Barry Hearn on Ronnie … Je t’aime … moi non plus!

Phil Haigh has published this (part of the) interview with Barry Hearn.

The full conversation is available in Phil’s and Nick Metcalfe’s Talking Snooker podcast episode 14

 

Ronnie O’Sullivan only moans because he loves snooker, reckons Barry Hearn

Ronnie action
Ronnie O’Sullivan is never shy of making his feelings known (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has had some harsh words for Milton Keynes, the home of snooker during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Barry Hearn insists that his comments only prove how much he still loves to play snooker.

The Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes has been the venue for the vast majority of events on the World Snooker Tour this season, played behind closed doors with players staying in the adjoining hotel.

It has been an ideal venue for operating under the restrictions of the pandemic and, while it has proved monotonous for players and a far cry from the jet-setting lifestyle they are used to, there have been few complaints over conditions, access or the hotel facilities.

The Rocket is not a fan, though, and made his feelings clear at last week’s Tour Championship which was played at Celtic Manor in Newport.

When asked if it was nice to be in Wales, O’Sullivan told ITV: ‘Yeah, well it’s a lot better than Milton Keynes.

‘Category A prison that Milton Keynes. I’ve seen enough of those over the years.

‘I’ve spent far too long there and that’s a sad gaff. I didn’t enjoy that towards the end so it’s nice to come to a nice resort where the food’s good and you can actually see some greenery and some trees.

‘It’s just a nice place. Milton Keynes is not the best place but it’s served it’s purpose and done what it done but it can send you a bit crazy after a while.’

Despite not loving the situation in MK, O’Sullivan has barely missed an event all season, competing in the majority of tournaments since he lifted his sixth World Championship title in August.

World Snooker Tour chairman Hearn feels this is illustration of the passion the Rocket still has for the game and, far from being annoyed by his criticism of MK, can fully understand it.

‘I think he’s been magnificent, the number of tournaments he’s played,’ Hearn told the Talking Snooker podcast. ‘I know he moans about Milton Keynes but you can’t blame him for that.

‘You’ve seen Ronnie’s normal lifestyle, it doesn’t revolve around Milton Keynes!

‘He’s paying the price for a sport he loves, that’s the message I get. The more he moans about Milton Keynes, the more I know he loves snooker. He wouldn’t put up with it for a second unless he was there for a reason.

‘The boy loves the game. He likes to have a moan up. Good luck to him. I’m a fan.’

O’Sullivan lost in the final of the Tour Championship to Neil Robertson on Sunday night, his fifth ranking event final loss this season as he still searches for his first title since the Crucible.

Hearn believes this is more evidence of how much Ronnie loves playing the game as he keeps striving for more success despite the set-backs.

gettyimages-Rpnnie-Hearn
Hearn and O’Sullivan have had an up-and-down relationship over the years (Picture: Getty Images)

The chairman has also praised how magnanimous O’Sullivan is in defeat in big finals, although was happy to remind him that it has been happening on a regular basis.

‘He’s had a lot of practice this year!’ Hearn said of the Rocket’s admirable losing speeches.

‘That’s the thing people don’t understand about the animal that is Ronnie O’Sullivan. He likes money, of course he does, he likes to win, but there’s something bigger, he likes to play snooker.

‘He’s lost a load of finals but I don’t think he’s driven home going, “balls, I’ve lost another one” I think he’s thinking “I’ve got to get a bit better,” he’s still thinking like that and that’s a magnificent compliment to the player that O’Sullivan is.

‘He’s not satisfied to lose but he’s magnanimous in defeat and I find that reassuring that his ultimate goal is to win.

‘At the same time, I said to him a few years ago that he’ll be in the top 16 for as long as he wants because he’s got that much ability. Even if he had 30% less ability it’s still going to be enough. He’s got ability that you can’t teach.

‘He’s going to be there as long as he wants to be there and, although he criticises things, he wants to be there or he wouldn’t turn up at all in the first place.’

RonnieSixWCTrophyBBC
O’Sullivan will return to the Crucible next month to defend his world title (Picture: PA)

Hearn and O’Sullivan have had plenty of run-ins over the years and Ronnie may attempt to wind up his old sparring partner in the future but Barry insists it won’t work.

The veteran promoter does not get upset by the Rocket’s musings, and just looks at the positives of the publicity they bring.

‘Alex Higgins used to upset me, I don’t get upset at all anymore with anybody, in any mode of my life. What can they do to me? Nothing,’ said Barry.

‘They’re entitled to their opinions, number one. I’d like it to be done in a nice and proper way, sometimes Ronnie stretches that a bit, but he’s Ronnie O’Sullivan, he’s earned the right to have his own opinion.

‘Most of it is crap! But at the end of the day it doesn”t make any difference because it’s his crap and I’m a fan of Ronnie O’Sullivan.

‘I would put up with a lot of things from Ronnie because I want to watch him play, he adds so much to the value of every tournament and he makes me excited to watch snooker played at the level of the Gods.

‘Does he upset me? Not in the slightest.

‘If he breaks the rules to a ridiculous extent he will be disciplined like everybody else, but he doesn’t. He’s quite smart, he goes borderline, doesn’t really push it that much.

He’ll have a little pop at me and I think to myself,that’s another headline, that’s another bit of publicity for snooker.”‘

As for how much longer Hearn expects the current world champion to be around in snooker, he will allow him to stay for as long as he wants.

Even if the six-time world champ declines to the point he drops off tour, Hearn will be rustling up a tour card for him, just as he has done for the Rocket’s old mate Jimmy White.

He’s got an invitational tour card for the rest of his natural life, no question,’ said Barry.

