Masters 2021 – Ronnie goes out to John Higgins in the Quarter Finals

John Higgins beat Ronnie in the Masters 2021 Quarter finals by 6-3. It was an extremely high quality match.

These are the scores and the stats:



It’s not often you will see a player lose by 6-3, having a 95% pot success, and having scored two tons and a 97 but that’s exactly what happened to Ronnie yesterday. He didn’t play badly at all, he actually played very well, but John Higgins was just incredible in that match. Ronnie missed three balls all match. His safety wasn’t bad – 77% success-  but it was the weakest aspect in his game and the one that made the difference.

At one point they had five centuries in a row. Higgins 145 is currently the highest break of the tournament.

Here are the post-match interviews with the BBC:

Here is the report by WST:

Higgins Downs The Rocket In Classic

Masters2021L16ROSHiggins-1John Higgins was victorious in an epic Betfred Masters showdown with World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, winning 6-3 to make the semi-finals in Milton Keynes.

This evening’s classic clash was the latest in one of snooker’s most celebrated and longstanding rivalries. The Rocket and the Wizard have been battling it out on the circuit since they both turned professional in 1992. O’Sullivan, who has won the Masters a record seven times, now has a head-to-head lead of 35-29 over two-time Masters winner Higgins.

Higgins will now face David Gilbert in tomorrow evening’s second semi-final. It will be a repeat of their pulsating World Championship semi-final from 2019, on that occasion Higgins won 17-16. If the Scot can win again, it will send him through to a first Masters final since 2006, when he defeated six-time Crucible king O’Sullivan 10-9. Higgins is also aiming for his first win since the 2018 Welsh Open.

It was 37-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan who got a match of supreme quality up and running with a break of 97 to take the opener. Higgins summoned two contributions of 41 to take the second, before the pair embarked on a barrage of breaks.

Back to back century runs of 145 and 110 from Higgins, were followed by consecutive hundred breaks of 125 and 103 from O’Sullivan to make it 3-3.

From there it was four-time World Champion Higgins who made the decisive burst. The 30-time ranking event winner composed a stunning break of 134 to take the lead at 4-3. That was the fifth consecutive century of the match, equalling the Masters record set by Stephen Maguire and Neil Robertson in 2009.

Higgins made a break of 88 in the next to move one from victory at 5-3. O’Sullivan then had a chance to pull within one, but missed a regulation red and allowed Higgins to fire in a break of 47 to seal a famous win.

We’ve been playing each other for nearly 30 years at the top end of the game and I’m proud that I’m still competing,” said 45-year-old Higgins. “There will be a time sooner rather than later when we won’t be playing these games, so you have to enjoy them while you still can.

“I was really happy with the way I played. You can do it when you are practising, but it is doing it here against the best players. That is where you judge yourself and I’m delighted I did it. I’ve only won a quarter-final match, I have another massive game tomorrow night. I have to put that result to bed.

“It will be a massive game for the two of us tomorrow night. Dave is going for his first big win and I’m going for my first in a couple of years. I’m sure there will be a lot of nerves. I played Dave in the semi-finals of the World Championship a couple of years ago and it was an unbelievable game, hopefully we can put on another one tomorrow night.”

O’Sullivan said: “I’d love to see John win it, for him and for snooker. It would be fantastic to see John pick up silverware, he is too good not to and if it wasn’t for Judd Trump he probably still would be.

“I’m going to have to keep putting in the hours on the practice table and hopefully things will turn around.

And here is the report by Eurosport:


John Higgins produced a performance of the highest class to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes on Friday. He knocked in three centuries and a break of 88 to keep himself in the hunt for a third Masters crown. Up next is a meeting with David Gilbert in the semi-finals.

ohn Higgins produced a blistering display to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 to progress to the semi-finals of the Masters.

There was huge anticipation ahead of the meeting of two greats of the game, and it was not wasted as they served up a masterclass with five centuries on the spin, which equalled a Masters record set in 2009 between Stephen Maguire and Neil Robertson.

Higgins was the dominant force, despite O’Sullivan knocking in a 97 in the first frame and two centuries, as he rolled back the years to record his first win over the world champion since 2018 to set up a meeting with David Gilbert in the semi-finals.

“Brilliant,” was Higgins’ reaction to Eurosport. “I can’t play any better than that. I thought it was a great match.”

O’Sullivan did little wrong, he just bumped into an opponent who crafted breaks of 145, 110, 134 and 88 to keep himself on course for a third Masters title.

O’Sullivan was in fantastic form in his win over Ding Junhui – he had to be as the Chinese star produced some excellent snooker – and he started impeccably against Higgins. A sloppy safety from the Scot gave the table to O’Sullivan and he struck a crisp red into the left corner and crafted a brilliant 97 to lay down a marker.

Higgins came into the Masters in decent form following plenty of table time in the Championship League the previous week. He knocked in a couple of superb long reds that went clean into the pocket and they helped him level up in the second frame.

The first two frames were about blistering potting, but the third saw the first extended safety battle. It went the way of Higgins who pounced on an error from the seven-time Masters champion to knock in the highest break of the tournament, a 145 to eclipse the 141 Yan Bingtao compiled earlier in the day.

O’Sullivan could only watch on in a mixture of frustration and admiration in the second and third frames, and that continued in the fourth as Higgins knocked in a long red and crafted a superb 110 with pink and black tied up for much of the frame to move 3-1 ahead at the interval.

If O’Sullivan was cold after sitting out three frames in a row, he did not show it in the fifth. His first pot since the second frame was an excellent red into a blind pocket and he knocked in a total clearance of 125 to keep himself in the hunt.

Higgins was first in in the sixth frame, but he left a red above ground with the rest and O’Sullivan stepped in with an impeccable 103 to draw level.

