2020 European Masters – Day 5

Two rounds – the last 32 and the last 16 – were played yesterday at the 2020 European Masters in Milton Keynes. This was the outcome:

EuroMasters2020L16Results

And here is the report by WST:

World Championship runner-up Kyren Wilson secured a 5-2 win over Scotland’s Anthony McGill to reach the last eight of the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.

The pair met most recently in the World Championship semi-finals last month and contested an epic encounter. Wilson won a 61-minute final frame decider to reach his first Crucible final, where he fell short against Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Next up this week, Wilson faces the prospect of competing against another player he beat at the World Championship. He’ll meet rival and world number one Judd Trump in the quarter-finals tomorrow at 1pm. Trump whitewashed Jackson Page 5-0 to secure his progression.

This evening’s match saw Wilson enjoy a more comfortable victory than his previous meeting with McGill. The Warrior composed breaks of 120, 56 and 96 on his way to establishing a 4-0 advantage at the mid-session.

McGill took the following two frames with breaks of 52 and 75 to remain in the contest. However, Wilson put the tie beyond doubt when he embarked on a 147 attempt. The Kettering cueman broke down on the 13th black to end his run on 97, but that was enough to emerge a 5-2 victor.

Wilson said: “It is a really hectic schedule, so I hadn’t looked at who I was playing. I got a call from Martin Clark, the tournament director, he told me Anthony had just finished and we were going on at quarter-past seven. I realised I had McGill. It is quite soon since the World Championship. You just have to treat it as another game. It is the last 16 of a big event and I’m really pleased with that performance.

“It was an amazing game at the Crucible. The reaction I’ve had from the World Championship has been more about the semi-finals than anything else. It will be a game and a decider that will be remembered forever. It is nice to have been in a game like that.”

Mark Selby staged a tremendous fightback to beat Stuart Bingham 5-4, having trailed 4-1. The three-time Crucible king’s opponent in tomorrow’s quarter-finals will be Ding Junhui, who beat Mark Allen 5-2 this evening.

Leicester cueman Selby has had an unusual path to the last eight. He’s only played two matches, having received a bye in the first round after Michael White was required to self-isolate and this morning after opponent Mark Davis had his cue stolen.

Bingham started fastest this evening, missing the 15th red in a 147 attempt, ending up with a break of 113. Further runs of 132 and 64 helped Masters champion Bingham to establish his 4-1 lead.

However, from there Selby clicked into top gear and surged to the winning post, making contributions of 114, 72, 64 and 54 to claim four on the bounce and seal the 5-4 win.

Defending champion Neil Robertson came through with a 5-2 defeat of Pang Junxu. He’ll face nine-time ranking event winner Shaun Murphy next, who edged past Tom Ford 5-4.

Aaron Hill’s fairytale run came to an end. The Irish 18-year-old, who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan yesterday and Matthew Stevens earlier today, was beaten 5-1 by Yan Bingtao.

Yan’s quarter-final opponent will be Martin Gould, who saw off tour rookie Peter Devlin 5-3.

The last 32 round made the news even before it even started … with this:

Mark Davis faces a future without the cue he had used for 20 years as it was stolen shortly before he was due to play in the BetVictor European Masters on Friday morning.

Davis was set for a third round clash with Mark Selby in Milton Keynes but had to pull out when he realised the cue had gone missing.

He had leant it against his car while putting his suitcase into the boot in his hotel car park. He went briefly to reception to check out, then returned to his car and drove to the venue, assuming that his cue was in the boot. It was only when he reached the venue he realised that the vital tool of his trade was not there.

“I rushed back to the hotel, asked in reception and even went to check my room, but I knew what had happened, the cue was gone,” said the 48-year-old from Sussex. “Someone must have seen it leaning against the car and nicked it. I was ridiculously stupid. I must have been on auto pilot and not paying attention to where I had put it. I realised I was going to have to pull out.

“My head is spinning and I am absolutely gutted, firstly because my cue is gone and secondly because I’ve had to withdraw from a tournament, which has hardly ever happened to me in nearly 30 years as a pro, and never for such a daft reason.”

The only silver lining for world number 39 Davis is that he has a replica cue at home, which was made for him by master craftsman John Parris.