Anyone who criticises that doesn’t understand what you owe people and what they’ve contributed to your enjoyment over the years. So not a problem at all.’

Well, Barry Hearn loves it of course. The more snooker is in the news, the better, unless it’s about match fixing or cheating of course.

 

2021 World Championship News

Two pieces of information today…

The coverage last two days of the World Championship qualifiers will be streamed on youtube and Facebook

Judgement Day To Be Broadcast On Facebook Live And YouTube

Which players will be joining Rob in the Judgement Day studio having made it to the Crucible?

The final qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship will be covered with WST’s Judgement Day broadcast on Facebook Live, YouTube and the Eurosport App on April 13 and 14.

The Judgement Day show will include live matches, exclusive interviews and features, with expert analysis and commentary from presenter Rob Walker and a leading player. Fans can watch FREE on WST’s Facebook Live and YouTubechannels.

Session times on April 13 and 14 will be 11am and 5pm as the players battle for one of 16 coveted spots in the final stages at the Crucible. Eight matches will be played to a finish on each of the two days.

The qualifying rounds of snooker’s biggest tournament run from April 5 to 14 at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. Fans can watch two tables LIVE throughout the qualifying rounds on the Eurosport App, which shows a wide range of snooker’s biggest events throughout the season. For details see http://www.eurosportplayer.com. In the in the People’s Republic of China, fans can watch live coverage on on Youku, Zhibo.tv, Migu, Kuaishou and Huya. Outside Europe and China, fans can watch on Matchroom.Live

Jimmy White will face Stephen Hendry in the opening round, while other big names in the field include former champions Stuart Bingham, Graeme Dott and Ken Doherty and top female players Reanne Evans and Rebecca Kenna.

Barry Hearn is pushing for a full capacity crowd at the Crucible

Barry Hearn pushing for full capacity Crucible in World Snooker Championship latter stages

World Snooker Championship - Media Day
The 2021 World Championship could still see a full Crucible crowd (Picture: Getty Images )

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn says he is pushing for a capacity crowd at the Crucible for the latter stages of the World Championship this year, describing a full arena as the ‘ultimate dream’ with discussions ongoing.

The World Snooker Championship runs from 17 April – 3 May at the Crucible, Sheffield and tickets are on sale for every session, with a reduced crowd expected.

However, there remains a possibility that there will be a packed Crucible for the quarter-finals onwards, if Hearn gets his wish.

The World Championship is being used as a pilot event, principally to collect data on the spread of Covid-19 and to learn lessons on opening up more indoor venues to crowds in the near future.

The 72-year-old believes the best way to do this is to start with a small crowd and build up to full capacity.

‘We are now looking at the practicality of numbers and I hope that there are a few things that will be resolved in our favour in the next few days,’ Hearn told the Talking Snooker podcast.

‘I can’t give you a strict number but what I would like to see is an evolving system throughout the event where we get data that can benefit, not just snooker, but sport, cinemas, theatres…

‘That will involve a level of testing of the crowd, what level we don’t know yet. It will involve post-testing, people who have been to the Crucible signing up to have another test at home. It’s quite complicated, it’s not just a question of putting half or a third or a quarter of people in there.

‘The system I would like to see brought in would be: round one is a social-distanced system with evidence of a vaccination or a negative test.

‘Round two might be a percentage occupancy, maybe 50%, then quarter-finals, semis and final, let’s go for it! Let’s have a full crowd and let’s really get some data that comes back from that, subject to testing.’

The quarter-finals will be played on 27-28 April, the semis on 29 April-1 May and the final on 2-3 May.

While firm decisions have not been made on the logistics of testing, Hearn is hopeful that there will be little to prevent a capacity crowd if everyone has returned a negative Covid test result before entering the arena.

‘The question is, if we are in an environment where everybody in the building has had a negative test, can we go back to the next level of normality? That’s what I’m trying for,’ he said.

‘I can see the side of Public Health England saying that even with a test we can’t be 100% secure, no system can be. So are we ready to roll a small risk into a deal where we get data that can set the trend for future events across a range of activities?

‘Hopefully everyone will have common sense, nothing can be perfect, but we have proved over the last 12 months that our Covid-19 policy has been exemplary and we have achieved more than virtually any other sport out there, even beyond Premier League football.

The quarter-finals will be played on 27-28 April, the semis on 29 April-1 May and the final on 2-3 May.

While firm decisions have not been made on the logistics of testing, Hearn is hopeful that there will be little to prevent a capacity crowd if everyone has returned a negative Covid test result before entering the arena.

‘The question is, if we are in an environment where everybody in the building has had a negative test, can we go back to the next level of normality? That’s what I’m trying for,’ he said.

‘I can see the side of Public Health England saying that even with a test we can’t be 100% secure, no system can be. So are we ready to roll a small risk into a deal where we get data that can set the trend for future events across a range of activities?

‘Hopefully everyone will have common sense, nothing can be perfect, but we have proved over the last 12 months that our Covid-19 policy has been exemplary and we have achieved more than virtually any other sport out there, even beyond Premier League football

‘I don’t know what too soon is!’ Hearn said. ‘I don’t know when you turn round and say we’re going back to normal?

‘At the moment 60% of the adult population has been vaccinated. When 100% has been, is that too soon?

‘You could always make a case that the data over a period of time cannot prove we’re clear of the disease. I’m afraid to say – and I’m not being heartless because I had Covid myself, it’s not at all pleasant it’s horrible and I wasn’t nearly as bad as other people – the world carries on, we have to make a call on where we want to move.

