The 2020 UK Championship – last 16 – Days 9 & 10

The surprise of this round is John Higgins’ defeat to Zhou Yuelong. It’s not a shock though.

Here are the reports by WST:

Wednesday afternoon:

Higgins: Zhou Is Best Since Ding

Zhou Yuelong reached the quarter-finals of a Triple Crown event for the first time with an emphatic 6-2 win over John Higgins at the Betway UK Championship.

Higgins, a three-time winner of this event, described Zhou as the best Chinese player to come through since Ding Junhui’s emergence 15 years ago. World number 25 Zhou goes through to the last eight to face Jack Lisowski or Xiao Goudong.

Last season, 22-year-old Zhou was runner-up at both the European Masters and the Shoot Out, and it seems only a matter of time before he wins his first ranking title.

He dominated the early exchanges today, taking the first four frames with top breaks of 90 and 60. Higgins made a trademark 72 clearance to win frame five, but then crucially lost the sixth on the colours. The Scot got the snooker he needed on the blue but then played a poor safety on the pink, allowing his opponent to pot it for 5-1.

A break of 80 gave Higgins frame seven, and he had chances in frame eight but when he missed a straight-forward pot on the green off the last red, it proved his last shot as Zhou cleared from yellow to pink for victory.

Zhou said: “It’s a big win for me because I had never beaten John before and it’s the first time I have reached the quarter-finals of this tournament. I have been playing well in practice and I felt I was ready, I believed I could win. Every time I go to a tournament I want to win it, and I just do my best on every shot.”

Higgins, the 11th member of the world’s top 16 to be knocked out this week, said: “It was a bad day. Zhou played well, his safety was very good. At 4-1 I played a horrendous safety on the pink, it was such an easy shot to get it safe. I love Zhou as a player and as a person as well. He deserves to go far. I rate him as the best since Ding coming through, he has got that good an all-round game. I hope he goes on and does himself justice.”

Robertson Fights Back To Beat McGill

On the other table, Neil Robertson came from 4-2 down to beat Anthony McGill 6-4. Australia’s Robertson is chasing his third UK crown having lifted the trophy in 2013 and 2015.

The first four frames were shared, McGill making breaks of 100 and 69 while Robertson knocked in 94 and 83. McGill fluked the green during a safety exchange at the end of frame five and went 3-2 ahead, then extended his lead with a superb 127. Robertson responded with a 132 to trail 4-3.

In frame eight, McGill missed a red to a top corner on a break of 40, and that proved costly as Robertson compiled runs of 24 and 43 to square the match. World number three Robertson then got the better of a scrappy ninth frame before finishing the contest in style in the next with a run of 82.

Robertson is through to the quarter-finals of this event for the seventh time and now meets Mark Selby or Barry Hawkins. He said: “It was a very tough draw, Anthony seems to play his best snooker when he’s up against a top quality opponent.  I didn’t do a whole lot wrong to be 4-2 down, then when I got my chance to get back into the match I took it. In the last frame I got the balls open early and killed it off quickly.”

Defeat for McGill ends his hopes of qualifying for the Masters as he is 17th in the race.

Wednesday evening

Selby Sets Up Robertson Clash

Mark Selby fired three centuries in a 6-3 win over Barry Hawkins to tee up a blockbuster clash with Neil Robertson in the quarter-finals of the Betway UK Championship.

Selby and Robertson have already played twice over the best-of-11 distance this season, Robertson winning classic contests 6-5 in the semi-finals of the English Open and the Champion of Champions. Leicester’s Selby will be out for revenge on Friday when he competes in his seventh UK Championship quarter-final.

A run of 121 gave world number five Selby the opening frame tonight, before Hawkins made it 1-1. Frame three was highlighted by a fabulous shot from Selby on the blue, going in and out of baulk to free the last two reds from the top cushion. That helped him regain the lead and he made a 77 in the next to go 3-1 up at the interval.

Hawkins pulled one back, but breaks of 117 and 106 from Selby stretched his advantage to 5-2. A scrappy eighth frame went to Hawkins, but two-time UK Champion Selby clinched the result in the ninth.

“I felt really good tonight,” said 37-year-old Selby. “I have had some great games with Neil and I’m looking forward to Friday. He might have won our last two matches, but every game is different so that has no bearing. When I played him at the World Championship this year (winning 13-7) my safety was very good, which is important because Neil’s long game is better than anyone’s.”

Perry Pulls Away To Beat Jones

Joe Perry reached the quarter-finals of this event for the third time in four years with a 6-3 defeat of Jamie Jones. Perry has suffered several early exits from ranking events this season, but has stepped up his game this week.