Despite being arguably the greatest of all time, O’Sullivan has never mastered the break off. A gasp of annoyance came from the world champion when he brought a red up the table off his opener in the next. Given Higgins’ form, he knew what it meant as his opponent came to the table and compiled his third century of the match – a 134 – to move back in front.

Higgins extended his lead to two frames when taking the eighth. It was the longest frame of the match, and the Scot showed his all-round quality by getting the better of an extended safety battle before going through the gears with an 88.

O’Sullivan had a chance in the ninth to keep himself alive, but he missed a red when trying to cheat the pocket to remain on a colour and it proved costly as Higgins stepped in to close out a brilliant match that will live long in the memory banks.

Ronnie’s reaction as reported by the media ( here the Express ) shows how annoyed with himself he was after the match:

I made too many unforced errors really,” O’Sullivan said after the match. “I know the breaks look good on the scoresheet but when you miss easy balls and unforced errors, I lacked some safety shots, you are not going to win.

“I am disappointed that I couldn’t cut out them errors really.

“It is no consolation to me. Centuries make a player look good but I made too many mistakes. He was grreat at potting and break-building. He is just going to out-school you and was just far too good for me tonight.

Actually he didn’t make that many mistakes, but he made too many against a player in John Higgins who played  almost perfect snooker and punished every error heavily.

If John can keep that level he will win the tournament very comfortably.

I see Ronnie’s annoyance as a positive sign. He still wants to win… badly!

Those were the reactions by the BBC pundits and commentators:

Analysis – ‘Higgins had us spellbound’

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry on BBC Four:

“It has been a complete dominant performance from Higgins. The frames O’Sullivan won were brilliant but Higgins was on another level. I am surprised he does not do this more often.”

1991 world champion John Parrott:

“We call him the Wizard of Wishaw and he had us spellbound this evening and an unbelievable performance from start to finish, the best I have seen him play in a long, long time.”



Tour News … Pro Series, German Masters and a withdrawal

A few posts by WST today…

The German Masters Draw and Format

BildBet German Masters Draw And Format

The draw and format for the final stages of the 2021 BildBet German Masters is now available.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The world ranking event will run from January 27 to 31 in Milton Keynes. Judd Trump is defending the title and he faces Mark Davis in the last 32.

BildBet is a brand associated with BetVictor in Germany. So this event still forms part of the BetVictor European Series, with a £150,000 bonus available for the player who tops the ranking list which runs across six events.

The event will be televised live by Eurosport. Details of other broadcasters will be announced soon.

Stephen Hendry withdraws from the Pro Series

Hendry Withdraws From WST Pro Series

Stephen Hendry has pulled out of the new WST Pro Series and has been replaced in Group G by John Astley.

Click here for the revised group draw

Click here for next week’s match fixtures

The world ranking event gets underway on Monday in Milton Keynes. Play will begin at 10am each day from January 18 to 25.

Players are split into 16 groups of eight for the initial round-robin phase. All matches are best of three frames, and the top two in each group will progress to the second group stage.

The second phase will feature 32 players split into four groups of eight. Once again the top two in each group will go forward.

The player who finishes top of the final group of eight players will be crowned the champion.

The dates for the event are:

January 18-25: First eight groups
March 9-16: Eight more groups
March 17-20: Second group stage
March 21: Final group

Prize money will be as follows:

First group stage
Winner: £4,000
Runner-up: £3,000
3rd Place: £2,500
4th Place:  £2,000
5th Place: £1,500
6th Place: £1,000
7th Place: £500
8th Place: £0

Second group stage
Winner: £10,000
Runner-up: £7,500
3rd place: £5,000
4th place: £4,000
5th place: £3,000
6th place: £2,000
7th place: £1,500
8th place: £1,000

Final group stage
Winner: £20,000
Runner-up: £10,000
3rd place: £7,500
4th place: £5,000
5th place: £4,000
6th place: £3,000
7th place: £2,000
8th place: £1,000

No surprise for me here, especially after a tweet by Mark Williams last week, ironically stating “Hendry’s return going well then” or something along that line. Probably Hendry doesn’t want to embarrass himself and I wonder if he will play at all eventually.

Alan Taylor seeing the Pro Series as a great opportunity for the lower ranked players 

Taylor – WST Pro Series Could Be A Springboard

Allan Taylor believes that the new WST Pro Series is an ideal opportunity for lower ranked players to gain experience and reach the later stages of a world ranking event.

World number 104 Taylor will be among the first players in action on Monday in Milton Keynes, in Group M alongside Joe Perry, Xiao Guodong, Matthew Stevens, Daniel Wells, Jak Jones, Rod Lawler and Haydon Pinhey. Click here for the group draw 

Each of the eight players will play seven best-of-three frame matches in a round robin format over the day. The top two in the group will then go through to the second phase in March.

“The tournament is a godsend. I’m just relishing the chance to get my cue out of the box,” said Merseysider Taylor. “I’m lucky enough to have a practice unit I can use in lockdown. But I’m playing on my own, so just to compete against other humans will be a relief!

“In best-of-three matches, anyone can beat anyone. It’s a great chance for the lower ranked players to pit themselves against the top guys. At the least you get seven matches under your belt, which is important after the Christmas break when we’re all a bit rusty.

“It’s hard to know how many matches you’ll need to win to get into the top two, but there is sure to be some drama towards the end of the day.  And if you achieve that it’s £3,000 or £4,000, plus another £1,000 guarantee in the second phase. We all have mortgages to pay and we’d much rather be playing in event like this than having a month off.”

Taylor dropped off the pro tour in 2019 but regained his place by winning the 2020 Challenge Tour Play-offs. He has made an impressive start to this season, reaching the last 32 of three ranking events.

