Before the 2021 German Masters Qualifiers start … Covid-19 strikes again and two interesting interviews

Once again players were withdrawn because of positive Covid-19 tests. There might be more withdrawals today and tomorrow.

Here is WST  announcement about it:

Mark King, Rod Lawler, Fraser Patrick and Riley Parsons have pulled out of this week’s BetVictor German Masters qualifying rounds in Milton Keynes.

King has tested positive for Covid-19 while Patrick and Parsons both came into close contact with someone who has tested positive. Lawler is suffering from a back injury.

All four were due to play on the first day of qualifying on Tuesday at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. Their opponents – Jimmy White, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott and Kacper Filipiak – all receive a bye to the second qualifying round later in the week.

The qualifiers run from Tuesday to Saturday, with players needing to win two matches to make it to the final stages in January. Fans can watch the action live on the Eurosport App.

King, Patrick and Parsons are undergoing a period of self isolation and will receive the support of WST.

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

While we wait for the action to start here are two interesting interviews.

One with Ding speaking about his recently opened academy and his hopes for the coming UK Championship 

Ding Hoping To Inspire New Generation With Academy

Left to right: Zhao Jinbo, Gao Yang, Li Hang, Xiao Guodong, Ding Junhui, Tian Pengfei, Xu Si, Lu Ning and Pang Junxu

China’s number one Ding Junhui believes his new state of the art snooker academy in Sheffield can help a new generation of Chinese talent to prosper on the World Snooker Tour.

The Ding Junhui Snooker Academy opened earlier this year and hosts a number of China’s best young talents, including WSF Junior Open winner Gao Yang, as well as more experienced players such as two-time ranking event finalist Xiao Guodong and Thailand’s number two Noppon Saengkham.

The facility is right in the heart of city and is just five minutes walk from the Crucible Theatre. There are 18 Star tables in total, all spaced apart with tournament level lighting installed. The academy owns accommodation nearby which can be used by its younger Chinese professionals.

Ding said: “I need a good facility for the rest of my career, as I have been practising in a club for the last two seasons. I didn’t feel good about that and wanted my own academy. It is great for the other Chinese players, who there are more of on the tour every year.

“A lot of them are young and they need good tables and conditions. It needs to feel like a tournament for them. There is no point in them coming over here and wasting their time. When I was young I had good tables to play on. I want to see them have the same things and make improvements while they are young. What I don’t want to see is them travel to the UK for one or two seasons and then have to go back. That is no good for snooker or snooker’s history.

“It was so difficult to find the right place. We were searching for over a year. We put all of the tables in, got the lighting sorted and this is perfect. When I walk in, I just want to start playing straight away. We’ve tried to keep a big distance between each table, a little bit like they are set up at qualifiers for professional tournaments. It is like that so if there ever was a chance, we would be capable of hosting a qualifier here. To win tournaments, practising is vital. It is so important to get the conditions right.”

Ding hopes that as well as providing the facilities for his fledgling compatriots to work on their game, he can impart his own wisdom whilst practising with them. The 33-year-old also believes that they are pushing him on to reach greater heights with his own game.

“I can help and talk to them about some of my experiences because we are playing together. When they lose or win a match I can help them to understand why it happened. It is also good for me, because they all keep improving so I need to keep my own standards very high. Every day the matches are so hard and it is really pushing me to improve my game going forward. I have many different opponents to play against, and the quality of the tables is very high. These are things that I can control and I am happy to play here.”

Ding Junhui beat Stephen Maguire in the 2019 final

Ding is now starting to set his sights on defending the Betway UK Championship title, which he won for the third time 12 months ago. He’ll face amateur Jamie Curtis-Barrett in the opening round of this year’s event, which runs from November 23rd to December 6th in Milton Keynes.

The 2011 Masters champion downed Scotland’s Stephen Maguire 10-6 in last year’s UK final, to claim the fourth piece of Triple Crown silverware in his career. It was an emotional victory for Ding, who had been going through a barren spell of two years without a ranking title. Looking back he admits that beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16 was a key turning point mentally.

“When I beat Ronnie, I then had confidence to win the tournament. He is the most difficult player to beat. You have to play so well for the entire match to have a chance against him. After that I had a different level of confidence. I think at that point I was probably 80% confident that I could win the whole thing.

