The Thursday at the Home Nations is always a very busy day as two rounds are played to a conclusion and 32 become just 8. Yesterday was such a day, maybe even more eventfull than usual.
There was no report by WST about the afternoon matches, despite the last 32 round producing an alleged big shock: Judd Trump lost by 4-2 to Hossein Vafaei, putting an end to a run of 27 consecutive victories in best of 7 matches, and losing before the QF stage in a tournament for the first time in over 12 months. I write “alleged” because Judd had not played well at all in the first two rounds, despite the big breaks, he had made a lot of mistakes. He had been up against a 17 years old, and a 18 years old, playing on the television table, an unfamiliar environment for those youngsters. They weren’t able to punish Judd’s mistakes. But Hossein Vafaei is a completely different proposition altogether.
Judd Trump slams Celtic Manor conditions after Welsh Open exit
Judd Trump has not been impressed by conditions at the Welsh Open this week, suffering a shock early exit to Hossein Vafaei in the third round.
The world number one lost 4-2 to the Prince of Persia on Thursday afternoon, exiting a ranking event before the quarter-final stage for the first time in 12 months.
Trump had led 2-1, but struggled to get going and eventually succumbed to the Iranian who made a top break of 60 in the final frame.
The Ace has been complaining about the table conditions at Celtic Manor throughout the week, so this is not just sour grapes, but clearly he was especially upset after defeat to Vafaei.
‘It was easy for me at 2-1 up but then he fluked a blue with the balls everywhere,’ said Trump. ‘After that, everything he did turned to gold. In those conditions, anyone’s going to be able to win.
‘It’s just so heavy here. It’s like playing in China and that’s why the standard has been pretty poor from what I’ve seen of the tournament. A lot of my games have been bad. Balls are going safe a lot more often, which doesn’t make for good viewing.
‘The venue’s not great and it’s very humid in there. It’s difficult to play in really. People on the outside who stick the tables in there don’t play snooker in there, so they just set it up and think it all looks good. When you’re out there playing, it’s a different story.
‘I just try and be as consistent as possible but today was just one of those games. I was in control and he’s missed a blue he shouldn’t have gone for and ended up going in the middle pocket. If he doesn’t fluke it, it’s 3-1 as the balls were everywhere.
‘There’s no point dwelling on it – on another day he doesn’t fluke it and I’m in the last 16. It’s just that little bit of luck – I’ve had it recently when I’ve had a bit of luck to get over the line. It’s just the way it goes.
‘It’s not just this tournament, it’s happened in the past – I’ve moaned in the World Championships and no-one ever does anything. I always like to moan after I win, otherwise no-one does anything – but still no-one does anything. It just makes the standard a lot poorer than it would be. Milton Keynes has been very consistent for the past year and the standard has been amazing there. But here it was playing very heavy. Maybe they’d put it in a different room, the standard would have been a lot better. It’s just one of those things.’
For context, after Trump beat Si Jiahui on Wednesday night and made similar points about the tables in Newport.
‘Every tournament I’ve played for the last year has been on a table on its own with no distractions, the table is playing absolutely awful, as well,’ he said.
‘We’ve been lucky in Milton Keynes, playing in the same venue every time it’s been consistent. Travelling around in China all the time we used to get real bad conditions now and again.
‘It’s very, very heavy, very humid. It’s just like if you’re playing football and the pitch is waterlogged, you kick a ball and it comes to a stop.
‘The ball’s not running, you go into the pack and it’s not really splitting, things like that. The cloth feels very heavy, slow conditions, it’s probably the atmosphere in the arena.’
Asked about the conditions, Ronnie said that they are heavy indeed, but to him, those slightly heavier conditions allow players to show a side of their skills that has been disappearing of late: the art of developping the balls, gradually, taking care of staying in position after each shot, and planning for the next step carefully. Joe Perry, commentating on Ronnie’s match in the evening totally agreed with these views.
Those conditions may not suit Judd, but there is no reason why the conditions should be made specifically to please him. He may be the World nr 1, there are 127 other players on the tour. He says that the standard here is poor. I don’t think so. There were no less centuries so far here than in former events in Milton Keynes earlier in the season. And the “standard” is not just about centuries anyway. Some “small breaks”, solving the puzzle of a difficult table, are far more interesting and entertaining than most centuries.
Also the bit about the “table on its own, with no distractions” is weird. That’s never how it used to be in ranking events before the covid crisis, not in the early stages anyway. Does he want the crowd to be banned for good so that he has “no distraction”? Sour 🍇 …
Rocket Blitzes To Last Eight
World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan dropped his first frame of the event so far in beating China’s Zhou Yuelong 4-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the BetVictor Welsh Open at the Celtic Manor Resort.
O’Sullivan has won a remarkable 16 of 17 frames this week and is now only one win away from reaching the 80th ranking event semi-final of his career.
Earlier in the day O’Sullivan brushed aside Martin Gould 4-0 to book his place in the last 16. This evening he fired in breaks of 67, 64 and 89 on his way to establishing a 3-1 lead over Zhou.
The Rocket then summoned a sensational break of 74, starting with the white near the jaws of the green pocket and the reds placed awkwardly, to seal his 4-1 victory.
On his run in the final frame, O’Sullivan said: “Even when you are playing badly, you think that you have to try and win every frame in one visit. It is just a normal mindset for a top player, that you think if you need more than one chance it isn’t good. The start point is that I want to clear up.
“At the end of the day, it is how good your bad game is. If I can just get my bad game a bit higher, it keeps me in the game a bit longer. I can’t settle for mediocre, so I think I just have to go back to how I was playing before. It feels like I am able to make breaks like that, whereas I couldn’t before.”
O’Sullivan will face Ali Carter in the quarter-finals. The Captain secured a fine 4-2 win over Mark Allen to book his place in the last eight.
Triple Crown winner Shaun Murphy beat Barry Hawkins 4-3 on the final pink to seal a spot in the quarters. The Magician will meet Stephen Maguire up next, after the Scot defeated Pang Junxu 4-2.
Welshman Mark Williams is the last player left flying the flag for the host country, he beat Iranian Hossein Vafaei 4-2 this evening. Williams will face Tom Ford next, who edged Jack Lisowski 4-3.
Mark Selby sealed his last eight slot with a 4-2 defeat of Masters champion Yan Bingtao. He’ll now play Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown, who beat Mark King 4-3 to reach the second quarter-final of both the year and his career.
Jordan Brown has been around for a long time: he’s 33, he turned pro for the first time in 2009/10 and didn’t make it. He returned to the main tour in 2018 and now he’s starting to look really good. He’s practicing in Antrim, with Mark Allen. He qualified for the Crucible last year. This is only his second appearence in a QF, the first one though was in the 2021 German Masters ealier this year. He’s as high as 27th in the one year list and still in contention for the 2021 Players Championship. He would need the final here though.