The 2020 UK Championship – last 64 – Days 5 & 6

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.

You can read more about Alex win over Ronnie here.

Other than that, I didn’t watch much of the snooker (*), so here are the reports by WST:

Saturday afternoon

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.

China’s Ding beat Stephen Maguire in the final of this event last year, but otherwise hasn’t reached the semi-finals of a ranking event since the 2018 World Grand Prix.

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.”

Thunder Storm

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.

Saturday evening

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.”

Pistol Misfires

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.”

 

Sunday afternoon

‘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.

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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.

Ursenbacher’s best run in a ranking event came at the 2017 English Open when he reached the semi-finals

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.

Round-Up

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.

Sunday evening

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.

Slessor’s best ranking event run came at the 2017 Northern Ireland Open when he reached the semi-finals

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.”

Round-Up

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.

(*) And no, it has nothing ti do with me being a sulking fan girl … other commiments and some health issues forced me to stay away  from the screens except for short periods.

The 2020 UK Championship – Last 64 – Alexander Ursenbacher beat Ronnie by 6-5

It was really an afternoon to forget for Ronnie who was beaten in the last 64 round of the UK Championship by Alexander Ursenbacher. The score was 6-5, but really Ronnie didn’t play well at all.

UKC2020L64ROSvUrsenbacherScores

As those scores show, Ronnie wasn’t able to score heavily. He only won one frame in one visit which is very unusual for him.

Alexander Ursenbacher was the better player, by far, and held his nerves when it mattered most, during the last two frames. Alex didn’t score heavily himself, but he potted the important balls, and didn’t make many glaring mistakes.

The way Ronnie lost two frames – the fourth and the sixth – from a winning position told the story: either he wasn’t thinking clearly or he wasn’t able to concentrate … or both. He certainly tried very hard, but nothing was working for him today. I can’t remember when he was that out of sorts. I thought that he looked very tired from the on, but he certainly said nothing about not feeling at his best health wise.

Here is the report by WST:

‘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.

Ursenbacher’s best run in a ranking event came at the 2017 English Open when he reached the semi-finals

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.

UKC2020-ROS-7“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’s 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.”

It was embarrassing indeed, and very hard to watch for me as a fan. Whatever he said, I’m certain that Ronnie is bitterly disappointed.

Good luck to Alex in his next matches. I’d like to see him doing well from here.. He’s young and he’s from mainland Europe. Him doing well can only be good for snooker as a global sport.

 

 

 

The 2021 Masters should be played in front of a crowd and Ronnie is up for it

WST has announced that there will be no crowds at any event in 2020, but fans will be welcomed back at the 2021 Masters.

WST To Welcome Fans To The 2021 Masters

Following recent UK Government announcements on the return of fans to live sport, WST has been working hard alongside local councils and venues to bring crowds back to our major snooker events. A decision has been made to continue with the Betway UK Championship, Scottish Open and World Grand Prix behind closed doors without any crowds. We will then look to safely welcome a crowd for snooker’s biggest invitation event, The Masters at Alexandra Palace in London in January.

Alexandra Palace is one of snooker’s greatest venues

Alexandra Palace in Haringey, North London, has hosted the Masters since 2011 and is widely recognised as one of snooker’s greatest arenas. Only the elite top 16 players will contest the tournament, which runs from January 10th to 17th, 2021.

It is hoped that up to 1,000 fans will be able to attend each session. WST is in regular contact with the UK Government on the detail of regional restrictions, and tickets holders will be kept informed by email.

Fans who have already purchased tickets will receive an email today. They have the opportunity to assess their own personal situation and will then be able to choose from three options. Fans who still want to attend this iconic event will be able to click a button and confirm that they are happy to attend, taking account of the social distancing aspects of the event. These fans will then be allocated seats over the coming weeks.

Fans who have assessed their personal situation and decided not to attend will have the option of completing a form in order to transfer their ticket to 2022 or claim a full refund.

All spectator options have a deadline of Thursday 3 December 2020 at midnight and therefore fans should act promptly upon receipt of the email.

An announcement will be made in due course on any tickets available for general sale.

Stuart Bingham beat Ali Carter in last season’s final

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome our fabulous fans back to live snooker events. We are reliant on Government advice but we will do everything in our powers to make this a reality.

“In 2020 we will stage a total of 20 events on the World Snooker Tour which is an incredible achievement in the circumstances. We have maintained prize money levels for the players, and given our millions of fans around the globe an abundance of live snooker to watch on television. In August at the World Championship we were extremely proud to be the first post-lockdown UK indoor sporting event to host fans.

“Since then our events have been behind closed doors and we have missed the amazing atmosphere which only our dedicated fans can generate. It is wonderful news for the players that they will soon be able to feel the buzz around them when they walk into an arena.

