Coa Yupeng and Noppon Saengkham were the winners yesterday. Here is WST report:
Saengkham and Cao Through
Noppon Saengkham and Cao Yupeng progressed to the second stage of the BetVictor Championship League after both went unbeaten on day eight, as top seeds John Higgins and Gary Wilson went out.
Saengkham set his stall out early by dispatching both Igor Figueiredo and Soheil Vahedi 3-1 with the highlight being a break of 93 in the third frame against Vahedi.
Top seed of the day Higgins looked comfortable in his opening two matches beating Vahedi and Figueiredo without dropping a frame, but it was against Saengkham where he came unstuck.
With a winner takes all scenario in the last game, it was Higgins who drew first blood and looked on to make it through to the second stage, but the tide turned from there on with Saengkham crunching in two centuries and a gritty clearance.
Saengkham tested positive for COVID-19 before the World Championship at the end of last season. He was delighted to start this season strongly: “My last match in an event was in March, I practised very hard, fifteen hours a day. I felt very bad, just sleeping in my bed and seeing everybody playing in the World Championship. I was so upset because I worked very hard every day. I will try my very best this season. I’m very hungry.
“The last season I didn’t play well, and I stayed here eleven months and I couldn’t go home. Just for a few months, I could go home for a couple of months. I practiced very hard, and I tried to enjoy it. I am so happy I don’t know why.”
“In my last match, I didn’t think about the win. I just wanted to pot every ball. I played very good today and I am very happy.”
Elsewhere, matters were wrapped up quicker on Table 2 where top seed Gary Wilson crashed out of Group 26 before the evening session had even begun. He suffered a 3-0 defeat to eventual group winner Cao Yupeng, after having to settle for a point against James Cahill.
Cao never looked fazed on his return to the professional ranks with back-to-back 3-0 victories meaning he’d wrapped up the group before his final innings against Cahill. Nevertheless Cao ended his day with a 3-1 victory.
The 2017 Scottish Open finalist won nine frames from ten, with six of them including breaks over 50, to move forwards into stage two.
Tomorrow sees 2019 shoot-out champion Thepchaiya Un-Nooh headline Group 29 alongside Zhang Jiankang, Martin O’Donnell, and Craig Steadman.
Noppon played three incredible frames against John Higgins to wrap up the day. He looked immune to pressure and was cueing very well. The blue he took towards the end of frame 3 in that last match was quite something. John Higgins must still be wondering what hit him and how he didn’t win the group. I’m very pleased for Noppon who is a lovely person and caught covid-19 at the worst possible time (*), just ahead of the World Championship.
I’m also pleased for Cao who seems 100% determined to put the past firmly behind and make the most of his return to the main tour.
(*) Not that there is ever a good time to catch covid-19 of course.