The quarter-finals day at the 2020 UK Championship produced semi-finals line-up that certainly looked unlikely at the start of the tournament:
Neil Robertson v Zhou Yuelong
Judd Trump v Lu Ning
How did we get there? Here are the reports by WST:
Robertson And Zhou To Meet In Semis
Neil Robertson played near-flawless snooker in a 6-2 defeat of Mark Selby at the Betway UK Championship, setting up a semi-final with China’s Zhou Yuelong.
Australia’s Robertson is into the semi-finals of this event for the fourth time and is chasing his third title, having lifted the trophy in 2013 and 2015. He has now beaten Selby three consecutive times this season, having come out on top in the semi-finals of both the English Open and the Champion of Champions.
Today’s performance was Robertson’s best of the season so far as he stepped up his quest for a first title of the campaign. He raced into a 3-0 lead with breaks of 75, 122 and 63. Selby fought back to take the next two with runs of 67 and 59.
In frame six, Selby led 39-22 when he misjudged a cannon on a red and played safe. Robertson converted a tremendous long pot on a red which was close to a side cushion, and cleared the table with 56 to lead 4-2. That proved the turning point as the world number three fired runs of 91 and 130 in the last two frames.
The latter break was his seventh century of the tournament and also brought him to the career milestone of 750 tons – joining Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Stephen Hendry and Judd Trump in reaching that landmark.
“From start to finish that was very good, it was one of my best performances of the season, probably the best,” said Robertson after reaching his 11th Triple Crown semi-final. “I played some fantastic stuff to go 3-0 up then Mark came back well and looked like going 3-3. He forced me into a do-or-die red because I didn’t have any other shot. I thought that if I potted it I could clear up to go 4-2 which I knew would be a big blow to him. Not many players in the world would have been capable of potting that red.
“I am very experienced, I have been here many times before in big tournaments. The top players don’t get over excited about semi-finals. If I play my best then I have a great chance of getting through, irrespective of how Zhou plays.”
Zhou – I Believe I Can Win
Having knocked out John Higgins in the previous round, world number 25 Zhou claimed another top-16 scalp with a 6-4 defeat of Jack Lisowski.
The 22-year-old from Chengdu in the west of China lost 9-0 to Robertson in the final of the European Masters last season and will hope for revenge when they meet again on Saturday afternoon. Zhou has extended his best ever run in a Triple Crown event and remains in the hunt for his first ranking title.
Today’s result was significant in the Race to the Masters, as Lisowski could have guaranteed his place at Alexandra Palace next month by winning the match, but instead he must wait to see how the weekend results pan out. Zhou will secure a top 16 place for the first time if he beats Robertson.
A break of 60 helped Lisowski win the opening frame today then Zhou levelled with a 69. Frame three came down to a safety battle on the pink and Zhou knocked in an excellent pot to lead 2-1. He added the next two with a top run of 99 to go 4-1 up.
The next two were shared, then in frame eight Zhou had a clear match-winning chance, but after potting the last red he missed the black off its spot at 31-60. Lisowski took advantage to take the frame, and made a 55 in the next to close to 5-4. But the fight-back ended there as Zhou got the better of a fragmented tenth frame.
“I am very pleased,” said Zhou. “This is a new level. Today I didn’t play well. I missed an easy chance to win the match at 5-2 up. I always felt pressure.
“It’s not good for me to play Neil – both times we have played before I have lost. But everyone has their first time and hopefully this will be mine. I am confident, I believe I can win. To get to the final might mean more snooker fans in China will watch. It would be good for my family, my mum, my coach, my teacher. It is a big prize for me.”
“My family when they are watching me on TV they mute it and put music on. And when I have listened to it as well I do get a hard time. The style I play is risky, but that has got me to where I am. I am given a hard time when I play certain shots,”
I have accepted that is part of my game at the moment but I am trying to improve on that. I don’t proclaim to be some great player, but they seem to rate me maybe because I play fast and then judge me accordingly. If I make it look easy, it doesn’t feel it to me.
“But I definitely get given a hard time and maybe I do feel it out there, thinking too much about what they are saying and I shouldn’t. It probably does add pressure. I know when I hit certain shots the guys in the comms box are saying ‘What was that’, I’m thinking the same thing.