“I had it made at a time when I was struggling and thinking of changing,” added the two-time Six Red World Champion. “I decided not to take the plunge and stuck with the same cue. But now it looks like I have no choice. Mentally, switching cues is a very tough thing to do and I don’t know how I will deal with it. I’ll have to start practising with it straight away and hope I can get used to it before the Championship League next week.”

Davis’s cue is a John Parris ash with a light brown butt. It is in a black three-quarter length case which has the names of his children, Millie and Jack, written on the side. Davis is offering a reward of £1,000 for the safe return of the cue. Anyone with relevant information can email him at markdavis2108@gmail.com 

Several fellow snooker players shared the information on social media, in an attempt to help finding the cue, most notably Mark Williams.

There is no report on the last 32 round by the governing body, so here are a few thoughts on that round.

Stephen Maguire was beaten heavily by Tom Ford; the final score was 5-1 and, in the 5 frames he lost, the Scot only scored 38 points. Of course, Tom Ford is a very good player but it’s really bizarre. Maguire won the Tour Championship in the summer but since then has been blowing hot and cold and more cold than hot actually.

Ding Junhui beat Lyu Haotian by 5-4, having trailed 4-1. During those last four frames, Ding had just one break over 50 but Lyu scored only 39 points in total. Now, I really rate Ding as a break builder, however he is not a player in the Selby mould, and he has been guilty of lacking fight when behind in the past. I did not see this match, so I can’t be certain, but again, I can only wonder how much of a psychological barieer there is for younger Chinese players to beat him.

All three rookies who reached the last 32, won their last 16 match. Aaron Hill beat Matthew Stevens, Peter Devlin beat Joe O’Connor in a match that over-ran, and Pang Junxu beat Barry Hawkins. Now, whilst there was good coverage on Aaron Hill’s matches, fair coverage on Peter Devlin’s matches, there was nothing much about Pang at all. Pang is only 20, a rookie, he beat one of the hardest match players on the tour in Hawkins, with breaks of 76, 57, 52 and 88. He had beaten the dangerous Robbie Williams in the previous round. Why is there nothing about him in WST reports? I know that the language barrier is a factor, and the Chinese assistant media officer is stuck in Beijing and not traveling to the UK any time soon, but still?

Mark Allen had 4 succesive centuries the day before yesterday. He scored five 50+ breaks  – 101, 55, 73, 58, 88 – in his last 32 win over Ashley Carty. In the last 16, he was all square with Ding at the MSI, with a 104 and a 77, and then went missing completely, scoring just three points in the last three frames. Again, without seeing the match, it’s hard to make an informed opinion but, for some time now, Mark Allen seems to regularly run out of energy when reaching the latter stages of events and this was his second match on the day…

All detailed results are on snooker.org

 

 

 

2020 European Masters – Day 4

Day 4 at the 2020 European Masters belonged to the rookies! Peter Devlin beat Mark Williams in the afternoon, and Aaron Hill beat Ronnie in the evening. Both matches went to a deciding frame.

And in the evening session, Mark Allen almost made history …

Here are the reports by WST…

Afternoon session

Tour rookie Peter Devlin scored the biggest victory of his fledgling career, winning a 5-4 thriller against three-time World Champion Mark Williams at the BetVictor European Masters.

Former English under-21 champion Devlin battled his way through Q School last month, beating John Astley in the final round to earn professional status.

The Londoner showed exactly what he is capable of today, with a sensational break in the deciding frame. Devlin had already produced some impressive snooker to move into a 4-1 advantage, only for Welshman Williams to peg him back to 4-4.

Devlin showed no signs of nerves in clinching the momentous victory, firing in his first ever century as a professional, a run of 102, to win 5-4.

“What a time to make a century, in a deciding frame, against someone like that, on a TV table. It is unbelievable,” said 24-year-old Devlin. “It was great to be able to play someone like that so early on. I said from the start I wanted to be chucked in at the deep end. I like cameras, I like getting involved in the whole World Snooker Tour. I don’t want to be on the backstage, I want to enjoy it. I want to make my parents proud. It was amazing.”

Scotland’s Stephen Maguire battled back from 3-1 down to beat James Cahill 5-3, while three-time World Champion Mark Selby eased to a 5-0 demolition of Chinese teenager Gao Yang.

Matthew Stevens thrashed Xiao Guodong 5-1 to reach the last 32. He’ll face either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Aaron Hill up next.

Evening session

European Under-21 champion Aaron Hill summoned a sublime performance to stun World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and claim a momentous 5-4 victory at the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.

