2021 WST Pro Series – Group I

Lyu Haotian and Ben Hancorn have progressed to phase 2 after the completion of Group I yesterday. I’m happy for both of them.

Lyu had a very difficult first couple of seasons on the main tour, and some terrible experiences that have clearly left mental scars. I don’t know if he will ever fully recover from what he had to go through – I hope he will eventually – but I do cheer every good result of the lad.

Ben Hancorn is a hard worker and someone who nneded a long time to gey on the main tour and make his dream reality. I have met Ben many times at SWSA. Andrew Norman is a dear friend, and Ben is his brother in law.

As a Ronnie fan though this was a day to forget, and a painful one to go through.

Here is the report by WST:

Hancorn Secures Surprise Top Spot

World number 120 Ben Hancorn stunningly topped Group I, with World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan bowing out, at the WST Pro Series in Milton Keynes.

English Amateur Champion Hancorn, who gained his professional status at the start of this season, lost his opening match 2-1 against Tom Ford. However, from there the 38-year-old embarked on a six-game winning streak to secure his place in the next phase.

Hancorn scored a 2-1 victory against 37-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan in his following game and added further wins over Jamie Wilson, David Lilley, Chen Zifan and Mark Joyce to seal a place in the top two heading into his final match. Hancorn faced Lyu Haotian, who was also assured of progression, winning 2-0 to secure top spot.

It was an unfruitful day for Crucible king O’Sullivan, who failed to string together the required results, only managing two wins from his seven matches. The Rocket did register an eventful win over Joyce. After falling a frame behind due to arriving late, he fired in breaks of 98, 48 and 50 to win 2-1 in a match which lasted just 13 minutes and 56 seconds.

Both Hancorn and Lyu will now join Mark Williams, Ali Carter, Louis Heathcote, James Cahill and Sunny Akani in Group 1 of the second phase on Wednesday.

Hancorn said: “It didn’t go well in my first match, I lost 2-1 and I thought here we go again. Then I played Ronnie and what can I say, I was so happy with that match and how I played. The pressure is unbelievable. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Holding it together stood me in good stead for the rest of the day. It’s amazing what one match can do, it can turn any player around.

“I started the season ok, I won a couple of matches. I thought that it would take a bit of time to bed in and get used to the situation. Then I went on a run where I was struggling to win frames, let alone matches. The format of this event suited me, it’s quick and it is only best of three. Anything can happen and I’m just glad to come out on top.”

WST Pro Series Group I table

And here is Phil Haigh’s view on yesterday’s action

Ronnie O’Sullivan fails to progress on day to forget at WST Pro Series

Ronnie O’Sullivan had a strange day out at the WST Pro Series (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan had an interesting day out at the WST Pro Series on Monday, although it was ultimately an unsuccessful one as he failed to progress to the second group stage.

The Rocket was a clear favourite to progress from the group of eight, which included Tom Ford, Mark Joyce, Lyu Haotian, Ben Hancorn, David Lilley, Chen Zifan and Jamie Wilson.

The world champion got off to the perfect start, beating teenager Wilson 2-0, but the wheels fell off a bit from there on in.

O’Sullivan lost his next three games, suffering defeats to Hancorn, Lilley and Chen, despite knocking in a superb break of 141 against Hancorn.

There was then a crazy game against Joyce as the Rocket was late for the match and docked the opening frame of the match as a result.

He then made breaks of 94 and 50 to win the match 2-1 without Joyce scoring a single point and the game lasting just 14 minutes.

The 45-year-old was still alive in the group at this stage but then a 2-0 loss to Lyu ended his chances of qualification for the next stage.

It is an unpredictable format with matches played over just a best of three frames and O’Sullivan was not in the mood to play much, if any safety, taking on almost every shot presented to him.

He will be back in action from Monday 22 March at the Tour Championship in Newport.

Ford and Wilson both failed to make it through the group as well, but they arguably produced the most entertaining contest of the day in rapid style.

It was a 2-1 win for Ford in less than 19 minutes with breaks of 89 and 85 from the winner and a 71 from Wilson.

Incredibly, Ford was playing at just 10.8 seconds-per-shot.

Lyu Haotian and Ben Hancorn were the two surprise qualifiers for the second group phase.

It started well though. Ronnie played well in his first match, and took a couple of minutes to talk to young Jamie Wilson, which was nice to see.

He still played OK in his second match and was a bit unlucky, notably with splits. But Ben Hancorn was very solid and took his chances. He fully deserved the win.

After that things went from bad to worse… Ronnie looked unhappy, concerned about his tip, or cue. His concentration was allover the place. He was playing extremely fast and and going for eveything. Him coming late for a match is also an extremely rare occurence. Clearly something wasn’t right. Maybe he just didn’t want to be there for some reason, but maybe this was a manifestation of something more serious.

Ronnie suffers from bipolar disorder, he was diagnosed in his early 20th. He has had violent mood swings for most of his adult life and it has impacted his career.

