The 2021 UK Championship – Ronnie beats Mark King by 6-3 in the last 32

Ronnie played a solid match to beat Mark King by 6-3 in the last 32 round of the UK Championship. As I expected, it wasn’t a particularly easy match. Those two have history and it goes way back in time. Ahead of this match, Mark was leading 5-4 in their head-to-head. At the 2017 German Masters, Ronnie had lost by 5-4 to Mark, having been 4-1 in front. That was their most recent match before their yesterday encounter.

Here are the scores and the stats

UKC2021L32ROS-ScoresUKC2021L32ROS-Stats

This is the (rather short) report by WST:

Seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is still going strong as he scored a 6-3 win over Mark King.

UKC2021L32ROS-2

O’Sullivan is into the last 16 of this event for the 21st time

O’Sullivan, who won this title in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2007, 2014, 2017 and 2018, scored breaks of 108, 70, 84, 52, 63 and 53 as he got the better of King. The Rocket now faces Noppon Saengkham or Stuart Bingham.

Ronnie will actually face Noppon Saengkham who beat Stuart Bingham by 6-5 in yesterday’s evening session.

The BBC produced a more interesting report:

UK Snooker Championship 2021: Ronnie O’Sullivan reaches last 16, John Higgins out

By Shamoon Hafez BBC Sport

UKC2021L32ROS-1
Ronnie O’Sullivan won the last of his seven UK titles in 2018

Record seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan cruised past Mark King 6-3 to reach the last 16 of the UK Championship in York.

O’Sullivan left King scoreless in the first two frames with breaks of 108 and 70 – and led 3-0.

O’Sullivan faces Noppon Saengkham next after the Thailand player edged Stuart Bingham 6-5 in an incredible contest.

‘Lovely, beautiful’ seeing big names going out

Since winning the World Championship last year, O’Sullivan has had a disappointing 15 months by his own high standards, reaching just one semi-final this season on the back of losing five ranking finals last term.

And, although the 46-year-old opened with a century break and compiled five further breaks of 50 or more, he remained patient and was made to work for his opportunities.

O’Sullivan told BBC Two: “I am pleased to be through, Mark is a tough player so I just had to focus. I am trying, I have been playing exhibition snooker since the World Championship and that is not good enough for the nitty gritty.

I haven’t got long now and this is one last effort to see how it goes. I am trying to take one ball at at a time. The result is irrelevant, I just want to apply myself.

I never look at the draw, I have no interest in it. I don’t care who I play, but do I enjoy everything I do. I have fathomed a way that works for me. I enjoy how I have life at the moment.”

Asked about the big names that have exited early from the tournament, O’Sullivan replied: “I have a little chuckle to myself when I see them all getting bombed out. Lovely, beautiful.”

Analysis

1991 world champion John Parrott on BBC Two

There has never been anyone better finishing games off, it is not an easy thing to have in your armoury. You can get embroiled in battles, but O’Sullivan gets the chance and finishes it off.

1997 world champion Ken Doherty

“O’Sullivan looks very good, stroking the ball in nicely, some good breaks and great long pots. He matched King in the safety department and was very patient.”

His concentration looked good, it can waver when you are looking at other matches, but he finished the match off. He never baulks at the winning line, he gets over it very easily.

Ronnie will play again tomorrow.

The 2021 UK Championship – the last 64 round

This UK Championship keeps giving… as we enter the lat 32 stage, none of the current “Triple Crown” holders remain in the tournament. Neil Robertson, the reigning UK Champion, had been beaten in his opening match and, yesterday,h bot Yan Bingtao, the reigning Masters Champion and Mark Selby, the reigning World Champion, bowed out.

Here are the reports by WST:

Saturday afternoon session

Mind Over Matter For Rocket

Ronnie O’Sullivan recovered from a slow start to beat Robbie Williams 6-2 and reach the last 32 of the Cazoo UK Championship.

From 2-1 down, O’Sullivan looked sharp and focussed as he won five frames in a row with top breaks of 91, 74, 66 and 55. He will face either Mark King or Gerard Greene in the third round on Monday or Tuesday.

UKC2021L64ROS-1

Chigwell’s O’Sullivan first won this tournament in 1993 and has since lifted the trophy six more times. At the age of 45, he remains among the favourites for the title.

I had to apply myself mentally today, you can only control the controllables,” said O’Sullivan. “Mental strength can be the difference between winning and losing. I try to enjoy myself and have fun – at my age it’s just nice to be getting my cue out of its case. This is the second biggest tournament and I have got a good record in it.