Tour rookie Hill booked his place in the second round with a 5-2 defeat of former Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks. The 18-year-old made his televised debut at last season’s Shoot Out, beating Kyren Wilson on a run to the last 32.

Irishman Hill got off to a dream start this evening, making a break of 73 to claim the opener, before taking the second to establish a 2-0 cushion.

O’Sullivan, competing in his first event since becoming World Champion for the sixth time, got a frame on the board courtesy of runs of 49 and 36. However, it was Hill who took the fourth to lead 3-1 at the mid-session.

When they returned, O’Sullivan upped his game as breaks of 64, 58 and 102 saw him take the lead at 4-3. However, his teenage counterpart refused to wilt, taking the match to a decider. Hill kept his cool and secured victory with a nerveless contribution of 78. He’ll face Matthew Stevens in the next round.

Afterwards Hill admitted to being motivated by O’Sullivan’s comments about the lack of young talent on the circuit, which he made during the World Championship last month.

Hill said: “That comment was in the back of my head, but I didn’t worry about it. I just said to myself when he said it, that one day I am going to show him what I can do. I think today was the day.

“I’m speechless at the moment. I didn’t just go out there and be happy to be there. I still wanted to win the match. If I’d lost after being 3-1 up, I’d have been disappointed. I am just so pleased with that victory. Everyone back home, my family and my friends must be buzzing. I just looked at my phone and I think it is going to take until Christmas to reply to everyone.”

Mark Allen produced a record equalling blitz of centuries as he stormed to a 5-0 defeat of Ken Doherty.

Northern Ireland’s Allen opened up the match with four century breaks, equalling the record for most in a row. He now jointly holds that accolade with John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, Gary Wilson and Stephen Maguire.

The devastating burst was compiled with breaks of 134, 101, 141 and 145. Allen had an opportunity to go for the record in the fifth frame, but broke down on a break of 46 after failing to get on a red after going into the pack. However, he still saw himself over the line to seal a quickfire victory.

Allen said: “I had it in my head nobody had done five. I knew when I got to 30 and 40, I had one big shot to play. I potted a decent pink to split the last four reds and it landed horribly. I went for a really tough plant which I wouldn’t have taken on had it been 2-2, but I had to go for history.

“I felt like I had the cue ball exactly where I wanted it to be throughout the whole match. I only really missed one or two shots. I don’t think I missed anything that I should have got. All in all, it was a really good performance.”

Barry Hawkins put on an electric display to thrash Jordan Brown 5-1. Breaks of 68, 50, 105, 113 and 62 saw the Hawk soar to victory. He’ll face China’s Pang Junxu up next.

Defending champion Neil Robertson progressed with a 5-2 win over Riley Parsons, while Shaun Murphy earned a hard fought 5-3 victory against Alan McManus.

It’s a great thing to see two young players doing so well in the very early stages of their career.  I’m not sure when was the last time that none of John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie  manage to reach the last 32 round of an event they all entered.

You can read more about Ronnie’s match here

 

European Maters 2020 – Ronnie loses to Aaron Hill in the last 64

Ronnie will be disappointed to start the season as a World Champion with a defeat, but a lot of credit has to go to the 18 years old rookie Aaron Hill who beat him yesterday evening. This young man is a real prospect, probably the best European youngster I’ve seen for many years. At 18, he’s already a complete player. His game is very mature, he has loads of talent and his temperament is excellent.

Before anyone who didn’t watch the match comes with the usual comments – Ronnie couldn’t be bothered, he went for everything, etc… – Ronnie tried his hardest in this match. He applied himself, gave his opponent due respect. He wasn’t match sharp, which was to be expected as he probably wanted and deserved a good break after winning at the Crucible, but his attitude was excellent. Getting a bye in the first round probably didn’t really help him, and, contrary to his opponent, he did not competete in the CLS last week either. He came into this one completely cold. But he improved as the match went on, and may well have won it if it wasn’t for a massive fluke that allowed his opponent to start the 78 winning break. Ronnie’s reaction to the fluke said it all: the frustration, and the knowledge that his young opponent was well capable to win from there … which he did.

Here is the fluke and the winning 78 break:

And here is what Ronnie had to say to Hector Nunns after the match

“Look, I had my chances and if you don’t take them then this can happen.

“Things didn’t go my way in the decider, there were a couple of flukes and he held himself together pretty well.”

