The first round saw all of the top 16 go through, but the second round was very different! Indeed as many as seven of the top 16 players exited the tournament: Ding Junhui, the defending Champion, Ronnie, the World Champion, Mark Allen, David Gilbert, Yan Bingtao, Shaun Murphy and Thepchaiya Un-nooh.
Ronnie’s performance yesterday was simply awful, he branded it embarrassing. The only positive in the middle of that disaster was how hard he tried and fought despite struggling badly with all aspects of his game. How this match still went to a deciding frame, I don’t know, but it’s a testimony of Ronnie’s reslience nowadays. That said Alexander Ursenbacher played well and deserves huge credit for how he held it together to finish the job.
Other than that, I didn’t watch much of the snooker (*), so here are the reports by WST:
Ding Dashed By Amazing Grace
Ding Junhui’s defence of the Betway UK Championship title ended at the last 64 stage as he let slip a 5-3 lead and lost 6-5 to David Grace.
World number 65 Grace registered by far the biggest shock of the tournament so far as he beat a player ranked 55 places above him to reach the third round in Milton Keynes.
Yorkshireman Grace reached the semi-finals of this event in 2015 and also got to the same stage of the recent Northern Ireland Open, but still ranks today’s result as the best of his career as he finished superbly to end Ding’s hopes of a fourth UK title.
Grace shared the first four frames today, making the better breaks with 95 and 69, then came from 59-0 down to pinch the fifth with runs of 31 and 33. Ding made 75 and 77 to go 4-3 ahead then cleared from green to black in the eighth to go two ahead with three to play.
A scrappy ninth went to Grace and he made a 61 in the tenth as he recovered to 5-5. Ding had two early chances in the decider but couldn’t keep position and made just 20 points. Grace later knocked in an excellent long red to set up a match-winning break of 49.
“I came here with a lot of confidence having had a good run in the last tournament,” said 35-year-old Grace, who now plays Xiao Guodong, a 6-5 winner over Luca Brecel. “It’s my best win in terms of the quality of the player I have beaten.
“Ding wasn’t at his best but you have to play well to even put a thought in his mind that you can beat him. I did that early in the match and then he took control in the middle, but he would still have had the feeling that I wasn’t going away, and I felt that if I could find a bit of form I could get over the line. I like this venue and the tables have played lovely every time we have been here.”
Neil Robertson made three centuries and four more breaks over 50 as he hammered Chris Wakelin 6-1. Breaks of 135, 130 and 135 took Robertson’s century tally for the season to 32. The Thunder also knocked in runs of 58, 50, 89 and 72 as he set up a third round match with Li Hang.
“It was a very good performance, even my safety was good,” said Robertson, who won this title in 2013 and 2015. “Judd Trump is raising the bar at the moment and making me try to get better every day. It’s up to the rest of us to try to learn from him and practise really hard. Otherwise he will keep racking up the tournament wins – and I want to be lifting the trophies as well. I have lost two finals this season but I have to keep up the work ethic and stay patient.”
McGill Boosts Masters Hopes
Anthony McGill came from 4-3 and 5-4 down to beat Lyu Haotian 6-5 to keep alive his hopes of a place in The Masters, with the top 16 at the end of this tournament to go through to Alexandra Palace in January. Glasgow’s McGill is now in 17th place in the race, less than £2,000 behind 16th-placed Jack Lisowski.
McGill, who made a 134 in the eighth frame and a 50 in the decider, now plays Chen Zifan, who made a 141 in beating world number 12 Yan Bingtao 6-5.
Zhou Yuelong also improved his Masters hopes as he beat Jimmy White 6-1 with top runs of 114 and 104, while Stephen Maguire made a 136 as he came form 3-1 down to beat Stuart Carrington 6-4.
Judd Trump passed the landmark of 750 career centuries as he beat Dominic Dale 6-3 to reach the third round of the Betway UK Championship.
World number one Trump made two tons in a typically commanding performance to bring his career tally to 751. He is only the fourth player, after Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Stephen Hendry, to reach that mark.
The 31-year-old from Bristol has already won two titles this season, the English Open and Northern Ireland Open, and remains favourite for the £200,000 top prize this time.