“The Masters in London is such a special event and I’m sure anyone who has the opportunity to be one of the lucky few in the crowd will grasp that chance. The event is renowned for the enthusiasm of the fans and even with a reduced audience I have no doubt it will be a sensational occasion.”

Stuart Bingham will be defending the title against the rest of the world’s top 16. Top stars including world number one Judd Trump, World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy and many more are set for a place in the field. The current Betway UK Championship is the final qualifying event and WST plan to announce the draw and format on Sunday December 6th.

After Ronnie skipped the Masters last year, there were speculations about his participation this year. The good news is that he wants to be there, provided that media duties stay within reasonable limits. This is what he told Eurosport:

UK CHAMPIONSHIP SNOOKER 2020: RONNIE O’SULLIVAN SET TO MAKE MASTERS RETURN, BUT REVEALS CONCERNS

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he wants to play in the Masters in January, but is keen to seek assurances that he will not be overwhelmed by media demands during the sport’s biggest invitational event at Alexandra Palace. 1,000 fans could be allowed into a tournament that O’Sullivan decided to opt out of last season after being unhappy with the strain put on his time in 2019.

Ronnie Masters Winner

Ronnie O’Sullivan has revealed he wants to compete at the Masters in January providing media demands at snooker’s biggest invitational event don’t affect his standard of play.

The world champion has won a record seven Masters titles, but decided to miss the tournament earlier this year due to his unhappiness with the stress placed on him during his run to the final in 2019.

O’Sullivan overcame 2011 winner Ding Junhui 6-3 in the semi-finals, but felt his preparations for the final were disrupted ahead of a 10-4 defeat to Judd Trump a day later.

The six-times Crucible winner said the situation resolved itself after his 17-16 win over Mark Selby in the semi-finals of the delayed World Championship in August, but wants similar “protocols” put in place at the Alexandra Palace, annual host of the London tournament since 2012.

“The ticket situation and requests for tickets is a big one for me,” he told Eurosport.

Then you have the media commitments. Like I’ve said, the reason I didn’t play in the Masters last year was because I felt after I won my semi-final (in 2019) there was so much time taken we couldn’t prepare as well enough for the final as I’d have liked to have done.

“I’ve said, if I do reach the final then I’m happy to give an hour of my time, but after that I need to get home to get some rest.

“Thankfully, after the World Championship semi-finals, they agreed to that. I’ve put them protocols down for myself because I do want to play in those tournaments.

“You want to play and give it your best. You don’t want to get to the final and your time is spent trying to make some kind of commercial.

“Meanwhile, you feel like you should be resting up getting ready for the final. The job isn’t done until you’ve finished the tournament,” said O’Sullivan, whose replacement Ali Carter lost 10-8 to Stuart Bingham in last season’s final.

“Anything that distracts you up until that point has to come at a minimum or at least your priorities have to be considered.

“As long as they are considered, and you can work with the promoters and they are understanding, I shouldn’t see an issue in me playing.

“But the minute that treads the line and your needs aren’t really cared for or even considered, that will be the time when I think I’m maybe better off missing the tournament or not playing my next match because the most important thing as a sportsman is to be able to do your job properly.”

O’Sullivan remains the youngest winner of the event involving the sport’s top 16 players. He was aged 19 years and 69 days when he defeated John Higgins 9-3 in the 1995 final.

He has since claimed six more victories at the Masters in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017 to pass Stephen Hendry’s haul of six won between 1989 and 1996.

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn hopes 1,000 fans will be admitted to sessions at the tournament set to run between 10-17 January after the UK government confirmed reduced crowds could return to sport in England.

“It’s important for the fans to get to see the best version of yourself because they pay good money and want to see you deliver on the table,” said O’Sullivan, who faces Swiss number one Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 64 of the UK Championship on Sunday afternoon.

“Part of that is you managing your time away from the table. I always think that my fans deserve the best possible standard of play.”

The rest of the snooker year is set to continue to be played behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes with the UK Championship, Scottish Open and World Grand Prix all taking up temporary residence at the venue due to the global pandemic.

O’Sullivan is keen on a change of scene with the return of fans needed to enhance the atmosphere.

“You can eat steak and chips every day, but sometimes you just want a bit of beans and toast and a couple of fried eggs with a bit of tomato ketchup splashed over it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good the steak is. Every day, you just go like, really?

“Don’t get me wrong, it is alright, but I think playing every tournament without crowds and not at different venues, it feels like you are going through the motions.

“That’s why I was so disappointed we aren’t going to York for the UK Championship. I thought it would have been a treat for the players to maybe experience an event away from Milton Keynes.”

One player who might give it a miss if fans return is Ding. After his first round win at the 2020 UK Championship the defending champion said this (source Eurosport):

SPONSORS WANT THE CROWDS IN, BUT I DON’T THINK PLAYERS WANT THE CROWD IN. I DON’T MAKE THE DECISIONS BUT I MAKE MY DECISIONS. I AM NOT SURE, WE WILL SEE WHAT HAPPENS, BUT IF IT’S NOT SAFE I WILL PULL OUT AT ANY TIME.