Here are the frames scores:

EuroMasters 2020-Ronnie-vs-Hill-Scores

and the report by WST:

EuroMasters 2020-Ronnie-vs-Hill-!European Under-21 champion Aaron Hill summoned a sublime performance to stun World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and claim a momentous 5-4 victory at the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.

Tour rookie Hill booked his place in the second round with a 5-2 defeat of former Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks. The 18-year-old made his televised debut at last season’s Shoot Out, beating Kyren Wilson on a run to the last 32.

Irishman Hill got off to a dream start this evening, making a break of 73 to claim the opener, before taking the second to establish a 2-0 cushion.

O’Sullivan, competing in his first event since becoming World Champion for the sixth time, got a frame on the board courtesy of runs of 49 and 36. However, it was Hill who took the fourth to lead 3-1 at the mid-session.

When they returned, O’Sullivan dramatically upped his game. Breaks of 64, 58 and 102 saw him take the lead at 4-3. However, his teenage counterpart refused to wilt, taking the match to a decider. Hill kept his cool and secured victory with a nerveless contribution of 78. He’ll face Matthew Stevens in the next round.

Afterwards Hill admitted to being motivated by O’Sullivan’s comments about the lack of young talent on the circuit, which he made during the World Championship last month.

Hill said: “That comment was in the back of my head a small bit, but I didn’t worry about it. I just said to myself when he said it, that one day I am going to show him what I can do. I think today was the day.

“I’m speechless at the moment. I didn’t just go out there and be happy to be there. I still wanted to win the match. If I’d lost after being 3-1 up, I’d have been disappointed. I am just so pleased with that victory. Everyone back home, my family and my friends must be buzzing. I just looked at my phone and I think it is going to take until Christmas to reply to everyone.”

All the same, well done Aaron Hill and good luck for the rest of the tournament. 

 

2020 European Masters – Day 3

Yesterday in Milton Keynes, we saw the conclusion of the last 128 round and the start of the last 64 round.

Here is the report by WST:

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.

You can find all detailed results on snooker.org

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.

2020 European Masters – Day 2

The biggest piece of news yesterday was of course that two players were tested positive to covid-19 and, as a consequence they and three other players who had been in contact with them have been withdrawn from the tournament.

This vindicated Anthony Hamilton’s decision to withdraw from the CLS last week because no tests were done that time. I sincerely hope that WST will now make sure tests are done at all events, including next week.

More positive tests might appear today …

Other than that, here is WST report on yesterday’s action

Stephen Maguire staved off a fightback from Chinese teenager Chang Bingyu to win 5-3 and book his place in the second round of BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.

Maguire has already tasted success in Milton Keynes this year. He was victorious at the elite eight-player Tour Championship in June, beating Mark Allen 10-6 in the final. That saw him earn the £150,000 top prize, as well as a £100,000 bonus for topping the Coral Series standings.

This tournament marks the early stages of a quest for another bumper payout. The player who accumulates the most prize money over the six-event BetVictor European Series, will land a huge £150,000 additional payout.

The Scot claimed the opening two frames, before a fine century run of 117 by Chang reduced the gap to 2-1. That did little to deter Maguire, who claimed the following two frames to move one from victory at 4-1.

Maguire began to visibly show his frustration after spurning opportunities to wrap the match up, with Chang taking two on the bounce to make it 4-3. However, a fine break of 93 saw the six-time ranking event winner over the line with a frame to spare.

“I’m just happy to get through,” said 2004 UK Champion Maguire. “I was starting to think that I’d thrown that match away there. I honestly thought it was going 4-4. I’m just over the moon that I managed to get out there before the decider.

“A lot of the other players thrive on the crowd, which I don’t. All the players need to get used to this. I think it is going to be like this well into next year. Any tournament that you guys put on, the players should be very grateful.”

Shaun Murphy edged out Liang Wenbo in a late night thriller 5-4 to book his progression to the second round.

Murphy fired in a century run of 105 in the fourth frame to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval. When they returned, Liang blitzed his way back into contention. Breaks of 85, 90, and 59 took him to the verge of victory at 4-3.

Liang looked set to clinch an impressive win, before missing a red to the middle and breaking down on a break of 55. Murphy produced a steely clearance of 64 to force a decider.

China’s Liang had further chances to close out the tie, but eventually Murphy got over the line by clearing the colours to win the final frame on the black. That sets up an intriguing second round meeting with Alan McManus.

