Yesterday afternoon saw the conclusion of the last 16 round, with John Higgins beating Jordan Brown comprehensively, and Mark Selby getting the better of Mark Williams in rather close match.
Higgins Hands Brown A Dose Of Reality
Jordan Brown may have beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan to win his first ranking title last Sunday, but he was no match for another snooker legend at the Cazoo Players Championship as he was thumped 6-0 by John Higgins in the first round.
Brown’s amazing triumph at the BetVictor Welsh Open earned him a place in the field for this week’s 16-man event, but he was outplayed by Higgins who started with three consecutive centuries and showed his opponent no mercy. The Wizard of Wishaw goes through to the quarter-finals to face Mark Selby on Friday afternoon.
Higgins was runner-up to Yan Bingtao at the Betfred Masters in January and the 45-year-old continues to show fresh enthusiasm on the baize as he seeks his first title in three years.
Breaks of 122, 133 and 121 gave the Scot the first three frames as Brown failed to pot a ball, and a run of 57 from Higgins made it 4-0. Frame five came down to the last three colours and Northern Ireland’s Brown potted a long blue but then missed a much easier pink to a baulk corner. Higgins punished him to extend his lead and sealed the result in the sixth with 48 and 53.
“I started really well, made some big breaks, put him under pressure and he never seemed to relax,” said four-time World Champion Higgins. “He is probably thinking of getting back home and seeing his friends and family so it was a difficult match for him today.
“I knew he’d still be on such a high, then you are put into the bear pit out there. It’s difficult to bring yourself back down, especially if you have never won anything before. I can’t remember my first ranking title (the 1994 Grand Prix) clearly, except for having a great party for a couple of days afterwards! I have always said you have got to enjoy the victories, though in the current times Jordan can’t do that.”
As for his own game, world number six Higgins added: “I am trying to set up for the same shot repetitively. Mark Selby gives every shot the same detail, and it’s something golfers do as well. I just try little things and hope they work.”
His fellow Scot Stephen Hendry discovered today that he will face Matthew Selt when he makes his long awaited return to the pro tour at next week’s BetVictor Gibraltar Open, and Higgins will be among those glued to the screen.
“The whole snooker world will tune in,” he said. “Who knows what will happen? It will be interesting. Stephen is obviously excited. It’s the worst possible match for Matt Selt because they are mates and I imagine there will be a lot of banter and text messages beforehand.”
Selby came from 2-0 down to beat Mark Williams 6-4 in a battle between two three-time World Champions. Breaks of 98 and 66 helped world number four Selby win three in a row to lead 3-2, then Williams took two fragmented frames to regain the advantage at 4-3.
In frame eight, Williams tried to roll into the pack with his break-off, but left a red on and Selby potted it to initiate a run of 78. That proved the turning point as Leicester’s Selby added the next two with 73 and 64.
“Mark has been playing well recently and he started off great today,” said Selby. “I grafted my way back into it – I wasn’t fantastic but it was all about getting the win. I understand why Mark plays that ‘roll-up’ break off because you often leave a shot-to-nothing with the traditional break. He said he’ll keep doing it until someone wins a frame from it so maybe he’ll stop now!”
What happened to Jordan is not surprising really. He suffered a “hangover” and John explain it perfectly in his interview.
Maybe indeed losing a frame from his “safe” break-off was the shock that derailed Willo.
In the evening, the QF round started and Barry Hawkins won a match that was all important in the context of his seeding at the Crucible.
Hawkins – I Needed Kick Up The Backside
Barry Hawkins has rededicated himself to hard work on the practice table this season and his impressive run of results continued with a 6-2 defeat of Stuart Bingham to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo Players Championship.
The former world number four has slipped down the rankings in recent years and is currently 18th. But his form has improved this term and tonight’s result leaves him well positioned for a place in the top eight of the one-year list in time for next month’s Cazoo Tour Championship.
Hawkins goes through to play Ronnie O’Sullivan or Jack Lisowski on Friday evening and is just two wins away from the £125,000 top prize in Milton Keynes. He will hope to improve his success rate in ranking semi-finals, having won just seven of his previous 24.
“Dropping down the rankings has given me a goal,” admitted the 41-year-old Londonder. “I needed a kick up the backside. I have dedicated myself this season and prepared properly for tournaments, rather than being half-hearted. It’s starting to pay off.
“I feel as if I am slowly improving. I have been consistent this season. I’m close to my best but until I win a tournament my confidence will not be sky high.”
From 2-1 down tonight, Hawkins made breaks of 80 and 54 to go 3-2 ahead. Frame six lasted 54 minutes and came down to a long safety battle with two reds left. Hawkins knocked in an excellent long pot on the penultimate red and took the frame, then added the next with a break of 70 for 5-2.
Three-time ranking event winner Hawkins led 40-0 in frame eight when he was unlucky to knock a red in as he split the pack from the blue. But he later made a crucial clearance on the colours, including a superb pot on the brown along the baulk cushion, to seal the result.
“It was a cagey start then the fourth frame was the pivotal moment, I got into the match after that,” said Hawkins. “The rankings issues have been going on in the background and it has been hard to put it out of my mind. It would be great to be at the Crucible at a seed because qualifying is every tough. If I could get into the Tour Championship as well that would be a bonus.”
Bingham, the 2015 World Champion, lies 22nd in the Race to the Crucible so must now hope for a deep run in the BetVictor Gibraltar Open or WST Pro Series, otherwise he’ll face the qualifiers in Sheffield.