“I think it’s not just the players. I think the crowd have to be safe with each other. They could be sitting five or six metres away and still catch the virus, unless you don’t care. A lot of people don’t care, but I do. People think in different ways.

“I don’t trust playing with a crowd, it’s just personal, not for every player. I want to play like this, with two players and one referee, that’s enough.”

Desmond Kane reflects upon Ronnie’s return to the top … and gets quite lyrical😉

As we have a day off at the 2020 UK Championship … You feel bored?  Missing the snooker? here is something to read.

UK CHAMPIONSHIP 2020: ‘I FEEL LIKE I’M KING OF MY CASTLE’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON EPIC RETURN TO TOP

BY DESMOND KANE

A revitalised Ronnie O’Sullivan has found a fresh passion for potting and is performing better than ever in his fourth decade at the snooker summit. The six-times defending world champion tells Desmond Kane how he potted and plotted his return to glory in the year of the pandemic. His year could yet get better as he targets an eighth UK Championship at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

UKC2020-ROS-2

For Ronnie O’Sullivan, the world is not enough. Not when he has fallen in love with his time-served passion for potting all over again. At the venerable snooker age of 44, a juncture when most professionals are on the wane as former glories frustratingly fade into the framed fug of yesteryear and dewy-eyed folklore, the world champion seems to just be getting warmed up.

“I wish I could have enjoyed playing like this earlier on in my career. I’ve had so much fun,” he said after losing 9-7 to Judd Trump in an epic Northern Ireland Open final having contributed two centuries and five breaks over 50 in a narrow defeat.

While Trump is world number one after lifting a whopping 11 ranking events over the past two years, the big one eluded him last season. It is a rejuvenated O’Sullivan who again holds snooker’s most coveted prize six years after his fifth Crucible triumph in Sheffield.

His status as the greatest player of all time was already secured due to his astonishing longevity and an incomparable mastering of his modern art form. His ongoing brilliance in brandishing a cue is perhaps comparable in genius to Pablo Picasso clutching a paintbrush and projecting an inspired soul.

O’Sullivan specialises in snooker surrealism beyond the confines of a 12ft by 6ft table. His next canvas is the UK Championship in Milton Keynes where he hopes to splash some colour over a record eighth trophy. It would be a special end to a year that has witnessed O’Sullivan conquer the Crucible while searching for a cue action that has stood the test of time.

The big events are the yardstick, the three things that never change in snooker,” O’Sullivan tells Eurosport. “That is the only true measure of where you stand in the game. The important records are the World Championship, the Masters and the UK. Obviously how many times you have won them marks you out. Jack Nicklaus has got 18 majors in golf, six of them came in the Masters, five in the US PGA, four US Opens and three British Opens.

“That applies the same to snooker. So, to have the record of winning 20 majors, six world titles, seven UKs and seven Masters – I’ve got three out of the four important records. Hendry still has seven world titles, but I’m not greedy. I’m happy to have hit them spots and get the job done in the important events.”

THE PEOPLE AROUND ME SAY I’M CRAZY, ‘WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ANYMORE?’

UKC2020-ROS-3

Snooker is about the narrative, growing with the story. It doesn’t have to be fast and furious,” the six-times world champion Steve Davis once remarked. O’Sullivan has become the main protagonist of that narrative.

Such has been the enduring, ongoing adroitness of Rocket Ronnie, it is easy to forget that he had yet to win his first world title before he overcame his close friend and fierce foe John Higgins 18-14 in the 2001 final aged 25 at the Crucible Theatre. Yet here he is two decades on, prowling the table like he is in the first flush of youth, like a fictional melding of Fast Eddie Felson and Benjamin Button of the old green baize, playing out a generation game with his generation like no other sportsman.

The angles have not and will not wither him. Like the formidable Welsh potter Cliff Wilson, he is not one for holding back when the mood takes him as a timeless trend-setter. There remains a youthfulness, a creative ambition and a vital sense of adventure about his play that truly is something to behold in any field of sporting excellence. In any field of professional sport.

Higgins – the four-times Crucible champion from Scotland – himself made from girders, turned professional alongside O’Sullivan 28 years ago and once said that he knew his fellow ‘Class of 92’ graduate was destined for greatness when he first witnessed him at the age of 15 because he gave off a glow like “the Ready Brek man”.

Despite yearning for the cathedral city of York, traditional home of the UK Championship, O’Sullivan has been relocated and reinvigorated behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, his self-belief emboldened by claiming the World Championship with an 18-8 final filleting of Kyren Wilson, a player 16 years younger, in a quite August. His sixth title came after a six-year wait in potting purgatory.

“Playing snooker, most of the people around me say I’m crazy, why are you bothering anymore?” he tells Eurosport. “But I always say to them, it isn’t going to be forever. While I can do it with one arm and one leg and still compete, I’ll play snooker. Listen, I have a bit of fun with it.

