Let’s first get this out of the way: yesterday main talking point amongst fans has been the truly terrible drawings of the players WST has been using in their social media… As it proved, outrage is sometimes the more efficient publicity stunt.
The second day in Cheltenham saw more higher seeds go out, amongst them Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy. This might prove important for Ronnie as he’s now the only top 16 player remaining in his half of the draw. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy: all the players in this competition have shown form this season and there are no easy matches. The short format is also a factor. Joe Perry beating Ali Carter and Graeme Dott beating Kurt Maflin also help Ronnie’s cause because both were ahead of him in the one year list at the start of the tournament and he has now overtaken them.
Neil Robertson insisted he feels “no fatigue” and is determined to keep riding his wave of form after an exciting 4-3 win over Michael Holt in the first round of the Coral World Grand Prix.
Robertson has now won 14 of his last 15 matches in ranking events, a run which has given him the European Masters title. His only defeat came against Judd Trump in the German Masters final last Sunday.
After returning from Berlin yesterday he headed to Cheltenham for the first event in the Coral Series and kept his momentum going with a hard-fought win over Holt.
A break of 78 gave Australia’s Robertson the opening frame before Holt hit back with 79 and 122 to lead 2-1. Runs of 65 and 69 from Robertson gave him the next two then Holt took the sixth for 3-3.
Early in the decider, Holt was faced with a tricky safety and left it several inches short of the baulk cushion. Robertson whistled in a trademark long red to set up a match-winning contribution of 79.
“Michael played flawless snooker to go 2-1 up and he was brave in his shot selection,” said 37-year-old Robertson, who now meets Mark Williams or Barry Hawkins in the last 16. “I enjoy those kind of matches and I’m glad I could respond.
“I have had a great couple of weeks and I hope I can keep it going, I don’t feel any fatigue. It’s just good to be playing at a high level. These Coral events are special because you are always up against top players so you have to be up for every match.”
Donaldson Continues Ding Hoodoo
Scott Donaldson beat Ding Junhui 4-0 and has now knocked the Chinese ace out of each of the last three tournaments. Showing the most consistent form of his career, Scotland’s Donaldson has climbed to 22nd in the official world rankings and a deep run this week will boost his hopes of qualifying for the 16-man Coral Players Championship later this month.
The first three frames all came down to the colours, and each of them went Donaldson’s way. The third in fact was settled on a respotted black when the Perthshire Potter thumped it into a baulk corner. That gave him the confidence to seal victory in the next with a break of 81.
“The two previous wins over Ding were more pleasing because I actually played some good stuff,” said 25-year-old Donaldson. “I was quite disappointed with how I played there, I missed so many balls. Ding let me off the hook in every frame. If he was on his game he would have beaten me 4-0 easily, so for me to win 4-0 is just ridiculous.
“The more experience I get on the TV table the more I can adjust and work out why I’m missing these shots. Moments like these can happen if you use your brain properly and just keep going. I’m happy where I am but that performance has shaken me a little bit. I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve played terrible and then gone and played great snooker.”
Joe Perry scored a 4-2 win over Masters runner-up Ali Carter. Perry took the first three frames with a top break of 106 and eventually sealed victory in the sixth with excellent pots on the pink and black. Graeme Dott top scored with 76 in a 4-1 win over Kurt Maflin.
Liang Wenbo expressed his wish to “help my people” in the light of the coronavirus outbreak after setting up a match with Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round of the Coral World Grand Prix.
China’s Liang scored a fine 4-2 win over Mark Allen in Cheltenham to book a last-16 clash with O’Sullivan on Wednesday night.
Before the tournament, Liang announced that he would donate his prize money this week to the Red Cross in the city of Huizhou where he grew up and learned to play snooker. The Red Cross is helping victims of the coronavirus in Wuhan and across China.
“I just want to contribute and do my bit, to help my people in need. So I decided to donate all my prize money from this week,” said Liang, who is already guaranteed £7,500. “It’s an answer to myself because it feels important to me, and I wish to deliver whatever I can. It’s not about other people’s opinions.”
Given those circumstances as well as the recent death of his mother, world number 38 Liang showed impressive focus to knock out Allen, ranked 31 places above him. From 1-0 down, Liang took three frames in a row with a top break of 105. Allen pulled one back with a 130 but Liang sealed the result in frame six with a 62.
“I managed to take my chances at crucial moments,” said 32-year-old Liang. “I wanted this win badly, so I’m happy about the result. I’ll be prepared for the next match, against my good friend O’Sullivan. There’s certainly no friendship on the table, we will both play it seriously. He has helped me a lot in recent years so hopefully we can both contribute to an excellent match.”
Two-Ton Juddernaut Hard To Stop
Judd Trump maintained the form which gave him the German Masters title last week as he made two centuries in a 4-1 defeat of Li Hang. He now meets Kyren Wilson or Jack Lisowski on Thursday afternoon.
World Champion Trump has already won four ranking titles this season – one more would see him equal the record of five in a single campaign, achieved by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
China’s Li took the opening frame tonight with a 129 but scored just one point in the remainder of the match as Trump fired runs of 65, 100, 138 and 97.
“He started well and put me under pressure,” said world number one Trump. “After that I put my stamp on the game. I can still improve but it was important to keep the momentum going and keep playing well.”
Murphy And Un-Nooh Fall
Shaun Murphy let slip a 3-1 lead as he lost 4-3 to Matthew Stevens. The turning point came in frame five when world number ten Murphy ran out of position on a break of 62. Stevens ended up snatching that frame on the colours then made a 68 in the next for 3-3.
A tense 44-minute decider came down to the last red and Stevens, leading 55-34, doubled the red into a centre pocket and added the points he needed to set up a match with Gary Wilson.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is currently seventh on the one-year rankings but he went down 4-3 to Matthew Selt.
From 2-1 down, Selt had a 134 in frame four and added the fifth to lead 3-2. Un-Nooh made a 107 for 3-3 and had first chance in the decider but missed a red to a top corner on 33. Selt took control of the frame with a run of 48 and eventually sealed it on the colours.
Selt will now face Tom Ford, the first meeting between the pair since an ill-tempered Championship League match in October.
“I just want to put that to bed, there was some bad feeling but there isn’t any more,” Selt explained. “He did something and I reacted badly. We saw each other in Glasgow and both apologised, which is good because we had always got on really well before that. It will be a tough match because he’s a great player.”
Neil Robertson may insist that he feels no fatigue but yesterday he did look tired out there. He didn’t play well, especially in the early part of the match and got me wondering if he had “hit the wall”. From 2-1 down he improved though.
Ding looked to have found his mojo back at the UK Championship last December, but since then it’s been rather disastrous. It’s really bizarre because I thought that his recent change of management would put him back on tracks. Scott Donaldson has now beaten him in the last three ranking tournaments, and, this time, without playing outstanding. Ding in his seat, again looked dispirited or tired. It’s hard to tell.
Judd Trump played really well. Losing the first frame obviously focused his mind. He was impressive after that.
This afternoon Mark Williams is due to play Barry Hawkins. Going by his twitter, Mark is suffering from a bad bout of gout. He finds it nearly impossible to wear shoes as it his left toe hurts badly. He’s determined to play; he actually though that the £5000 for the first round loser would count to his ranking, which isn’t the case, contrary to what happened in previous seasons.
He tried to convince WST to allow him to wear this
They were having none of it… so this is his kit for this afternoon:
At least his sense of humour is intact… get well soon Mark and good luck this afternoon.