Perry reached the UK Championship semi-finals in 2004 and 2005.

The world number 19 now faces either Lu Ning or Pang Junxu, and victory in that match could vault him into the top 16 and give him a place in the Masters. A semi-final berth would put Perry ahead of Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the Race to the Masters.

Perry trailed 3-2 tonight but then took four frames in a row with top breaks of 58 and 87.

“I came here with no form whatsoever but it is turning out well,” said the Cambridgeshire cueman. “I had no expectation of getting into the Masters and I still don’t want to think about it and put extra pressure on myself. It would be fantastic to be there because Alexandra Palace is such a special place.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that the draw has opened up this week – when Ronnie O’Sullivan is knocked out of your section of the draw you feel it is an opportunity. But both of the two lads I could play next have scored more heavily than me this week. Hopefully I can bring some form to that match and use my experience.”

Thursday afternoon

Positive Approach Pays Off For Lisowski

Jack Lisowski’s improved attitude helped him to reach the quarter-finals of a Triple Crown event for the first time as he beat Xiao Guodong 6-4 at the Betway UK Championship.

Judd Trump also made it through to the last eight in Milton Keynes with a 6-3 defeat of Ricky Walden.

One-eyed Jack: Lisowski is more focussed this week

Lisowski also took a huge stride towards keeping his top 16 ranking and booking a place in the Masters in January. He has gone above Thepchaiya Un-Nooh into 15th place in the race, so it would need two of Joe Perry, Graeme Dott, Zhou Yuelong and Lu Ning to overtake him this week to knock him out of the elite. He faces China’s Zhou in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Xiao took the first two frames today with breaks of 71 and 68 before Lisowski made important clearances of 43 and 42 to get back to 2-2. After the interval, Lisowski went ahead with a run of 65. He took control of frame six with a run of 62, but Xiao clawed his way back and gained the snookers he needed to force a respotted black, then doubled it to a corner pocket for 3-3.

Two scrappy frames went Lisowski’s way before Xiao pulled one back with a run of 79 for 5-4. Lisowski sealed victory in style in frame ten with a 107.

Talented Lisowski, age 29, has had some fine results in recent years, reaching three ranking finals, but admits his mentality during matches has not always been robust.

“There was pressure today with my Masters place on the line and I was nervous in the first few frames,” he said. “I have collapsed in some games in the past, but today I kept a very positive attitude. If I lose a bad frame I’m just telling myself ‘so what? Just keep going.’ That’s what got me to 2-2 after losing the first two frames.

“In the past I was getting embarrassed when I missed, and then the next shot gets harder and harder. Ronnie O’Sullivan beat me 6-1 in this event a couple of years ago and I didn’t deal with it. I find it easier playing without a crowd because when there is no one there it doesn’t seem to matter as much if I miss.”

Lisowski’s run will also send him flying up from 67th place into the top 32 of the one-year ranking list and on course for a place in the World Grand Prix later this month.

Excited Trump Keeps Momentum Going

Trump reached the last eight of this event for the first time since 2014 thanks to a comfortable win over Walden. The world number one has already won two tournaments this season but remains hungry for more silverware.

Trump has won 12 tournaments in the past 25 months

He came from 48-7 down in the opening frame to take in on the colours, then surged into a 4-0 lead with top breaks of 85 and 65. Walden fought back, taking three of the next four frames to make it 5-3. Both players had chances in frame nine but it was Trump who got the better of a safety battle on the last red and cleared to book a match with Graeme Dott or Kyren Wilson.

“My last couple of matches have been a bit of a struggle,” said 2011 UK Champion Trump. “I am just winning the crucial frames at important times. My mindset is to save my best for when I need it. I have the confidence to get through games which go close.

“I was a bit tired today so hopefully I’ll get a good sleep tonight because we are at the business end of the tournament now. There are a lot of top players left who really want to get their name on the trophy. I love playing snooker and I still get that excitement out there for every match. Just to have these big events to play in every week, trying to win titles and keep the number one spot keeps me going.”

Trump is a close friend of Lisowski and added: “I’m pleased for him and it would be great to play him in the final. Jack has produced his best form when the pressure was on.”

Thursday evening

Wilson Into Quarters With Dott Thrashing

Kyren Wilson will hope to send Judd Trump packing at the Betway UK Championship on Friday – while his wife Sophie is packing up boxes to move into their new home.

The Wilson family are set to move into a new house in Kettering but Kyren will be preoccupied in Milton Keynes taking on the world number one in the quarter-finals. A 6-1 victory over Graeme Dott put Wilson into the last eight of this tournament for the second time.

