Yesterday in Milton Keynes, we saw the conclusion of the last 128 round and the start of the last 64 round.
World number one Judd Trump booked his place in the third round of the BetVictor European Masters after easing to a 5-1 defeat of Germany’s Lukas Kleckers.
The Ace in the Pack notched up a record breaking six ranking titles during an epic 2019/20 campaign. In the process he was victorious in last season’s BetVictor European Series, picking up the lucrative £150,000 bonus.
Trump will once again be hoping to land the bumper payout this season, which is awarded to the player who accumulates the most prize money across the six event series.
Trump established a 4-0 advantage at the mid-session this evening, composing breaks of 50 and 132 along the way. When they returned, Kleckers got his first frame on the board to reduce his arrears to 4-1. However, Trump edged the next to set up a third round meeting with Michael Holt.
Trump said: “It was important to get off to a good lead. He is quite a slow player. It can be frustrating at times if you are sat there watching. I just wanted get it done as quickly as possible.
“You have to win one of the first couple of events to get that confidence up. When you start a new season it is so important to have a quick start and get a few wins under your belt. I feel like my game is there and I feel like I’m playing well. Hopefully I can show that for the rest of the tournament.”
World number five Mark Allen saw off Austrian number one Florian Nussle 5-2 to book an intriguing second round meeting with Ken Doherty.
Allen will be hoping to go one step further than his previous trip to Milton Keynes. The Northern Irishman reached the final of the elite eight-player Tour Championship back in June, when he was beaten 10-6 by Stephen Maguire.
This evening, Allen fired in three century runs of 135, 104 and 114 on his way to a comfortable victory.
Graeme Dott was in fine form as he easily saw off China’s Xu Si in a 5-0 whitewash. The 2006 World Champion composed runs of 60, 62, 51, 85 and 55 to blitz to victory.
Asian number one Ding Junhui was also a whitewash victor, beating Yuan Sijun 5-0. Masters champion Stuart Bingham secured a 5-3 defeat of last season’s Rookie of the Year Louis Heathcote.
The match between Mark Allen and Florian Nüßle was actually a very good one to watch. The three first frames of the match were one-sided but Mark produced a masterclass in break building and, if you love snooker, you could only appreciate and admire the skills on display. Although Mark made a 104 in the third frame, he didn’t clear the table. With one red remaining, Florian came back to the table. He didn’t try to find snookers. Instead he compiled a nice 35 break to get himself settled and get the feel of the table. That was a very mature reaction to what had happened before by the 18 years old Austrian Champion. It paid off. Florian managed to win the last frame before the MSI. When they resumed Mark immediately scored a 114, only for Florian to respond by a 102. Mark then finished the job by winning a close last frame. Despite the “heavy” defeat, Florian will have a lot of positives to take from this match. He attracted praise from Neal Foulds and David Hendon, both for his attitude, and the skills he showed despite an unorthodox technique.
Regarding Neal Foulds, he’s an excellent commentator, and someone who gives the players respect, even when they are amateurs and relatively unknown to the general UK audience. Yesterday, ahead of his match, Neal messaged me, wanting to be certain about the pronounciation of Florian’s name. This is in stark contrast with some other commentators, who joyously butcher “non english” names, and get upset when you try to help them to get it right. I once told, very politely and privately, to one of them that “Brecel” is pronounced “Bressel” and not “Brekkel”. He was furious, asking me very curtly, how I could possibly know. Well … I’m Belgian, like Luca, and I know Luca’s family. He still looked unconvinced.
Others results worth noticing in the concluding first round yesterday are the wins by Pang Junxu over Ben Hancorn and Robbie Wlliams over Joe Perry.
Ding whitewashed the young Yuan Sijun. I’m always uneasy when Ding faces a young compatriot. When you hear some of them speak about Ding it’s like he’s a sort of demigod, and beating him is unthinkable … almost sacrilege. I didn’t watch the match, and it may not have been the case in this instance, but the frame scores suggest that Yuan didn’t put up much of a fight after losing the first two frames.
The second round started in the evening, and the main television match was, of course, Judd Trump v Lukas Kleckers. I found it painful to watch. Lukas looked very frustrated and almost sulking in his chair. He had opportunities, some good ones, but didn’t take them. When sitting in his chair, Judd looked impatient and even annoyed at times. Whilst it is true that his opponent was slow, it was obvious enough that this was not some sort of mind game by Lukas: he was just tense, uncomfortable, feeling the pressure and he isn’t a naturally fast player anyway.
Away from the cameras, there were good wins for Luca Brecel, Alan Taylor and Jamie Clarke. Luca didn’t score a single 50+ break in his 5-1 demolition of Ali Carter, which is remarkable given that Ali is a strong all-rounder. Alan Taylor piled more misery on Ben Woollaston, who, IMO, needs some help to rediscover the talent and confidence that earned him a ranking final in Wales, five years ago. How he has gone backwards so much, is hard to understand really, but of course there might be circumstances that we don’t know about.
Today, the last 64 round will be played to its conclusion and Ronnie will play his first match of this season against Aaron Hill tonight.