2020 European Masters in Austrie – Day 4 – SFs

The Final in Dornbirn will be contested between Neil Robertson and Zhou Yuelong. Neil will start heavy favourite for a number of reasons. He’s been there before, Zhou is competing in his first ranking final, Neil had an easy match, in the afternoon, Zhou won a hard fought encounter, that went to a decider and finished well past 1 am this morning. He was probably high on adrenaline too and unlikely to fall asleep easily. But, the young Chinese – he only turned 22 a couple of days ago – has shown outstanding battling qualities and is very sound tactically. I hope that he will settle quickly and that we are in for a great final.

Good luck to both players!

Here is how we got there:

Neil Robertson 6-1 Ali Carter (WST report):

Neil Robertson remained on course for his first ranking title of the season as he thrashed a despondent Ali Carter 6-1 in the semi-finals of the BetVictor European Masters in Austria.

Robertson is through to the 27th ranking event final of his career and will be looking for his 17th title on Sunday, which would bring him level with Mark Selby in sixth place on the all-time list. The 37-year-old Australian will face Gary Wilson or Zhou Yuelong over 17 frames at the Messe Dornbirn arena, with the winner to take the £80,000 top prize.

Prior to this week, world number five Robertson had not been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event this season, though he did win the invitational Champion of Champions in November. The former World Champion has looked sharp all week and was far too strong for Carter today.

Both players struggled to settle in a cagey opening to the match as the first three frames took 70 minutes. With the score at 1-1, Robertson crucially took the third on the colours,  converting excellent pots on the brown and black in a 22 clearance. He made a break of 55 in the next to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Frame five came down to the last red and Carter was unlucky to narrowly miss an attempted pot to a baulk corner, leaving it in the jaws. Robertson missed the blue leading by 19 points but Carter, seeming to lose heart, elected not to play for snookers.

A run of 79 put Robertson 5-1 ahead. Carter led 62-0 in the seventh but couldn’t seal the frame, and a cracking long red set his opponent up for a match-winning 64 clearance.

“Ali’s mindset didn’t seem to be there from the outset, maybe it was a hangover from the Masters,” said Robertson. “I hope that’s what it was, rather than a health problem. It was difficult to play because a lot was going through my mind about what was going on. My concentration was all over the place. I just had to knuckle down, try to be as professional as I could and get the job done.

“It’s always a great occasion being in a final, I always enjoy it. I’ll be playing someone who has never won a ranking event before so he will be hungry.  I’ll prepare as well as I can and if I play great I should get a good result, if I don’t play well I’m willing to grind it out as I did today. It was a great crowd today and I’m sure tomorrow they will get a brilliant match.

“I’m trying to win more ranking events, I’d love to get to 20 and if I achieve that I will refocus my goals.”

I stopped watching at the MSI. It was clear already that there would be only one winner as Ali’s attitude was anything but right. I didn’t really want to see more of it. One can only admire Neil’s natural kindness, a quality once again showing through his reaction to his opponent’s antics. I know that Ali suffers health issues and that sometimes surely it affects his mood and his ability to focus on the match at hand. It’s still hard to watch.

Zhou Yuelong 6-5 Gary Wilson (WST report):

Zhou Yuelong reached the final of a ranking event for the first time by beating Gary Wilson 6-5 in a five-hour marathon at the BetVictor European Masters.

In a semi-final which finished at 1.20am, China’s 22-year-old Zhou made an excellent break of 60 in the deciding frame to set up a match with Neil Robertson on Sunday in Dornbirn. First to nine frames will take the trophy and £80,000 top prize.

World number 32 Zhou will be aiming to win his first ranking title and become the third Chinese winner this season after Yan Bingtao and Ding Junhui.

His only previous ranking event semi-final came in the same tournament in 2017 when he lost to Stuart Bingham, but this time he out-fought the more experienced Wilson in a tough battle.

World number 18 Wilson took the opening frame with a break of 62, then Zhou got the better of a safety exchange on the last red in the second as he levelled at 1-1. A run of 64 saw Wilson regain the lead, and in the fourth he took advantage of a missed black from his opponent at 31-31 to go 3-1 up at the interval.

A 45-minute fifth frame went Zhou’s way then he changed pace with a break of 113 to level at 3-3. Wilson’s 77 gave him the seventh but Zhou hit back again, making a 54 as he took the eighth. The key moment of frame nine came when Wilson missed the penultimate red to a centre pocket when trailing by 39 points, and Zhou later potted the red as he went ahead for the first time at 5-4.

Zhou had first chance in frame ten but had scored just 8 when he was unlucky to knock in a red as he split the pack off the blue. Wallsend’s Wilson punished him with an excellent 74 for 5-5. A safety exchange early in the decider ended when Zhou slotted a long red into a baulk corner, and he went on to make 60 which proved enough.

“Ever since I started playing snooker I have dreamed of reaching a ranking final,” said Zhou. “I feel fantastic. I have played well all week and I played some good safety tonight. I have never experienced this before. I am excited but I will try to have a good rest tonight.”

Sunday’s final starts at 2pm local time.

Zhou had never reached a ranking final before. He showed tremendous qualities of resilience out there. There were mistakes on both sides, there was pressure. He was the less experienced of the two, not just because he is the youngest: Gary had reached a final before, he reached the semi finals at the Crucible last April. It annoyed me that – to my ears at least – the ES pundits, Joe Johnson and Philip Studd, were so biased in favour of Gary. Yes, he made the best start of the two. But that was it. At 3-3, to me, Zhou had shown his mettle and looked favourite. The commentators seemed to dwell more on Zhou mistakes than they did on his opponent. They seemed convinced that Gary would prevail eventually. If Zhou wasn’t playing well (sic) then neither was Gary. Both were tense, with a lot at stake obviously. Actually Zhou was very solid tactically I thought.

