2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 5

The second round at the qualifiers is maybe the toughest as many players are fighting to survive on the main tour. Here is WST report on what happened yesterday:

Heathcote Boosts Survival Hopes

Louis Heathcote took a big step towards tour survival by defeating Ashley Carty 6-2 in a must win second round clash at Betfred World Championship qualifying.

Leicester’s Heathcote was Rookie of the Year last season, in a campaign that saw him come within a match of the Crucible at the 2020 qualifiers. On that occasion he defeated Ali Carter on his way to the final round, where he eventually lost out against the recently retired Alan McManus.

However, he has struggled during his second season on the circuit. Heathcote came into today’s match knowing that only a win would keep his hopes of tour survival alive. The world number 67 produced a fine performance just when it was required.

The 23-year-old showcased his breakbuilding talent this morning, firing in runs of 51, 72, 65, 57, 77 and 104 on his way to a crucial victory. Heathcote now faces two-time ranking event winner Ryan Day in round three.

Heathcote said: “I played really well and I’m really proud of how I dealt with the pressure. I’ve been putting a lot of hard work in and it is nice to see the rewards there.

“I’ve really struggled in the second half of the season. I’ve not been in the best place with my confidence. I just thought I’d go out and enjoy it and if I have to go to Q School, so be it. That was the best I’ve played all season, so it is good to play like that with the pressure I was under.

“I’ve lost about four deciders this season and missed easy balls. I always say to my mum how bad I am under pressure! To play like that with my tour card on the line is amazing.”

James Cahill will require a trip to Q School if he is to retain his professional status. The Blackpool cueman succumbed to a 6-5 defeat to Gerard Greene to drop off the tour.

It was a crucial victory for Greene, who himself needed to win to remain in with a chance of staying on the circuit. Next up he faces Gary Wilson in round three for a Judgement day spot.

Welshman Daniel Wells also suffered relegation from the circuit after a 6-4 loss to compatriot Duane Jones. Victory for Jones means he is still in the hunt to stay on tour. He plays Martin Gould in the third round.

Poland’s Kacper Filipiak came through a vital clash with Jackson Page 6-5 to keep his tour survival bid alive. Defeat for Welshman Page sends him to Q School.

Swiss number one Alexander Ursenbacher booked his place in round three with a comprehensive 6-2 defeat of Germany’s Lukas Kleckers. He faces Martin O’Donnell in round three.

I find it very disappointing that there is NOTHING in this report about the fate of the Chinese players, except for Bai Langning who beat McManus, leading to the Scot’s retirement. Another example of the still strongly UK centric nature of the “World” snooker tour.

Luo Honghao who had made it to the Crucible on his first year as a pro, has stuggled badly since. He had won a titanic battle against Tom Ford in the last round of the qualifiers. He was whitewashed by Shaun Murphy on his debut at the Theatre of dreams, unable to compete properly because of a food poisoning. Yesterday, he was beaten by Peter Lines and he will now need to go to the Q-school if he wihes to regain his professional status. I don’t rate his chances very high and, should he succeed, I’m not sure it would be the best thing for him. He may need a reset: see his family, assess what he really wants for himself, and retrieve his technique that has deteriorated.

Si Jiahui will also need the Q-school to stay on tour. He’s only 18. I hope he gets another chance should he fail to immediately re-qualify.

Those two, and Yuan Sijun are extremely talented, very young, and good to watch … when we get the opportunity.

WST has stressed how hard it has been for Neil Robertson to make it to the top as an expat, and rightly so. Neil, who is 39, has been open about how much he has struggled being unable to see his family over long periods of time.  Yet, Neil didn’t have to learn a different language to be able to communicate, and the Australian way of life in big cities isn’t probably that different from what is is in Europe. Just imagine how hard it must be for teenagers from Asia. All three mentioned above were barely more than kids where they started on the tour.

Today we have five more of those young Chinese players in action: Zhou Yuelong, Xu Si Chang Bingyu, Lei Peifan and Chen Zifan. The first three are (reasonably) safe, but Chen and Lei need to win.

Following his deafeat yesterday, Alan McManus has announced his retirement:

McManus Retires Following Bai Defeat

Alan McManusAlan McManus announced his retirement from professional snooker following a 6-3 defeat to Bai Langning at Betfred World Championship qualifying.