TV OUT. ALL BROADCAST WEBSITES OUT. No cropping permitted. Picture must be credited to BBC. We are advised that videograbs should not be used more than 48 hours after the time of original transmission, without the consent of the copyright holder. Video grab taken from BBC Two of Ronnie O'Sullivan lifting the Betfred World Snooker Championship trophy during day seventeen of the Betfred World Snooker Championship at The Crucible, Sheffield. PA Photo. Issue date: Sunday August 16, 2020, 2020. See PA story SNOOKER World. Photo credit should read: BBC Two/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.
Ronnie O’Sullivan lifted the World Championship title to a reduced crowd last year (Picture: PA)

‘If we’re going to be locked away for two years, that’s the rule, then that’s what we’ll do. But the evidence says we’re entering a period of coming out of it and I don’t take too kindly to people that have opinions with no educated knowledge.

‘For someone to tell me it’s too soon, I say to them: “Please show me your doctorate so I can take your opinion seriously.”

‘This is not rumour, gossip and intrigue, we are led by the science and by people that have got more knowledge than we do and we have no choice but to go along with what they say. We hope, as the government hopes, we are approaching a return to normality, it’s the speed of that return that I don’t have enough detail on yet.’

Nothing is finalised, but Hearn expects decisions to be made by the end of the week, with the tournament less than three weeks away.

Having any fans return is difficult enough logistically, but he has confidence in achieving his ambitious goal.

‘It’s not a straightforward operation, it’s extremely complicated,’ he explained. ‘It’s a mountain to climb, but it’s a mountain we’ve climbed a few times over the last 12 months and whilst we haven’t got to the top, we’re a good way past base camp.

‘We don’t give up very easily at World Snooker, I can assure you.’

Well for me it IS too soon, especially in a cramped venue where ventilation is done via airco. Just one infected person in the crowd could infect dozens, maybe even hundreds in just one session. Is it worth the risk? Is it really a small risk? I don’t think so.

The “Science lead” covid policies in the UK have resulted in about the highest infection and death rates in the world… that’s a fact. Why? Not because the UK scientists are incompetent, but because the only voices that were heard were the ones the government wanted to hear, those that had money as the priority.

 

 

2021 World Championship – Top 16 seeding

Following the conclusion of the Tour Championship, the top 16 seeding at the Crucible is now known:

Rankings Update: Crucible Seedings Confirmed

CrucibleSetup2020.jpgThe top 16 seeding for the Betfred World Championship is now confirmed following the conclusion of the Cazoo Tour Championship.

Neil Robertson beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 to win the Cazoo Tour Championship on Sunday, capturing the silverware in the last ranking event before the top 16 head to the Crucible next month.

The £150,000 top prize moved Robertson ahead of Mark Selby up to third place in the official two-year rankings. So in the Crucible seedings he will be behind only defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and world number one Judd Trump. Barry Hawkins reached the semi-finals last week and the £40,000 boost moves him from 13th to 11th.

Here’s how the Crucible draw shapes up:

Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v qualifier

Anthony McGill (16) v qualifier

Ding Junhui (9) v qualifier

Stephen Maguire (8) v qualifier

————————————

John Higgins (5) v qualifier

Mark Williams (12) v qualifier

Mark Allen (13) v qualifier

Mark Selby (4) v qualifier

————————————

Neil Robertson (3) v qualifier

Jack Lisowski (14) v qualifier

Barry Hawkins (11) v qualifier

Kyren Wilson (6) v qualifier

————————————

Shaun Murphy (7) v qualifier

Yan Bingtao (10) v qualifier

David Gilbert (15) v qualifier

Judd Trump (2) v qualifier

The schedule for the top 16 at the Crucible will be released in due course. The draw pitching the 16 qualifiers at random against the top 16 seeds will be made at 11am on Thursday April 15th and will be available to watch live on platforms including Betfred TV and WST Facebook Live.

Robertson jumped to the top of the Cazoo Series Rankings to win the 2020/21 series.

He also moves up to second place on the one-year ranking list with £411,000.

There is alway one “Quarter of Death”. This time, on paper, it appears to be the second quarter with John Higgins, Mark Williams, Mark Allen and Mark Selby.

2021 Tour Championship – Neil Robertson is your Champion

Neil Robertson played incredible snooker yesterday to beat Ronnie by 10-4 and win his 20th ranking title.

Congratulations Neil Robertson!

Those are the scores:

2021TourChampionshipFinalScores

As it clear from the above, Ronnie was able to compete with Neil in the first session. It all changed in the second session where Neil was simply unplayable, ruthless. I don’t think anyone could have lived with him yesterday evening. That’s how great champions need to be.Off the table, Neil is one of the kindest person you could meet but on the table he’s a ferocious competitor.

Ronnie didn’t play badly, far from it, he simply wasn’t allowed to play in the final session. As he had done all week, he gave it all and the way he finished the afternoon session is testimony of that. Despite the defeat, he should be proud of the way he played, and donducted himself this week, despite the frustrations of playing with a damaged cue.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session

O’Sullivan And Robertson Share Frames

2021TourChampionshipROSRobbo-2World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and UK Champion Neil Robertson are locked level at 4-4 following the first session of the Cazoo Tour Championship final at the Celtic Manor Resort.

The clash is a repeat of the 2019 Tour Championship final, when O’Sullivan defeated Robertson 13-11.

World number four Robertson came into this week’s event having won just a single match since the turn of the year, but he’s produced sublime snooker to reach today’s final. The Australian has eased past Jack Lisowski 10-5 and Mark Selby 10-3 so far.