“But that is my style, I am erratic and the sooner I can win something and get rid of that tag of ‘good player who won’t win a tournament’ the better. Maybe everything will get easier if I can do that. You can’t shut these people up until you have won.
“I want to win a title mainly for me, but also to show other people. And that is why I am trying so hard to win any tournament I can and get that first ‘W’. It is a long time coming but I hope it will be worth it.”
I do understand that it’s hard for Jack to cope with this and there was more of the same yesterday:
I truly believe that it’s frustration more than anything else that drives the pundits to deliver such assessment. Jack is extremely talented – he’s probably one of the most talented players on the tour – and his game is fantastic to watch when it works. But it doesn’t always work. Nobody, however talented they are, can produce their best all the time. Jack has no B game, nevermind a C or D game. Every player needs to find ways to compete on lesser days and he doesn’t have that. Maybe he should listen, take this as advice rather than criticism, and find someone who could help him?
Trump Fends Off Wilson Fight-Back
Judd Trump let slip a 3-0 lead against Kyren Wilson in the quarter-finals of the Betway UK Championship, but showed character at the business end of the contest to win 6-4.
Trump now meets world number 40 Lu Ning who kept his tremendous run going with a 6-4 win over Joe Perry.
World number one Trump remains on course to win his third title of the season having landed the English Open and Northern Ireland Open within the last seven weeks. The 31-year-old is just two matches away from doubling his tally of UK Championship titles having first lifted the trophy in 2011.
Bristol’s Trump has shown only glimpses of his best form this week but still has the all-round game and confidence to keep his winning streak going.
He made a sensational start tonight with breaks of 73, 102 and 106 to take the first three frames. The match turned in the fourth when Wilson enjoyed a massive fluke on a red when he led 23-17, setting him up for a run of 43 which gave him a foothold. World number four Wilson got the better of a safety exchange on the yellow in frame five and cleared for 3-2, then made a 64 in the next to square the tie.
A scrappy seventh frame went Trump’s way then Wilson hit back with an 88 for 4-4. In the ninth, Wilson was on 24 when he missed a mid-range blue to a baulk corner, letting Trump in for an excellent 71 which restored his lead.
A superb long red at the start of the tenth initiated a break of 63 for Trump, and Wilson’s hopes of a counter-attack ended when he missed the fourth-last red to a top corner.
“It was tough,” said Bristol’s Trump, who has won four out of seven meetings with Wilson this year. “At 4-4 he had a good chance to go 5-4 up, I was delighted when he missed the blue and left me a chance. If I had missed then I probably would have lost the match because my confidence had been knocked. I had to dig in to make that break and I’m sure it would have hurt him. To get through in the end is a nice feeling.
“Whenever I play Kyren I have to play well to win and I raised my game in the first three frames tonight. I was going around the table just trying to pot everything I could see. Then the fourth frame changed everything and after that things didn’t go my way, so it was important to pull myself out of that.
“In the past I have put too much pressure on myself and that’s when you get nervous. This season I have just treated it as a game while trying my best, and I get more enjoyment from that.
“If I get to the final I can start to think about winning the trophy but there’s still a long way to go. Lu Ning is in new territory but he is playing to the same standard as the top boys.”
Lu Battles Past Perry
China’s 26-year-old Lu is having the best week of his career so far and is through to his second ranking event semi-final; the first coming at the 2019 Gibraltar Open. The former world under-21 champion has scored heavily in this event, making seven centuries, but it was his calmness under pressure which helped him to a gritty win over Perry.
The result ends Perry’s hopes of a place in the Masters, but Lu is still in that race and will climb into the top 16 if he wins the tournament.
Lu took the first two frames tonight then Perry won the third with a 76 and had a clear chance in the fourth but missed the penultimate red to a top corner and his opponent punished him to lead 3-1.
Runs of 63 and 69 helped Perry win the next three frames, but he didn’t the chances that came his way in the remainder of the match. Lu won a scrappy eighth for 4-4 then made a cool 39 clearance to steal the ninth. And a break of 58 in frame ten helped the player from Jilin over the line.
A Neil Robertson v Judd Trump final looks like a very likely outcome of today’s matches but… I wouldn’t write Zhou or Lu off. The pressure will firmly be on the top seeds.