“The way I approach it is if I get to a tournament and don’t feel like it, it doesn’t matter if I win or lose. But there are times when I really, really love it and I want to play and I’ll put 100 percent effort in. It all depends on what side of the bed you get out of sometimes. I just let a bad day turn into a really bad day and get home a little bit earlier. But when the good days are there, I keep going with those ones.”

The good ones continue to vastly outnumber the bad ones for O’Sullivan, particularly in the latter half of his career. He continues to find fresh ground with endless possibilities and prospects in a career trajectory which is nowhere near its final denouement, totalling a record 37 ranking titles including seven Masters and seven UKs to go with the half a dozen world crowns snagged over four pristine decades of play. Snared in his teens, 20s, 30s and 40s, it is quite a dynasty of World Snooker Tour’s Triple Crown series. Sometimes it seems as though there is nowhere he hasn’t spread his green baize gospel amid a salivating fan base which transcends the sport.

Put quite simply, the opposition are nowhere near being good enough to retire him.

It is easy to gush when you study O’Sullivan’s majestic levels of form that has wrought over 1050 centuries, the most of any player in history. It is also difficult to suggest the year of the pandemic has provided him with some sort of snooker renaissance, because he has never really gone away.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD AGAIN

Much of O’Sullivan’s appetite for the game has been sated by making good on his promise to right the wrongs of 2014, a year that seemed to signal the death knell on his hopes of joining Davis and Ray Reardon as a six-times world champion. After his latest rousing victory, matching Stephen Hendry’s scintillating seven-year stretch between 1990 and 1999 is no longer a foolhardy notion.

During coronavirus lockdown, O’Sullivan ended up sporting a Merv Hughes-type moustache, but was also busy explaining to Hendry on Instagram that he had real regrets about the past. “The match I’d like to play again would be Selby in the 2014 final because I’d have played it differently,” he said in June. “I would have done everything I could to not get bogged down and keep the game open. When I looked back, I thought I’d got sucked into his game. It wasn’t until after that game that I thought, ‘yeah I might lose to you and I probably will lose to you again, but it’s going to be on my terms’.

It was perhaps written in the Crucible light bulbs then that he would again confront the three-times world champion Selby this year with the whole shooting match on the table before O’Sullivan decided to go all in.

O’Sullivan came into their semi-final arguably as second favourite despite wins over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Ding Junhui and Mark Williams on his sojourn to face the only player to defeat him in world, Masters and UK finals.

It was his first experience of the fabled one-table set-up at the venue in over half a decade having lost two quarter-finals to Ding Junhui and Stuart Bingham, two last-16 matches to Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins respectively and a shocking first-round amateur defeat to James Cahill a year earlier when the magnitude of the moment seemed to visibly disturb him.

The 44th staging of the delayed World Championship was by common consent an elongated, excruciating event that looked beyond his attention span if not his ability. Selby was once described by O’Sullivan as “the torturer” and the sport’s most taut and tortuous contest of the year would provide him with a road out of potting perdition.

O’Sullivan was staring into the abyss trailing 16-14 in a contest that saw Selby’s tactical supremacy largely dominate as he led at various junctures – most notably 13-9 on the final day. He was on the cusp of another crushing failure against a hardened, no-frills professional nicknamed the ‘Jester from Leicester’ with little scope for humour on the table.

Selby had decimated his dreams when he recovered from trailing 10-5 to win the world final 18-14 in 2014, a defeat built on starving O’Sullivan of chances and momentum. He forced him to wilt and wait amid a potting purgatory that left O’Sullivan wondering if he still possessed the minerals to conquer the green baize equivalent of K2.

O’Sullivan performed in fits and starts in their latest Crucible joust, with both hands and haste, yet still translated desire into fulfilment with his usual élan, mischief, nonchalance but most poignantly an unwillingness to bend and break, to yield in time. First in, best dressed. Faced with certain defeat, O’Sullivan was an Englishman who went up the side of a mountain but came down a hill as his long game suddenly became impregnable with several blistering pots and awe-inspiring breaks of 138, 71 and 64 in three prodigious closing frames. Then came one of the most telling safety shots in Crucible history helping win him the final before the final with a rousing finale.

His thoughts of early summer and his promises to repair the damage done by his previous scarring loss to Selby were ripe on the vine in the autumn of his aspirations.

At some point you think, I’ve been here for three days. He’s got the better of me and if it continues going like this, he’s probably going to win this match,” recalls O’Sullivan. “I needed to try to win it on my terms. The only way I was going to do that was trying to play the perfect snooker really. Score big breaks and pot well – I only needed to find a good 30 or 40 minutes really. I needed three quick frames and I could get the job done. Back to the wall, and sometimes you find your best snooker when you are put in that situation.