O’Sullivan is aiming to avoid becoming the first player ever to lose five ranking finals in a single season. The 37-time ranking event winner is yet to claim silverware this season, but has been runner-up at the Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open, Welsh Open and Players Championship.

The Rocket came through an epic semi-final with Barry Hawkins 10-9 yesterday evening. However, there were no signs of a hangover early on this afternoon, as he took a tightly contested opener to move 1-0 up.

The game then sparked into life, as Robertson responded with a century run of 103 to restore parity. O’Sullivan regained the lead with 128, before Robertson made it 2-2 at the mid-session with a break of 70.

The following four frames saw the pair both rack up breaks of 133, with Robertson leading 4-2, before being pegged back to 4-4 at the end of play.

Evening session

Relentless Robertson Claims Tour Title

2021TourChampionshipWinnerNeil Robertson produced a sublime display to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 and win the Cazoo Tour Championship at the Celtic Manor Resort.

This evening’s victory marks the 20th ranking title of 2010 World Champion Robertson’s career, moving him ahead of Mark Selby who has 19.

The Australian had a fine first half of this season, capturing the UK Championship title in December. However, Robertson came into this week having won just a solitary match since then. He pulled out of the Scottish Open and Welsh Open and decided against entering the WST Pro Series.

Robertson’s selective schedule since the turn of the year has paid dividends, with this week’s win earning him the top prize of £150,000.

World Champion O’Sullivan leaves Wales with £60,000. He will now turn his attention to the defence of his World Championship title in Sheffield next month.

It’s sweet revenge for Robertson, who was defeated 13-11 in the 2019 Tour Championship final at the hands of O’Sullivan. This is the first time Robertson has ever beaten the Rocket in a match extending over more than one session.

O’Sullivan picks up the unwanted record of becoming the first ever player to lose five ranking finals in a single season. The 37-time ranking event winner was also runner-up at the Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open, Welsh Open and Players Championship.

This afternoon’s opening session left the tie finely poised after the pair ended in parity at 4-4. However, 39-year-old Robertson completely dominated proceedings this evening.

A break building blitz saw him charge clear, composing runs of 93, 75, 123 and 119 in consecutive frames to lead 8-4 at the mid-session interval. When they returned he fired in breaks of 48 and 42 to move one from glory at 9-4. He then clinched the title in style, finishing off the victory with a superb break of 114.

2021TourChampionshipROSRobbo-7Robertson said: “Considering the opposition, it is the best I’ve played in a final. The Champion of Champions final with Judd Trump was up there, but that was a more complete performance. I didn’t really miss anything in the whole match. It is very pleasing knowing I’m capable of doing that going into the World Championship.

“I was just in the zone from the get go. It was somewhat made easier because I knew my preparation was really good. This week it was all about putting a lot of things in place so I could have the best chance of winning the World Championship as possible. That was about playing every match and session on my terms.

It’s only going to motivate Ronnie more in the World Championship. He is going to be going there so determined. He may not say it, but that is going to really annoy him and fire him up. I feel sorry for whoever he is going to play in the first couple of rounds.”

O’Sullivan said: “I’ve never seen anyone play as well as that. His cue action is just ridiculous, straight through the ball, tempo doesn’t change and he opens his back hand like nobody else. It was unbelievable. He made it look like he was playing on a pool table today. There were balls that if you don’t cue right they hit the knuckle, but these were bang in the middle. I can’t compete with that. I just had to sit back and enjoy it. That was amazing play.

Ronnie has always admired Neil’s technique and, in a way, it’s amazing that this is what hecame up with in his postmatch, not the usual things we hear from most losers, but an assessment of his opponent first class cue action and technique.

Yes, losing five ranking finals in a season is an unwanted record… although to “earn” it you must reach five ranking finals in a season in the first place and not many professionals have done that. Most of them haven’t even reached five ranking finals in their entire career! Even players like Graeme Dott and Matthew Stevens haven’t won more than 10 in their career so far, and both have been World finalists twice, Dott winning the big one in 2006.

There were some interesting reactions reported in the press

This by Phil Haigh

Ronnie O’Sullivan talks up Neil Robertson’s Crucible chances after Tour Championship final thrashing

Neil Robertson
Neil Robertson claimed the Tour Championship title for the first time (Picture: WST)

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes that if Neil Robertson can keep up the form he showed in his 10-4 victory in the Tour Championship final on Sunday night, he will be the man to beat at the World Championship next month.

The Australian has been in superb form this week and continued it into the showpiece, knocking in four centuries as he demolished the Rocket.

The first session of the match ended level at 4-4 but Robertson returned in the evening and won six frames on the spin in a tremendous display of break-building.

The current world champion could do little about the Aussie’s brilliance and claimed it was as good a display as he has ever seen.

‘I’ve never seen anyone play as well as that,’ O’Sullivan told ITV. ‘His cue action is just ridiculous.

‘Straight through the ball, tempo doesn’t change, opens his backhand like you’ve never seen anyone open it before. It’s ridiculous, really.

‘He made it look like he’s playing on a pool table today. I was like: “Is he sure?”

‘I can’t compete with that, I just have to sit back and enjoy it. Amazing play.’

It is the fifth ranking final defeat of the season for O’Sullivan, with no trophies added to his collection yet this campaign, but he insists the losses are not bothering him.

He does admit, though, that he or anyone else will be able to stop Robertson in Sheffield if he keeps this form up.

‘Results don’t make me confident, my game makes me confident. If my game’s in good shape I’ll be confident,’ he said.

If I find a bit of form then you never know.

I think if this guy keeps playing the way he’s playing I think he’ll probably be the man to beat.