“I have beaten some good players, and got a lot out of the matches I have lost against the likes of Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Liang Wenbo,” added the 36-year-old. “I feel comfortable out there on the main stage. I just have to keep trying to play to a high standard and the results will come.”

For more information about the event, click here

Completely agree with him.

The Masters 2021 – Day 5

First day of the quarter-finals stage and we had another match going to the “underdog” (one of Philip Studd’s favourite words 😉)  as David Gilbert beat Kyren Wilson by 6-5 in the afternoon.

Here is the report by WST:

Gilbert Battles Past Warrior

David Gilbert produced a fighting display to secure a narrow 6-5 win over Kyren Wilson at the Betfred Masters in Milton Keynes.

The match followed a similar nerve-shredding pattern to recent games this week, it is now the fourth of the last five matches to go all the way to a deciding frame.

It’s the second consecutive year that world number 13 Gilbert has made the semi-finals at the Masters. Last year, he beat Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire, before losing to eventual winner Stuart Bingham. This time he will face either Ronnie O’Sullivan or John Higgins in the last four.

Wilson, who was runner-up to Mark Allen at the 2018 Masters, will have to wait for a maiden Triple Crown Title. The four-time ranking event winner has now failed to go beyond the second round in the last three years.

Kettering cueman Wilson took the opener this afternoon, making a run of 60 in the process. Gilbert replied with a break of 58, which was eventually enough for him to restore parity at 1-1.

Wilson had looked in position to take the third, but left the brown over the right middle and allowed Gilbert to clear and force a re-spot. Tamworth cueman Gilbert then deposited the black to move ahead at 2-1.

The Warrior drew level with a fine break of 114 and then took the fifth to lead 3-2. The following frames became increasingly tactical. Gilbert edged a 36-minute sixth, before depositing a tricky final black along the top cushion to move 4-3 ahead.

Wilson fired in breaks of 107 and 80 to move to the verge of victory at 5-4. However, it was Gilbert who crucially claimed the last two frames. A stunning long range red paved the way for a 66 break to force a decider, where he fired in a run of 67 to seal victory.

“I’ve certainly been losing games like that this season, when it’s not been too pretty, and chucking the towel in. It is about winning, that was pretty ugly at times. Either of us could have won, but I’m going to take it, that’s a great win for me,” said 39-year-old Gilbert.

“Kyren will definitely feel he should have won today. It is one of those horrible games where you feel you both should have done better. I’m just the lucky one that is through to the next round.

“I don’t think I’m playing that well, at all really, but I’m definitely thinking a lot better. It’s clearer and I’m trying. I think good things can happen if you are thinking better. I’m a long way off my A game, but the longer you are in, the more chance you have of it coming out. I just thought over Christmas it was time to cheer up a bit as I was just miserable. That was no good for myself or anyone, I kind of laugh about it now.”

I must admit that I struggled to find enjoyment in this match, despite having no particular favoutite. It was just such a hard, painful slog. All credit to David Gilbert for turning his attitude and mindset areound over the Christmas break.

And here is more about Gilbert’s reaction and mindset, reported by Eurosport:


The world number 13 edged out Kyren Wilson to reach the last four of the Masters at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. It was a patchy performance from Gilbert who was comprehensively outplayed, but he kept himself in the hunt and produced his best snooker in the final two frames to advance to the semi-finals.

David Gilbert has spoken of his relief to advance to the semi-finals at the Masters, as he has a “massive tax bill due.”

Gilbert somehow beat Kyren Wilson 6-5 in the quarter finals on Thursday despite being comprehensively outpointed in all departments apart from the one that matters most.

It is a lot of money,” he told Eurosport of beating Wilson and advancing to the last four at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. “I don’t know what it is, £50,000, £60,000?

I have had a stinker of a year and have a massive tax bill due so it all helps.”

Pressed on why it is hard to feel sorry for someone who has a “massive tax bill,” Gilbert replied: “You can complain when you earned nothing the next year.

Commenting on his win and the meeting with either John Higgins or Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals, Gilbert said: “It was a real grind.

“I am not going to win the Masters playing like that but I am still in and that’s what’s great.

“I have been losing frames like that all season long so I’ve probably won three or four today and they add up.

“It is David versus Goliath. If I can start well and find my arm then I fancy my chances.

“If not, I will be on my way home, it is as simple as that.”

Again, I didn’t watch the evening match.

This is the report by WST:

Champion Bingham Into Semis

Defending champion Stuart Bingham beat world number seven Shaun Murphy 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the Betfred Masters.

Bingham has now won six consecutive matches at the Masters, after lifting the trophy 12 months ago with a thrilling 10-8 win over Ali Carter in the final. He’ll now face either Stephen Maguire or Yan Bingtao for a place in this year’s title match.

Tonight’s victory for the Essex cueman sees him close the gap on rival Murphy in their head to head record, now trailing by one at 6-5. The most notable meeting between the pair saw Bingham defeat Murphy 18-15 to claim a maiden Crucible crown in the 2015 World Championship final.

Triple Crown winner Murphy took a tightly contested opening frame this evening, before Bingham restored parity at 1-1 with a sublime run of 133.

Murphy then regained his advantage, but Bingham levelled at 2-2 with a steely clearance of 35, after a back doubled pink set him up for a regulation frame ball black.

Bingham took the lead for the first time with a break of 92 to take the fifth frame and he then added a third on the bounce to move 4-2 ahead.

Murphy kept himself in contention by winning the seventh with breaks of 70 and 51. However, Bingham crucially responded by edging a marathon 46-minute frame to move one from the win at 5-2. He then controlled the 9thframe, taking it 72-0 to seal a 6-3 victory.