Here is what David Hendon – who knows Ronnie personally – wrote in the Snooker Scene blog back in 2006



Watching Stephen Fry’s programme on manic depression on BBC2 the other day I couldn’t help thinking of Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Fry explored the bipolar condition that causes sufferers to experience both extreme highs and crushing lows.

Ronnie has been treated for depression and his moods seem to swing between the two ends of the spectrum with alarming unpredictability.

Of course, this has affected his career to the extent that he hasn’t won as many tournaments as his talent deserves.

However, it has also helped fashion him as an enigma, whose curious statements and behaviour add to the excitement of how he plays.

In his autobiography, O’Sullivan talked of how Prozac helped him to control the problem but it clearly persists.

Watching Fry’s programme, you wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

And this was in the press in 2017, after Ronnie appeared on Victoria Derbishire’s show:

However, O’Sullivan revealed he has learned to ride his highs and lows, embracing his psychological issues in professional sport and life.

Manic depression or bipolar disorder is diagnosed in about 1 per cent of UK adults according to the NHS.

Patients can become extremely high and overactive or alternatively feel low or lethargic.

He joked: “I love a breakdown. I’m so used to dragging myself up from a low. I’ve done it all my life. Sometimes I know that once I get to the bottom I’m just going to fly up again.

Ronnie has indeed become better at managing his mood swings, notably with Dr Steve Peters’ help, but he isn’t immune to them; he still has those lows and highs. There is no cure for this condition and no miracle medication either.

I have seen him close-up both on lows and highs. On lows he’s truly miserable but he’s much better at keeping things under control than when he is when on a ” high”. Also, unfortunately, “highs” usually end up in a “crash” and are often followed by a depressive episode.

If what we saw yesterday is a manifestation of his bipolar condition … the only positive is that it’s happening now and not in a  month time.

The match against Tom Ford was on an outside table, as both were out of the event already. The only “memorable” moment was when Ronnie farted and couldn’t stop laughing…



10 thoughts on “2021 WST Pro Series – Group I

  1. Monique, do you think its possible that he applied the first match anfd then the disorder came through? Do you think its possible that it happened that suddenly? For me I think If Ronnie runs 14 km in the morning I think his mind was vlear and really there must have been something with his cue. He said to Joyce hed send it in today. And ofc Ronnie doesnt always behave professional but although you cannot take this tournament too seriously.

    • The disorder doesn’t come through “like that” but if something was wrong with his cue, or if he thought it was, AND he is not in a stable mood, then what we have seen isn’t surprising.

  2. The battle for players to stay on tour (with massive career implications) makes it quite pitiful to watch, as some players scramble for an extra £500 from a best-of-3 match. Meanwhile the top players focus on six-figure amounts. Chen Zifan is right on the edge, and the pressure probably cost him £1000 in the Gibraltar Open, and another £1000 yesterday. Jimmy White is playing today, and Sam Craigie, Louis Heathcote and Luo Honghao will play in the second stage. These players are battling for the top-8 bonus places. But it’s now clear that the World Championship qualifiers will be the deciding factor. Xu and Chen are in a difficult position, because they will be ranked 79 and 80, which means it’s either £0 or £10000 from the L112 round, rather than the £5000 that they might have earned against an amateur if they had been outside the top-80. The zero-prizemoney rule could cost them their life’s career.

    • This system is far too brutal and this is the reason why so few of the young ones progress. Throwing someone in a choppy sea has never been the best way to teach them how to swim.

      • More like the ‘Raft of the Medusa’ perhaps. But actually the zero-prizemoney rule does not fit well with the tiered draw used in the WC. It’s yet another unfair result of this stinking ranking system…

  3. This was terrible and truly painful. I did not think he was interested in finishing in the top two and return on Wednesday then truly apply himself, because he would not want to lose to Carter or Cahill, but neither would he want to stay till the week-end then go to Wales, so I expected him to pull out of Wednesday’s stage and thought maybe not finishing in top 2 in the firs place was cleaner. But after the first two losses I expected him to start playing better and freer as most likely he did not have to worry too much about advancing, but he just played awful against people who otherwise played really bad. .

    I also thought he would use the whole day as a practice session, but for practice it was also very bad. I wished he pulled out before if he so did not want to be there, then I was worried that there was something else wrong with him in his personal life, and wished again he pulled out instead, because it was truly embarrassing to play like he did and lose to whom he did, and embarrassment is the last I would wish on him (or anyone I care about).

    Well, the sooner it is forgotten, the better, and we’ll see what happens next week.

  4. And when you run 14.09km on the morning before seven matches, fatigue might be a factor later in the day.

      • According to Strava he started his run at 7:19. I have only been a runner for 6 short months, and I am far behind Ronnie’s level, but I still think it would be smarter to limit such a run to 7-8km on a long matchday like that.

      • Yes, of course. But he wasn’t just tired, he was very agitated. anyway, it certainly didn’t help his snooker, even if it helps his mood.

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