York Barbican – Day 6 at the 2019 UK Championship

The first day of the last 32 round at the Barbican produced one of the biggest upsets ever at the UK Championship as Nigel Bond, 54 years old and a pro for 30 years beat the World Champion and World n°1, Judd Trump by 6-3 from 3-1 down.

This is the report by Worldsnooker on the afternoon session

Judd Trump’s hopes of winning all three Triple Crown events in 2019 were dashed as he suffered a surprise 6-3 defeat against veteran Nigel Bond in the last 32 of the Betway UK Championship.

Trump won the Masters and World Championship earlier this year and had hoped to become the only player other than Stephen Hendry to complete snooker’s Holy Trinity  in the same year. But in the biggest shock of the season so far, he was beaten by a 54-year-old who had not previously reached the last 16 of a ranking event since February 2018.

Chesterfield’s Bond, who won the British Open back in 1996, goes through to face Joe Perry or Gary Wilson in the fourth round in York.

World number one Trump, who has won seven tournaments within the past 13 months, started strongly as breaks of 52, 114 and 90 gave him a 3-1 lead. But the momentum turned after the interval as world number 98 Bond took four frames in a row with top breaks of 114 and 85 to lead 5-3.

Frame nine lasted 45 minutes and came down to a safety battle on the pink. Bond missed several tough long pots but eventually slotted the pink into a top corner to seal victory.

“It’s my biggest win for a while,” said Bond, who reached the World Championship final in 1995. “I’m over the moon to have shown people that I can still play at 54. Even at 3-1 down I felt good. Judd wasn’t on top of his game and missed a few balls which helped me.

“My game is still good but I haven’t been scoring heavily and you can’t win matches with 30 breaks. It was great to score well today. I was nervous at the end but Judd probably felt the same. Snooker is just one man against another out there. If you play well and put pressure on your opponent, he will feel it, whether he’s number one or number 128.”

Trump said: “Nigel played well. It was one of those games where I can’t really put my finger on why I lost. On another day the balls would have landed for me in the last frame and I’d have come back and won. You can see Nigel works hard and I hope I can still play that well at that age.

“If I’d have gone out and missed loads of balls then I would have been disappointed, but I’ve practised hard and put the work in, I’m bound to lose matches. I’ve done well so far this season so I won’t let this get me down. It will just inspire me to go away and work harder.”

Robertson Topples King

Neil Robertson remained in the hunt for a third UK title since 2013 as he came through a tough battle against Mark King by a 6-4 scoreline.

Robertson led 4-2 with top breaks of 54, 105, 72 and 52 but King showed trademark determination as he won two of the next three to trail 5-4. King led 54-0 in frame ten before Robertson replied with a run of 63. That set up a safety battle on the blue and Robertson trapped his opponent in a tough snooker, and from the chance that followed he wrapped up the match.

“It was difficult to keep my focus towards the end because the crowd were into the game with Judd and Nigel,” said Robertson. “I’m pleased for Nigel to have a moment like that at his age. And it’s nice of Judd to let someone else win a trophy! It doesn’t affect me that much because I’m in the other half of the draw.

“I played well and there’s more to come. I’m making minor improvements in each round. If I can get on a roll then I can steam-roller people.”

Former World Champion Stuart Bingham saw off Zhao Xintong 6-1 with a top break of 127. China’s Li Hang beat Marco Fu 6-4 in a high quality match which featured breaks of 75, 131, 131 and 87 from Li and 104, 110 and 74 from Fu.

The truth is that after the MSI, Nigel was just the better player out there. His long potting and his safety game were better than Judd’s and he scored well too. Judd’s quotes “It was one of those games where I can’t really put my finger on why I lost. On another day the balls would have landed for me in the last frame and I’d have come back and won.”  are totally unecessary. He was beaten fair and square by the better player on the day, it wasn’t about the run of the balls. Also his apparent confidence in the fact that he would win the one year triple crown this year and the many quotes on social media that went with it, didn’t help him at all. He had put himself under unecessary pressure. To be fair to him though, the media and Worldsnooker had contributed to it as well.  Judd looked terribly anxious, and stressed in his chair, almost sick at times.  He had said on twitter – about Ronnie – that he only plays well if you allow him to. Well that applies to everyone, himself included, and every player, being human has lesser days. Yesterday, Nigel dictated the pace, and disrupted Judd’s rhythm. Judd himself wasn’t at his best – as it happens to every player – and that’s all there was to it.

This is the ES review of the session

It’s also interesting what Nigel said in the interview embedded in Worldsnooker article about the importance for older players to have other things in their life, and his reference to Ronnie. It’s those “distractions” that allow them to go on for longer.

The evening session was less dramatic, and here is Worldsnooker’s report:

John Higgins and Mark Allen both scored resounding 6-1 wins at the Betway UK Championship to book places in the fourth round.

Three-time UK Champion Higgins saw off Ian Burns to set up a meeting with Stuart Bingham.

The first three frames tonight took nearly two hours in total and world number five Higgins won each of them on the final black. The Wizard of Wishaw then found a break-building groove to take three of the last four frames with runs of  96, 124 and 88.

“Ian will be gutted by the way he played. I couldn’t believe I was 4-0 up at the interval,” admitted 44-year-old Higgins, who is seeking his first ranking title since the 2018 Welsh Open. “It’s hard for the lower ranked players to come on to the main stage, he struggled with his game and I picked up the pieces.

“I saw Judd Trump losing earlier today and that was a reminder to me that I needed to be on my toes tonight and stay focused. I take my hat off to Nigel Bond because he was brilliant. As you get older it gets harder to control your emotions and nerves but he managed to do that.

“I will give it my all against Stuart Bingham, it’s a 50/50 game. He has had some good wins this week so he’ll be confident.”

Pistol – Titles Are The Bottom Line

Allen got the better of Ben Woollaston with top breaks of 60, 64, 75 and 69. The Northern Irishman was runner-up at this event in 2011 and 2018 and hopes he can go one better this year.

“There are a few things I need to sharpen up on, but all in all I’m very happy to be in the next round,” said world number seven Allen. “So far this season I have been steady but not spectacular. I am consistently winning a lot of matches but I haven’t won a tournament yet and that’s the bottom line.

“I was really under the weather earlier in the week and finding it hard to focus with a head cold. I’ve had a couple of days on Lemsips and I’m much better so there are no excuses. There will only be 16 players left by the end of tomorrow and I believe I’ve got a good chance of winning.”

Matthew Stevens, champion here in 2003, reached the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time in 2019 by beating Anthony Hamilton 6-2 with a top break of 97. Kurt Maflin top scored with 71 in a 6-2 defeat of Alan McManus.

The only thing I watched in the evening was the first frame of Higgins v Burns. It lasted nearly an hour and it was just terrible, awful standard. Ian Burns should have won it – Higgins needed snookers at a point – but somehow managed to lose it. Ian of course is not really used to the main table, and to be on television. Maybe he struggled with that, I don’t know. An hour of it was enough for me to switch off … I could have switched to the Allen v Woollaston match, but, on the moment, it had drained me of every bit of interest for snooker, especially coming after the afternoon thrill!