We both gave each other a bit too much respect and we were both waiting for the other to start playing well. There were some good pots and bad misses, I think it had pretty much everything,” said 44-year-old Bingham.

“I’m still in it and I’m improving. To win a battle with Shaun, of course I will get some confidence out of it. Whoever I play, Yan Bingtao or Stephen Maguire, it will be a tough game and I will probably need to play a little bit better and hopefully get through to another final.

“I feel like I’m pretty sharp at the moment, we had the Championship League last week and I think that has helped get my game into shape. I need to relax and let my game come out. Hopefully I’ll do that on Saturday.

Today we have the other two quarter-finals: Stephen Maguire v Yan Bingtao in the afternoon, and Ronnie v John Higgins in the evening.

I will support Yan and Ronnie… I will TRY to stay awake.

This is John Higgins speaking to Phil ahead ahead of tonight’s match:

John Higgins relishing Ronnie O’Sullivan test in blockbuster Masters quarter-final

RonnieAndJohnHigginsMasters 2006
John Higgins has set up a blockbuster clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Masters (Picture: Getty Images)

John Higgins is expecting some cracking Friday night entertainment when he takes on Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Masters quarter-final on Friday night.

The Wizard of Wishaw edged out Mark Allen 6-5 on Wednesday evening at the Marshall Arena in a dramatic and tense contest.

This followed the Rocket bouncing back from 5-3 behind to beat Ding Junhui in the afternoon session, in a game packed full of still more drama than the match that came later.

The pair will have a day off to prepare and return for one of the biggest match-ups that snooker can offer between two of the all-time greats, with organisers moving it from the afternoon session to the evening on Friday to maximise viewing figures.

The Scot had a message to fans across the world ahead of the showdown with his old rival, telling Eurosport: ‘Everybody should just stay in, crack open the beers and watch the game.’

O’Sullivan has long thought of Higgins as the greatest rival of his career, and while the Wizard agrees, there is absolutely no needle between the two, just an immense amount of respect.

It’s a friendly rivalry, I think, with Ronnie,’ said Higgins. ‘I respect him an unbelievable amount, so to still be playing these sort of matches I’m over the moon.

‘A quarter-final to get through to the semi-final, I know I’m going to have to play better than even tonight.

‘I never seen any of his game today, but apparently he played brilliant and Ding played well, so I’ll just have to come in and bring my A game.

O’Sullivan did indeed look good in his win over Ding, fighting back impressivly against the Chinese, who was in fine form himself.

The Rocket knocked in two centuries and three further half-centuries to move into the quarter-finals.

Higgins couldn’t boast any tons, but five breaks of over 50 helped him into the last eight.

The 2006 Masters
Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins last met at the Masters in the 2006 final (Picture: Getty Images)

The 45-year-old has not won a Triple Crown event since the 2011 World Championship and won the second and last of his Masters titles way back in 2006.

He agreed with the suggestion that the shorter format of the Masters is probably his best chance of adding to his nine Triple Crowns, although nothing at this level is straight forward.

‘If you’re looking at the amount of frames that you’ve only got to play to win then you’d say that this is the best chance,’ said Higgins.

‘The UK is seven matches, best of 11 and the World takes care of itself.

‘You would maybe say this one is the easiest, for someone like myself, but it’s far from easy.’

Ronnie and John first played each other as professionals way back in 1994 at the Dubai Classic and have met three times in the Masters, always in the final.

Higgins won a classic 2006 final 10-9, gaining revenge for his heavy 10-3 defeat in the previous year’s final.

O’Sullivan won their first meeting in a Masters final, comfortably claiming victory 9-3 back in 1995 and has won their last three matches in all events, with Higgins’ last win coming back in 2018.

Those two have played each other an incredible 71 times, Ronnie winning 37  times, John 29 times, and there were 3 draws.

Their last 5 encounters all happened in the quarte-finals round, bizarrely, Ronnie winning 3 and Higgins 2. Ronnie however did win the last three.

Stephen Maguire and Yan Bingtao have played each other 3 times, Maguire winning all 3. I’m not sure however if this is a reliable indication of what could happen today. The last time they played was in the 2018 English Open, and they never played each other over a best of 11 or a longer format. A lot changes in two years in terms of maturity when you are only 20.


The Masters 2021 – Day 4

Yesterday was the fourth day at the 2021 Masters, and it saw the conclusion of the last 16 round.

In the afternoon match, Ronnie came back from 3-0 down and 5-3 down to beat Ding Junhui by 6-5. You will find out everything about that match – the best of the round – by following this link.

The evening also went to a deciding frame, as John Higgins beat Mark Allen by 6-5. John of course had plenty of match practice, having played in three groups of the 2021 Championship League snooker last week. Mark Allen, on the other hand, hadn’t practice much ar all, as he was just recovering from covid-19. To make things even more tricky, he was playing with a new cue. He did well all things considered.

In the second frame of the matchMark Allen had a century, a 106, and that was the 600th century in the Masters.

Here is the report by WST:

Higgins Holds Off Allen

John Higgins defeated Mark Allen 6-5 to book his place in the last eight of the Betfred Masters in Milton Keynes.

Victory for Scotland’s Higgins sets up a mouth-watering last eight meeting with familiar foe Ronnie O’Sullivan. He currently trails O’Sullivan 35-28 in head-to-head meetings. It will be the 14th time Higgins has appeared in a Masters quarter-final.

This evening’s result ends a winning streak for Allen against Higgins at the Masters. Prior to tonight the Northern Irishman had beaten Higgins in all four of their previous meetings at the event.