Kyren Wilson scored an impressive 6-0 whitewash of Jak Jones with a top break of 116. World number five Wilson said: “Jak is tough to play against in terms of his rhythm. I lost to him in a qualifying match last season when I got involved in his style of play. I made sure that didn’t happen this time and focussed on my own pace and rhythm.”

Matthew Selt scored a 6-2 victory over Joe Perry, earning a meeting with the winner of Sunday’s match between Judd Trump and Chris Wakelin. “I would love to play Judd, I have known him since he was eight years old and we are very close,” said Selt. “He is a phenomenal player. If I perform I will have a chance, if I collapse like I usually do on the TV table then I’ll lose 6-0. But Judd will have a tough match first against Chris.

Si Jiahui knocked out Shaun Murphy in the first round but his time in the spotlight ended with a 6-4 defeat against Dominic Dale. Ben Woollaston top scored with 136 as he beat Cazoo Masters champion Yan Bingtao 6-3, while Jack Lisowski enjoyed a 6-4 win over Martin O’Donnell.

Andy Hicks scored a second consecutive 6-5 win as he beat Michael Holt with a break of 88 in the decider. “I should have won both matches more comfortably but I’m very pleased to get through,” said Hicks, who reached the semi-finals of this event back in 1995. “I am creating a lot of chances and then getting tight when I see the winning line, which is natural because this is a big event. I would love to have a run.

You’ll find more about Ronnie’s match here.

This afternoon, Ronnie will face Mark King. This is not an easy match for Ronnie. Indeed, Mark King has beaten him 5 times out of 9 competitive matches they played. Mark won their last encounter in the last 32 of the 2017 German Masters; it went to a decider. All the other matches date back to 2010 and earlier so they may not be that relevant. King however is having an excellent season. He recently reached the semi-finals at the 2021 English Open, losing by 6-4 to the eventual Champion, Neil Robertson; he had beaten Judd Trump in the quarter-finals. He is currently ahead of Ronnie in the “one year list”.

Saturday evening session

Allen – I Want More Titles

Mark Allen is determined to collect more silverware this season and moved a step closer to success at the Cazoo UK Championship with a 6-4 victory over Joe O’Connor.

Allen enjoyed one of the best moments of his career last month in Belfast when he won the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open on home turf, beating John Higgins 9-8 in the final. Not content to rest on his laurels, the 35-year-old is fired up as he looks ahead to the third round in York.

Allen was UK Championship runner-up in 2011 and 2018

The first six frames tonight were shared and O’Connor looked to have the momentum when he made a break of 79 for 3-3. Frame seven came down to a safety tussle on the final pink and when O’Connor missed a tough long pot to a baulk corner, Allen punished him to edge ahead.

A run of 66 gave Allen a 5-3 advantage then O’Connor pulled one back with an 85. But world number 11 Allen dominated frame ten to seal the result. He will now meet David Gilbert, who top scored with 115 in a 6-3 defeat of Alexander Ursenbacher.

Allen said: “It wasn’t pretty at times, not because we were missing balls, but because of the way the balls went in a few frames. Every match is different and you have to be ready for that. I am proud of the way I battled for everything. I won three frames I had no right to win. On another night Joe would have won 6-2 and that would have been a fair reflection because he was the better player throughout.

It’s always nice to win a title early in the season because that’s a box ticked and you relax. But when you get into matches in other events the pressure comes back. I want to win multiple tournaments this season. Maybe winning my home event under that sort of pressure could be what turns it around for me. I like the city of York, it reminds me a lot of what Sheffield is like at that time of year in that everyone knows the snooker is on.

David Gilbert is a class act, he was the seed in his section and at the start of the week I fully expected to play him if I got that far. He’s a brilliant player to watch and has had some deep runs in the big events, but hopefully I won’t be watching too much of him.

John Higgins continued his bid to reach a fourth consecutive final as he beat Sunny Akani 6-3. Scotland’s Higgins, who was runner-up in each of the last three tournaments, took a 5-0 lead with top runs of 87 and 131. Akani pulled three back before Higgins clinched victory with an 86 in frame nine.

I was expecting Sunny to play well because I’ve seen some of his matches,” said three-time UK Champion Higgins. “I played well in the middle to the match then tailed off. It could have got interesting if he had made it 5-4. It will be a tough match next against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh or Zhao Xintong – their match should be televised, it will be that exciting. The way Thepchaiya dismantled Stephen Hendry in the first round – he makes the game look so easy. He has incredible touch when he’s in the balls. He’s got all the talent in the world.

