Stevens Books Belfast Spot
Matthew Stevens edged out Zhao Xintong 4-3 in a high quality contest to earn a place in the final stages of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.
The qualifying round runs until Friday this week in Leicester, with places at the Waterfront Hall at stake – the televised phase to take place in October.
After losing the first frame, former UK and Masters champion Stevens took three in a row with breaks of 99, 111 and 66. China’s Zhao hit back with 75 and 51 for 3-3. The decider came down to a tactical battle on the brown, and Zhao was unlucky to go in-off when attempting safety, gifting Stevens the chance to clear for victory.
Peter Devlin came from 2-0 down to beat Alexander Ursenbacher 4-2 with a top break of 84. Cao Yupeng also made an impressive fight back, recovering a 3-1 deficit to beat Robbie Williams 4-3, compiling runs of 95 and 65 in the last two frames.
James Cahill, a late replacement for Graeme Dott, fired runs of 97, 104 and 87 in a 4-2 win over Chang Bingyu, while Lu Ning made a 33 clearance in the decider to beat Scott Donaldson 4-3.
The story of the day though isn’t in this WST report.
For most of the day, the livescores didn’t work. As a result, even now, most matches don’t have frames scores. I suppose they might come at one stage as they must be on the match sheets… hopefully.
WST has posted that those qualifiers would be on Eurosport app. This wasn’t the case. and going by ES schedule this won’t be the case today either. The only snooker available on ES schedule are repeats of the British Open final.
I, being in Greece, was able to watch the matches on Matchroom.live. My friends in the UK couldn’t though and the only way for them to watch the snooker was via betting sites.
Even so, for most of the day, scores were not displayed on table 2 at all. This made it extremely difficult for the snooker.org team to provide their usual service to the fans. It was a nightmare.
With just two tables, and no crowds, the qualifiers environment is absolutely soul destroying. It’s dark, lonely and lifeless. Before it all started, one player had told me that they were allowed to bring one companion at the venue and that this person would not be allowed to sit in the arena to watch their match. Really? With only two tables in use that would have been at most 4 spectators in the whole arena. You have to wonder why such drastic restrictions are imposed on the players when only the night before a full house of spectators was allowed to watch the British Open final at the same venue.
Come on WST/WPBSA, this is not right. Yes, it’s their job. It’s a difficult enough job as it is, it should not be made worse by depressing surroundings and unecessary isolation.
Don’t be surprised if we have “shocks” here or if top players shun events if they are required to qualify in such conditions.
The only “light” on the day for me was to see Jan Verhaas at the table, a rarity in recent times.