The 2021 Gibraltar Open – Day 4

There were wins for Mark Selby and Judd Trump yesterday, so the two are still on course for the £150000 bonus. Here is the report by WST:

Selby Keeps Series Alive

Mark Selby staged a fine fightback to beat Ken Doherty 4-2 and keep his hopes of scooping the £150,000 series bonus alive at the BetVictor Gibraltar Open.

Only three-time World Champion Selby and world number one Judd Trump remain in the running to top the BetVictor European Series standings. The bumper payout is awarded to the player who accumulates the most prize money across the eligible events.

The two players are on a collision course to meet in the semi-finals if they both win their next three matches. Selby must reach the final to take home the bonus, any other result would see Trump top the standings. If they were to meet in the last four, the winner would be guaranteed to leave with at least £170,000 and the loser would go home with £6,000.

Selby trailed 1997 Crucible king Doherty 2-0 in the early stages this afternoon. However, he clawed back to parity, before firing in back to back century runs of 130 and 124 to clinch victory. He now faces Chris Wakelin in the last 32.

Selby said: “In a way, I hope we both get to the semi-finals and it comes to that. At least we will have given it a good run and if I win I get it and if he wins he gets it. If one of us loses before that, it is a bit of a shame. It would be good if it did get down to the semis, but there is a lot of hard work to do before then.

“In patches my game feels really good. It is just trying to find the consistency which I had at the start of the season. I feel like I’m scoring when I get chances, which you have to do now with the standard the way it is. I just have to keep working hard and see what happens.”

Trump remained on track with a 4-1 defeat of Sunny Akani. He made two century breaks of 124 on his way to the win and will face either Liang Wenbo or Robert Milkins up next.

The Ace in the Pack put himself in pole position in the BetVictor European Series by winning the BetVictor German Masters back in January.

Ukrainian 15-year-old Iulian Boiko won his first ever match as a professional with a 4-3 defeat of Fergal O’Brien. Boiko earned a place on the World Snooker Tour by reaching the final of the WSF Open last year in Malta. He plays Mark Allen in the last 64.

Former Masters champion Allen whitewashed Jamie Curtis-Barrett 4-0, while Matthew Selt recorded a 4-3 defeat of Barry Hawkins.

Now… for many players in this competition the bonus is the last of their concern as they try to stay on the tour.

Iulian Boiko did indeed win his first match as a professional and this is surely a great morale boost fot the Ukrainian teenager, but tour survival is not a concern just yet.

He has been interviewed by Phil Haigh:

15-year-old Ukrainian sensation Iulian Boiko earns first professional win at Gibraltar Open

Iulian Boiko
Iulian Boiko has tasted victory as a pro for the first time (Picture: PA)

Iulian Boiko, the youngest ever professional snooker player, picked up his first win on tour at the Gibraltar Open on Thursday, beating veteran Fergal O’Brien 4-3.

The 15-year-old turned pro last year at just 14 after finishing runner-up at the WSF Open.

It has been an unusual time for the teenager to take on the professional game, with travel to and from Ukraine made tricky by the pandemic and all matches being played behind closed doors.

He has also been handed some tough draws, losing first round ties to the likes of Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire this season.

He was handed the archetypal tough match-player in the first round this week in O’Brien, but battled his way to victory with a high break of 54.

The teenager was unsurprisingly delighted with the win after setting up a second round clash with Mark Allen.

‘I’m absolutely over the moon,’ Boiko told WST. ‘I think my game wasn’t brilliant and Fergal also didn’t have a great day so it was a scrappy match, many mistakes but I’m really happy to be a winner in the end.

‘I was super nervous [on the final colours], I didn’t feel so much pressure ever in my life. I managed to pot a long blue and win the match.’

Boiko does not put down his struggle for results so far down to inexperience, but feels it is due to serious technical work he is doing on his game.

Even at such a young age he is looking to adapt his technique and he is glad to see his hard work pay off, putting in the hours at the Ding Junhui Academy in Sheffield, when he can travel in from Ukraine.

‘I’ve changed,’ Iulian explained. ‘The main reason I’ve lost so many games is I’m in the process of changing my technique and stance. I’ve completely changed my game. I’m happy to see the result of that. I’m really happy to win.

‘I’m unable to stay in England the whole year, I come down a few weeks before tournaments to play practice matches and learn form the best players. The academy is full of many, many great players.’

Ukraine is not a country with a rich snooker history by any means, but Boiko has already been playing the sport for 10 years after it caught his eye on TV as a child.

He hopes his attacking style and more success will help to grow the game in his home country, although he would sacrifice the style for success any day.

‘I started at the age of 5 or 6,’ he said. ‘Firstly I saw snooker on the TV, on Eurosport, I asked my dad to let me play and we went to a snooker club and I started practicing.

‘Since I started producing some nice performances and since I won the European Championships I think the popularity of snooker has increased and I hope that it will grow in the future.

‘I think naturally I’m a very attacking player, my main strength is my long shots, I’m just trying to get that as consistent as I can.

‘My main goal is to win, which style to do it, in attacking or defensive if the second priority.’

A very positive mindset at great maturity for someone so young.

There were also wins for Aaron Hill (beating Brandon Sargeant), Alex Ursenbacher (beating Zhou Yuelong),  Zhao Xintong (beating  Daniel Wells) and Chen Zifan (beating Leo Fernandez). Chen Zifan’s win means that he’s now 7th in the group of 8 players who will be redeemed via the one year list. Luo Honghao is now 8th and his situation looks quite precarious, although he has qualified for phase 2 of the WST Pro Series, the only event where he has done well this season.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Anthony Hamilton beat Tian Pengfei by 4-0 … I didn’t see that one coming, but I’m happy for Anthony.

Elsewhere Mark Allen had two breaks of 70 in the second frame, which is a record for the highest duplicated break by one player in a frame. The previous record was 64 by Gerard Greene.