Zhao is the same. Perhaps he should try to emulate Judd Trump, who was very attacking when he came on to the scene and sometimes went for one shot too many. He went away and worked at his game, rounded his game and now he’s an unbelievable all round player. Maybe that’s something Zhao should learn from.

Mark King, a semi-finalist at the recent BetVictor English Open, scored a 6-2 victory over Gerard Greene to set up a third round clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan. Gary Wilson made a 147 in round one but his run is over as he lost 6-4 to Liam Highfield.

Barry Hawkins saw off Gao Yang 6-1 while Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham fired runs of 128 and 119 in a 6-3 defeat of Ali Carter. That result ends Carter’s hopes of a place at Alexandra Palace in January as he is in 20th spot in the Race to the Cazoo Masters.

The match between Theppy and Zhao wasn’t televised of course… unfortunately because it was indeed, by all accounts a fantastic match.

AAs for Mark Allen, it’s a strange one. He looks fired up indeed, but at the same time continues to allude to the possibility of him having to pull out and leave the tournament.

I’m glad to see Noppon Saengkham playing well again and I won’t shed a tear about Ali Carter missing the Masters.

Sunday afternoon session

Trump Hopes To Hit Peak Form

Judd Trump was far from his best against Chris Wakelin in the second round of the Cazoo UK Championship but came through 6-3 and remains confident of winning one of the longest events on the calendar.

Trump looked in danger of a shock exit when he trailed 3-2, but eventually battled through to a third round match with Matthew Selt. World number two Trump is aiming for back-to-back titles having won the Cazoo Champion of Champions a week ago.

A break of 84 – his highest of the match – put Trump 2-1 ahead, then Wakelin took frame four and made a 51 clearance to snatch the fifth. Trump levelled with a run of 66 then won two scrappy frames, lasting over an hour in total. And the Bristolian left-hander soon sealed victory in frame nine with breaks of 37 and 26.

It was a slow match, the balls went awkward,” said 32-year-old Trump, who won this title in 2011. “A few years ago I might have lost that match but mentally I am stronger now. Chris is a good player and you can’t expect your opponent to lie down and give it to you.

This is a long event, almost as long as the World Championship. You can’t play at your best all the way through, you just have to get through the early rounds and then try to peak at the right time. It’s ten years since I won this event but I have been in two other finals since.”

Looking ahead to his match with close friend Selt, Trump added: “It could be a similar game because he is very good at the tactical side. I practised with him when I was younger and learned a lot about the game from him.

Ding Junhui will miss the Cazoo Masters for the first time since 2006 as he lost 6-3 to Sam Craigie. That leaves Ding in 25th place in the race to Alexandra Palace and with only the top 16 at the end of this event to qualify, the Chinese cueman will not be among the field in London in January.

World number 55 Craigie enjoyed one of his best career results as he compiled breaks of 55, 69, 105 and 84 in a superb win. “In the first half of the match, Ding was all over the place,” said Craigie. “He missed two or three blacks off the spot, he looked shaky and I really fancied it. Then after the interval he made a couple of big breaks but I responded well. The money and the ranking points mean a lot to someone in my position.

Martin Gould is also out of the running in the Cazoo Masters race as he lost 6-3 to Cao Yupeng.

Stephen Maguire was in tremendous form in a 6-1 thrashing of Tian Pengfei. Breaks of 75, 127, 104, 73 and 90 helped Maguire into the third round. “I played very well, the crowd gave me a buzz and I fed off that,” said the Scot, who will now face either Tom Ford or Luca Brecel. He joked: “Tom has been staying in my apartment in York but if he we’re playing in the next round I’ll kick him out. He can go and find a hotel for £250 a night.

China’s Zhao Xintong edged out Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-5 in a tremendous match which had an average frame time of just 14 minutes. At 3-0 down, Zhao potted 15 reds with blacks in frame four but ran out of position and missed the yellow on 120. He also made 114, 50, 92 and 56 in taking a 5-3 lead. Un-Nooh recovered to 5-5 and led 66-30 in the decider, only for Zhao to take it with a 43 clearance.

Ding’s miserable run continues and his ranking is quickly spiralling down. There seems to be very little fire in him. That said Sam Craigie played very well.

Sunday evening session

Defeat For Selby And Williamzzzzz

World number one Mark Selby and three-time Crucible king Mark Williams joined the big-name casualties to be knocked out of the Cazoo UK Championship in York before the second week has started.