NO SLOWING DOWN

UKC2020-ROS-4

In the first 19 years of his gilded professional career between 1992 until 2011, O’Sullivan lifted 11 of the Triple Crown events on terrestrial TV – three world titles, four Masters and four UKs. In the past eight years, he has carried off one every year raising his total to 20 with another three worlds, three Masters and three UKs. All this was achieved beyond the age of 35, a juncture where players are supposed to be married with kids and slowing down. O’Sullivan has never taken his eyes off the balls.

Nor has he slowed down. He is vying with the Thai speed merchant Un-Nooh as the sport’s fastest player with an average shot time under 18 seconds, mainly because his cue ball control is tighter than two coats of paint. His imaginative outlook has buffeted him from the ravages of time with his natural ambition to attack, even in safety exchanges, a key to his powers of endurance. When you consider he also sat out the 2012/13 season between his fourth and fifth world titles, this is a startling level of commitment and consistency.

Davis was on his last legs as a tournament winner when he won the 1997 Masters at the age of 39 with a 10-8 win over O’Sullivan while Hendry’s 36th and final ranking event came at the 2005 Malta Cup only weeks after turning 36. For Hendry and Davis, the hardest part was letting go as their dominance faltered.

O’Sullivan has revelled in punditry work for Eurosport over the past six years, analysis nicely book-ended by his world titles, but he knows where he gets his kicks.

O’Sullivan concedes being in the heat of the battle provides an inimitable rush that cannot be emulated by pills or thrills. For O’Sullivan, the action is the juice in a sport that titillates and torments him.

I think every guy deserves to know what it feels like to have a 10-inch ****. I’ve probably had that feeling for quite a long time now. I think I’ve been fortunate in that area to experience that. When I’m buzzing on the snooker table, the sensation feels amazing.

By playing snooker, I feel like I’m the king of my castle,” says O’Sullivan, who toyed with the idea of appearing in Gwrych Castle in Wales in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here before opting for more meaningful stars at the UK Championship. “That’s the drug really, it’s not the money, it’s not the prestige, it’s just that feeling that I’ve got the best **** out of everybody else.

AN EIGHTH UK TITLE?

UKC2020-ROS-5

His first major title came when he usurped the then unparalleled Hendry 10-6 to win his first UK Championship at the Guild Hall in Preston in November 1993 before washing up on This Morning with Richard and Judy the following day, such was the fascination with his attributes, audaciousness and speed of thought at such a tender age. For the record, the teenager fighting out of Chigwell also defeated Alan McManus, Ken Doherty, Steve Davis and Darren Morgan on his route to a celebrated victory 27 years ago. McManus – who became Masters winner only three months later in 1994 – describes O’Sullivan as “the most talented sportsman in the world” these days. Aged 17 years and 358 days, a star was born. O’Sullivan remains the youngest winner of a ranking event four decades on.

He will turn 45 a day before the UK Championship final concludes on 6 December, a match he will hope to contest as he pursues further garlands in the sport’s second most important ranking event. His campaign began with a quickfire 6-0 victory over Leo Fernandez which took little over an hour.

Why such an evergreen talent has never been nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year is a tragic indictment on human powers of observation, but hope springs eternal this year. In the year of the pandemic, face muzzles and no fans, O’Sullivan has found himself in splendid isolation in his return to glory.

In the epic book Paradise Lost, John Milton concluded that it is “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven” or words to that effect. O’Sullivan will not notice his surroundings if he clasps an eighth UK title to his bosom at the Marshall Arena in MK, a venue he gloomily compares to potting in prison in Covid-19 times.

It should be pointed out that O’Sullivan seems to be in a wonderfully positive frame of mind playing frames. He has battled the black dog of depression, but snooker has provided a constant and a cathartic ally amid his travails which somehow saw him go three years without a ranking event win between the Shanghai Masters in September 2009 and the German Masters in February 2012. At that time, John Higgins even feared O’Sullivan was not far from retirement. How times have changed.

Professor Steve Peters – a specialist in sports psychiatry – continues to play a key role in helping O’Sullivan keep his mental compass pointing in the right direction. His victory at the World Championship was a triumph for mind over matter when you consider he trashed a Crucible dressing room in 2016 and was driven to a hospital in London for treatment after his win over David Gilbert in the first round.

That’s why I always call it snooker depression because you can quickly go down this hole of searching for something and then forgetting,” he explains. “Your mental side goes and as Steve Peters says about your inner chimp, the chimp is running around Tesco. You wouldn’t want that chimpanzee running around Tesco would you? That’s what happens to a lot of snooker players. When their head is gone, they are like crazy animals. How do you manage that mind to think ‘Hold on, this is getting a bit out of hand now, I can’t behave like this, I need to draw it in’.

The sometimes-tortured genius of O’Sullivan performs snooker rather than play it. He is a sculptor as much as a sportsman, perhaps blissfully unaware of the beauty of his craft, but the O’Sullivan Opus remains a work in progress. Will it ever be finished?