Tour rookie Aaron Hill produced an impressive display to beat Andy Hicks 5-2. That earns the current under 18 and under 21 European Champion a mouth-watering second round clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Crucible semi-finalist Anthony McGill battled to a 5-3 victory over Luo Honghao, while Yan Bingtao whitewashed Barry Pinches 5-0.

Once again, this report focusses on the televised/streamed matches and the top players.

Young Chang Bingyu showed some good things and, in a tiered system, would probably have progressed through a couple of rounds, gaining more experience, more confidence, some ranking points and some money …

From 3-0 down, Zhou Yuelong went on to beat Alexander Ursenbacher by 5-4. Although he lost very heavily to Neil Robertson in his first ranking final last season in this very tournament, I believe that he’s one of the players who could well take their first ranking title this season.

The 16 years old Antek Kowalski beat Sean Maddocks by 5-3. I’m not sure why WST uses Antoni instead of Antek as his first name but, maybe, it’s Antek’s own choice as it is “easier” to non-polish ears? Whatever… Sean Maddocks and Aaron Hill are probably the most “fancied” rookies this season, but keep an eye on Antek Kowalsi. He’s really good.

Jamie Clarke confirmed his Crucible form by beating Ricky Walden by 5-3, and Jamie Jones is making the most of his return to professional snooker, beating Dominic Dale by 5-1.

You can hear Jamie here, speaking of what it means to be back

The young Ben Mertens was beaten 5-0 by Robert Milkins, despite having the only 50+ break of the match to his name. The score is one-sided however all frames but one, the first, were close. Robert of course has loads of experience, whilst Ben is only 15, and I imagine that this experience was the telling factor when it came to win the close frames.

Zhao Xintong lead 4-2 and still was beaten by Nigel Bond who won the last three frames. I didn’t see the match, but I somehow expected this based on what I witnessed in the past from Zhao. He has no answer to the type of game the likes of Nigel Bond play.

Two players test positive at the European Masters 2020

This was posted by WST just now:

Snooker players Daniel Wells and Gary Wilson have tested positive for Covid-19 at the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes and have withdrawn from the event.

Elliot Slessor and David Lilley came into contact with Wilson on Monday, while Michael White came into contact with Wells. Slessor, Lilley and White have also been withdrawn from the event by WST.

Both Wells and Wilson arrived at the venue on Monday and were tested. The positive results were received on Tuesday morning. All other players and officials tested at the event so far have had negative results.

The opponents of the four players to withdraw will receive a bye to the second round. Lilley would have played David Gilbert, Slessor would have faced James Cahill, Wells would have played Ronnie O’Sullivan,  Wilson was due to meet Duane Jones and White was due to play Mark Selby..

Wells, Wilson, Slessor, Lilley and White will now undergo a period of self isolation and will receive the support of WST.

Since WST events restarted in June, strict Covid-19 regulations have been followed, under UK Government guidance.

I wouldn’t say that Elliott Slessor withdrew, more like he was forcibly “withdrawn” judging by his reaction on Facebook. He’s absolutely fuming. But WST has to be carefull. After just one day the test could still come negative even if he was infected.

Update: see parts in red and note the change in wording regarding the “contact” players: It’s now indicated that they have been withdrawn, as previewsly it was said that they had withdrawn.

And all this just shows how right Anthony Hamilton was to withdraw last week, with no tests. I sincerely hope that they will now change their mind and test players next week as well.

 

2020 European Masters – Day 1

A lot happened on the first day of the 2020 European Masters

Here is the rather “limited” report by WST:

Defending champion Neil Robertson came from 3-1 down to beat Thailand’s Sunny Akani 5-3 on the opening day of the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.

Robertson lifted last season’s European Masters title earlier this year. He inflicted a 9-0 whitewash defeat on China’s Zhou Yuelong in the final to pick up the title and the £80,000 top prize in Dornbirn in Austria.

Australia’s Robertson was pipped to last season’s BetVictor European Series bonus by Judd Trump. The £150,000 payout goes to the player who accumulates the most prize money over the series. He’ll be hoping to go one step further in this season’s six-event series.

The Thunder from Down Under overturned three required snookers to steal the first frame. However, Akani then took charge, firing in breaks of 56 and 132 on his way to establishing a 3-1 lead at the mid-session.

