The last 32 round was played over the last two days, and we have lost three more of the top 16 seeds: Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire.
The conditions on table 1 have been terrible. Yesterday, I reported on Judd Trump’s assessment of the said conditions and how it has probably impacted the outcome of some matches. Neil Robertson wasn’t happy either.
Here are the reports by WST:
Trump And Higgins Into Last 16
Judd Trump eased into the fourth round of the Betway UK Championship with a 6-1 defeat of Liang Wenbo, while John Higgins scored a 6-2 victory over Jak Jones.
Given Trump’s rise to the top in recent years, he has a surprisingly patchy record in this tournament; his only title came in 2011 and he hasn’t reached the quarter-finals since 2014. The world number one will be into the last eight this time if he can win his next match against Mark Williams or Ricky Walden.
Trump was far from his best today but took advantage of errors from Liang to score a comfortable win. The highlight came in frame seven when Trump, leading 5-1, went all out for a maximum 147. He missed the 12th black, taking his eye off the pot as he tried to move a red from a side cushion. The break of 89 was his highest of the match.
“It’s wasn’t a great game, we both struggled,” admitted Trump, who has already won two tournaments this season. “I potted a few good long balls and played some good safety to get control of the game. Overall it was one to put behind me and I can look forward to the rest of the event.
“Hopefully this is my time to have a good run in this tournament. In the last three years I have come into it off the back of winning the Northern Ireland Open and it is tough to keep that form going. Playing every day for three weeks is going to take its toll. But today I played badly and got through and hopefully that’s a good sign. I’ll get on to the practice table and come back hungry for my next match.”
Trump’s chances of winning the title have been boosted by the second round exits of the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy.
He added: “I’m not surprised when anyone loses because once you get into the second round here everyone can play to a very high standard. Playing behind closed doors gives a chance for the lower ranked players to win this event because usually they would find more pressure in front of the big crowds.
“Even without fans I still get the same feeling when I walk out for my matches. I get the butterflies and nerves, especially before the big games. It still feels like the UK Championship and I want to play my best. I just miss the reaction of the crowd when I walk into the arena or when I’m on a 147 as I was in the last frame today. Otherwise I have learned to just get on with matches.”
Higgins – Keen On Keynes
“This hasn’t been a great event for me in the last ten years,” said the Scot, who top scored with 81 today. “In York every year I seem to lose 6-5. So maybe having the event somewhere different could be good for me. I played better after the interval today but I still need a lot of improvement.”
He now meets Zhou Yuelong, who beat Chang Bingyu 6-5 in a Chinese derby. In a high quality see-saw match, Zhou took the first three frames with breaks of 135 and 77 then Chang won five in a row with top runs of 139, 55, 98 and 98. But Chang didn’t score a point in the last three frames as Zhou fired breaks of 60, 92 and 72.
Barry Hawkins is also through to round four as he beat Robert Milkins 6-3 with top runs of 122, 83, 72, 80, 66 and 69.
Robertson Stays Patient In Title Quest
Neil Robertson insisted that he “won’t panic” as he seeks his first title of the season, after beating Li Hang 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the Betway UK Championship.
Robertson has reached two finals this season – at the English Open and Champion of Champions – but is still looking for his first trophy since winning the World Grand Prix in February.
“There’s no rush or panic to try and win a title this season,” said Australia’s Robertson, UK Champion in 2013 and 2015. “The only thing I would be disappointed with would be not to prepare properly or put the time in on the practice table. When I do those things then eventually the results will come, it’s just a matter of when.
“It was a tough draw because Li Hang is a very accomplished player, the last time I played him he beat me 5-0. Fortunately he missed a few more than me tonight and I was able to capitalise.”
As for his next opponent, Robertson added: “It’s good to see Anthony back in form because he had a tough couple of years. He works very hard and loves the game. All of the players on the tour get along with him and it’s great to see him turn a corner. He’s definitely good enough to be in the top 16.”
Dott Finds Form
Graeme Dott, who lost to Robertson in that World Grand Prix final in February, booked his place in round four with an impressive 6-2 defeat of Stuart Bingham in a battle of two former World Champions.
Dott started the match in blistering fashion with breaks of 126 and 137 and went on to lead 4-0. Bingham hit back after the interval, closing to 4-2, but Dott regained the momentum with a brilliant 67 clearance to take frame seven from 59-0 down. The Scot went on to seal the result in the eighth.
“Yesterday I was rubbish but today I played really well,” said 2006 Crucible king Dott, who now plays Kyren Wilson or Kurt Maflin. “That’s the best I have played since March. I’ll need to do that consistently to have a long run in this event.”
Dott is still in the running in the Race to the Masters, and so is McGill who beat Chen Zifan 6-1 with a top break of 91.
David Grace couldn’t follow up his second round win over Ding Junhui as he lost 6-3 to Xiao Guodong, who knocked in runs of 121 and 104.
Battling Selby Downs Persian Prince
Two-time Betway UK Champion Mark Selby came from 2-1 down to score a 6-2 victory over Hossein Vafaei and set up a last 16 clash with Barry Hawkins.
Selby struggled in the early stages against Iran’s top player but stepped up a gear to take the last five frames and boost his hopes of a winning a first Triple Crown event since 2017. He now faces a tough fixture against Hawkins for a place in the quarter-finals.
Leicester’s Selby took the opening frame with a break of 65 before Vafaei won the next two. Frame four lasted 61 minutes and came down to a battle on the colours, which was resolved when Vafaei crucially missed a mid-range pot on the green, letting Selby in to clear for 2-2.