Robertson beat Judd Trump to win the UK championship in dramatic fashion in December but had won just one match since then before this event.

The Melbourne star had taken some time away from the game to prepare for the business end of the calendar, namely the Tour and World Championships, and it appears to have paid off handsomely.

‘I’ve beaten Ronnie before but never over a multiple-session match,’ he said. ‘If I’m going to compete well at the World Championship, that’s the sort of performance I have to put in.

I have to be there every session, I think I’ve done that all week, I’ve been there to pick up the pieces when somebody makes a mistake.’

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson
There was little O’Sullivan could do about Robertson’s brilliance (Picture: WST)

It has indeed been dominance form start to finish for Robertson, beating Jack Lisowski 10-5 in the quarter-finals and then Mark Selby 10-3 in the semis.

‘I played really, really well all week, my preparation was fantastic, practicing really well,’ he explained. ‘Just tried to maintain the tempo, play the game on my terms.

‘Play my way, play how I do in practice. See the red, go for it and try to clear up the table, irrespective of who I’m playing. That’s what I’m trying to do.’

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry agrees with the Rocket that Robertson is certainly a force to be reckoned with at the Crucible, but feels the same can be said about the likes of John Higgins and Judd Trump.

‘On form there’s no doubts about it,’ Hendry said of Robertson being a world title favourite.

‘John Higgins if he can recreate the form form the Players Championship. Judd Trump had a disappointing loss this week but you can’t discount the world number one, a serial winner.

But Neil Robertson on that form, he’ll take some beating.’

That is not to mention O’Sullivan himself and the likes of Mark Selby, last year’s finalist Kyren Wilson and the man who beat Trump this week, Barry Hawkins, among many others.

The World Championship is shaping up very nicely indeed.

And from Eurosport:

TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP 2021 – NEIL ROBERTSON PROUD OF ACHIEVEMENTS IN SNOOKER AFTER MAKING NEW MARK

The Australian crushed Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 to win the Tour Championship, but expects the Rocket to be a far more formidable opponent when the World Championship gets underway next month. Robertson feels the spectators that are expected to be at the Crucible will spur on the defending champion in Sheffield

Neil Robertson has expressed pride at the part he has played in the history of snooker, after moving up to seventh on the list of all-time ranking tournament winners.
The Australian crushed Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 to win the Tour Championship, which was his 20th ranking title and moved him above Mark Selby.
Robertson almost gave up the sport after falling off the tour as a teenager, but he worked on his game and has become one of the most decorated players in snooker.

The Australian and Ding Junhui have been the flagbearers for overseas snooker players, and he is proud that other are coming through.
Yan Bingtao won the Masters in January to follow in the footsteps of his fellow China star Ding, and Robertson hopes more overseas talents will emerge.
“Being from overseas, it adds something different that the majority of the tour don’t face,” Robertson said. “There are more players from overseas coming in, which is great, and it makes me feel great about what Ding and I have been able to do.
It was all British domination with the sport and not many people had been successful in staying in the UK for a long time, so myself and Ding have been able to do that and it is just nice to be part of the history of the game where we have been able to break that open and create chances for people like Yan Bingtao winning the Masters, and it is all part of being part of snooker history and I am glad I have been able to play a part.

Robertson’s focus now shifts to the World Championship in Sheffield next month.
Being able to stay focused over multiple sessions is key to his chances.
“I have beaten Ronnie before, but never over a multiple-session match,” he said. “If I am to compete at the World Championship, I have to do that.

I WILL HAVE TO COMPETE IN EVERY SESSION AND I HAVE DONE THAT IN ALL OF MY MATCHES. I HAVE BEEN THERE IN EVERY SESSION AND BEEN THERE TO PICK UP THE PIECES WHEN SOMEONE HAS MADE A MISTAKE.”

Crowds are expected to be back at the Crucible, and Robertson feels that will play to O’Sullivan’s advantage.
“The crowd adds a different dynamic,” the 39-year-old said. “It is different when he has 90% of the crowd with him and he has his tail up.
“That is going to add something in the World Championship, and the other players will have to be prepared for that when they play him.”

Here are few pictures shared on social media, mainly by WST:

And this short video:

2021 Tour Championship – SF: Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 Barry Hawkins

Yesterday’s semi-final was not for the faint of heart! It was arguably the best match of the tournament so far. Ronnie came from 9-6 down to beat Baryy by 10-9.

Here are the scores ans stats:

2021TourChampionshipROS-HawkinsSF-Scores2021TourChampionshipROS-HawkinsSF-Stats

Barry was the better player, but Ronnie showed incredible resilience, and produced some incredible snooker in patches as well.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session

O’Sullivan and Hawkins All Square

2021TourChampionshipROS-1World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and world number 13 Barry Hawkins are locked level at 4-4 after the first session of their Cazoo Tour Championship semi-final at the Celtic Manor Resort.

The Rocket holds a superior head-to-head record with the Hawk, having won 15 of their 17 career meetings. However, Hawkins came into today’s encounter high on confidence after defeating world number one Judd Trump in the quarters. O’Sullivan beat four-time Crucible king John Higgins to reach the last four.

The match will be played to a conclusion from 7pm, where the first player to reach ten frames will clinch a spot in the final. They will face Neil Robertson in the title match with a top prize of £150,000 on the line.

It was Hawkins who started fastest this afternoon, firing in back-to-back century runs of 125 and 138, before adding the third frame to lead 3-0. However, O’Sullivan then mounted a comeback charge.