Selby lost 6-2 to Iran’s Hossein Vafaei in the second round while Anthony Hamilton scored a 6-5 victory over Williams, who admitted that he fell asleep midway through the match. Welshman Williams has suffered from gout and Covid-19 in recent weeks, leaving him with severe fatigue.

Selby and Williams follow Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui and Yan Bingtao out of the exit door in York within the first two rounds.

Leicester’s Selby won his fourth Crucible crown in May but has made a poor start to the current season – he is yet to go beyond the last 16 of a ranking event this term. Vafaei can celebrate once of the best wins of his career so far and look forward to a last 32 match with Xiao Guodong.

Breaks of 109, 69, 55 and 56 helped put world number 63 Vafaei 5-0 ahead. Selby fought back to take the next two frames with a top run of 80, and would have added another had he not missed a tough final pink to a top corner when leading by 13 points. The frame went to a respotted black, and after a long tactical exchange, Vafaei fluked the black to a centre pocket from a tight angle when playing safe.

I want to make my people proud of me,” said Iran’s top player. “I want to make snooker bigger in my country and I am doing that with wins like this.”

Hamilton has been 3-0 down in each of his first two matches but came through both and now faces Ricky Walden

Williams led 4-2 with top breaks of 66 and 71 before Hamilton won three in a row with 64, 88 and 65. Two-time UK Champion Williams won frame ten then had first chance in the decider but made just 21 before running out of position. Former German Masters champion Hamilton made an excellent match-winning 70, albeit helped midway through the break by a massive fluke on a red which dropped into a baulk corner after he had missed it to a centre pocket.

Williams said: “After 30 years as a pro, that’s the first time I have fallen asleep during a match. The score was 3-2 and I was sitting in my chair then I was out like a light. My head dropped down which woke me up and for about five seconds I had no idea where I was. It’s been a few weeks since I had Covid and I am feeling better but I still get very tired. It was a good match though, we both made some good breaks. He had a fluke in the decider but I have had plenty of those over the years.

Nottingham’s Hamilton, ranked 56, said: “I was twitching all over the gaff at the end. That’s why I want to stay on the tour because you only get that thrill from sky-diving and playing snooker. I won’t get that when I retire, these emotions are hard to come by so I want to stay on tour for another couple of years and get as many of them as possible. I love being under pressure, it’s great, you feel alive.”

Zhou Yuelong saw off Ashley Hugill 6-2 to boost his status in the Race to the Cazoo Masters while 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott kept up the chase by beating Jimmy Robertson by the same scoreline.

Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown thrashed Farakh Ajaib 6-1 while Belgium’s Luca Brecel came from 5-4 down to edge out Tom Ford 6-5. Stuart Bingham was a 6-2 winner over Stuart Carrington while Anthony McGill top scored with 130 in a 6-4 defeat of David Grace.

 

The 2021 UK Championship – Ronnie beats Robbie Williams by 6-2 in the last 64

Ronnie won his second round match in York, beating Robbie Williams by 6-2. Ronnie wasn’t at his brilliant best, but was very focused mentally, especially after the MSI.

His attitude and answers in the BBC post-match interview are very positive signs.

Here is the report by WST:

Mind Over Matter For Rocket

Ronnie O’Sullivan recovered from a slow start to beat Robbie Williams 6-2 and reach the last 32 of the Cazoo UK Champ

From 2-1 down, O’Sullivan looked sharp and focussed as he won five frames in a row with top breaks of 91, 74, 66 and 55. He will face either Mark King or Gerard Greene in the third round on Monday or Tuesday.

UKC2021L64ROS-1Chigwell’s O’Sullivan first won this tournament in 1993 and has since lifted the trophy six more times. At the age of 45, he remains among the favourites for the title.

I had to apply myself mentally today, you can only control the controllables,” said O’Sullivan.

“Mental strength can be the difference between winning and losing. I try to enjoy myself and have fun – at my age it’s just nice to be getting my cue out of its case.”

“This is the second biggest tournament and I have got a good record in it.”

The scores

UKC2021L64ROS-Scores

and the stats

UKC2021L64ROS-Stats

Here is the report by BBC:

UK Snooker Championship 2021: Seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and three-time winner John Higgins advance in York

27 November 2021
By Steve Sutcliffe BBC Sport

Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins both reached the third round of the UK Championship with routine wins in York.

Seven-time champion O’Sullivan made breaks of 91, 74, 66 and 55 as he reeled off five frames on the trot to seal a 6-2 win over Robbie Williams.