2020 European Masters in Austria – Day 3 – QFs

As we reach the semi finals stage, and a longer format with interval – best of 11 – we have an interesting and slightly unexpected line-up.

Neil Robertson will face Ali Carter in the afternoon, as a result of yesterday’s afternoon session (report WST)

Masters runner-up Ali Carter admitted it was tough to find the motivation to get back on the snooker saddle this week in Austria, but having fought through the fatigue he’s into the semi-finals.

Carter saw off Scott Donaldson 5-1 to reach the last four of the BetVictor European Masters, and on Saturday he’ll face Neil Robertson who made three centuries as he beat Thepchaiya Un-Nooh by the same scoreline.

Just five days ago, Carter missed the chance to win his first Triple Crown title as he lost 10-8 in a fiercely contested Masters final against Stuart Bingham. Shrugging off that disappointment, he travelled to Dornbirn and has won three matches this week to reach the semis.

Today Carter went 3-0 up with breaks of 65, 73 and 72. Donaldson made a 58 clearance to pinch the fourth frame then Carter enjoyed a stroke of good fortune in the fifth when he fluked a red, escaping from a snooker. The Essex cueman took advantage to go 4-1 up then clinched the result in the next with a 57 clearance.

“It was a convincing win. I was pleased by the way I finished it off,” said world number 17 Carter. “I have exceeded my expectations by getting to the semi-finals here.

“I was so tired last week after the Masters. It was very difficult to pick myself up. But it’s my job. Sometimes you don’t want to get up in the morning and go to work, but you have to. Now I’m pleased I have come here because I’m in the semis and hopefully I can keep it going.

“To play Neil will be like another Masters match, now we’re down to one table. He obviously played very well today. It will be tough but it’s a great match to be involved in.”

Robertson chasing 17th ranking title

Before this week, Australia’s Robertson had not been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event this season, but he is now just two wins away from a 17th career ranking title.

Robertson took the first two frames with breaks of 104 and 107 then added a scrappy third for 3-0. Thailand’s Un-Nooh pulled one back with a 66 but there was no stopping world number five Robertson as he fired runs of 87 and 115 to reach his 37th ranking event semi-final.

“It was perfect, one of my best performances of the season,” said the 2010 World Champion. “I played Thepchaiya at the Scottish Open last month and he beat me 4-0 in 40 minutes, it was unbelievable. Everyone on tour knows what he is capable of, I just hope he can do that more on the TV tables and get into the top 16.

“I have a good record at the business end of tournament. I’m just going out there and playing, and if it’s good enough I’ll keep the run going.”

This is the first event in the new BetVictor European Series, with a massive bonus of £150,000 for the player who wins the most money across the four events. Robertson indicated that if he is in a strong position after next week’s BetVictor German Masters, he’ll be temped to enter the BetVictor Shoot Out for the first time since 2011.

“I’ll decide after Germany,” he said. “The Shoot Out is a great event, the matches are really a toss of a coin but and I enjoy watching it on TV. It was good to see Thepchaiya winning it last year – if every tournament had that format he’d be world number one.”

And the other semi final, in the evening, will see Gary Wilson play Zhou Yuelong. Here is the report by WST.

Zhou Yuelong celebrated Chinese New Year and his birthday by beating Barry Hawkins 5-2 to reached the semi-finals of the BetVictor European Masters in Austria.

Zhou, who turns 22 today, is through to the last four of a ranking event for the second time in his career and will now meet Gary Wilson, who impressed in a 5-3 victory over Marco Fu.

Hawkins scored a superb 5-4 win over Mark Selby yesterday but could not replicate that performance and was outplayed by world number 32 Zhou.

Londoner Hawkins had chances in the first two frames but didn’t take them and his opponent went 2-0 up. Zhou then fired breaks of 76 and 78 for 4-0. Hawkins pulled two frames back only for Zhou to finish the match in style with a 113.

“The second frame was important because Barry should have made it 1-1, so once it was 2-0 I could relax,” said Zhou, who is based in Sheffield. “When he came back to 4-2 I kept my focus and waited for my chance, and when it came I wanted to clear the table.

“This week I have had my coach Wu Wen Zhong with me. I have been working with him for 12 years but only recently he has come to the UK for the first time and now he is here in Austria. He is a big help and gives me confidence.”

Asked whether he would celebrate the win, his birthday and the Chinese Year of the Rat, Zhou replied simply: “No, I’ll just go to sleep.”

Potting For Fun Helps Wilson 

Wilson was a semi-finalist at the World Championship last year and has matched that run this week. Victory over Zhou tomorrow would give him his second ranking final, the other coming at the 2015 China Open when he lost to Selby.

Hong Kong’s Fu took the opening frame then Wilson levelled with a break of 95. The Englishman nicked a tight third frame on the pink then made a 104 to lead 3-1.

A high scoring contest saw Fu pull one back with an 82 before Wilson made a 105 for 4-2. Fu made a 64 as he took frame seven but Wilson sealed the result in the eighth with his third century, 105.

“It was a funny game, Marco was playing really quickly,” said world number 18 Wilson. “I asked him about it at the end and he said he was tired because he is still having trouble with his eyes (Fu has retinal degeneration). I wasn’t feeling great myself so I tried to play fluently and have a really quick game. It probably worked in my favour because it was a scoring session. I was just running around and potting what was there.