The Scot has enjoyed an illustrious career, spanning 31 years, since he turned professional in 1990. The highlight came at the 1994 Masters, when McManus ended Stephen Hendry’s five-year title winning streak at the London event by defeating him 9-8 in a thrilling final.

McManus won two ranking titles during his career, at the 1994 Dubai Classic and the 1996 Thailand Open. The Glaswegian reached a further five ranking finals on top of those wins.

McManus, who has become a highly respected TV pundit and commentator in recent years, has struggled to produce his best form this season, which has seen the tour head behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s notched up just 11 match wins and has failed to go beyond the last 64 of any ranking event.

This afternoon’s encounter saw McManus start brightly, crafting breaks of 61 and 66 on his way to establishing an early 2-1 lead. Bai restored parity to head into the mid-session all-square, before McManus once again edged ahead to lead 3-2.

From there China’s Bai took control of proceedings. Four frames on the bounce, including breaks of 102 and 54, saw him storm to the 6-3 victory. The win kept Bai’s hopes of tour survival alive and ended an era for McManus. Afterwards he admitted that the opportunity to explore his broadcasting career further played a role in his decision.

“I made the decision before Christmas for a number of reasons,” said 50-year-old McManus. “This year has been pretty tough and I’m working on TV at tournaments as well. I’ve not been able to play and practise. If this continues then there is no point in me playing. I’m pretty happy with the decision.

“I really love the television work. It is a privileged position to have and it has just been really difficult doing both. I’ve always thought 50 was a good number. It is a young guy’s game and you have to face up to that. I don’t have a problem with that though, it is all fine and well.

“For me it isn’t so much a results game. For me it is the experience and that is what I take from it. Results and beating someone isn’t my thing. I had getting to the semi-finals of the World Championship five years ago and that was pretty cool.

I’m happy and I’m settled. I’m really content to not play. What I will miss is being 4-4 and deciders. Those are the times that you really find out who you are. That is why when I watch, I don’t look at the table, I look at the guy. Who he is, who he is going to be and who he is going to become in that moment.

Alan may have made the decision months ago, he still looked absolutely gutted when missing shots and facing retirement yesterday. The competitive animal inside never goes.

WST has published a tribute to Alan’s career

Today my focus will be on Wakelin v Lei, Zhou v Xu, and Maflin v Jones or Ford v Chang depend what is on the ES stream.




2 thoughts on “2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 5

  1. I was always a fan on McManus in the 1990’s, partly because of his fine all-round game and technical approach. Obviously, when a player gets older and starts to play some terrible shots, there are signs of frustration which is hard to watch – one of the reasons why I focus on younger players who are still improving. I also favour a more invitational tournament structure, which would enable players like Hendry and McManus to turn up occasionally, such as in the Scottish Masters. Playing the full tour is tough. I remain a supporter of McManus as a pundit who actually talks about technical issues where others do not (or cannot). I do think commentators make a difference, and McManus will help to improve the game of a generatiion of future players who listen to what he is saying.

    Amidst all of that, it would have been nice to hear from Bai Langning. I know he’s been in Guangdong, where his former coach Roger Leighton is based, and that he won the Lanzhou City competition in September. But for a player to miss a professional season and yet still improve his game, and produce a very composed performance on the main table against a well-known player is quite an effort. There may be lessons there for other young players. Similarly, it would have been nice to actually hear from Xu Si about his experience playing the great Stephen Hendry.

    With all their terrible experiences in 2020, I had feared that as many as 10 Chinese players would get relegated here, but they’ve actually done better. Some have managed to find a bit extra for the World Championship, after looking drained and ragged in some recent tournaments. The most successfuly have been players like Yan Bingtao, Zhou Yuelong, Lu Ning, Pang Junxu, i.e. calm heads who can withstand pressure. This is another lesson for young players generally. One of the advances I see coming into snooker in the next few decades is improved psychological training, to help deal with match situations. Luo and Yuan completely collapsed under the huge pressure they were under.

    • You are so right about the commentary issue! I love the technical explanations and at least they add something to the match. I’m sick and tired of “he is asking the question”, “he has to win this frame to stay in the match” (yeah right), and “oh, he missed, I did not expect this” – yeah, I can see it for myself. I just switch off commentary sometimes, but I really like when they actually explain technical stuff

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