After losing the first frame tonight, Trump took five in a row with top breaks of 109, 109, 55 and 71. Dale pulled two back and might have closed to 5-4 had he not miscued when attempting a close range red to a centre pocket on 44 in frame nine. Trump punished him with a 91 clearance to book a last 32 meeting with Liang Wenbo or Andy Hicks.
“I’m happy with my form, I didn’t do a lot wrong tonight,” said Trump, whose only UK Championship title came in 2011. “This tournament still feels special, even with no crowd it feels different to the other tournaments so far this season. It’s one that I haven’t won for a while.
“I’m trying my best to enjoy this form because it won’t last forever. It’s nice to go into games confident, not worrying about how I’m going to play or how my opponent will play.
“I’m going along nicely with the centuries. It’s good to be up there chasing the other top players. I’ve said before I want to get to 1,500 and I stand by that.”
Four of the world’s top 16 were knocked out on Saturday, as Mark Allen and David Gilbert lost this evening, joining Ding Junhui and Yan Bingtao who were beaten earlier today.
World number eight Allen went down 6-5 against China’s Chang Bingyu, ranked 70 places lower. Allen made breaks of 85, 72, 79 and 51 and led 5-4, but Chang took frame ten with a 93 then dominated the decider with 31 and 39.
“I didn’t deserve to get five frames, I really struggled today and he could have beaten me more easily,” said Allen, who won the Champion of Champions earlier this month. “I was hanging in and giving it everything but it wasn’t the performance I wanted. In the last frame I had a half chance but the balls were sitting badly. He played well in the last two frames.
“My performances in ranking events this season have been reasonable without going deep. I’m disappointed to go out early in such a big tournament. I prepared properly and practised hard but it wasn’t meant to be. I just have to stay patient and the results will come.”
Robert Milkins top scored with 112 in a 6-4 win over world number 13 Gilbert. Barry Hawkins saw off Robbie Williams 6-1 while Hossein Vafaei made a top break of 101 as he beat Michael Holt 6-4.
John Higgins ground out a 6-3 win over Gerard Greene with a top break of 86. “I’ll need to improve, my cue ball control was all over the place,” admitted three-time UK Champion Higgins, who now plays Jak Jones. “At 5-3 I was getting negative thoughts in my mind, so I was happy to finish the match off.”
‘Embarrassed’ O’Sullivan Stunned By Ursenbacher
Ronnie O’Sullivan saw his hopes of winning the Betway UK Championship for an eighth time ended by a shock 6-5 defeat against Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher in the second round.
World Champion O’Sullivan admitted he was “embarrassed” by his own performance as he made a host of errors and crashed out at the last 64 stage in Milton Keynes. World number 66 Ursenbacher will hope to build on the best result of his career when he faces Jamie Jones or Jordan Brown next.
O’Sullivan hasn’t won a title since his Crucible triumph in August and has now lost twice this season to players ranked outside the world’s top 64, having been beaten by rookie Aaron Hill at the European Masters. And he has now lost both of his career meetings against Ursenbacher, having suffered a 4-2 reverse at last year’s Welsh Open.
After losing the first two frames today, O’Sullivan won the third with a break of 68, which turned out to be his highest of the match. In the fourth he was 35 points ahead with one red left, but then a safety error sent the cue ball in-off and his opponent cleared to lead 3-1 at the interval.
The next two frames were shared, then O’Sullivan won three in a row to lead 5-4. He had a match-winning opportunity in frame ten, from 37-0 down, but made just 14 before missing a red to a top corner. Ursenbacher made 40 for 5-5.
A superb long red from Ursenbacher early in the decider began a run of 47. He ran out of position, but then got the better of a safety exchange and added 36 for victory.
“Alex played well and deserved his victory,” said O’Sullivan. “I made so many mistakes and if I had won that match it would have been robbery. Good luck to him, I hope he can win a few more matches. I just couldn’t pot any balls, I felt embarrassed. Every time I came to the table I just felt like I wouldn’t pot more than two balls. At 5-4 I thought I might steal it, but I didn’t deserve to win. There are no excuses. I haven’t got time to be disappointed because I’ll be back here for the Scottish Open next week.”