The 37-time ranking event winner composed breaks of 50, 65, 63, 61 and 94 to take four on the bounce to turn the game on its head and lead 4-3. Hawkins refused to wilt to the onslaught and made a break of 65 to take the final frame of the afternoon and end level at 4-4.

Evening session

Rocket Fightback Floors Hawk

2021TourChampionshipROS-5World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan battled back from 9-6 down to beat Barry Hawkins 10-9 in a thrilling semi-final at the Cazoo Tour Championship.

Hawkins looked set for a comfortable victory until he missed a red on 46 in the 16th frame. O’Sullivan stepped up and produced a stunning clearance of 71 to keep his hopes alive at 9-7 and from there he turned the tide completely.

The Rocket then fired in a break of 90 to pull within a frame at 9-8. A dramatic 18th frame came down to the colours, with Hawkins eventually missing a tricky green and affording O’Sullivan the opportunity to deposit a thin cut, which put him level at 9-9.

O’Sullivan led 48-0 in the decider, before missing a mid-range red. The Hawk had looked set to pounce, but a missed cut back black saw him spurn his opportunity for victory. Eventually O’Sullivan decisively potted a long red from a loose Hawkins safety to get himself over the line and set up a meeting with Neil Robertson in the final.

The pair came into the evening level at 4-4 after the first session. Hawkins played superb snooker to blitz to his 9-6 advantage, making breaks of 74, 50, 103, 56 and 73. The loss will be all the harder to take considering he was also defeated 6-5 from 5-1 up against Judd Trump in their German Masters semi-final last month.

O’Sullivan will now compete in the 58th ranking final of his career. That sees him clinch the record for ranking final appearances, moving clear of Stephen Hendry who is on 57.

The 37-time ranking event winner holds a 17-8 lead in head-to-head meetings with Robertson. He’ll be hoping to enhance that record and add a first title of the season tomorrow, when they will compete over the best of 19 frames for a top prize of £150,000.

O’Sullivan has lost all four of his final appearances so far this season, having been runner-up at the Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open, Welsh Open and the Cazoo Players Championship.

Following this evening’s victory, 45-year-old O’Sullivan said: “Barry was cueing well, potting a lot of long balls and scoring well. I felt he was the better player all the way through, until he missed that red at 9-6. I started to play with a bit more freedom then. It is strange how snooker matches can pan out.

It’s tough. A couple of times I’ve lost matches like that when I’ve been in winning positions. That’s sometimes how it goes. I feel for Barry. I hope he can take the positives out of it. He played very well this week and his game is in good shape.

“I’m sure Neil is going to show up and play. He is Mr Consistency. The way he strikes the ball there is not a lot that can go wrong with him. I’m going to have to find some kind of level to make it a game.

Hawkins said: “I don’t think I’ve done that much wrong. The clearance he made to keep himself in the match absolutely killed me. My head was spinning after that. He made it look so easy. More often than not you think you might have a chance to get back to the table. It is a hard one to take.

“I’ve done well to get in the tournament in the first place. Once you are in it and you are playing well and have a chance to win and get to the final, it is just hard to take. You don’t think about all of the other stuff.

And this is Ronnie’s assesment of the match with Eurosport:

Tour Championship 2021 – Ronnie O’Sullivan: Barry Hawkins deserved to beat me in semi-final

Ronnie O’Sullivan has admitted that he had no right to win his Tour Championship semi-final against Barry Hawkins on Saturday. The Rocket was 9-6 down but put together an amazing comeback to win four straight frames and book his place in the final on Sunday, when he will face Neil Robertson for his first trophy since winning the World Championship in August.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has admitted that he “got out of jail” and deserved to lose to Barry Hawkins in his Tour Championship semi-final match on Saturday.

The Rocket was 9-6 down but launched an incredible comeback against an opponent who showed signs of nerves and he closed in on another big win to follow his quarter-final victory against Judd Trump.

But O’Sullivan believes it would have only been fair if he had been on the losing side, while praising Hawkins for the hard work he has put in on his game.

He deserved to win, really, I feel for Barry because he’s been grafting at his game, I know he’s been working hard this year,” the world champion told ITV4.

He’s been unlucky with a few results. He deserved that victory tonight for the effort he’s put in all season. It’s a horrible way to lose but hopefully he can respond because he played great today, he was cuing well, he looked confident. He outplayed me really, I just got out of jail.

O’Sullivan began his week by complaining about his cue and admitted that he was not happy with his game until he decided to take a more positive approach when staring defeat in the face.

The cue still needs a bit of work, it still feels really heavy and out of balance. It is what it is,” he explained.

“I was just looking for a cue action from start to finish. I felt like I was swinging my arm at everything.

It felt like my arm didn’t belong to my body so I thought I’d found something at 7-5 and thought it’d be great if I could keep this going, but then I didn’t
get a shot from 7-6 to 9-6.

I thought that as long as I got a chance and was cuing alright, I’d be alright. I just changed my trajectory for how I was attacking the ball. I thought I could be a bit more positive with it and start playing with a bit more confidence.

The Tour Championship is being played at the Celtic Manor resort, away from the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes which for a long time had been the home of snooker behind closed doors.

It’s a lot better than Milton Keynes – Category A prison there,” he joked.

I’ve seen enough of them over the years! I’ve spent far too long there. That’s a sad gaffe, I didn’t enjoy that towards the end. So it’s nice to come to a nice resort and the food’s good and you can see some greenery and trees.

It’s just a nice place. Milton Keynes is not the best place, but it served its purpose.

There were a few images shared on social media, mainly by WST:

And some short videos as well

The extraordinary clearance Ronnie made to stay in the match in frame 16:

WST also shared the great 138 that Barry made in the second frame on their YouTube channel:

This is currently the highest break of the tournament.

