This is not the UK Championship … it’s the Resurrection Championship.
Yesterday saw wins for Nigel Bond, Ding Junhui and Matthew Stevens as well as the exits of Ronnie and Mark Selby.
Nigel Bond, allegedly well past his prime, having taken the scalp of the World Champion in the previous round, beat Gary Wilson by 6-5 from 5-2 down. Gary who was semi finalist at the Crucible last April had looked extremely strong this week… until mid match yesterday. It didn’t go down well with Gary. Remarkably, Nigel Bond, at 54, has become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist in 39 years. Fred Davis was 67 when he reached the last eight in 1980 (source David Hendon on twitter)
Matthew Stevens who has gone missing for years now, all of a sudden looks like the player he was in the early 2000th again.
This is the clearance he made to force a decider
Ding had looked unhappy, dispirited and demotivated for the best part of the last two seasons, and here he is, playing the marvellous brand of snooker we know he can … at the expense of Ronnie. Ronnie had no complaints. He probably played better than most who are still in the tournament, but Ding outplayed him in large part of their match, exploiting Ronnie’s current weakness, his unreliable long potting.
Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:
Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten at the Betway UK Championship for the first time since 2016 as he lost 6-4 in a high quality match against Ding Junhui in the last 16.
O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy seven times and was aiming for a third successive crown, but was second best today against an inspired Ding in York. The result means that the top four players in the world – O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson – have been knocked out before the quarter-finals.
Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, goes through to the last eight to face Liang Wenbo in a Chinese derby. World number 16 Ding has had a disappointing run of form having not win a ranking title for over two years, but on today’s evidence looks to have regained his scoring prowess.
Breaks of 82, 51 and 110 put Ding 3-0 ahead before O’Sullivan pulled one back with a run of 78. Ding won the fifth but didn’t pot a ball in the next three frames as O’Sullivan fired 77, 107 and 124 to level at 4-4.
In frame nine, Ding led 60-0 when he missed a red to a top corner, but O’Sullivan’s reply ended at 16 when he missed a red himself, allowing his opponent to regain the lead. Ding made 45 in the tenth before missing a red to centre, but he soon got back in and added 37 for victory.
“I played well, about 90% of my best,” said 32-year-old Ding. “Ronnie didn’t pot many long balls so he left me chances. I knew I had to start well because he can switch it on at any time, score heavily and win frames. I played good safety. Hopefully I can remember this feeling and play like this in every match.
“I didn’t play many tournaments earlier in the season so I needed ranking points and that’s when the pressure comes. Everyone is looking at me expecting me to win.”
Ding’s mother died in 2017 so he has deep sympathy with Liang, who suffered the same misfortune last week. “He’s got a tough time now,” said Ding. “He is very brave to keep playing and winning. We all love to see him playing well again.
“I know how he feels. (When it happened to me) my mind was here but my heart was back home. I think he’s the same. I’m sure he just wants to win matches for his mum.”
O’Sullivan, who turns 44 today, said: “I was happy to win four frames because that could have been a mauling. I had a couple of chances from 4-4 but I didn’t take them. I missed a few balls at vital times. Ding played a great match and deserved to win. He could win this but there are still so many good players.”
O’Sullivan will be back in action next week at the Scottish Open in Glasgow.
Bond – I’ll Die Another Day
Nigel Bond followed up his win over Judd Trump by coming from 5-2 down to beat Gary Wilson 6-5 – with the help of a monumental fluke in the deciding frame.
At the age of 54, when Bond meets Mark Allen on Friday he will become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist since Fred Davis who was 67 when he reached the last eight in 1980.
Wilson took the opening frame then Bond won a marathon 67-minute second before adding the third to lead 2-1. Breaks of 78 and 75 helped Wilson take the next four frames as he went 5-2 up.
