The 2021 Gibraltar Open – Day 3

There was one big surprise yesterday in Milton Keynes, as 17 years old Lei Peifan beat Neil Robertson by 4-2, and a minor surprise as Rod Lawler beat Jordan Bron by 4-3.

Strangely enough WST’s report only minimally covers those two results:

Carter Fired Up For Season Finale

Ali Carter said he is a “different animal” heading into the closing stretch of this campaign compared to last season, after recording a hard fought 4-2 win over John Astley at the BetVictor Gibraltar Open.

The Captain was making his first appearance since he was forced to withdraw from the recent BetVictor Welsh Open at the quarter-final stage due to migraines. Prior to pulling out, Carter had been set for a blockbuster clash against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last eight.

Carter’s draw for this week originally pitted him against O’Sullivan in the opening round, but the Rocket pulled out and Astley stepped in to replace him.

After taking the opening frame this afternoon, Carter composed a run of 60 to double his lead and make it 2-0. His advantage was halved, before a break of 61 moved Carter a frame from victory at 3-1. Astley pulled within one, but Carter closed the door with a fine contribution of 75 to wrap up the win.

After the match Carter admitted he is highly motivated to try and qualify for the upcoming World Championship, having missed out on a place at the Crucible last year. It was the first time Carter failed to gain a spot at the Theatre of Dreams since 2002. The qualifiers kick off on April 7th.

Carter said: “I’m bang up for it this year. Last year I wasn’t in the right place going into the qualifiers. Being in lockdown, being in the bubble in Sheffield, nobody watching. When you have been a pro for 20 years, that was all fairly new. We are a year down the line now and this has become the new normal. I hope it doesn’t stay the new normal, but I am a different animal leading into the world qualifiers this year.

“It is another good event this week. The goal was to get a few matches under my belt and go from there. I’m working hard and looking forward to the Championship League Winners’ Group. That is six matches against top class opponents, it is perfect paid practice. I know my game is going to be sharp.”

Chinese teenager Lei Peifan produced a shock 4-2 defeat of Triple Crown winner Neil Robertson. Lei made breaks of 54, 80, 51 and 56 on his way to victory. Next up he’ll face Welsh amateur Dylan Emery, who whitewashed Ben Hancorn 4-0.

Stuart Bingham defeated Gerard Greene 4-0 and set up an intriguing second round clash with Jimmy White. The 2015 World Champion made breaks of 66 and 86 on his way to this morning’s whitewash win.

World number 25 Scott Donaldson fired in a superb break of 140 in the winning frame to beat former World Seniors champion Peter Lines 4-2, while Anthony McGill whitewashed Louis Heathcote 4-0.

In fact it doesn’t mention the Lawler-Brown match at all.

What is happening to Neil Robertson is puzzling. Since winning the 2020 UK Championship, he has played five matches and has won only one of them. He has also withdrawn from two events.  He cited personal reasons for withdrawing from the 2021 Welsh Open but, later, in this interview, he explained that he needed time out of the game to address mental health issues.

The lockdown…opening, closing, opening, closing. Mentally from my son’s point of view with his football, he’s pushing to play for Cambridge United in the academy and that got closed down.

‘Emotionally it’s pretty tough for the family to deal with all these things. I just needed to make sure that when I do actually play that I’m absolutely mentally 100% really to do so.

‘I definitely needed that extra week to get my head right. Get back on the bike, start exercising properly again because it’s been pretty brutal weather the last couple of months.

‘Just a lot of things compounded into issues that needed to be addressed so I wasn’t taking any problems coming into tournaments because obviously there’s a few really big tournaments coming up.’

Judging by what happened yesterday, it seems that the issues aren’t quite a thing of the past just yet. That said Lei played really well.

Here is the report on that match by Phil Haigh

Neil Robertson stunned by ‘cool’ 17-year-old Lei Peifan at Gibraltar Open

Lei Peifan
Lei Peifan got the better of Neil Robertson on Wednesday night (Picture: WST)

Lei Peifan pulled off the win of his short career so far on Wednesday night as he beat world number three Neil Robertson 4-2 in the first round of the Gibraltar Open.

The 17-year-old was born in May 2003, five years after the Australian initially turned professional in 1998.

The Thunder from Down Under did not play well, failing to make a single break over 50, but Lei was impressive, making four half-centuries of his own to secure just his sixth victory of the season.

The Chinese teenager will fancy continuing his run in Milton Keynes as he takes on amateur player Dylan Emery in the second round.

Lei began his journey as a professional at just 15-years-old, making it onto the tour through Q School in 2019 but, unsurprisingly, it has been difficult for him to make an impact since then.

Clearly he has a lot of talent, though, and he has started to show it recently with a victory over Gary Wilson at the German Masters, three wins in the WST Pro Series and pushing Jack Lisowski to a deciding frame in the opening round of the Welsh Open last month.

Lisowski was impressed by Lei’s style in that clash in Newport and how he battled back from three frames behind, although eventually falling 4-3 to the Englishman.

‘I thought he looked quite cool, sort of strolls around like he doesn’t care. I like his style,’ Lisowski told at Celtic Manor.

‘He was really struggling then woke up, came alive and didn’t really miss a ball. Hopefully, like a lot of the Chinese players coming through, he can kick on, it’s good to see him coming through.’

Lei is ranked number 101 in the world and needs some more wins here this week and then at the World Championship qualifiers next month in Sheffield if he is to stay on tour next season.

In the second year of his two-year card earned in 2019 he needs to be in the top 64 in the rankings, or in the top eight on the one-year list of players not in the world’s top 64, which he is still a way off.

It may be another trip to Q School for the teenager this year, but after downing Neil Robertson he will be confident of a bright future in the game.

Lei is another one who, in my opinion, was far too young to turn professional. He was only 15 years old, and had to live abroad, adapt to a different culture and a different language without the support of his family. That’s hard at the best of times for any adult; in the context of the current sanitary crisis, it’s even harder and he is barely more than a child.

As for the other match, Jordan Brown didn’t play well at all. I wasn’t surprised by his defeat last week. A “hangover” effect was to be expected and his opponent was John Higgins who only lost 4 frames all week. But yesterday’s performance is harder to explain; he might well be struggling with the expectations that are now weighting on him, the Northern Irish snooker community’s expectations and his own. That said Rod Lawler is a very solid player, and his “tempo” has got the better of many opponent’s concentration. BTW, it’s not a tactic. Rod is slow, he’s always been slow, and he’s no different away fron the table…

One thought on “The 2021 Gibraltar Open – Day 3

  1. Lei Peifan played in Q School in 2019, probably not expecting to qualify, but just ‘for experience’. It was his first visit to the UK. He does have some composure, which is more important than anything. It may give him encouragement to want to continue to play here, presumably through Q School. But I do know that he, as with others, have been miserable at times, stranded away from home for so long.

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