Snooker was his first love and may end up his last. The enduring fascination of O’Sullivan’s incompleteness will perhaps continue to endure long beyond a turbulent reign that has provided more mayhem and magic than the most manic of monarchies.

The old king is alive, long live the king.

Desmond Kane

 

The 2020 UK Championship – Last 128 – Day 4

The last 128 round at the UK championship was completed yesterday, with all of the top 16 players through.

Here is the report by WST:

World number one Judd Trump defeated Paul Davison 6-1 to complete clean sweep of wins for the world’s top 16 in the opening round of Betway UK Championship in Milton Keynes.

The Ace in the Pack is coming fresh off a superb win over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of last week’s Northern Ireland Open. Remarkably that was the third consecutive year Trump has beaten O’Sullivan in the final of that event, each one by a 9-7 scoreline.

Triple Crown winner Trump secured his one and only UK title so far in 2011, beating Mark Allen in the final. However, since being runner-up in 2014, Trump has failed to go beyond the last 16.

Despite scoreboard difficulties causing delays to play in the opening stages, 19-time ranking event winner Trump was undeterred as he made light work of this evening’s encounter. The 2019 World Champion made breaks of 85, 54, 55, 75, 54, 72 and 103 on his way to the win.

Next up Trump faces an intriguing second round clash with Welsh two-time ranking event winner Dominic Dale.

“There were a lot of breaks and a lot of one visit frames. I felt comfortable in amongst the balls,” said 31-year-old Trump. “It is always difficult in the last day of the first round. There has been a lot of play on the table. The first round is all about getting through and avoiding that potential banana skin.

“It is a tough second round game. It was one of the tougher draws in the second round. He is a player that thrives on the atmosphere and thrives on these big events. I think it will be a hard game. I will have to play some good snooker, like I did against Ronnie, like I did at the end there in that match. I have to score heavy and try and keep him out.”

Former Indian Open winner Matthew Selt produced a phenomenal display to demolish Moroccan number one Amine Amiri 6-0.

Englishman Selt becomes only the third player, after Fergal O’Brien and Judd Trump, to compose five centuries in a best of 11 match. His barrage of centuries consisted of breaks of 138, 131, 100, 111 and 102.

Selt said: “It feels really nice to go on a break building rampage, if you want to call it that. I’ve not really had that many centuries in my career. To add five to the tally in one game, I’m delighted with the breaks that I’ve made.

“I’ve not left my mark on the game, I probably won’t do by the time my career is finished. So it is great to have something in the record books that can’t be taken away like that. I hope someone doesn’t make six this week, Ronnie probably will do, or Judd who could probably make seven in a best of 11! It is nice to get my name etched in somewhere, just for my own personal satisfaction as well.”

Defending champion Ding Junhui eased into the second round with a 6-1 defeat of Jamie Curtis-Barrett.

China’s number one cueman Ding lifted the title 12 months ago in York with a 10-6 defeat of Stephen Maguire in the final. Next up in his quest to retain the crown is former UK Championship semi-finalist David Grace.

Jack Lisowski moved into the top 16 in the race to the Masters with an emphatic 6-2 win over Farakh Ajaib. That means Gary Wilson can no longer qualify for the showpiece 16-player event, with the cut off coming at the end of the UK Championship.

Lisowski made breaks of 74, 84, 100, 132 and 75 on his way to victory. Up next he faces Tian Pengfei.

Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher beat Nigel Bond 6-3 to set up a second round meeting with World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, while Kurt Maflin came from 3-0 down to beat Aaron Hill 6-3.

 

I can’t say that I enjoyed watching the snooker yesterday.

Mark Allen made three big breaks on the television table but was pretty poor actually.  His opponent, the 17 years old Jamie Wilson, was struggling to make any telling break despite getting a lot of occasions. After qualifying for the main tour, young Jamie said this to the press:

“I would love to play Ronnie, it would be a great experience and it would be even better to beat him because of all the stuff he says about amateurs. I used to follow Ronnie but I’m more of a Judd Trump fan now.”

He has now played 10 matches in professional competition, won none; he has played 46 frames, and won just 10. That’s where he is, nowhere near the level required to play on the main tour. This is NOT his fault. For a number of reasons, the amateur game has shrinked, there aren’t many pro-ams to play in anymore and the brutal flat draw model offers no path for smooth development for the rookies on the tour. I’m NOT having a go at Jamie, I’m sorry for him and the other kids thrown into the pro game when they aren’t ready. There is absolutely no reason why there would be less talent in the current generation than in the past ones, there surely are talented kids around, and Jamie certainly has talent. But talent needs to be nurtured, not crushed. End of rant … (until next time).

Ding was poor as well, except for the 130 he made in frame 6. It was another painful match to watch. Jamie Curtis-Barrett looked utterly miserable struggling out there. Of course, he is no kid, he’s 36, a single father, having lost his wife to illness. Playing snooker is probably his way of “evading” the day to day difficulties, his own informed choice … but I doubt that he enjoyed it yesterday. I didn’t.