Ursenbacher, age 24, said: “That was a big test for me because I know I’m capable of beating the top players if I can play my game. When Ronnie plays well he is nearly unplayable. I beat him last year which gave me confirmation of what I can do. But I knew he would be really up for it today because it’s a big tournament. I told myself not to think about anything except the next shot.
“I think it’s my best career win because Ronnie is the best player to ever pick up a cue, plus this is a very big event and live on television. I haven’t really achieved anything yet in snooker, in my opinion. I am nowhere near where I want to be. I hope this will get some attention in the Swiss media.
“In a way there will be more pressure on my next match because no one expected me to win today. In the next round the expectation will come back and that’s the most pressure you can have.”
Lu Narrowly Misses New Record
Lu Ning became only the seventh player in snooker history to make four consecutive century breaks, joining Stephen Maguire, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, Gary Wilson and Mark Allen.
The Chinese cueman fired runs 105, 103, 133 and 134 as he beat Matthew Selt 6-0. Lu then had a chance to become the first player to make five consecutive tons but missed the final yellow on 81 in the sixth frame.
Mark Selby was a fine form in a 6-1 win over Liam Highfield, making breaks of 95, 75 and 69. “I started the match well and didn’t allow Liam to build confidence. I tried to play attacking snooker,” said Selby, who won this event in 2012 and 2016.
Joe O’Connor scored an impressive 6-3 win over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh with a top break of 69. That leaves Un-Nooh uncertain of a debut at the Masters – he currently lies in the 15th place in the Race to the Masters so must hope he doesn’t get overtaken by two players. One of those in pursuit, Graeme Dott, came from 3-1 down to beat Mark King 6-4 with a top break of 81.
Kurt Maflin compiled runs of 125, 136 and 141 as he edged out Jamie Clarke 6-5 while Masters champion Stuart Bingham saw off Andrew Higginson 6-1.
Super Sless Crushes Murphy
Triple Crown winner Shaun Murphy was the victim of another shock at the Betway UK Championship as he was thrashed 6-1 by Elliot Slessor.
All of the world’s top 16 made it through the first round, but the second round has been a graveyard for the seeds as Murphy follows Ding Junhui, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Allen, Yan Bingtao, David Gilbert and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in crashing out at the last 64 stage.
World number seven Murphy has suffered several early exits from tournaments this season and tonight’s defeat is another setback for the 2008 UK Champion. Slessor, ranked 56, adds to his reputation as a giant killer as he has now beaten both Murphy and O’Sullivan twice. His next match is against China’s Lu Ning.
Murphy took a scrappy opening frame tonight but couldn’t build on that start as his opponent reeled off five in a row with top breaks of 111, 72 and 118. Frame six came down to a battle on the colours and when Murphy missed the brown to a top corner, it proved his last shot as Slessor converted an excellent pot on the brown and added blue and pink for victory.
“I always perform better on the bigger stage,” said 26-year-old Slessor. “I don’t know why that is, but I just love the challenge. You know you have to perform otherwise you will get battered and I like to test myself. I know if I go for my shots and I get them, then I’m dangerous. I believe I can win against the top players and that’s why I’ve got a good record against them.
“This is one of my biggest wins because it’s in the second biggest ranking tournament. In the past I have won matches like this and then played terrible next match. Snooker is all on the day.”
Jack Lisowski scored a 6-2 win over Tian Pengfei which keeps him on course for a place in the Masters in January. Currently in 16th place in the Race to the Masters, Lisowski has several players in hot pursuit but kept ahead of the pack with a comfortable win, highlighted by breaks of 68, 67, 52, 63, 52 and 55.
Kyren Wilson pulled away from 2-2 to beat Mark Joyce 6-2 with a top break of 97, while two-time UK Champion Mark Williams knocked in runs of 87, 119 and 81 as he came from 2-0 down to beat Sunny Akani 6-2.
Joe Perry beat Igor Figueiredo 6-2 while Liang Wenbo set up a match with Judd Trump by beating Andy Hicks 6-3.