Yesterday, Dominic Dale and Zhou Yuelong advanced to the second round of CLS in Milton Keynes.
Dominic Dale and Zhou Yuelong are the first players through to Stage Two Group B of BetVictor Championship League Snooker after topping their respective groups at Stadium MK on Tuesday.
Dale edged out amateur Leo Fernandez in the decisive match of Group 5 on the main table. Fernandez had earlier claimed shock 3-1 wins over Stephen Maguire and Louis Heathcote to take charge of the group.
Two-time ranking event winner Dale had beaten Heathcote 3-0 and drawn 2-2 with Maguire, setting up a dramatic match with Fernandez to determine who would advance. A point would be enough for the amateur, while Dale needed a win.
It was two-time ranking event winner Dale who took the first two frames, but Fernandez wasn’t going down without a fight and took the third to keep his hopes alive. However, Dale’s experience proved key as he won the crucial fourth frame to top the group on seven points.
“I am delighted to get through,” said Dale. “I have put some work in on the practice table. I started off in the first match with a cue action I had set myself to use for the season, but felt it wasn’t me and went back to my old one part way through the match. I was really focused, careful and diligent out there and it certainly worked today.
“I went into the last match thinking a draw was enough and as I started the first frame I realised I had to win. I couldn’t get in first in either of the first two frames and was behind in both. Finally, the fourth frame I got in first and I made a decent break and kept the pressure on.”
On table two, China’s Zhou progressed with five points having beaten Gerard Greene 3-0 and drawn 2-2 with Zhao Jianbo and Ricky Walden. Tour rookie Zhao could have taken top spot if he had won his last match against Greene, but he drew 2-2 which wasn’t enough.
BetVictor Championship League Snooker continues with Group 7 and Group 8 on Wednesday. Action on Table 1 sees Shaun Murphy, Martin O’Donnell, Jimmy White and Peter Devlin compete in Group 8. Table 2 showcases Matthew Selt, Ben Woollaston, Si Jiahui and Gao Yang. Coverage of both tables is available at Matchroom.Live.
FINAL GROUP STANDINGS
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS Dominic Dale 3 2 1 0 8 3 5 7 Leo Fernandez 3 2 0 1 7 5 2 6 Stephen Maguire 3 0 2 1 5 7 -2 2 Louis Heathcote 3 0 1 2 3 8 -5 1
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS Zhou Yuelong 3 1 2 0 7 4 3 5 Zhao Jianbo 3 1 2 0 7 5 2 5 Ricky Walden 3 1 1 1 6 6 0 4 Gerard Greene 3 0 1 2 3 8 -5 1
This time both groups were “decided” on the very last match, in group 5 on the very last frame even!
I only watched Group 6 matches. I expected Zhou to win this group and he did, but it wasn’t straightforward by any means. It wasn’t in his hands in the end, as he had to wait for the result of Zhao Jianbo v Gerard Greene to know his own fate.
Three players played well in this group, bearing in mind that this is the first event of the season: Zhou, Zhao and Walden.
I’m glad to see Ricky playing well again. It’s easy to forget that Ricky has three ranking titles to his name, and three more ranking finals. He also won a PTC. Some five years ago he was still a top player: in March 2015, he was ranked number 6 in the world, he’s now number 46. Health issues and injuries ruined it for him. In the last year he has shown signs of improvement. At his best, he’s very, very good to watch.
I was impressed by Zhao Jianbo. Of course his inexperience showed at times, but his long potting is deadly and he showed maturity and application beyond his years.
I didn’t see a ball of the other group, but a few thoughts looking at the results… Dominic Dale has never been in the top 16, but he has won two ranking events, the 1997 Grand Prix (he beat John Higgins) and the 2007 Shanghai Masters. He’s a very hard match player. He might be funny off the table, he’s deadly serious on it. Nobody should underestimate him … and everyone should remember that, should Dominic win the event, he’ll probably insist on singing a few!
Louis Heathcote and Stephen Maguire were clearly disappointing. Regarding Maguire I have no clue how and why the player who won the Tour Championship morphed into the player we saw in Sheffiled just a month later. Well, maybe I have, but let’s not go that route (nothing to do with bookies) … As for Louis Heathcote, rookie of the 2019/20 season, I just hope that this isn’t an early sign of something we have seen only too often in the past: a player playing brilliantly in his first season, then unable to replicate the performance in the next one, when the pressure of getting into the top 64 kicks in.
As for today, my attention will be on group 7.