There was plenty of drama yesterday at the Tempodrom in Berlin.
The last 32 round concluded with the morning and afternoon sessions. I
n the morning session Mark Selby – who played very well – missed the yellow for a 147. Position from black to yellow was always going to be difficult as the yellow wasn’t on its spot, it was tight on the baulk cushion and not close to a pocket. Therefore Mark left himself with a bit too much angle for comfort on the shot on the yellow and the ball stayed in the jaws of the pocket.
It was a pity but without any impact of the final result of the match.
In the afternoon session, the 18 years old Yuan Sijun beat John Higgins in a deciding frame that ended in such a way that it sparked “war” on social media. Yan had been the better player all match, and, for John Higgins experience, tactical nous and resilience, he should have won much more comfortably. At a point towards the end of the match, stats were displayed on our screens, showing that Yuan had potted almost twice as many balls as John and scored twice as many points, yet they had won the same number of frames, the only stat that actually matters. It came to a decider …
As soon as the black entered the pocket, a clearly gutted John Higgins came forward to shake hands and rushed out of the arena. Nobody at the table paid attention to the fact that the white was still moving and that something was happening, that started a discussion between the pundits … and huge controversy on social media.
Yes technically this was a foul, and had it been called there would have been a respotted black and, possibly, a different outcome of the match. However, it wasn’t noticed by anyone at the table, the foul wasn’t called, the players had already shaken hands and that’s end of story. Those who know me, know that I’m not a fan of John since what happened in 2010, but I know for certain that he wouldn’t have wanted to win this way. He would have been as uneasy about it, as Ronnie had been when he found out that he had fouled with the rest against Luo HongHao in Crawley earlier this season. That generation of players have that sort of ethics and the sport should be proud of it.
All pictures by O.Behrendt / contrast
Last month, four-time World Champion Higgins admitted that this could be his last season, following a string of disappointing performances and results. And today’s display in Berlin did nothing to lift his mood as he made numerous errors in losing to a player who was not even born when Higgins won his first world title in 1998.
The deciding frame came down to the last few balls and it was teenager Yuan who held his nerve to pot the crucial balls and set up a last 16 match with Duane Jones.
“I’m missing so many easy balls when it comes down to the crunch so I didn’t expect to win in the end,” said Scotland’s 43-year-old Higgins. “Even at 3-1 up, I knew if Yuan played decent he would come back into it. It’s tough.
“In the last frame I twitched a red in the middle bag, it was such a big twitch. If you can’t win a frame from that position then as I’ve said before it’s time to chuck it. I’d forgotten how tough it is to concentrate when you’re not playing great and not feeling great.”
Yuan, who reached the quarter-finals of the China Championship earlier this season, came from 3-1 down to win three frames in a row with breaks of 68, 54 and 51. Higgins found some fluency in frame eight with a run of 93, his highest of the match, to make it 4-4.
And Higgins looked favourite in the decider until he missed a red to a centre pocket on 43. Yuan replied with 47 before snookering himself on the final green, leading to a long tactical exchange on the colours. Eventually a loose safety from Higgins gave his opponent the chance to pot pink and black for victory.
Yuan said: “It’s my best win. I was nervous at the end but I potted some good balls. I am confident now.”
Mark Selby made three centuries – and came close to a 147 – as he beat Ricky Walden 5-1. Selby led 3-1 with a top run of 106 then in frame five he potted 15 reds with blacks before missing a tricky yellow along the baulk cushion on 120. Undeterred, he wrapped up the match in frame six with a 127.
“I played a good shot on the black to get on the yellow and I felt as if I’d make the 147 if I potted the yellow. It just wasn’t to be,” said Selby who won this tournament four years ago to become world number one, remaining there ever since.
Duane Jones reached the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time with a surprise 5-2 win over Jack Lisowski. Jones top scored with 129 in an impressive performance.
Ding Junhui came from 2-0 down to beat Fergal O’Brien 5-3 with a top break of 73 while Stuart Bingham made a 130 in a 5-2 defeat of Jimmy Robertson.
Xiao Guodong showed his break-building class as he made 66, 57, 105, 102 and 53 in a 5-1 defeat of Ryan Day. Neil Robertson was also a 5-1 winner, firing runs of 65, 60, 56 and 78 against Kurt Maflin.
The evening session – last 16 matches – was less dramatic.
Robert Milkins saw his chances of qualifying for next week’s Coral World Grand Prix ended by a 5-1 defeat against Stephen Maguire at the D88.com German Masters.
Victory for Milkins in Berlin tonight would have catapulted him into the top 32 of the one-year ranking list, potentially earning him a spot in Cheltenham next week. But as it stands Gary Wilson hangs on to 32nd spot, although he could still be ousted by Duane Jones. For the latest on that race click here.
Maguire fired breaks of 81 and 82 as he sent Milkins home and set up a quarter-final against Judd Trump at the Tempodrom.
“I’m happy with my results here though I can still improve,” said Glasgow’s Maguire. “I knew Robert needed to win tonight to get into the event next week and I was glad because if I was in that position I’d feel extra pressure. It gave me a bit of extra confidence knowing he needed to win.
“I’m practising hard and my back is fine at the moment,” added Maguire, who has suffered from sciatica in recent months. “It went again last week and I panicked. I went to get some treatment on Saturday night which did wonders so I feel great now. I just hope it lasts for the next three months until the end of the World Championship.
“Judd Trump is the man in form, he has played well all season and I don’t think many people were surprised when he won the Masters. He has given me a few bashings over the last couple of years so I’ll need to step it up. Against the top boys I’m not scoring heavily enough. It’s a big step up there and I’m on the threshold just below them. It’s up to me to try to improve.”
Masters champion Trump remained on a roll as he saw off Yan Bingtao 5-1 with top breaks of 50, 57, 113 and 93. Trump is aiming to win his third title within three months, having also landed the Northern Ireland Open in November, but he does not feel he is ready to dominate the sport.
“It’s virtually impossible to dominate now, you’d have to take the game to a standard no one has ever seen before,” said the 29-year-old. “For me it’s just about going at my own pace. If I can win another two titles before the end of the season that would be amazing. But I’m not setting my sights too high, I’ll just keep trying to enjoy it. I’m very relaxed at the moment and that shows in the way I’m playing.”
Peter Ebdon had a chance of qualifying for Cheltenham with a deep run this week, but he lost 5-2 to Kyren Wilson, whose top breaks were 92 and 117. Wilson now plays defending champion Mark Williams, who top scored with 63 in a 5-0 whitewash of Joe Perry.
All pictures by O.Behrendt / contrast
Mark Williams played well against Joe Perry, but predictions that he will now win at the Crucible again in that form look a bit premature to me because it was far from faultless. Joe Perry made a 60 break in the first frame, twitched a red that was essentially frame ball, and, from there, never looked at the races. He did have chances in nearly every frame, but wasn’t taking them and Mark Williams duly punished him. Mark himself in his postmatch on Eurosport stressed that the Crucible glory is what he aims at from now on but also admitted that he had work to do in the coming months to achieve that goal.