It was two-time Masters champion Higgins who took the opening frame tonight. Allen, who lifted the Paul Hunter Trophy by winning the Masters in 2018, restored parity at 1-1 with a century run of 106. Breaks of 56 and 82 saw Higgins move 3-1 ahead at the mid-session.

A contribution of 92 allowed Allen to pull within one, before he stole the sixth on the black to level at 3-3. Momentum appeared to be with the Pistol, but Higgins stopped him in his tracks with breaks of 84 and 80 to move one from victory at 5-3.

Allen pulled within a frame at 5-4, then took a dramatic tenth. He was 35 points behind with 35 remaining, but got a snooker and cleared to force a decider.

Higgins trailed 39-3 in the last frame but compiled a superb break of 59 which proved the match-winner.

I know there is no crowd there, but personally I felt the nerves just as much as I would at a packed Alexandra Palace. It was a great buzz to get over the line there,” said 45-year-old Higgins. “I was all over the place at the start of the last frame and expecting Mark to win, but he missed a bad brown and then gave me a chance to get in. I’m normally sitting here over the last 18 months losing games like that, so to be winning it, I am delighted.

I’ve always had a friendly rivalry with Ronnie. I respect him an unbelievable amount. To still be playing these sort of matches, I’m over the moon. To get to the semi-finals I know I may have to play even better than tonight. I didn’t see any of his game today, but apparently he played brilliantly and Ding played well as well. I will just need to come in and play my A game.”

Today we have two quarter-finals: in the afternoon Kyren Wilson will play David Gilbert, and in the evening the defending champion Stuart Bingham will face Shaun Murphy.

Tomorrow Ronnie will face Higgins in the evening, their first match at the Masters since that 2006 final. Stephen Maguire will face Yan Bingtao in the afternoon.. That’s an interesting one because Maguire is no fan of too many safeties and prone to impatience. Yan is the opposite: he has a very strong tactical brain and all the patience in the world, but doesn’t always score heavily.




Masters 2021 – Ronnie comes back to beat Ding by 6-5 in the last 16 round

In the best match of the tournament so far, Ronnie trailed Ding Junhui by 3-0, but fought back really well to prevail in a deciding frame.

Here are the final scores, and the stats ahead of the deciding frame.


Ahead of the match, in the studio, Ronnie said that he had put the work in, practicing 6 hours a day. After the match he thanked Martin Gould for the practice matches over the break.

Even when he was trailing by 3-0, one could see he had been preparing seriously for this one. It was strange really: he was playing his best snooker of the season so far, and yet trailing by 3-0, with a highest break of 27. Winning the last before the MSI, with a century was massive.

Here is the report by Shamoon Hafez for the BBC:

Masters snooker 2021: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Ding Junhui with stunning comeback

By Shamoon Hafez BBC Sport


Seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan launched a stunning comeback from 5-3 down to beat Ding Junhui 6-5 in the first round at the Masters.

China’s Ding, the 2011 champion, made a blistering start with breaks of 83, 75 and 73 for a 3-0 lead, but O’Sullivan responded with runs of 103 and 60.

The pair traded superb centuries in the next three frames as Ding went 5-3 up.

O’Sullivan hit back again by punishing Ding’s missed chances, claiming victory with 73 in a final-frame decider.

John Higgins faces Mark Allen in the evening session (19:00 GMT), with the winner of that match to face O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals on Friday.

O’Sullivan came from behind time and time again to claim a sixth world title in August and showed his mettle under pressure once more to claim a fifth victory over Ding in as many meetings at the Masters.

With the event taking place behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena, spectators missed out on a stellar spectacle which featured four centuries and six further breaks of 70 or more.

O’Sullivan said: “I just had to hang in there. He started off well and I tried to nick a couple of frames. I thought, ‘am I capable of putting three frames together against Ding?’ But had to put that to the back of my mind.

“You have to try and put some pressure on your opponent, it was a mental battle out there, it always is. If you can get that right, you will be difficult to beat.

World number nine Ding added: “I had good chances to win the match but did not make them. I sometimes made it complicated to win frames, I just needed to take simple shots and take the points. I sometimes confused myself.

“Ronnie played a bit better than the first half and I sometimes chose the wrong positional shots.”

Here is the report by WST:

Rocket Downs Ding In Classic

Masters2021L16ROSDing-6World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 5-3 down to beat Asian number one Ding Junhui 6-5 in an enthralling first round clash at the Betfred Masters in Milton Keynes.

The Rocket has won the Masters more than any other player, having claimed the prestigious title on seven occasions. He last won the event in 2017, when he defeated Joe Perry in the final.

Next up six-time Crucible king O’Sullivan will face either John Higgins or Mark Allen, who contest this evening’s final opening round tie.

O’Sullivan’s victory today saw him enhance an already commanding advantage over Ding in their head-to-head record, he now leads 17-4. Ding was Masters champion in 2011, but since then he has lost in the opening round eight times in his previous ten appearances.

Ding got off to a tremendous start this afternoon, crafting runs of 83, 75 and 73 to open up a 3-0 advantage. O’Sullivan replied with a break of 103 to trail 3-1 at the mid-session.

When play resumed a sublime break of 60 saw 37-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan cut his arrears in half and make it 3-2. The pair then produced a barrage of centuries, Ding fired in a fine break of 129 to move two ahead, before O’Sullivan composed a run of exactly 100. Ding then moved a frame from victory with a break of 128 to make it 5-3.

Ding, a winner of 14 ranking event titles, then spurned a golden opportunity to close out the tie, missing a routine long red. That allowed O’Sullivan to pounce with a clearance of 47 to make it 5-4. He then forced a decider with a break of 85, after Ding went in off. O’Sullivan secured the final frame with 73 to win 6-5.

