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.

2 thoughts on “2020 European Masters – Day 1

  1. It was sad, Boiko is so young, he should be in school. I didn’t watch much: I wanted to see some of Iulian, but I’m unable to watch Trump, but in frame 3 every time poor Boiko was at the table, he missed or didn’t cue well and he opened for frame 4, but didn’t even stay to see the result, rushed back to his chair, I was afraid he would burst out in tears. It was depressing to watch and next time he plays Ronnie, welcome to the tour well, at least there are also other people), it is really bad, they say what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, but Martin Amis said, it makes you weaker and kills you later, maybe it is a good thing for him to be out of Ukraine, but I’m really surprised he can play on the tour at this age.

    • I don’t know the decision-making process, but Iulian Boiko was given his tour card by being runner-up, not by winning. There was indeed a shortfall of players (they decided only 12 players would qualify from Q School, rather than 16). It’s possible that Boiko’s promotion was made retrospectively as a ‘headline-grabbing’ move. It helps WST’s ‘international’ agenda, especially someone from Ukraine.

      OK, he will be disappointed by his first match, but he will learn from some aspects. However, what’s damaging is if he starts suffering repeatedly heavy defeats against ‘ordinary’ pros, week after week. That then inhibits his chances to develop, and is demotivating. I don’t have so much of a problem with young players getting wildcarded into the occasional tournament, but playing a full tour schedule is far too brutal, and yes, he should be in education.

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