As for Matt Selt’s fireworks … they came against poor Amine Amiri. Giving Amine a tour card was a sad joke, and he is the main victim of it. He tries his heart out, he even manages to smile out there. It’s all well to try to promote snooker in countries where the sport isn’t that well developed, but not this way. Offer the guy a scholarship, make him play on the challenge tour, give him a proper chance to progress. Matt’s five centuries had to be made, and he deserves praise for them, but he was probably helped a bit by the knowledge that he was unlikely to be punished should he make a mistake.

Eventually I gave the evening session a miss … I love my snooker, but not this way.

Coming back to the WST report, it’s a good, mature, interview there by Alex Ursenbacher, well worth listening to.

The 2020 UK Championship – Last 128 – Day 3

It was a quite extraordinary day at the 2020 UK championship yesterday:

  • Stuart Bingham made a maximum break,  his seventh and the second of the tournament already, after Kyren Wilson made one on Tuesday.
  • Jimmy White played his 100th match at the UK Championship AND won it, beating Alan McManus by 6-4.
  • Ronnie whitewashed Leo Fernandez in just over an hour, playing quite well
  • We are yet to lose a top 16 player, after three days all those who played their matches went through.

Here is the report by WST, minus Ronnie’s match:

Stuart Bingham booked his place in the second round with an emphatic 6-2 win over Zak Surety.

In the process, 2015 World Champion Bingham fired in the seventh 147 break of his career. Only John Higgins, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan have made more maximums than the Basildon cueman.

It’s the second 147 break of the event so far, after Kyren Wilson crafted a perfect run yesterday. Bingham is now in line to take a £7,500 share of the £15,000 high break prize, along with Wilson.

“I felt something was in the air, even before the first red,” said Masters champion Bingham. “My aim is to get to ten before the end of my career. To be fourth on the list, among those sorts of players is special. I’ve always backed myself as a break builder. If you count the ones I should have made, I could be on 20. I suppose that is the same for everyone.”

Jimmy White was victorious in his 100th match at the UK Championship, beating Alan McManus in a 6-4 thriller.

White, who was UK Champion in 1992, wrapped up victory with a fantastic clearance of 66, which saw him steal the tenth frame on the black. The Whirlwind now faces China’s Zhou Yuelong in the last 64.

White said: “I was thinking about it all day. I wanted to win my 100th match in the UK Championship. It was a big match for me all round. It is a great milestone and I’m very proud of that.”

Jimmy White was victorious in his 100th match at the UK Championship, beating Alan McManus in a 6-4 thriller.

White, who was UK Champion in 1992, wrapped up victory with a fantastic clearance of 66, which saw him steal the tenth frame on the black. The Whirlwind now faces China’s Zhou Yuelong in the last 64.

White said: “I was thinking about it all day. I wanted to win my 100th match in the UK Championship. It was a big match for me all round. It is a great milestone and I’m very proud of that.”

World number three Neil Robertson stormed to a 6-0 defeat of Frenchman Brian Ochoiski to book his second round slot. The Thunder from Down Under, who is a two-time UK Champion, will now face Chris Wakelin.

Ali Carter’s hopes of Masters qualification were ended after a 6-4 loss to Ashley Carty, while Joe Perry whitewashed Alex Borg 6-0 to keep his hopes of clinching a Masters spot alive.

Here is Stuart Bingham’s 147

You will find the report on Ronnie’s blitz win here.

The defending Champion, Ding amd the World number one, Judd Trump will be in action today.

Speaking to Eurosport, Ronnie explained why he believes that Judd Trum biggest challenges will come from the younger ones trying to emulate him, rather than from him or his generation of players.

UK CHAMPIONSHIP SNOOKER: RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: ‘JUDD TRUMP’S TOUGHEST BATTLES WON’T BE AGAINST ME’

Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan could collide in the semi-finals of this year’s UK Championship on December 5 in Milton Keynes. Snooker’s leading two players are seeded to meet in another showpiece match only days after Trump edged out O’Sullivan 9-7 to lift the Northern Ireland Open. Despite his stunning run of ranking event wins, the world champion feels Trump’s biggest challenges lie ahead. Ronnie and Judd Handshake

BY DESMOND KANE

Ronnie O’Sullivan is adamant that Judd Trump’s bid to dominate snooker won’t be decided on how he fares against this generation of green baize icons.

Trump reaffirmed his status as the sport’s undisputed world number one with his third straight 9-7 win over O’Sullivan in an absorbing final of the Northern Ireland Open on Sunday having edged out the world champion by the same scoreline over the previous two years to lift the Alex Higgins trophy.