“I’m just happy to be in a semi-final and anything is a bonus now, I’ll just try to keep potting balls. I have been to this stage of tournaments many times, obviously I want to win one but I’ll just keep playing matches and not think about anything like that.”

The result ended Fu’s hopes of qualifying for the Coral World Grand Prix as he needed to reach the final this week to secure a place in Cheltenham.

Saturday’s semi-finals
2pm Neil Robertson v Ali Carter
8pm Gary Wilson v Zhou Yuelong

The Zhou v Hawkins match is the only one I watched yesterday. Zhou looked very nervous at the start, and missed a few, but Barry was terrible and didn’t take advantage. At 4-0 down, I suppose that Barry just relaxed and he played two decent frames. Zhou didn’t panic and, when offered the chance, finished in style. The only aspect in his game that really needs improving is the “rest shot”. He’s even worse at it than Matthew Stevens and that takes some doing! It’s bizarre, because Zhou isn’t tall, he’s actually quite short, and he probably needs the rest more often than most.

Also, the part in bold (added by me) confirms what I suspected regarding the reasons behind Marco’s game change of pace.

Finally …

Chinese-new-year-rat-2020.jpg

A very Happy New Year to all my Chinese friends and readers!

May the Year of the Rat bring you, and those dear to you, health, peace of mind and happiness, as well as success in all your endeavours.

2020 European Masters in Austria – Day 2

Yesterday in Dornbirn saw all remaining top 16 players exit, except for Barry Hawkins and Neil Robertson. .

Mark Williams was ahead for most of his match against Zhou Yuelong, but lost in the decider. This was still a last 32 match.

Here is WST report on the morning session (L32)

A slice of misfortune at a crucial moment proved costly for Mark Williams as he suffered a 5-4 defeat against Zhou Yuelong in the last 32 of the BetVictor European Masters in Dornbirn.

China’s Zhou fluked a snooker on the green in the penultimate frame when he trailed 4-3, and took advantage as he went through to the last 16 to face Jackson Page on Thursday evening.

Three-time World Champion Williams has been beyond the last 32 of just one ranking event so far this season – at the China Championship in September where he reached the final before losing to Shaun Murphy.

The Welshman looked favourite today when he led 4-3 with top breaks of 66, 73 and 94. Frame eight came down to the colours, and when Williams found himself snookered behind the brown, he failed to escape, giving Zhou the chance to clear for 4-4.

The decider was a scrappy affair though 21-year-old Zhou showed impressive tactical nous to create a chance and make a fine break of 42 which proved vital.

“He had so much run in the last two frames, the kisses he was getting, it was frightening,” insisted Williams. “Especially at 4-3 when he snookered me behind the brown. But that’s the way it goes.

“In the last frame, whoever got in and made a 30 or 40 was going to win it, but I didn’t get a chance.”

Williams showed his frustration earlier in the match, punching the table after one miss, and it was a disappointing day for the 44-year-old as he missed the chance to take on Page, his protégé and practice partner.

“Usually I’m good with my emotions but I felt if I showed a bit, it might make me play better,” added Williams. “I didn’t play badly. If I had played Jackson it would have been difficult because I don’t need the points, and he needs them to stay on tour.”

It was a good morning for young Chinese talent as Zhao Xintong saw off Michael White 5-2 with a top break of 95. He now plays Crucible semi-finalist Gary Wilson, who top scored with 106 as he beat Luca Brecel 5-1

This is unusual for Williams to “moan” about luck. As I didn’t see the match, I can’t comment though.

The last 16 round was played to a completion in the afternoon and the evening.

I watched John Higgins v Thepchaiya Un-nooh. Thepchaiya looked tired, maybe jet lagged, missed quite a few easy balls but got better as the match progressed. To me the main difference was that Theppy went for his shots, whilst Higgins was more defensive and refused a few opportunities.

Here is the afternoon report by WST

John Higgins described a 5-4 defeat against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh at the BetVictor European Masters as a “tough one to take” as he failed to capitalise on a 4-2 lead.

Thailand’s Un-Nooh is through to the quarter-finals in Dornbirn where he will meet Neil Robertson, who beat Graeme Dott 5-2.

Four-time World Champion Higgins admitted yesterday that his game these days is a mixture of good and bad performances, and today’s result is certainly a blow as he is yet to reach a ranking final this season.

He opened the match with a break of 92 and later led 4-2 but passed up several chances to finish the tie in frame seven, notably missing the final yellow after his opponent had gone in-off. Un-Nooh cleared the table then got the better of frame eight before making a superb 89 in the decider.

“I have always wanted to beat John, to do that for the first time today is a dream come true,” said Un-Nooh, who won his first ranking title at the Shoot Out last season. “I have always watched him and tried to learn from his safety game, even when he has beaten me. Deep down I hope I can win another tournament.”

Higgins said: “It’s a tough one to take, I should have won 5-2. If you don’t take your chances the balls don’t forgive you. Finishing off matches gets harder as you get older. Thepchaiya made a great break in the last frame.”

Vegan Burger Helps Robertson Sizzle

Robertson reached his first ranking event quarter-final of the season by beating Dott with top breaks of 51, 52, 75, 50 and 50.

It has been a roller-coaster campaign for Robertson as he won the invitational Champion of Champions in November but has suffered a few mishaps in ranking events, including a cancelled flight which caused him to miss the Riga Masters and a navigational error which cost him a place in the World Open.

But the Australian still has time to add to his tally of 16 ranking titles this season. “Things are in my hands, I have done enough to qualify for the World Grand Prix now and there’s still time to get into the other Coral Series events,” said Robertson. “I’ve got a lot of inspiration and motivation to get back into those tournaments.”

