Tour Championship 2019 – Day 1

First, un short word on the poster: it has already “lost” two of its posters boys! actually, that’s untrue, because John Higgins was never there, he didn’t qualify. By tonight it will lose another one at least, because Judd Trump and Mark Williams are playing each other. And why isn’t Mark Allen on it? He’s been on top of the one year list for ages.

It’s a great arena, and a great venue in general, situated in a beautiful area.

The players have a good practice area, with two tables. The fans can enjoy the cuezone. There is a nice, quiet players room, and, at least when I was there, decent meals being served in a separated restaurant/cafeteria. The last thing players want before an important match is to be hunted for autographs and selfies.

That how ALL tournaments should be.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

Mark Selby produced a sublime session of snooker to establish a 6-2 advantage against Neil Robertson at the Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno.

World number one Selby is battling to keep his place at the top of the rankings with Ronnie O’Sullivan hot on his heels. Selby has topped the world rankings since February 2015, however if O’Sullivan were to win the title this week he would overtake the Leicester potter.

Robertson celebrated the birth of his second child with fiancee Mille, a girl called Penelope, on Saturday. It has been an eventful few weeks for the Australian who also won his 15th ranking title at last month’s Welsh Open.

Both players looked to be in red hot form this afternoon as the match got underway. Robertson fired in breaks of 88 and 110 to take a 2-0 advantage. Selby responded immediately with back-to-back century runs of 103 and 117 to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.

When they returned it was three-time Crucible king Selby who took a stranglehold on proceedings. Further breaks of 58, 93, 65 and 123 saw him end the session 6-2 in front. The remainder of the best of 17 clash will be played out this evening at 7pm.

Judd Trump and Mark Williams couldn’t be separated sharing the frames to end this afternoon’s session all-square at 4-4.

The clash between Masters champion Trump and Crucible king Williams lived up to its mouth watering pre-match billing, with a break over fifty in six out of the eight frames. There was never more than a frame between the pair, as they jostled for pole position heading into tomorrow afternoon’s final session. With Williams leading 4-3, Trump fired in an important break of 79 to emerge from the session with parity.

Evening session:

Neil Robertson produced a phenomenal fightback to down world number one Mark Selby 9-8 on the final black and reach the semi-finals of the Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno.

Selby had built a commanding 6-2 advantage after a fine performance in this afternoon’s opening session. However, it was Australia’s Robertson who reeled the Englishman in and eventually forced a dramatic and gruelling decider.

With colours and reds glued to the cushion, the final frame lasted one hour and five minutes, coming down to the very last ball. Following missed chances by both players on the black, Selby afforded Robertson an opportunity after he jawed a double to the middle. 2010 World Champion Robertson sunk his chance to the same middle pocket and clinched the frame and the match.

The clash came just days after Robertson and his fiancée Mille celebrated the birth of their second child, a girl called Penelope. The world number eight now plans to return home to Cambridge and be with his family for a couple of days, before contesting his semi-final on Friday against either Mark Allen or Kyren Wilson.

World number one Selby must now wait to see if he will hold on to his place at the summit of the world rankings beyond this week. The Leicester potter has occupied top spot since February 2015, however if Ronnie O’Sullivan wins the title he will overtake him.

Following Selby’s dominant performance this afternoon, Robertson came out firing to apply the pressure this evening. He took the first three frames, with breaks of 90 and 71 along the way, to pull within one at 6-5. Three-time Crucible winner Selby then missed the final pink in the 12th frame to stop the rot, allowing Robertson to deposit the last two balls and draw level at 6-6 going into the mid-session.

Robertson took the lead for the first time since the fourth frame at 7-6. Despite losing five frames on the bounce, Selby dug deep to restore parity, coming from three snookers behind to clinch the 14th frame on the black. The Englishman then moved one from victory at 8-7, after a fine break of 53 with the balls in awkward positions. However, Robertson forced the decider with a century run of 135 and sealed the match in the nerve-shredding last frame.

“I certainly didn’t look like winning at 6-2 down. I just had to come out fighting tonight,” said Robertson. “Mille gave birth a couple of days ago, so my mind was elsewhere many times today. I just thought if I got beat it would be alright and I could go home and get ready for the China Open. However, I have always got that belief in me.

“It was very pleasing that I went toe to toe with him in the safety department. That is what you have to do if you encounter players like Mark or John Higgins. You can’t win every frame in one visit and that gives me a lot of confidence going forward as well.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan opened up a 6-2 lead over Stuart Bingham to move into pole position in their quarter-final clash.

The encounter could have had a different outlook after the opening session, with Bingham spurning blacks off the spot in three of the frames he lost.

One of those misses came in the opening frame and was a mistake which O’Sullivan punished to the full. The Rocket made his 1000th career century in the decisive frame of his recent Coral Players Championship victory and he picked up where he left off today, compiling a run of 111 to move 1-0 up.

O’Sullivan then edged further in front, before breaks of 55 and 90 helped Bingham to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.

The Rocket was electric when they returned, he swept up the remaining frames with breaks of 113, 121 and 89 to secure a commanding 6-2 lead.

Stuart Bingham looked tired at the start of the match, and missed a few unexpected ones. But he won the last two frames of the first mini-session and started looking very sharp. However, after the MSI, Ronnie stepped up a gear; his safeties in particular got better; he didn’t leave his opponent many chances,  and certainly not many easy ones. That made the difference. At 6-2 up he looks a serious favourite to get to the semi-finals.

But so looked Mark Selby after the first session of his match against Neil Robertson…

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for these great pictures!

 

Coverage:

For Mark Selby, those are worrying times. For the full of two seasons he’s not been consistent, and it’s very unlike the “granite” Selby to lose a match from such a big lead, even against someone as good as Neil Robertson. As Neil Foulds said, this will hurt. His confidence must be low. Here is the decider:

Today will see Mark Allen take on Kyren Wilson and it’s hard to call because neither has been consistently in top form over the last months. Mark Williams and Judd Trump will play to a conclusion and it’s impossible to call a winner there. My feeling is that Mark Williams was marginally stronger yesterday and that, if it goes to the wire, he’s the one likely to keep his head cool. And, in the evening, Ronnie and Stuart will play to a finish too.