World number 98 Bond won the eighth then made an 85 for 5-4. Wilson, a Crucible semi-finalist earlier this year, had a clear match-winning chance in the tenth but missed the black with one red remaining when he trailed by two points. Bond punished him to set up the decider.
The crucial moment came when Chesterfield’s Bond went for a long red to a top corner and missed his target, but the red hit another which drifted the diagonal length of the table and dropped into a baulk pocket. From that chance he made 66 which proved enough.
“When the fluke went in I thought it must be written in the stars,” said 1996 British Open champion Bond, whose last quarter-final appearance in this event came in 2003. “Gary went for a crazy plant at 5-2 and sometimes the balls don’t forgive you. It was frustrating not to play as well as I did against Judd. Once I was 5-2 down I found a better rhythm.
“I’m proud to have been a pro for 31 years, I have never dropped off the tour or needed a wild card. The money I have earned here (£24,500 guaranteed) will help me stay on for longer. Moments like this are more special now.”
A fuming Wilson said: “The whole match was a joke, I had no form at all. Not just the fluke in the last frame, but every time he missed the balls finished awkward. It was pathetic. Nigel was snatching at every shot. He’s a great bloke but he got away with murder today. I had my chances though so I only have myself to blame.”
Two-time winner Mark Selby was knocked out of the Betway UK Championship, losing 6-5 to Matthew Stevens in a match which finished at 12.30am.
Selby couldn’t convert a 5-4 lead into victory and he follows the likes of Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy in dropping out before the quarter-finals.
World number 43 Stevens led 3-1 at the interval with a top break of 54 then Selby hit back with three in a row, making runs of 51, 52 and 49, to lead 4-3. Stevens took the eighth with a break of 77 and had chances in the 51-minute ninth but couldn’t take them and Selby eventually got the better of a safety battle on the yellow and cleared to lead 5-4.
Selby looked in control of frame ten when he led 39-7 with four reds left, but Stevens cracked in an excellent long red and cleared with 45. The scrappy decider lasted 46 minutes, Stevens making breaks of 29 and 17 which gave him a lead to defend, and when he slotted in another fine long pot on the penultimate red he was able to add the points he needed.
“It wasn’t a pretty match,” admitted 42-year-old Stevens. “I was very lucky because Mark had chances to win 6-4.”
Maguire – He Should Have Killed Me Off
Scotland’s Maguire recovered a 4-2 deficit to win the last four frames against Welshman White. World number 14 Maguire won this title in 2004 and has since reached the quarter-finals a further ten times.
White fired breaks of 104, 115 and 91 in taking a 4-2 lead. Maguire took a scrappy seventh frame then made a 56 in the next to level at 4-4. In the ninth he cleared with 41 to force a respotted black then potted it after a safety error from his opponent. That proved vital as Maguire clinched victory in the tenth with a break of 116.
“From 4-2 he should have killed me off, he had chances,” admitted 38-year-old Maguire. “I was nicking frames. Michael will feel he has missed the boat tonight. All the matters for me is the win. I didn’t play well but I can improve tomorrow.”
Ding Junhui v Liang Wenbo
John Higgins v Yan Bingtao
Stephen Maguire v Matthew Stevens
Mark Allen v Nigel Bond
If Ding can maintain the level he played at yesterday, he has to be the favourite for the title come Sunday and if Yan Bingtao plays the way he did to beat Neil Robertson, he should also beat John Higgins who has progressed without being convincing.
Ding’s match v Liang Wenbo may prove difficult psychologically. Ding has gone through exactly the same ordeal as Liang. He too lost his mother when she was in her 50th. He probably feels a lot of empathy and sympathy for his opponent. He will have to block that out. Liang has shown outstanding courage this week, he was very emotional after his last match. How much has it taken out of him? What has he left in the tank? It’s hard to know.
The Maguire v Stevens match is hard to call – it should be close. Finally, the way things have gone when Agent 00147 was on a mission this week, I’ll abstain from predicting anything about the Allen v Bond match.