Robertson has followed a plant-based diet for several years and managed to find a vegan cafe in Dornbirn. “When I got here I thought I’d just be living off supermarket food and buying loads of fruit,” he added. “Then this morning I randomly walked past a cafe called Vegan Burger. I went in and they do vegan sushi, cakes and all sorts so I’m well in my element there.”

Donaldson Keeps Run Going

Scott Donaldson followed up yesterday win’s over Kyren Wilson by beating another player ranked inside the world’s top ten, Ding Junhui. Runs of 109, 50 and 76 helped Perthshire’s Donaldson to a 5-2 success.

“I really enjoyed the game,” said the Scot. “I feel very calm and in control of my emotions. I know what I’m capable of and I’m happy with my game.

“The best players win most of the tournaments because they have more ability than the others. I am trying to close that gap by making small improvements. And the results are showing I’m going the right way. I’m trying to cut out the frustration you sometimes get when your opponent plays well or has a bit of luck.”

In the race to qualify for the Coral World Grand Prix in Cheltenham, Donaldson has now moved ahead of Ben Woollaston and into the top 32. Next week’s BetVictor German Masters also counts towards the race so Donaldson is not safe yet, but the £11,000 he is already guaranteed from this event has boosted his chances.

He added: “It will be a bonus if I get in. But I’m just keeping my head down and playing matches.”

Donaldson now plays Ali Carter, who came from 2-0 down to beat Michael Holt 5-4 with a top break of 62.

Scott Donaldson is a strange player. You don’t hear about him for weeks or months and, when you don’t expect it, he’s on a good run in a tournament. If he can beat Ali, he might well go very deep this week, although Neil Robertson will probaly be waiting in the semi-finals.

This is the WST report on the evening session:

Barry Hawkins gave up a 4-0 lead against Mark Selby but kept his composure to win 5-4 and reach the quarter-finals of the BetVictor European Masters.

An exciting match which included three centuries and six more breaks over 50 eventually went Hawkins’ way as he booked a meeting with Zhou Yuelong.

Hawkins is through to the quarter-finals of a ranking event for only the second time this season and first since September.

The world number 12 from London played superb snooker in the first half of the match tonight as breaks of 55, 69, 102 and 100 gave him the first four frames. He had chances to seal the result in a scrappy fifth but couldn’t take them and Selby eventually cleared from green to black to snatch it, raising his arms to the crowd as he got one on the board.

Hawkins had first chance in frame six but only made 44 and Selby cleared with 82 to close to 4-2. Runs of 136 and 72 got the three-time World Champion back to 4-4.

A run of 50 put Hawkins ahead in the decider. Selby had once chance to counter but missed the pink to a centre pocket on 13 and his opponent added 59 to seal victory.

“I’m delighted. Even at 4-0 I knew it wasn’t over,” said Hawkins. “I was a bit unlucky not to win earlier and then I was sitting in my chair at 4-4 thinking I hadn’t done a lot wrong. I was very pleased to make a decent break in the last frame after what had gone before. I still felt good in myself and I fancied winning.

“When I lost in the Masters last week I felt awful, it was the worst I had felt for a long time. I felt uncomfortable and had no self belief whatsoever. Sometimes you need a good kick up the bum and I have worked hard since then. To beat Mark tonight gives me back some confidence.”

China’s Zhou beat Jackson Page 5-3 with top breaks of 53, 91 and 100. Gary Wilson saw off Zhao Xintong 5-1 with a top break of 102. He now meets Marco Fu who top scored with 72 in a 5-2 win over Xiao Guodong. Hong Kong’s Fu is through the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the first time since the 2018 World Open.

Friday’s Quarter-finals
Ali Carter v Scott Donaldson
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Neil Robertson
Zhou Yuelong v Barry Hawkins
Marco Fu v Gary Wilson

I watched Hawkis v Selby and it was bizarre. For the first four frames Barry was playing well, but to be fair, Mark was playing terrible. His highest break was a rare 25 and at a point Barry scored over 300 points without reply against him. But, as they say, the last frame is the hardest to win and Barry couldn’t finish him off there and then. It’s all Mark needed to come to life, and at 4-4, I expected him to win. Credits to Barry to find the resources to win the decider.

 

2020 European Masters in Austria – Day 1

The 2020 European Masters started yesterday in Austria, with just 32 players at the venue. There are four tables in use, all in the main Arena.

Prior to the event, Hector Nunns – who made the trip to Dornbirn – had interviewed John Higgins.

John Higgins admits he is super-charged for the start of the BetVictor series of tournaments – and checking out a new venue in Austria.

By Hector Nunns

The World Snooker Tour sets down in the picturesque town of Dornbirn in the mountainous Vorarlberg region this week for the BetVictor European Masters.

And it looks like snooker in the snow for the 32 players having qualified to take part at the Messe complex, with the nearby ski slopes at Boedele having been covered by a fresh fall in recent days.

It might be more remote than capital city Vienna, but the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby have played an exhibition here to huge crowds, and similar are expected for this event.

For Scotland’s Higgins, 44, who like the others present has won two qualifiers to be in the draw, the attractions of the tournament are numerous.

While others arrive via Zurich and a train, he was flying in to Munich, hiring a car, and then meandering down over the Germany-Austria border taking in some wintry scenery.

There is the obvious target of the world number six adding to his 30 ranking titles, and trying to get closer to O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry, currently locked on 36.

But perhaps most of all, four-time world champion Higgins is licking his lips at the prospect of having a real tilt at the BetVictor series bonus of £150,000 for being the leading money-winner.