UKC2021L64ROS-2

I am going to try and not enjoy it – and see what happens

It is almost three decades since O’Sullivan, 45, collected the first of his seven UK Championship titles in 1993. And a sumptuous opening red was a timely reminder of the quality of a player who – despite being regarded as one of snooker’s greatest ever stars – has downplayed his enthusiasm for participating in recent years.

I have been enjoying it so much that it took the edge off my game. I thought maybe I should start applying myself a bit more mentally” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.

If I had not got my act together he would have probably taken advantage and won. I made him feel it out there and made him feel that I was there to try and win.”

“I am going to try and not enjoy it this week and see what happens

While O’Sullivan took the first frame with a break of 58, Williams, 34, responded with breaks of 114 and 68 in a high-quality opening, and but for a kick on the pink he may have headed into the interval with a 3-1 lead.

Instead, O’Sullivan knocked in a 91 to draw level and went through the gears as he made his greater experience in these type of occasions count to book a last-32 meeting with Mark King, who won 6-2 against Gerard Greene.

Apparently, this is Ronnie’s idea to make sure he doesn’t enjoy it 😂

And also the account by “The Sportsman”

O’Sullivan Keeps Bid For Eighth UK Championship On Track With Win Over Williams

By Hector Nunns

Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he still has “hand grenades” to lob at opponents after keeping his bid for an eighth UK Championship title on track on Saturday afternoon.

The Rocket won the last five frames to seal a 6-2 victory over Robbie Williams as he looks to extend his own record haul at the York Barbican. World No3 O’Sullivan, 46 on the day of the UK final, did not make a century but rattled in breaks of 58, 68, 91, 74, 66 and 55 to see off the Wirral professional.

O’Sullivan said: If my game is good then I don’t worry too much about the opponent. If I can hit them with enough grenades then hopefully that beats their best.

It’s like Goran Ivanisevic was in tennis, however well his opponent played they knew they had to cope with that serve. If you apply your good assets, that will serve you well.

I just tried to apply myself which I did well, and delete the horrific shots, and not listen to that voice telling me I can’t play and I’m useless.

So I’ll refocus, not worry about how well or bad I’m playing and get on with the next one.

That voice happens quite a lot, I can be my own worst enemy. It’s about trying to ignore it and play. It was great to be playing in front of a crowd here in York in a big tournament.

We are judged on what we do in the three majors at the end of your career, and I am trying to stack up as many as I can.

I would love to rack up another one or two, great, it gets harder as you get older – but if I don’t get any more they still have to chase me on 20. I regard that as one of the important records.

Back in 2011 I didn’t see another victory coming after starting to work with Steve Peters and I lost belief – but it can come back and it did for me.

The Sporstman also adds this piece of information, explaining why Steve Davis isn’t in York (yet)

Meanwhile snooker legend Steve Davis has missed the break at the UK Championship – after being struck down with Covid. The six-time winner of the event is now a popular pundit for broadcasters the BBC and had been due to start his duties yesterday.

Davis, 64 is recovering and completing his isolation at home in Essex but is hopeful of being in York from Wednesday for the latter stages of the first major of the season.

Former world No1 Davis won the prestigious event twice in its infancy and then another four times in a row from 1984-87 after it was given full ranking status. That mark of six was a record that stood through the Stephen Hendry era until 2018 when it was beaten by O’Sullivan.

The “Amateurs in the Pro Game” question.

Following his first round exit at the hands of Si Jiahui, a young Chinese amateur, Shaun Murphy, usually a gracious loser, stated that his opponent shouldn’t have been allowed to play in the tournament at all.

Shaun Murphy unhappy about amateurs competing in UK Open after defeat to Si Jiahui

Shaun Murphy was unhappy following his UK Open exit, stating his victor Si Jiahu should not be in the tournament, on account of being an amateur: “It’s wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who’s not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am”

Last Updated: 24/11/21

Shaun Murphy was unhappy after his exit from the UK Open

Shaun Murphy was unhappy after his exit from the UK Open

Shaun Murphy said amateurs should not be allowed to play in professional snooker tournaments after he lost in the first round of the UK championship to 19-year-old Si Jiahui.

The 39-year-old, who was UK champions in 2008 and runner-up in the World Championship this year, fought back from 5-1 down to level the match but lost the deciding frame to the Chinese amateur.

Murphy, who has won more than four million pounds in prize money in his career, vented his frustration after the defeat in York on Tuesday.

I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man but that young man shouldn’t be in the tournament,” Murphy, known as the Magician, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

It’s not fair, it’s not right… I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments. This is our livelihood. This is our living. We’re self-employed individuals and not contracted sportsmen. We don’t play for a team.”