O’Sullivan said: “It was nice to make a bit of a game of it. Even if I lost 6-3, I played well and didn’t do a lot wrong. Ding played strongly, I’m just pleased to get over the line.

“It is a tough game. It is mental, physical and confidence – if you are lacking in any of those departments it is tough. You can play great for three quarters of the match, but if you can’t hold it together at the end that will be your Achilles heal.

“I enjoy every game I play, even if I play terribly. I’m not ferocious. I watched the Lance Armstrong documentary the other day and I just couldn’t relate to that intensity. I’m not that kind of character. I’m more chilled out.

I was listening to Jeff Bezos and he said, no matter what job you have, if you can enjoy 80% of it then you are doing really well. No matter what you do, there will be 20% you won’t like but you have to put up with it. I am like that, everybody has to do things they don’t want to do. I’m privileged and enjoy what I do.”

This is Ronnie, after the match, speaking about his preparation as reported by Phil Haigh

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s hard work pays off with epic Ding Junhui victory at the Masters

Phil Haigh – Wednesday 13 Jan 2021 5:14 pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan says a lot of hard hours on the practice table have helped him into the Masters quarter-final after a superb comeback victory over Ding Junhui in round one.

The Rocket looked on the brink of defeat with Ding 5-3 ahead and with a superb chance to clinch the match, but the Chinese star spurned the opportunity.

The reigning world champion kept his cool where Ding could not and won the final three frames of the match to book his spot in the last eight in dramatic fashion.

Although there were nerves on display at the end from Ding, it was a match of superb quality, with both men knocking in two centuries and O’Sullivan says it is down to a lot of hard work in practice.

‘I’ve been doing six hours every day, I ain’t seen no family and friends,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

‘You put the graft in…but it doesn’t always works like that, I’ve put loads of graft in before and not got a result for two years, so it don’t always work.

‘I did seven one day with Gouldy [Martin Gould], that was epic, he killed me, I’ve never played that long.’

The Rocket admits that he thought the match was slipping away from him and questioned his ability to make the huge comeback, but it was his mental resolve that got him over the line.

‘He started off well, I didn’t really get into the game,’ said the 45-year-old.

‘I just tried to nick a couple of frames, when it got to 3-2 I thought it could get a bit exciting, but he pulled away again.

‘I thought, “am I capable of putting three frames in against someone like Ding?” But I had to ignore that and just focus on one ball at a time and see what develops.

‘You’ve got to try and put some pressure on your opponent and I didn’t do that early in the game, but Ding played well, you can only play as well as your opponent allows you.

‘It was more of a mental battle out there, it always is, if you can get the mental skills right, whether you play well or not, you’ll be tough to beat.’

O’Sullivan’s form has been patchy so far this season, reaching two finals but not winning an event since the World Championship.

He exited the UK Championship very early at the hands of Alexander Ursenbacher and says that he was doing too much running at the time, something he has put right, while he has also fixed the problems he had with his tip at the Scottish Open.

‘I was playing really well up until my tip went wrong,’ he said.

‘The UK was a complete write off, I’d just overdone the running, not to make excuses but I was absolutely exhausted.

‘Running has took number one priority. But other than that I think I’ve been pretty good all season, it was just when my tip came off. After that my performances got worse and worse.

‘I was bad at the UK, I’d overdone the running, it hit me, I was gone.

‘No excuses, Ursenbacher played great but I was struggling to get the right balance.’

O’Sullivan now takes on either John Higgins or Mark llen in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Here are some images shared by WST on twitter:

and short videos shared by WST as well, as the match unfolded

Ronnie clears the table, with  frame 1 beyond rescue to get a feel of the table. It’s the only frame where he did this.

Ding makes it 2-0

The opening red by Ronnie in frame 4 – first step to the comeback

Ronnie develops the pack in frame 4 – second step to the comeback

Ronnie forces a deciding frame

And some more by Eurosport UK:

Ronnie tells Rachel that he has been putting the work in

Ronnie’ 75th Masters century

Ding is one frane away

Ronnie punishes Ding error to stay in the match

Ronnie forces a decider

Ronnie clinches the match

Hilarious – Ronnie about beinh “hopeless” at the Scottish Open after he found a lovely running track…


An interview ahead of Ronnie’s last 16 match at the 2021 Masters

In an interview with Desmond Kane, Ronnie admits that he was knackered at the start of the 2020 UK Championship having overdone his running. That said he wants to keep running, as it makes him happier, and helps him to keep healthy and fit. At the start of the lockdown, he had been putting weight on, running helped him to get fit again. It’s about find a balance.

Here is the interview:


Ronnie O’Sullivan plans to be on the button in 2021 after revealing he’s been inspired by former F1 world champion Jenson Button as he draws up his battleplan for success on the green baize. O’Sullivan begins his bid for a record eighth Masters title against Ding Junhui in the first round on Wednesday and is adamant he won’t repeat the mistakes he made before last month’s UK Championship.ROSWithCupUKC2020

A physically exhausted Ronnie O’Sullivan has revealed he was “absolutely gone” before suffering a shock early exit at the UK Championship – and plans to learn from his mistakes at the Masters in Milton Keynes.

The six-times defending world champion suffered a 6-5 defeat to world number 62 Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 64 of the UK last month despite watching his Swiss opponent contribute a highest break of only 67 over 11 frames.

O’Sullivan has explained how his addiction to running contributed to a shock downfall at the sport’s second biggest ranking event that he later described as “embarrassing”.

The record seven-times Masters winner admits he will only stay in the running at snooker’s major tournaments in the year ahead by cutting back on the hard yards away from the table.

That week, I managed to get 55 miles in,” said O’Sullivan ahead of his first-round match with 2011 champion Ding Junhui at the Marshall Arena. “I only managed 40 even when I was running brilliantly 10 years ago.