Any player claiming the £80,000 first prize in either Austria or at the BetVictor German Masters in Berlin next week will have a real shot at the bumper extra pay-out.

Doing well in both could make them a red-hot favourite, with the quickfire Shoot Out and Gibraltar Open to follow.

Higgins said: “The bonus on offer for winning the most money on this BetVictor series is massive, on top of what you would win anyway.

“And it isn’t some incentive that looks impossible, but very real and achievable.

“You would have to think that if a player wins one of the first two, the big European tournaments in Austria and Germany, they would be in a very strong position.

“I have qualified for both of those, and will be giving it everything. So I would love to do well this week in Dornbirn and then in Berlin. And then if I was in the mix and it was in the balance, I would probably go to Gibraltar which I might not normally.

“The idea of different bonuses for different series is a good one, the players like it – and there is a lot of great stuff going on.

“I think I have been to play in Austria – in Vienna – once in the past for an exhibition. Obviously we are not in the capital this week, but somewhere a bit more remote.

“But I am really looking forward to a new experience. I am flying over to Munich in Germany, hiring a car and then driving down from there.

“I think it is maybe a couple of hours, just over, so I’ll see some sights from the car as it should be a scenic route.

“And with the coverage on Eurosport so good now all over the continent and fans keen to see the top players, I think there will be great crowds turning up in Dornbirn.

“I only heard late that it was so close to some ski slopes. It is probably just as well the missus didn’t know about that earlier!

“She keeps going on about us going on a family skiing holiday, and I say ‘no way’. If she’d known before it might have been a more difficult conversation!”

One thing is certain, the big crowds weren’t there yesterday. The arena look pretty empty, even in the afternoon. This is probably the result of a combination of factors: the absence of some of the biggest stars, notably Ronnie and Judd Trump, as well as the fact that the local wilcards had to play two rounds and didn’t make it to the venue, are two of them. Add to it the rather remote venue, not necssarily easy to get at in the winter with the snow and the time of the year (post Christmas holidays  paucity of  money)  are others.

The big bonus may have inspired John Higgins but the fact remains that a lot of top players didn’t qualify. Having the qualifiers just before the Christmas holidays is simply dooming: I’m sure that it’s not just John who likes the idea of £150000, but when you are exhausted … you are exhausted and it’s hard to find the mental resources needed to win matches. It’s that simple.

Most top players involved yesterday won their matches. The exception being Kyren Wilson who lost by 5-2 to Scott Donaldson. Kyren is clearly going through a bad spell.

Here are the reports by WST:

Morning and afternoon session

Top stars John Higgins, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson all enjoyed comfortable wins on day one of the BetVictor European Masters to reach the last 16.

It’s the first ever world ranking event in Austria, in the city of Dornbirn at the foot of the Eastern Alps. The tournament runs until Sunday with a top prize of £80,000 up for grabs.

Higgins battled to a 5-2 win over Fergal O’Brien though he made a top break of just 44 and admitted that consistency in his game is missing.

“Maybe when you get to this age you’re going to have good days, bad days and different days,” said Scotland’s 44-year-old Higgins. “I’m resigned to that fact. The good games are still a good standard but the bad games can be really brutal.

“The World Championship has maybe masked over a lot of things because when you get to three consecutive finals you think you’re close again. But then when you come to some tournaments and play poorly you realise you’re a million miles away again. I’m trying to correct it and when I come to a tournament I still have aspirations of winning it.”

Higgins now faces Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who scored a 5-2 win over Robbie Williams. Thailand’s Un-Nooh established a marker for the £5,000 high break prize with a 146 in the sixth frame, taking a pink from the first red and then blacks from the other 14. He sealed the result in the next with a 124.

 

Thunder Back To Winning Ways

Robertson is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event this season but will do so if he beats Graeme Dott on Thursday. Today he saw off Lyu Haotian 5-2 with top breaks of 71, 100 and 110.

“I felt I played really well and I’m pleased not to come all this way and lose,” said Robertson. “I’ve got a day now to go out and explore a bit because I’ve never been to Austria before.”

At the Masters last week, Robertson squandered a 5-1 lead as he lost 6-5 to Stephen Maguire, but has put that result behind him. “Those kind of matches happen, “said the Australian. “If it happened in my first season I might have been traumatised but I have now won and lost matches like that, it’s part and parcel of the game. It’s not as if I threw the match away, Stephen played very well.

“It was disappointing because it’s such a big event, but the good thing about the tour now is that you are straight back into another tournament so I took a couple of days off then I was back on the practice table.”

Round-up

UK Champion Ding looked sharp in a 5-0 defeat of Robert Milkins. After taking a scrappy first frame on the colours, Ding stepped up a gear with runs of 54, 81, 78 and 73 in taking the last four frames. He now meets Scott Donaldson or Kyren Wilson.

Masters runner-up Ali Carter came from 2-0 down to beat Tian Pengfei 5-3 with a top break of 58. Dott made a 104 as he beat Liang Wenbo 5-3, while Michael Holt top scored with 130 in a 5-0 whitewash of Daniel Wells.

Evening session

Scott Donaldson, one of the most improved players on the circuit in recent years, scored an impressive 5-2 win over Kyren Wilson at the BetVictor European Masters.

Perthshire’s 25-year-old Donaldson has jumped from 93rd to 26th in the world rankings since 2015, reaching four semi-finals. And he is targeting another deep run in Austria this week; he faces Ding Junhui in the last 16 on Thursday.

Breaks of 96, 55, 57, 58 and 50 helped the Scot to a fine win over world number eight Wilson.

