but for that. He’s good enough to be a top 32 or even a top 16 player.
“Neil Robertson will be out for revenge. I’m here to compete on the big stage against the best players, and Neil is one of those. He’s a class act, he has won everything. I will need to go out and play like I did against him in Daqing. We both go for our shots and play the game the right way and that’s what the crowd want to see. We should feel obliged as players to entertain.”
Two-time UK Champion Ding Junhui beat Xiao Gudong 6-4 in an all-Chinese clash. Breaks of 99, 74 and 84 put Ding 3-0 ahead before Xiao made a 126 in frame four. That was the 112th century of the tournament, setting a new record for the UK Championship with five days still to go.
Xiao also won frame five then made a 100 to level at 3-3. The next two frames were shared then Ding made a crucial 31 clearance to edge 5-4 ahead before sealing the result in frame ten with runs of 34 and 50. He now meets Martin O’Donnell.
“I started well and then I struggled for a while,” said Ding, who won this event in 2005 and 2009. “Once I got to 5-4 I had to go for it. I feel I am playing better with each match.”
Barry Hawkins top scored with 78 in a 6-4 defeat of Gary Wilson. “I was 2-0 down tonight when I should have been 2-0 up, but I didn’t let it bother me,” said world number six Hawkins, who now meets Kyren Wilson. “After that I played well. The game against Kyren will be very tough. He’s got a great all round game and a lot of self-belief – I wish I’d had the same when I was his age.”
Thailand’s Sunny Akani reached the last 16 of this event for the second consecutive year by beating Jak Jones 6-2. The first three frames took 112 minutes, with Jones winning two of them. Akani then stepped up the pace and won the next five with top breaks of 50, 50, 108, 73 and 65. He now meets Stuart Bingham.
Apparently Leo Scullion had a firm word with Akani and Jones, asking them to play “a more attacking game” – sic Jones. It’s more likely that Leo decided to bring the section IV of the rules in action and asked them to quicken up their pace, which Akani did and it certainly wasn’t detrimental to his game. Apparently Jak Jones wasn’t happy. But, sorry, it’s in the rules and, for me, more referees should enforce it like Leo did. Most players play better anyway when they play at a good pace, not overthinking the shots.
As for the breakaway saga, Shaun Murphy who leads the Players Commission, invited Ronnie to come by and discuss his ideas. (excerpt)
“As the biggest draw in the game, what he says counts and it matters to the public, the players and World Snooker. Ronnie could be such a power for good in snooker if he wanted to be,” said Murphy, who leads the Players Commission.
“I know he’s been invited to get involved with the Players Commission, he’s welcome to come to any meeting the WPBSA has and I know the powers that be at World Snooker are keen to speak to him as well.
“We value his input and we’d love for him to get round a table and come at us with some really good ideas. It’d be good to get them down on a bit of paper and discuss them professionally.”
Whilst Shaun is right in that players should go through the existing channels if there are issues, I would be surprised if Ronnie acted upon the invitation. The truth is that, until now, there has been no evidence whatsoever that Barry Hearn is ready to listen to this commission – or anyone for that matters – unless the proposals are in line with what he wants. Ronnie has no faith whatsoever that taking that route would be fruitful, and he’s probably right unfortunately.
As for today …
Happy Birthday Ronnie ! (*)
I hope it comes with a win today!
(*) Ronnie hates birthdays, and birthday wishes, but does bring cakes every ear to the media room. There was some uneasyness amongst the journos earler this year when the Patisserie Valérie was in danger to be closed, but it found a new lease of life. Phew!