I’ve managed to build my volume up. I don’t run as fast now, but I go for a bit longer.

I ended up doing two 11 milers in one week which cranked the miles up, but towards the end of it I was absolutely shattered.


If you speak to an athlete that’s overtrained, it’s like a weird sort of tiredness.

You end up with a sort of a 36 or 48-hour bug so after that I thought I’d better go back to 36 or 40 miles because I had a couple of tournaments I wanted to play in and play well,” added O’Sullivan, who is 5-2 favourite with tournament sponsors Betfred for an eighth Masters title with world number one Judd Trump out due to coronavirus and former winners Neil Robertson and Mark Selby both knocked out.

Like anything, if you want to be good at it, you’ve got to be obsessive about it.

When it’s tournament week, I’ve got to learn that it’s okay to do five or six miles in the morning, but I don’t need to run 10 miles every day.

Once I get sucked in, I love it.

O’Sullivan – whose autobiography is aptly titled Running – has revealed he has been inspired by 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button’s approach to the triathlon that he married with his trophy-laden career behind the wheel.

Fellow British sporting icon Button won 15 races in F1 between 2000-2017, but once commented that “I am probably just as nervous, probably more nervous in a triathlon than an F1 race”.

My big priority is my running. I’ve got into half decent shape now,” said O’Sullivan. “When I started nine months ago, I was jogging, but now I’m running seven or eight miles which is nice.

I’m buzzing about that so my goal is to run some 10 milers, some half marathons, a bit like Jenson Button used to do with the triathlons. I want to take it seriously.


I feel like I’ve got my injuries behind me so now it’s about how you prepare in the same way you prepare for the World Championship or the Masters in snooker. You’ve really got to be on it day in, day out.”

O’Sullivan has quit smoking in his bid to help his longevity after becoming the second oldest winner of the world title last August at the age of 44 behind fellow six-times champion Ray Reardon with an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson at the Crucible in Sheffield.

He remains the youngest winner of the Masters when he was 19 in 1995, but could become its oldest winner in the 47th year of the sport’s biggest invitational event.

The record 37-times ranking event winner has confirmed he plans to compete at the Masters, World Championship, Players Championship and Tour Championship in a schedule of at least “eight or ten” events in 2021 as he bids to keep pace with the field.

My main focus at my age is good health. I’m 45 and haven’t smoked for nine months because of the running,” he said. “I’m enjoying the benefits of running. My mental health is in a much better place, I don’t smoke and I just feel a lot happier.

That is number one. That has to stay no matter what. Other than that, I want to try to play 10 events in the whole year. I don’t enjoy playing week in, week out.

I don’t want to do that so for me I want to play between eight and ten events maximum spend more time at home and the events that I do play in make sure I can meet the local running club so I can go out running and train like I would do at home.

“That’s really the goals for me. I’ll play the Masters and see what happens with the other tournaments. I’ll probably play the Coral events that I’ve qualified for and the World Championship.

All the other ones, I’ll decide later on whether I feel like I need the practice or not.”

Desmond Kane

The 2021 Masters – Day 3

Day 3 at the 2021 Masters provided more “shocks” as both Neil Robertson and Mark Selby exited the tournament.

The afternoon match was a long one. It only finished about 3/4 of an hour before the evening match was due to start. Allegedly, Neil Robertson was the better player, he certainly was the heavier scorer. Here are the match stats:


But he lost, and, basically,  the match turned on one shot. Neil was leading by 3-1, he was well ahead in frame 4, he decided to take a difficult black and develop a cluster of  four reds on the top cushion; he missed the black, developped the reds, and Yan stole the frame. From there the come-back started. Yan made it 3-3, Neil surged ahead again, leading by 5-3, only for Yan to win the last three frames. The deciding frame was a masterclass in tactical play from Yan. Even John Higgins would have been proud of that one, and the pundits were full of praise for once.

Here is the deciding frame:

After the match, Yan did not feel comfortable to be interviewed in the ES studio, and Neil, despite the defeat stepped up, which is much to his credit.. He admitted that he hadn’t practiced much at all, having gone to Norway for Christmas. Neil’s partner is Norwegian, and herself as well as the children were really keen to see their Norwegian family. As Neil put it, people have to go on with their life despite the circumstances.

This is the report by WST:

Yan Fightback Floors Robertson

Chinese debutant Yan Bingtao staged a tremendous fightback to stun world number two Neil Robertson 6-5 and reach the quarter-finals of the Betfred Masters.

Yan, 20, catapulted himself into the sport’s elite by winning the 2019 Riga Masters. Since then he has moved up to 11th position in the world rankings and as a result earned his maiden appearance at snooker’s most prestigious invitational event this week. Yan now leads Robertson 2-1 in their head-to-head record, having also beaten him 6-1 at the 2019 UK Championship.

Robertson enjoyed a memorable victory at the 2020 UK Championship before Christmas and went into this afternoon’s encounter as the tournament favourite. However, he has now exited the Masters in the opening round for two years in a row.

Robertson made a strong start to this afternoon’s encounter, breaks of 81 and 121 saw him establish a 2-0 advantage. Yan responded by getting his first frame on the board, courtesy of a contribution of 123. However, a break of 82 saw Robertson head into the interval 3-1 ahead.

Yan stole the fifth on the pink when play resumed and composed a break of 64 to restore parity at 3-3. Australia’s Robertson then claimed two on the bounce to move one from victory at 5-3. However, he stalled at the finish line as Yan battled back to force a decider with breaks of 65 and 51.

Yan then showed great composure to produce supreme safety in a 40-minute tactical frame. Eventually the Chinese cueman gained a substantial lead, with several colours glued to the cushions. Robertson was unable to overhaul him, as Yan sealed a momentous maiden Masters win. He will face either Mark Selby or Stephen Maguire in the last eight.