“I played well, I know I’m capable of beating these guys on my day. I am just looking to enjoy it when I’m out there,” said Donaldson. “It’s not rocket science, I’ve just been working on my game and finding little clues here and there which might help my performance. The one thing I want to do is get used to the TV tables because that’s something I have not mastered. I can play some really good stuff on outside tables.

“Everyone on the tour wants to win tournaments, that’s why we play snooker and that’s why we play for hours a day.”

Donaldson now needs to win just one more match either this week or at next week’s BetVictor German Masters to go above Ben Woollaston in the race to qualify for the Coral World Grand Prix in Cheltenham.

“I’m good mates with Ben so it’s funny he’s the one I’m chasing. If I get above him I’ll give him some abuse on WhatsApp,” added Donaldson. “It’ll be tough to get into the World Grand Prix but that’s not what I’m thinking about, I’m just trying to keep my head down and play well.”

Three-time World Champion Mark Selby eased to a 5-2 win over Jak Jokes to set up a match with Barry Hawkins. Runs of 80, 78 and 73 helped Selby into round four.

Hawkins came from 2-1 down to beat David Lilley 5-2 with a top break of 80 while China’s Xiao Guodong saw off Alfie Burden 5-3 with a top run of 121.

I only watched two matches: John Higgins v Fergal O’Brien and Mark Selby v Jak Jones.

The first one was much closer than the score suggests. Most frames were hard fought and went to the last balls. Amazingly it’s Fergal who scored the three 50+ breaks of the match.

The second one was rather poor despite featuring five breaks over 70, three from Mark, two from Jak. Mark Selby didn’t look confident and, as a result, played a lot of negative shots attracting criticism from the ES commentators. Jak was more positive but missed too many balls, especially from distance.

Finally, Alfie Burden who lost 5-3 to Xiao Guodong, from 2-0 up, was unhappy with his opponent behaviour and told so on twitter .

25 years as a pro teaches you how to behave as a player unfortunately some players have no class my opponent was warned twice for chalking his cue on my backswing whilst in his chair , I then declared i feathered the white on 60 at 3/2 down and showed him how a sportsman behaves

Maybe Lewis will be able to tell us more?

The 2020 European Masters starts tomorrow …

sEuroMasters2020Poster

This is the poster, or maybe it’s the banner. Nevermind, Two out of three of those players failed to qualify, Jimmy Robertson, the defending Champion and Judd Trump, the World Champion and World n°1.

It’s a 32 men event, and the fitters are already at work for a couple of days.

Actually it’s a 31 men event now, as Yan Bingtao withdrew because of a back injury, giving Jackson Page a pass to the last 16.

So this is the draw:

EuroMasters2020Draw

The first quarter

The most interesting match IMO in this quarter is Tian v Carter. Tian is a very dangerous player, very solid, and Carter may be a bit tired from his exploits last week. Also, although European audiences are usually quite good and supportive of all players, this may feel to Carter as a “come down” after the splendor of Ally Pally. It will be interesting to see how he reacts.

I expect Ding Junhui or Kyren Wilson to emerge from this quarter.

The second quarter

This one is “loaded” with John Higgins, Thepchaiya Un-nooh and Neil Robertson all in there, plus liang Wenbo who can never been dismissed if he finds some form.

John Higgins faces Fergal O’Brien and it’s the kind of opponent who could give him problems if John doesn’t find his best potting. Fergal is schrewd and infinitely patient. He won’t be bothered if things get awkward, quite the opposite. He will not try to force the issue, if the table gets messed up. He will play safe – skilfully – a thousand times if needed. And he will take his time. This might be one for the purists.

For me Neil Robertson should be the one “winning” this quarter, but only if he plays better than he did last week. How he lost to Maguire from 4-0 and 5-1 up is still puzzling me. Graeme Dott could be a dark horse in this quarter.

The third quarter

With Yan Bingtao not playing and both Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins looking low on form and motivation, Mark Selby has to be the hot red favourite to win this quarter. But maybe it’s a golden opportunity for one of the young ones? Zhou Yuelong, Jackson Page? Will they step up to the plate?

The fourth quarter

This is a quarter of two halves. From the first half of it, I fancy Lu Ning to get to the QF stages. The second half is packed: Gary Wilson, Luca Brecel, MIchael White and Zhao Xintong. All hugely talended but all with something to prove. I can’t choose a winner amongst those four. Whoever it is, he should get to the semi finals … “should”, because it would be a mistake to dismiss Lu Ning. His game may not be as “brilliant” as others’ , but he’s a tremendous fighter.

Now… as usual … I’ve probably jinxed a few players. Sorry guys.

Two interviews, one with Ali Carter, one with Ronnie

The media are always after stories, and the needle between Ali Carter and Ronnie is one topic they like to bring forward and write about.

Now this interview with Ali Carter brings a quite different light on the topic 

Ali Carter thanks Ronnie O’Sullivan after grabbing his Masters spot, but they’re still not best pals

Phil Haigh

Monday 20 Jan 2020 2:51 pm

Ali Carter insists he has no animosity towards Ronnie O’Sullivan, but isn’t sure the feeling is mutual.

The Captain took the Rocket’s place in the Masters this year as O’Sullivan didn’t fancy playing in the tournament, saying he had other things to do with his time. Making the most of the situation, the world number 17 beat three former world champions – Mark Selby, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy – to reach the final, where he was narrowly beaten by Stuart Bingham.

The 40-year-old picked up £100,000 for his week’s work but predictably faced a string of questions about O’Sullivan over the tournament, with whom he endures something of a strained relationship.