Ronnie will face Neil Robertson today in the final, his fifth ranking final of the season. He lost all previous four. Can he win this time?  I’m not sure and here is why:

  • He’s playing with a damaged cue and doesn’t feel comfortable with it
  • Neil had two easy wins, whilst Ronnie had two very hard matches. In addition, Neil had a rest day, whilst Ronnie had a late finish yesterday and, the clocks being changed overnight as we enter “summer time” have made his night even shorter.

However some elements might play in his favour:

  • He goes into this match with low expectations which might help him by lowering the pressure.
  • He has a great head-to-head against Neil, which may put Neil under pressure a bit if Ronnie can stay with him, or gets on a come-back trail.

A win for Ronnie today would be fantastic, especially as it would be his first of the season. It would also see him snatch the Cazoo bonus. It would also put a little bit of pressure on Judd Trump as it would put Ronnie in a position to get back to world number one after the Crucible. For that to happen though, Judd needs to lose in the first round AND Ronnie needs to defend his title. Not a very likely combination but you never know…

A win for Neil Robertson would see him swap places with Mark Selby in the Crucible seedings:

The Cazoo Tour Championship represents the final chance for the eight players competing to add prize money to their ranking totals prior to next month’s Betfred World Championship.

LATEST PROVISIONAL DRAW (27/03/2021):

Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) / Qualifier

Anthony McGill (16) / Qualifier

Ding Junhui (9) / Qualifier

Stephen Maguire (8) / Qualifier

————————————

John Higgins (5) / Qualifier

Mark Williams (12) / Qualifier

Mark Allen (13) / Qualifier

Neil Robertson (4) / Qualifier

————————————

Mark Selby (3) / Qualifier

Jack Lisowski (14) / Qualifier

Barry Hawkins (11) / Qualifier

Kyren Wilson (6) / Qualifier

————————————

Shaun Murphy (7) / Qualifier

Yan Bingtao (10) / Qualifier

David Gilbert (15) / Qualifier

Judd Trump (2) / Qualifier

Players will be marked in bold once their positions cannot change.

Whatever happens today, what we have seen from Ronnie so far in this tournament is very positive. His attitude has been excellent and the two matches he had are great match practice ahead of his World title defence.

 

2021 Tour Championship – SF: Neil Robertson 10-3 Mark Selby

It’s fair to say that I didn’t see that coming. Mark Selby had been impressive in his QF match, he was well below par yesterday evening. Neil Robertson was excellent but he was never under pressure and was gifted lots of chances during the first mini session allowing him to settle and build a good lead right from the start.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session

Robertson In Control

Neil Robertson secured a commanding 6-2 lead over Mark Selby after the first session of their Cazoo Tour Championship semi-final at the Celtic Manor Resort.

The clash is a repeat of a quarter-final meeting at the 2019 Tour Championship, where Robertson won on the final black in an epic encounter 9-8. Selby will require a fast start this evening if today’s clash is to go as close.

Both players earned their last four spots with comfortable quarter-final victories. Robertson defeated Jack Lisowski 10-5 while Selby thrashed Kyren Wilson 10-3. Whoever wins today will progress to Sunday’s final, where the winner will take home £150,000.

Robertson made a flying start this afternoon, breaks of 114, 81 and 77 helped him to take the first four frames and lead 4-0 at the mid-session.

When play resumed breaks of 80 and 93 saw Selby claw himself back into the tie at 4-2. However, it was Australia’s Robertson who claimed the final two frames to end the afternoon 6-2 in front.

Evening session

Robertson Reaches Tour Final

World number four Neil Robertson thrashed world number three Mark Selby 10-3 to reach the Cazoo Tour Championship final at the Celtic Manor Resort.

Australia’s Robertson progresses to Sunday’s final, where he will face either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Barry Hawkins. The winner will pocket the top prize of £150,000.

This evening’s victory for 2010 Crucible king Robertson means he has now won all four of his meetings with three-time World Champion Selby this season. The Thunder from Down Under racked up 6-5 wins at the Champion of Champions and English Open, before also beating Selby 6-2 on his way to claiming the UK Championship title.

Selby will now begin his preparations for next month’s World Championship in Sheffield. The Leicester cueman came agonisingly close to last year’s final, but was edged out with a 17-16 loss to O’Sullivan in the last four.

Robertson, a winner of 19 career ranking titles, carried a commanding lead into this evening’s concluding session, having emerged from the afternoon 6-2 ahead.

Robertson kicked off this evening’s play with the highest break of the event so far, a run of 136, which put him 7-2 up. Further breaks of 84 and 103 saw the relentless Robertson claim two of the next three to head into the mid-session 9-3 up.

Only one frame was required when they got back underway, with Robertson taking it to reach the 32nd ranking final of his career.

It was really good from the start. It is important to stamp your authority wherever possible and I pounced on a couple of minor mistakes which Mark made,” said 39-year-old Robertson.

It’ll only motivate him to try harder next time. We are very good friends and all parts of the match we were chatting non-stop. He likes a chat, it doesn’t matter who he is playing, he just likes talking. Next time he will be more motivated, I would be too if I lost a few matches to somebody.

“Both Ronnie and Barry are really good in the long distance format. They have probably been the most consistent performers at the World Championship over the last seven years.  Barry has been a bit unlucky and lost a couple of close semis and that fantastic final to Ronnie when he played really well. Either way I just have to play the game on my terms, try my best and see what happens.”

I wouldn’t say that Mark’s mistakes at the start of the match were “minor” ones. A few times he collided with balls whilst attempting to return to baulk and left Neil an easy starter.