His clash with Trump on Friday evening will be their seventh meeting this year, with the previous six shared three apiece. One of those matches was the final of the recent Championship League, Wilson coming out on top to win his fourth ranking title and first on UK soil. He hopes to achieve another career milestone this week by winning his first Triple Crown event.

World number four Wilson eased into a 4-0 lead over Dott tonight with top breaks of 89 and 69. Former World Champion Dott pulled one back and had chances in frame six, but had to watch Wilson convert a brilliant long double on the penultimate red which set up the chance to go 5-1 up. And an excellent break of 82 in the seventh frame saw Wilson over the line.

“To beat a player of Graeme ‘s class 6-1 is very pleasing,” said 28-year-old Wilson. “I know that when I get to quarter and semi-finals then Judd is going to be around and I expect to play him. It’s good to have the chance to take him out, to learn from him and eventually overtake him, that’s what I’m trying to do.

“In terms of snooker CVs he is well ahead of me. He has a lot of experience while I am still finding my feet at the top level. I have got a long way to go to match him. But our head to head record is quite even and we often have exciting matches.”

Asked about moving house, Wilson joked: “I have told my five-year-old son Finley that he has to help Sophie with the packing! It has given me a distraction this week and perhaps that helps take my mind off the tournament.

“We are moving to a bigger house and it makes me so proud to be able to provide a lovely life for my family, it makes all the sacrifices worthwhile. I remember being in Shanghai in 2015 when I won my first tournament, at the time Sophie went on a family holiday in Tenerife. She had 400 Euros which was all the money we had, and unfortunately she lost it when she got there. She called me crying her eyes out because she couldn’t even afford to buy nappies. Our lives have changed a lot since then.”

Lu Wins Chinese Derby

Lu Ning reached the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the third time in his career with a 6-2 win over fellow Chinese cueman Pang Junxu.

World number 40 Lu has been arguably the player of the tournament so far in terms of high scoring – the 26-year-old has made seven centuries and eight more breaks over 50.

The former world under-21 champion now faces Joe Perry, a crucial match for both players in the Race to the Masters. Perry could jump into the top 16 by winning that match while Lu needs to win the tournament to earn a Masters spot.

Breaks of 65, 56 and 57 helped Lu build a 5-1 lead tonight. Tour rookie Pang pulled one back with a 76 but Lu clinched the result in frame eight with a 123.

Quarter-Final Line-Up

Jack Lisowski v Zhou Yuelong
Mark Selby v Neil Robertson
Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson
Lu Ning v Joe Perry

I can’t comment on the matches, having seen next to none of the action over the last two days.

The quarter-finals line-up is quite intriguing. We have still four of the top 8 in there, and they play each other. The outcomes of these matches are hard to predict.

It’s interesting that Judd Trump admits to feeling tired. Of course he has played an awful lot of matches already this season but the conditions may have played a role as well. Neil Robertson recently complained about the main arena being really cold, icy. If your body is constantly fighting to keep warm, it’s very tiring.

The outcomes of the other two matches are equally difficult to predict.

Between Jack and Zhou, it will depend on who can dictate the style of the match I feel. Jack can out-pot anyone on his day, but if it turns into a hard battle, I favour Zhou to come out the winner.

I have absolutely no clue about the Joe Perry v Lu Ning encounter. Lu Ning is an incredible fighter on his day, but so is Joe Perry. Joe Perry though has more experience of the big stage, so, maybe, he has some sort of advantage here.




One thought on “The 2020 UK Championship – last 16 – Days 9 & 10

  1. All of the last-16 matches produced a clear winner, with only Higgins losing to a lower-ranked player. He played very poorly, as did O’Sullivan and Williams earlier. Higgins’ liking of Zhou can probably be traced back to 2015 when Zhou won their decisive frame in the World Cup. In fact, the young Chinese players coming through look to that for inspiration rather than any of Ding’s successes, and any snooker follower who has not watched at least the last 5 minutes of that video has missed perhaps the most significant moment in snooker history for a decade or more.

    On that subject, Pang Junxu was a bit unlucky at the start of his match, and his challenge ran out of steam. He will increase his stamina with experience. One advantage is that he is very close to Ding Junhui, having been coached by Ding’s father in their native Jiangsu Province.

    I thought Xiao’s tactics were wrong against Lisowski – he tried to attack too much. There were times when he could have kept things a bit tighter and wait for the inevitable mistakes. Lisowski’s been scoring quite well, but it’s hard to see him being a contender. If he was nervous against Xiao, how will he fare against Selby or Robertson in the semi-final?

    If the two semi-finals turn out to be very one-sided, then perhaps that could set up a great final?

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