He’s always been on my Christmas card list, I’m not sure I’m on his though,’ said Carter after defeat in the final at Alexandra Palace.

The pair have known each other for the best part of 30 years and have never been best mates, but tensions really bubbled over at the 2018 World Championship when O’Sullivan nudged Carter with his shoulder between shots, and they got into a heated exchange.

Carter and O’Sullivan met during the Masters this year, as Ronnie was working in the Eurosport studio.

The Captain insists things were cordial and he thanked the Rocket for allowing him the opportunity to play at Ally Pally. ‘I’ve done a couple of interviews in the studio, he seems very pleased for me. I said “thanks Ron.”‘

Carter said after his semi-final win. Carter has moved to clear up the infamous ‘shoulder barge’ in the past, saying that the veterans have put the daft incident behind them

Yeah I spoke to him plenty about it, actually, there’s no hard feelings, it was heat of the moment stuff,’ Carter said after qualifying for the 2019 World Championship.

‘I haven’t been the fondest of Ronnie over the years, but I’ve got the ultimate respect for him as a player and what did give me ultimate respect for him was at the UK Championship, at the hotel when I was having breakfast.

‘This was some months later and he came over to me, he doesn’t need to speak to me, and he came over and said, “Ali, I’d just like to apologise and there’s no hard feelings” and he shook my hand

‘So I thought to myself “hats off to the man,” and he looked me straight in the eye when he said it and he meant it. It’s all water under the bridge and he’s a good guy.’

The Rocket said of the event in 2018: ‘I’ve known Ali since he was 10 years of age, sometimes it gets a bit tense out there but it’s all behind us.’

The clash is in the past, but don’t expect these two Essex lads to be sharing a pint any time soon.

The last sentence for me is totally unecessary. Ronnie took the initiative to go and talk to Ali, and to apologise. Ali has accepted the apology and says that Ronnie has gained his ultimate respect doing this. So why not if circumstances lead to it?

Then there is this other interview, this time with Ronnie who seems to be in a good place.

Ronnie O’Sullivan backs himself as the best in the business: ‘If I had to choose a snooker player, I’d take me all day long’

Phil Haigh

Sunday 19 Jan 2020 10:57 am

Ronnie O’Sullivan says his days of learning from other players are over and is completely confident in the skills he brings to the snooker table.

The Rocket has been watching on at the Masters this week, after choosing not to play in the event and sticking to his gig in the Eurosport studio instead.

The five-time world champion saw fellow veterans Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham book their places in the Alexandra Palace final on Saturday night as they beat Shaun Murphy and David Gilbert respectively. O’Sullivan was asked if he still picks up pointers for his own game while taking a watching brief and the Rocket was entirely dismissive of the suggestion.

‘I don’t think there’s anyone I can possibly learn from, I don’t want to learn from anyone else,’ Ronnie told Eurosport. ‘I love what I’ve got, I love what I do, I’ve tried to harness and just better what I’ve got.

‘There’s players in the game who have got things: Selby has got more grit, Higgins has got a better temperament. ‘But if I had to choose a snooker player, I’d take me all day long, I like my chances.

‘Every time I get on the start line I think I fancy my chances, whoever I play. If I don’t perform and the other guy plays well, fair play, but over a 30-year period, I like what I’ve got.’

O’ Sullivan disappointed many with his decision not to play at Alexandra Palace this year, especially as he said it was because he had other things to do and then spent his week at the venue on punditry duties.

However, even without Ronnie, it is an all-Essex final on Sunday between Carter and Bingham, neither of whom have ever reached this stage of the event in their lengthy careers to date.

The Rocket didn’t make an outright prediction, but is very confident in the mental strength of Bingham going into the huge match. ‘He’s got a great temperament, he’s won the World Championship, big matches,’ Ronnie said of Ballrun.

‘He knew Dave Gilbert is playing well tonight [in the semi-finals]. He come out there and looked the more comfortable player. ‘He hasn’t produced his best snooker, but he’s done it when it matters. He won a match yesterday not playing great, just because of his temperament.

‘He’s going to be fine tomorrow, don’t worry about that.’

Obviously it was done before the final and Ronnie was right.

The title IMO is misleading. Ronnie doesn’t say anywhere that he is the best, he says that he’s happy with what he has and wouldn’t want to be otherwise. Well, after years of beating himself up for not being able to be perfect at the table 7/7-24/24 this is a very welcome change of perspective.

There was also a similar but more complete article in Polish published by ES Poland, and here is the automatic translation

The prestigious Masters tournament was held in London last week. 16 best players from the world ranking took part in it. However, we did not see the third player in the classification. The game makes him happy – I have a good relationship with sponsors and I can determine with them which events to play. China is a very important market, so I have to play in some tournaments there. I will not attend just any event. I can choose. But I know that if the world championships were to start even tomorrow, I could take part in them. I feel good and I enjoy playing – said the Englishman. “I left Masters, but it’s not related to money,” he continued. – This tournament doesn’t just suit me and that’s why I didn’t play there. Thanks to this, I have not had stress recently and felt no pressure. During the holidays I spent time with my children and partner. It was a nice time because I didn’t have to prepare. All in all, I gave up many events in my life, but I have no reproaches for this – the player assured. He loves his own style. O’Sullivan is a role model for thousands of snooker players from around the world. In his career he won five world championship titles. He also won 36 ranked and 34 unranked tournaments. “I don’t want to learn anything from other players,” he explained. – I love how I play. My style gives me a lot of pleasure. There are probably no elements that I would like to do better. Maybe I could get something from John Higgins or Steven Hendry, who no longer performs. They are perfect snooker players. All in all, however, I like my game the most. Many players announce that they will beat me, but then we approach the table and it turns out that my snooker is better. I am satisfied with what I did – he assured. – There are a lot of things I can do outside of tournaments. It could have been like this in the past, but I thought I had to do only the game. I participate in many businesses and just enjoy snooker. I don’t have to play for money anymore, I do it with passion – added the 44-year-old. At the end of the unique meeting, Ebert asked O’Sullivan to recreate the 2008 World Cup game. The Englishman made a maximum break in the second round match against Mark Williams from Wales. At one point he had to show off an extremely difficult play. Now it was only in the third attempt that he managed to approach the perfect blow. Then he won the entire tournament.