About today’s match … it won’t be an easy one for Ronnie. As Neil said, Barry Hawkins is very good in long formats. He’s an excellent all-rounder. Ronnie himself stated that himself probably played his best ever snooker in the 2013 World final and yet only managed to shake Barry off in the last part of the match. Barry stayed with him for the best part of three sessions. Ronnie will still be playing with a damaged cues, he’s likely to be unable to play some shots the way he would want to. That said he looked very determined against John Higgins, and, in a weird way, playing with less expectations because of the compromised cue might help him. Let’s hope for a good match.

 

2021 Tour Championship – QF: Barry Hawkins 10-7 Judd Trump

Barry Hawkins avenged his German Masters defeat to Judd Trump yesterday: he beat him bu 10-7.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session

Hawkins Edges First Session

Barry Hawkins leads Judd Trump 5-3 after the first session of their Cazoo Tour Championship quarter-final at the Celtic Manor Resort.

Last time the pair met was at the recent German Masters. On that occasion Hawkins surrendered a 5-1 advantage to lose 6-5, as Trump went on to clinch the title. The Londoner will be hoping not to suffer a similar fate this evening.

Trump has racked up five ranking titles so far this season, with victories at the English Open, Northern Ireland Open, World Grand Prix, German Masters and Gibraltar Open. The Ace in the pack is aiming to equal his own record of six in a single campaign, which he set last season.

The Hawk flew out of the blocks this afternoon, making breaks of 70 and 90 to establish an early 2-0 advantage. However, world number one Trump hit back to pull within one, before firing in a century run of 119 to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.

Hawkins claimed the first frame when play resumed and then moved 4-2 ahead by stealing the sixth on the black. A further run of 63 saw Hawkins establish a three-frame cushion, but Trump claimed the last of the afternoon with a contribution of 98 to end at 5-3.

Evening session

Hawk Downs The Juddernaut

Barry Hawkins produced a superb display to beat world number one Judd Trump 10-7 and reach the Cazoo Tour Championship semi-finals at the Celtic Manor Resort.

Hawkins gains revenge for an agonising 6-5 defeat at last month’s German Masters, where Trump battled back from the brink at 5-1 down. The Hawk now only trails Trump by one in the head-to-head, with the Bristolian leading 6-5.

Defeat ends Trump’s hopes of breaking his own record of six ranking titles in a single season. The Ace in the Pack has won five ranking events so far during this campaign with just the World Championship to go.

Hawkins now faces World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last four on Saturday. The Londoner will be hoping to transform his fortunes against the Rocket, having only beaten him twice in their 16 career meetings.

It was Hawkins who came into this evening’s concluding session with the advantage, after he emerged from this afternoon’s play with a 5-3 lead.

He extended that to a three-frame cushion when they resumed, firing in a sublime break of 121, before taking the tenth to move 7-3 in front.

Trump refused to wilt and breaks of 64 and 86 made it 7-5 at the mid-session interval. He picked up where he left off and continued to exert pressure, firing in a run of 86 to pull within a single frame.

Hawkins stopped the rot to move 8-6 ahead and a steely contribution of 61 then allowed him to move a frame from victory.  Hawkins was in position to kill the game off, before breaking down on 45. That presented the opportunity for 2019 Crucible king Trump to fire in 94 and make it 9-7.

A nervy 17th frame saw both players spurn opportunities, as it came down to the colours. Hawkins eventually got himself over the line with a straight long brown to emerge the victor.

Hawkins said: “I tried my heart out, you are obviously going to in a tournament like this. I just tried to give it everything, I wanted to stay as calm as I could. That match at the German Masters came into my head a few times. I just thought that I’d played well all the way through the match today and when he left me that long brown at the end of the match, I knew I had to go for it.

“Sometimes you can’t help but get negative thoughts now and again. Everyone can play well, it is how you deal with things going wrong. Behind closed doors in the cubicles everyone plays so well. When you get on the TV table it is a different sort of game and a different sort of pressure. It is how you deal with that.

“I have to tell myself to have that self belief. I’ve just beaten the world number one, who has been dominating the game for three or four seasons. I’ve got to take that confidence into the semi-finals. I now have to focus on that Ronnie game and keep doing what I’m doing.

WST carefully avoided to report Judd’s reaction … he was rather ungracious as usual. Here is what he said, reported by Eurosport:

“From the get go, he missed quite a lot of long balls and got away with them. That’s just how it goes sometimes,” said Trump.”On another day, with the amount of balls he missed, if he left me half the chances, it could easily have been the other way around.
I’M NOT TOO DISAPPOINTED. THE GAME GOES LIKE THAT SOMETIMES. I’VE PLAYED A LOT WORSE THIS SEASON AND WON TOURNAMENTS.
“If I could have got back to 7-7 or 9-8, I felt the pressure was on him. I missed a couple of balls at the end because I was a little bit tired.”

Barry wasn’t impressed, as reported by Phil Haigh on twitter:

Screenshot 2021-03-26 at 08.31.12

It’s always hard for the losers to get interviewed minutes after a defeat. To his credit, Judd came on zoom a bit later, admitting that Barry deserved the win

This was also reported by Phil Haigh on twitter:

Screenshot 2021-03-26 at 08.29.26

Barry will play Ronnie tomorrow. About Ronnie this VERY good news has transpired on twitter

Screenshot 2021-03-26 at 08.25.36

So Ronnie finally has his own proper Star table installed at his mother’s place! 

Today, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson will do battle. Based on their first round respective performances, Mark has to be favourite. But every day is different.