That proved a turning point as world number five Selby took the next two frames with a top break of 50 to lead 4-2. Vafaei had a chance to win the seventh from 62-1 down, but failed to gain position on the final black. He then made a safety error on the black, Selby potting it for 5-2. A run of 52 in the next saw Selby reach the last 16 of this event for the tenth time.
“Hossein is a rhythm player and a good front runner,” said Selby, who won this event in 2012 and 2016. “If he had gone 3-1 up he would have been full of confidence. That fourth frame was so long that to lose it was a big blow for him. After the interval the match was more open and I felt more at ease.
“It will be tough against Barry because he is a top 16 player in my eyes. He is a great friend and we have been having dinner together this week. I might ask the hotel reception to call his room at 4am before our match!”
Warrior Conquers Viking
Just like Selby, Kyren Wilson recovered from a slow start to book his place in round four. He lost the first two frames against Kurt Maflin but ended up a 6-3 victor, firing breaks of 132, 132, 54, 62 and 99.
Crucible runner-up Wilson has only reached the quarter-finals of this event once before, in 2018, and will match that run if he can beat Graeme Dott.
“From 2-0 down I knew I had to score heavily to beat him,” said world number four Wilson. “Kurt had a fantastic run at the Crucible and it’s good to see him showing his potential because he is great to watch.
“There are still a lot of big names in the field here and I can’t look past my next match against Graeme because he is such a great player.”
Jack Lisowski scored a third consecutive 6-2 win, beating Xu Si with top breaks of 69, 88, 89, 85 and 53.
Every win is vital for Lisowski in terms of keeping his top 16 spot and a place at the Masters in January. He is currently in 16th spot in the Race to the Masters but one more win would put him above Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, which would mean that two players would need to overtake Lisowski to knock him out of the elite.
“I played well today and I have scored well in every game this week,” said Lisowski, who will reach the quarter-finals of this event for the first time if he beats Xiao Guodong. “If I get a Masters place it will be a bonus but the main thing here is just to keep winning and concentrating on every match, because this is our second biggest tournament.”
Joe Perry made a tremendous comeback from 5-2 down to beat Joe O’Connor 6-5. The key frame was the ninth as Perry recovered a deficit of 63 points to nick it 65-63 with a 35 clearance. He then made breaks of 71 and 73 to win the last two frames.
Ricky Walden scored his best win in a recent seasons, beating Mark Williams 6-5 to earn a last 16 clash with Judd Trump at the Betway UK Championship.
Walden won three ranking events between 2008 and 2014 as well as reaching the semi-finals of both the World and UK Championship. He then suffered a serious back injury which set him back for 18 months and put his career under threat. He has now recovered and believes he is gradually working his way back to his best.
Chester’s Walden built a 5-2 lead tonight with top breaks of 53, 79 and 55. The match turned when he failed to convert a risky plant in frame eight, which opened the door for Williams to fight back. Breaks of 56 and 106 helped two-time UK Champion Williams recover to 5-5. But Walden dominated the decider with runs of 21 and 55 to reach the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time since the 2019 China Open.
“I messed up one chance early in the decider but stayed patient, potted a good red to a middle pocket and then held myself together,” said world number 46 Walden. “My practice game is probably as good as it ever has been, but to try and bring that on to the match table is another story and a difficult thing to do. I’m pretty optimistic that it’s going to happen and I’m going to get back to winning tournaments. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but results like tonight help,
“It has been a roller-coaster over the last few years. I went through mental torture, knowing that I had just plummeted off the face of the Earth because of something that wasn’t my fault. It was so difficult to deal with. Now that I am back playing well again, I feel like it’s a second chance.
“Judd is flying at the moment but if I can bring my game out there again I’ve got every chance.”
Pang Of Anger For Maguire
Stephen Maguire let slip a 5-3 lead and lost 6-5 against rookie Pang Junxu. It’s the first time Maguire has failed to reach the last 16 of this event since he won the title in 2004. The fiery Scot then threatened to pull out of the next two tournaments.
China’s 20-year-old Pang has already shown plenty of promise in his debut pro season, beating the likes of Mark Allen, Barry Hawkins and Tom Ford. The world number 112 took another impressive scalp tonight to set up a match with Lu Ning.
Maguire came from 3-0 down to lead 5-3 with top runs of 67, 54, 120 and 103. But Pang hit back in frame nine with a 102 then got the better of a safety battle on the final pink in frame ten for 5-5. In the decider, Maguire missed a mid-range red to a top corner and his opponent punished him with a superb match-winning 95.
World number nine Maguire said: “That’s one way to throw a match away. To be honest I shouldn’t have been in the match at the start, I was diabolical in the first few frames. He should have won more easily. I had false hope in the end. He is a great player, I have no complaints about him. I’m thinking about having a break now over Christmas and not playing again until the Masters.”
Lu followed up his 6-0 win over Matthew Selt with a 6-1 defeat of Elliot Slessor, making breaks of 63, 65 and 94.
Jamie Jones, who regained his tour card via Q School in August, continued his best run of the season with a 6-4 defeat of Alexander Ursenbacher.
“I am relieved because Alex played better than me tonight but I won the scrappy frames,” said Welshman Jones, whose top break was 65. “From 4-4 I decided to be more aggressive and it paid off.”
I’m happy to see Ricky and Dotty playing well again. They are two players I like as persons as well as on the table.
Pang Junxu battling qualities are exceptional, particularly for someone so young. Maguire’s reaction IMO is telling: the “bubble” life in Milton Keynes is probably taking it’s toll on most players and we might see even more surprising results in the coming weeks.
We could be on course for yet another Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson clash. Of the six remaining top 16 players, four are in the top side of the draw and all four of them face a serious challenge. This top 16 isn’t the one most would have predicted, but it’s definitely interesting!