“Stephen was playing very well. I watched his semi-final and he was brilliant. It was a difficult match in the final. I just tried to get in front at the start of the game and I did. He had a couple of mistakes. He had been through a few seasons not playing as well and hadn’t had many chances to be in finals. He maybe wanted to win more than me and when the match started he had the most pressure.

“It is difficult because I had been losing a lot of matches myself and the confidence was going. It is very difficult to get back. It was a very good time for me to win. Years go by and you get older, I am travelling between China and the UK and this time it was more difficult because I had just had a new baby and had to leave her. I always enjoy the UK Championship and I will be looking to try and win it again this year. I am confident with how I am playing that I can win.”

Very honest and positive. Ding has matured so much, and so well, since I first met him, more than 10 years ago at the Premier League Snooker. Back then he was a very shy young man. He was very uncomfortable around people he didn’t know, and barely spoke two words of English…

One with Zhao Xintong hoping to learn from Judd Trump

Zhao – I’ll Learn From Trump

Talented Chinese cueman Zhao Xintong believes he can follow Judd Trump’s example by improving his consistency and shot selection, in order to continue his ascent up the world rankings.

Zhao, age 23, has jumped from 77th in the world to 29th within the past three years. He is one of the fastest players on tour, averaging less than 19 seconds a shot, and has already made over 60 century breaks.

He has been compared to naturally gifted players like Trump and Jimmy White. Given Trump’s recent success, it’s easy to forget that he took time to find his feet on the tour and to learn the tactical side of snooker to add to his obvious break-building ability. Trump turned pro in 2005 but didn’t win a ranking title until 2011.

Zhao, whose best run to date took him to the semi-finals if the 2018 China Championship, said: “One might think my style is a bit like a young Judd Trump. He has made a lot of changes to improve and he’s now world number one. I could learn a lot from him, to be more consistent, making fewer mistakes.

“I watch a lot of matches, especially when a tournament comes to the later stages. I could learn from the best players just by watching them. Consistency – that’s the major difference between me and the top 16 guys, or the event winners. I need more experience and better shot selection. I’m not careful enough while among the balls – I can be really good when I’m in form, and I could miss anything when I’m not in form.”

Zhao, from China’s Shaanxi Province, enjoyed a fine run in the recent BetVictor Championship League, coming through two group phases before losing out to Trump in the third and final group stage.

“Playing in a tournament with a league format has brought me a lot of experience as I had to play against numerous opponents,” he said. “It feels like I’ve learned a lot from them and built some confidence.

“I have had a couple of good seasons and I’m now ranked in top 30 and I hope to keep rising. I’m trying to win my first ranking title within the next two seasons, ideally this year! It’s a short-term goal and I’m working on it hard. It’s not convenient to live under lockdown but I feel fine and we are doing well to protect ourselves. I don’t go out much, I just practise and work out at home.”

It’s good to read that Zhao is fully aware of his own weaknesses and determined to work on them and learn from the top players.

I highlighted some parts in bold in both texts.

2 thoughts on “Before the 2021 German Masters Qualifiers start … Covid-19 strikes again and two interesting interviews

  1. It’s good to see WST giving some time for the Chinese players, who have obviously faced extra challenges during this Covid year. Perhaps this is intended to make up for the total lack of live interviews in recent tournaments.

    Ding’s academy seems a little bit like a new version of the STAR Academy, where he was the senior player for years. Keith Warren is the manager, Nigel Bond the coach, and Tian Pengfei is also involved. Tian and his wife have a Chinese restaurant in Sheffield, so has experience running a business.

    Zhao Xintong has given interviews like this before. Everybody knows what his problem is, but it’s very difficult to learn composure in a match situation! His ranking has actually dropped, his performance in the recent Championship League was his best in 2 years, and he was a little fortunate in the earlier rounds.

    But Ding said: “What I don’t want to see is them travel to the UK for one or two seasons and then have to go back. That is no good for snooker or snooker’s history”. Unfortunately looking at the ranking list that’s exactly what’s going to happen. The numbers will go down from 24 to under 20. The beneficiaries will mostly be older British journeymen, or young British players who have a fraction of their talent, but do at least have a stable home base. The legacy of Ronnie O’Sullivan – brilliant attacking play – will be lessened by the loss of these young talents.

  2. Trump, White and Zhao is all leftys. No journalists whrite about that fact. Also Robbo, Allen and Williams. And many more of the top 32 players. They are all more gifted and faster. «From God»

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