He starts as 3/1 favourite ahead of O’Sullivan at 7/2 to claim a second UK Championship having become the first man since seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry in the 1990s – who won a treble of UK titles between 1994 and 1996 – to triumph in the same ranking tournament for a third straight year.

O’Sullivan begins his campaign for an eighth UK title in the first round against Ireland’s Leo Fernandez at 7pm (GMT) over the best of 11 frames on Wednesday night with 2011 winner Trump meeting Paul Davison in his tournament opener on Thursday evening. The game’s top ranked players are seeded to collide in the semi-finals.

Trump has carried off on an astonishing 11th ranking events and the Masters in the past two years having also started this season by winning the English Open with a 9-8 win over world number Neil Robertson in an epic final that produced four centuries and ten breaks over 50.

“I think Judd’s head and shoulders above everybody else out there,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “He’s dominating. Maybe you could throw Neil Robertson into the mix with that one.

“(Three-times world champion) Mark Selby if he’s finding his top game. Outside of that, there isn’t anybody really able to compete with him.”

The 31-year-old Bristolian has moved 14-13 clear of O’Sullivan on their career head-to-heads having recently commented that only the six-times world champion and four-times Crucible winner John Higgins can topple him at his very best. Higgins is 22-18 ahead of Trump in their head-to-head meetings.

“In my eyes, there are two people that could beat me at my best,” Trump told Eurosport. “And that’s Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins. I’ve played them both, I’ve played John and played amazing before and still lost in deciders.

I’ve played Ronnie and played well and lost, and against all the other players I normally win comfortably. Those two for me, at their best, are leagues above anyone else in the world.”

O’Sullivan – who powered to an 18-8 win against Kyren Wilson in the delayed World Championship final in August – is the most prolific ranking event winner in history with 37, but Trump has moved up to sixth spot on 19 victories, three behind Mark Williams’ career haul of 22.

O’Sullivan feels Trump’s biggest challenge will be extending his superiority beyond this generation as he looks to emulate snooker’s greatest player of all time, who has lifted six world titles over three decades and is still at the summit of the sport 27 years after winning his first UK title at the age of 17 in 1993.

“Judd’s nearest rivals are going to be the people younger than him because they are going to be excited about playing him and they have no fear,” commented O’Sullivan. “They want to be the next Judd Trump.

“That’s where his hardest battles will lie, not with people like me, Higgins, Williams, Robertson or Selby. The hardest matches are when they are looking up to you.

“Me and John have been around for a long time, but we’re certainly nowhere near the players we used to be when we were in our early 30s.”

That’s how it should be indeed … the problem is that, right now, I can see nobody his age or younger able to challenge Judd, and nobody near to Ronnie’s, John Higgins’, Neil Robertson’s or Mark Selby’s level either. Maybe Kyren Wilson?  He needs to improve though, he’s not quite at that level yet.

Ronnie is about 7 years younger than Stephen Hendry, and 14 years younger than Jimmy White. He’s also about 7 years older than Mark Selby/Neil Robertson and 14 years older than Judd Trump. That’s the generation pattern. Who around the age of 24 do you see challenging Judd? Me, currently, no one.

The 2020 UK Championship – Last 128 – Ronnie beat Leo Fernandez by 6-0

Ronnie wasted no time in beating Leo Fernandez by 6-0 yresterday evening. The match was just over one hour long…

Here are the scores:

UKC2020ROSL128Scores

Ronnie played very well although he appeared to lose his concentration a bit in the last frame and missed a few. He managed to wrap it up with a nice little clearance though…

The 121 in the second frame is century number 1070 for the Rocket.

And this is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Pays Maradona Tribute After Win

UKC2020ROS-1Snooker’s six-time and current World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan defeated Leo Fernandez 6-0 at the Betway UK Championship and afterwards paid tribute to the sporting legacy of football legend Diego Maradona, who sadly passed away today.

Snooker’s most celebrated star O’Sullivan, who has a record 37 ranking titles to his name, wasted little time dispatching his opponent this evening. The seven-time UK Champion fired in breaks of 121, 60, 59 and 73 on his way to a whitewash victory in just over an hour.

Afterwards the Rocket paid homage to footballing great Maradona, who captained Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986.

O’Sullivan said: “He’ll be forever remembered. He definitely did it in a real rock and roll style. He was an amazing talent and an amazing man. Just incredible, he was loved a bit like Roberto Duran in a way, who was the people’s champion with hands of stone. He was a true legend of the sporting world.

“I have always said I would rather have a short life with tremendous highs than a long life in which you are beige. Maradona had the world in his hands, like Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Muhammad Ali. We should celebrate what was a great life.

“There are probably 200 billion people that have come and gone in this world, but there are probably only ten people in the sporting world that have actually surpassed what we thought was humanly possible. Diego Mardona was one of them. It wasn’t just the way he played, but the passion and the emotion. You couldn’t help but get sucked into the energy he brought to the football field. Let alone the skill and the mesmeric way he did it.”

Not much else to add innit?