It’s probably the same interview, but reported with more details.

Ronnie confirmed what Jimmy White has hinted at during the Masters. Ronnie wanted to enjoy family time without having the “burden” to prepare for a major event.

I have put the bits I found most interesting in bold.

Enjoy the reads.

The Masters 2020 – Stuart Bingham is your Champion

Congratulations Stuart Bingham!

BinghamMasters2020Champion

Stuart Bingham, 25 years a pro, beat Ali Carter by 10-8 yesterday evening to become the oldest Masters Champion in snooker history. He was very emotional during the Trophy ceremony and later in the studio.

Here are the reports by World Snooker Tour:

First session: Bingham 5-3 Carter

Stuart Bingham will carry a 5-3 lead over Ali Carter into this evening’s final session of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace.

Regardless of the result there will be a new name on the Paul Hunter Trophy at the close of play, with both players making their first appearance in the final of this event.

There are a potential 11 frames remaining this evening, with the first to ten picking up the £250,000 top prize.

Carter is seeking a maiden Triple Crown title, having been World Championship runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012. Victory for Bingham would be a second in snooker’s big three events, after his stunning World Championship win in 2015.

Carter, nicknamed the Captain, got off to a flying start this afternoon. He fired in a break of 126 to take the opening frame

Bingham immediately responded with a contribution of 75 to restore parity. They then traded frames to head into the mid-session locked together at 2-2.

When they returned, four-time ranking event winner Carter made a break of 93 to edge in front at 3-2.

Carter gained an opportunity to double his advantage when he came from snookers required to have a chance on the colours in the sixth frame. However, he missed the brown, allowing Bingham to eventually win on the black to make it 3-3.

Bingham then stepped up to claim the final two frames of the afternoon to secure his 5-3 lead. They will return to play the match to its conclusion at 7pm.

Second session: Bingham 10-8 Carter

Stuart Bingham defeated Ali Carter 10-8 in a thrilling contest to lift his maiden Dafabet Masters title at Alexandra Palace in London.

Basildon’s 43-year-old Bingham is now the oldest ever winner of the Masters, taking the record from Ray Reardon, who was just under five months younger when he won the title in 1976.

Victory sees Bingham lift Triple Crown silverware for the second time in his career, following his stunning victory at the 2015 World Championship. He picks up the top prize of £250,000, the richest in the event’s history.

It’s the third year in a row that a new name has been added to the Paul Hunter Trophy, with Mark Allen claiming the title in 2018 and Judd Trump securing his maiden title 12 months ago.

Carter was competing in his first Masters final and third Triple Crown title match. He was a late entrant to the event after world number three Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled out. Carter was runner-up to O’Sullivan at the World Championship in 2008 and 2012. The 40-year-old leaves Alexandra Palace with the consolation of this week’s second prize of £100,000.

In a match which went back and forth, Bingham produced his nerveless best to charge the title down in the closing stretch. He came into tonight 5-3 ahead after this afternoon’s opening session.

However, it was Carter who came charging out of the traps this evening, claiming the first two frames to draw level. He then fired in breaks of 95 and 133 to complete a clean sweep of frames prior to the mid-session and lead 7-5.

The interval came at the right time for Bingham, who looked like a different player when they returned. Breaks of 64, 85, 58 and 88 saw him relentlessly string together four frames in a row and move to the verge of victory at 9-7.

Carter showed his resilience to respond with a run of 77 and close within a frame. However, Bingham wasn’t to be denied his moment. The six-time ranking event winner composed in a supreme run of 109, his first century of the event, to secure Masters glory.

“To get my hands on that trophy, finally, means everything,” said Bingham. “I was getting ready for the loser’s speech at the interval. Ali played brilliantly and it would have been fitting him getting his hands on the Paul Hunter Trophy. I had a coffee and a Mars bar and it seemed to calm me down. Ali missed a couple and I went from strength to strength.

“I just think I have been so tired from the last couple of days, it all came out. Especially at 7-5 down and the way I was thinking. How I put those five frames together to get over the line, I have no idea. I suppose champions are champions for a reason.

“I’ve always played with a smile on my face and enjoyed it all. The atmosphere is similar to the Shoot Out, in that if you can get the crowd involved then it is like having a couple of extra points. Sometimes it felt like an exhibition getting the crowd involved. It was a bit like Bubba Watson trying to get them cheering on the shot.”

Carter said: “You have to say it wasn’t meant to be. I hit him with everything to go 7-5 in front. The interval came at the wrong time for me. I missed a pink with the rest and I never really got another shot.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be in this event. I’ve picked up £100,000 and it pays the school fees! I am gutted I’ve lost, it is all about winning. You guys aren’t interested in talking to me really, it is all about Stuart.

“It has renewed my belief. I am working with Chris Henry as my coach now. That has made a massive difference and hopefully there are a lot of good times to come.”

Here is the last frame and the emotional trophy ceremony

More content will be added if/when available