Robertson regrouped and produced a four-frame blitz to surge past the finish line when they returned. Breaks of 54, 64 and 53 helped him mount a fightback and seal his 5-3 win. Next up he faces Riley Parsons

“At 3-1 he never looked like missing a ball,” Said 2010 World Champion Robertson. “He didn’t do a lot wrong, he just rattled a couple of crucial last reds with the colours at his mercy. He probably would have won the match. I did well to counter clear and I’m really pleased with how I played today.

“I’ll admit I was absolutely gutted when Judd pipped me to the line last season. It looked an absolute certainty at one stage. I had a brilliant season, so I can’t really look back on that. It is just fantastic that the sponsors are still putting in the prize fund available to the players. A lot of the lower ranked players really need these tournaments.”

World number one Trump booked his place in the second round with a 5-0 whitewash defeat of Ukrainian 14-year-old Iuilian Boiko.

It was a baptism of fire for Boiko, the youngest ever professional, who didn’t trouble his illustrious counterpart this afternoon. Trump composed breaks of 74 and 105 on his way to securing victory in just 48 minutes.

Mark Williams was also a whitewash victor, storming to an emphatic 5-0 defeat of WSF Open champion Ashley Hugill.

Williams composed three century runs of 121, 101 and 138 en route to an impressive victory. Next up the three-time World Champion faces tour rookie Peter Devlin, who beat Zak Surety 5-3.

Martin Gould overcame four-time Crucible king John Higgins in a 5-4 thriller, while Allan Taylor came through 5-4 against Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham.

First of all some comments on the above reported matches.

Sunny Akani could easily have been 4-0 up Neil Robertson at the MSI. He was completely dominating the match. Last year, in this event, the best of 9 matches were played without an interval. Had this been the case this year aswell, I’m 99% certain that Sunny would have won the match by 5-0 or 5-1. But the MSI allowed Neil to regroup, and Sunny to reflect on what was happening. We saw the same thing happen last month during the World Seniors final.

Judd Trump did indeed inflict a severe defeat on young Iulian Boiko, and the worst aspect of it was that Iulian did get opportunities but couldn’t take them at all. He looked overwhelmed and lost out there, even in shock at times.

Now, there are so many things that feel wrong to me here. Iulian turns 15 today. How on earth is he allowed to play as a professional? When Yan Bingtao qualified for the main tour in 2015/16 he was unable to obtain a UK visa and the reason cited at the time was that he was too young. He had to wait for another year. He was older than Iulian is now. According to what can be found on this UK government page  children can only start full-time work once they’ve reached the minimum school leaving age, which is 16. I know that there must be some special provisions regarding sports, but still? Snooker is a sport that is extremely demanding mentally and emotionally. There is a lot of pressure and no physical release of the tension when sat in the chair. A lot of adult players have admitted to struggles with mental health issues. I hope that Iulian has the right people around him to help him through his first years as a professional. Yesterday’s match tells me that he isn’t ready, and it’s only normal. 

Some will tell me that he will learn from this match. I doubt it. I said this before, but will say it again. The flat draw system is far too brutal. He doesn’t offer a path for development with progressivity in the matches’ degree of “difficulty”,  something the tiered system does offer. Saying that, as a snooker player, you only learn properly by facing the best ones right away is as stupid as claiming that you can only become good at maths by taking a course in “Numbers’ Axiomatic Theory” before you even master basic arithmetic. For everything you need foundations, and foundations in snooker are not acquired by sitting in a chair for 90% of the match time watching your opponent clearing the table, frame after frame. It’s not acquired by being clobbered match after match by far too strong opponents. That’s just soul and confidence destroying, particularly if you are as young as Iulian is. It’s acquired by playing opponents stronger than you, but not that strong that you are reduced to a mere spectator role.

In sharp contrast,  young Brian Ochoiski from France gave Jack Lisowski a very tough challenge. Jack had to win the last two frames to get over the line by 5-4. Brian could have won the match. He made a few bad shot choices but he will learn from that. Brian is 21, not 15. He’s a lot more mature. He didn’t come in his match with high expectations, and he wasn’t overwhelmed. There isn’t a word about that match in the above report.

There were other interesting results too, especially from the “European” point of view: Luca Brecel beat Steven Hallworth by 5-0 and Luckas Kleckers beat Mark Joyce by 5-3, but Kurt Maflin lost by 3-5 to Martin O’Donnell.