Yan said: “I am quite surprised that on my debut Masters appearance, I have also beaten Neil Robertson, who has just won the UK Championship. I am very happy with the result and also playing so well in the decider.

“I just go with the flow and do what I am supposed to do. That is what I did in the decider. Neil is the sort of player that takes a chance if you give it to him. I just played as much safety as I could. It was quite funny that all the colours were on the cushion. I did my best to mess up the table.

“I will do the best I can in the next round, but I have already gone beyond my expectations. I will try my best to relax and enjoy the match.”

Robertson said: “Yan did really well, especially in that last frame. It was like playing Steve Davis in his prime, tactically he was very good.

“He is fully capable of winning these events. When you compare him to the other Chinese players he doesn’t quite score as heavily as the others. If I was a bit clinical, I could have won quite comfortably. I didn’t take enough of my chances.”

At the time of the interview, Yan was probably expecting to face Mark Selby, instead, he will face Stephen Maguire…

I didn’t watch the match. I have to admit that I struggle with the schedule. I’m a morning person, and it’s past 9 pm when the first ball is struck in these evening matches. By all accounts, Stephen Maguire came back from the Christmas break refreshed mentally and is playing well.

Here is WST report:

Maguire Sees Off Selby

Stephen Maguire produced a fine display to beat Mark Selby 6-3 at the Betfred Masters in Milton Keynes.

Scotland’s Maguire now faces Yan Bingtao for a place in the semi-finals. Today’s win sees him enact revenge for a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Selby in the first round of the 2019 Masters.

Maguire claimed silverware in Milton Keynes last season by winning the postponed elite eight-player Tour Championship. However, he became frustrated with travel down from Glasgow prior to Christmas and hasn’t been beyond the third round so far this season.

By stark contrast, three-time Masters champion Selby has thrived this term in Milton Keynes, winning two ranking titles at the European Masters and the Scottish Open. However, defeat today for the Leicester cueman means hasn’t won the Masters for eight years, having last last lifted the famous trophy in 2013.

Maguire came out firing this evening, breaks of 66 and 57 saw him take the opening two frames to lead 2-0. Selby refused to wilt under the early onslaught, composing runs of 54, 79 and 50 to level at 2-2.

Maguire then took to the front again with a break of 99, before Selby restored parity at 3-3. That would prove to be Selby’s last frame of the match, with Maguire fielding contributions of 65 and 61 on his way to three on the bounce to win 6-3.

“That’s by far my best win of the season. It felt like a proper match out there and I thought I competed pretty well,” said 39-year-old Maguire. “Before Christmas I lost a little bit of will to win at the Scottish Open and the UK Championship. I wasn’t enjoying being here. I was still trying to get my head round it, but I wasn’t enjoying it. The Christmas break was good.

“I couldn’t shake him off. At 2-0 up, I didn’t do much wrong to be back to 2-2. You don’t have to do anything wrong for that to happen against Mark. I was just waiting to get that two frame lead again and I managed to get it and I got over the line.

“I think Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong are the next to come through and be top eight players and win tournaments. I think the two of them are unreal. I can’t split them. They are tough. Yan’s safety game, for being so young, is up there with the best of them. He’ll not be scared of me. I have it tough out there in the next match.”

A lot of persons struggle mentally currently, and this could be the case of  Mark Selby as well, if this interview with the BBC is anything to go by:

Mark Selby: Former world champion was left in despair as teenager by death of father


Mark Selby
Mark Selby is a three-time world champion and former world number one

Mark Selby has told the BBC he thought about ending his life at the age of 16 after his father died from cancer.

Leicester’s Selby, 37, is one of snooker’s most successful players, winning a total of 19 ranking titles including three World Championships.

Selby said “it eats away at me day after day” that his father David never got to see him play professionally.

“Hopefully he is looking down and seen what I have achieved and I have made him proud,” Selby told BBC Sport.

Selby won the England Under-15 Championship in 1998 and turned professional just two months after losing his father to cancer in 1999.

He paid tribute to family friend Alan Perkins who “took me under his wing” during a “difficult” time in his life.

In an interview with the BBC’s Rob Walker, Selby said: “I moved in with Alan at the time and for the first six months, I curled into a ball and didn’t want to to play snooker. It was the last thing on my mind.

“I didn’t move in with him straight away – we still had the council house which myself, father and my brother were living in until we decided to give it back to the council because we couldn’t bring ourselves to keep walking into that house knowing my father was not going to be there.

“At times, I was very close to doing it [taking his life] but told myself, my father wouldn’t want that.

“[Alan] pulled me through that, tried to turn it around and say, if your father was here, he would want you to still be smiling and playing snooker and trying your best, so use him as a positive, kick on and do it for him.”

In addition to his three World Championships, Selby has won two UK Championships and three Masters titles and has had six spells as world number one between 2011 and 2019.

He added: “If I could turn back the clock, I would give everything that I have achieved in snooker and all the money I have earned to have him back and see everything I have got – a great wife in Vikki, a fantastic daughter Sofia and even for him to see me as a professional. He never did see me play once.

“It eats away at me day after day knowing he hasn’t been here to see that but hopefully he is looking down and seen what I have achieved and I have made him proud.”

Mark’s mother left her family and abandoned her children, when Mark was still very young. His father raised the boys alone and was their anchor in life. Sadly, he died when Mark was only about 16. Mark might be nicknamed “The Jester form Leicester”, but anyone who has been around the tour for a while will know that he goes through dark periods and does feel very low at times. The current situation probably doesn’t help.

It would explain why he’s seems to be so sensitive and on edge in recent months.