Si Jiahui edged the contest

Si Jiahui edged the contest

Si is competing as an amateur due to falling off the main tour at the end of last season and takes on 49-year-old veteran Dominic Dale in the second round.

The other 127 runners and riders in the tournament, it’s their livelihood too. It’s wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who’s not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am,” Murphy added.

He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world. I’m not picking on him as a young man, he deserved his victory.

This is how I put food on the table. This is how I earn money. Since turning professional at 15, I’ve earned the right to call myself a professional snooker player. He hasn’t done that.”

Murphy later said on Instagram he had been playing with a severe injury.

Murphy suffered a 6-5 defeat

Murphy suffered a 6-5 defeat

World Snooker Tour issued a robust response, saying it “strongly disagreed” with Murphy’s claims and insisting the opportunity for young amateur players to compete on the biggest stage formed a “crucial part” of their development.

The organisation said in a statement: “Si Jiahui earns a place in ranking tournaments this season as one of the leading players on the 2021 Q-School rankings.

“While he may have amateur status, he deserves his place in our events, based on his results.

Amateurs play under the same rules as professionals, they can earn prize money and places on the World Snooker Tour based on results.

“Many elite amateur players like Si Jiahui train and compete full-time in the hope of earning a guaranteed tour place, therefore they are competing under significant pressure with no guarantees.

“Providing opportunities for the best amateur players is important for our growth as a sport and that is something that Shaun benefitted from during his early days as a player.

“We have come a very long way as a global sport over the past decade and that has partly been down to the structures we have built both at professional and grassroots level worldwide.

“For the best young players, the chance to compete on the big stage is a crucial part of their development and the development of the sport as a whole.

“We respect Shaun’s opinions, but in this case we strongly disagree with his comments.”

Of course, the opportunity to play in professional events for those who do well and top the “order of merit”, is part of the “Q-School” package and WST are of course under obligation to respect that “contract”. This season there are only 122 players on the tour – something that Shaun doesn’t seem to be aware of – and as a result even more amateurs are involved in pro events than usual.

Despite this, a number of other top players have been supporting Shaun’s views:

Mark Williams had already voiced a similar opinion before the UK Championship started. Mark Williams also suggested that the tour should be smaller in order to allow all professional players to earn a decent living.

Mark Selby supported Shaun views when interviewed afted his first round win.

However, Selby has vowed to “stand by” Murphy and after his win against Muir he told BBC Sport: “I think a lot of players agree with him.

Because he [Shaun Murphy] said it after he lost, people probably think it is sour grapes and he wouldn’t have said it if he had won – but I totally stand by everything he said.

There’s a reason there is a Q School to try to get on [the professional tour], and if you don’t get on, you should have to wait another year and play in the amateur events.

Of course, the latter sentence is not compatible with WST obligations under the current “Q-School contract” to provide opportunities for the amateurs topping the order of merit.

Alan McManus said that Shaun has a point but offers a more qualified opinion:

Shaun’s said it after he’s been beaten, but he’s got a point,’ said the Scot. ‘The way that social media works now, top players especially are not allowed to complain about anything.  He’s got a point but what other way is there round it? 122 players, you need a top up to 128, what are you going to do?

Shaun’s saying that the guy is not playing for any ranking, and of course that helps. But the flipside, you’re playing on the main table, the experienced player would in theory have the advantage. Shaun’s playing with a bad injury, back trouble, that’s not much fun. People will have opinions one way or t’other, I don’t have a huge opinion on it, it’s just the way it is.

Shaun’s anything but a sore loser, it’s nothing to do with that, that’s absolute bunkum. Shaun’s got a view that amateurs shouldn’t be playing pro events. He’s got a point.’

And then… there is Neil Robertson…

UKC2021L128RobboTweetUKC2021L128RobboTweetReaction

Here is the audio …

Now what I find truly baffling and disturbing here is that Neil seems to target the young Chinese amateurs specifically. I’m very surprised that there wasn’t a reaction by WST on this. This is completely wrong in my views.

Those comments came to bite Neil in the bum … as himself then lost to an amateur as well, an English amateur, John Astley.

After his win over Neil, John had his say about the whole “debate”

Amateur John Astley Claims Sweet Win Over Defending Champion Neil Robertson

John Astley created a sensation at the UK Championship on Thursday as the amateur knocked out defending champion Neil Robertson.

An angry Shaun Murphy had said earlier in the week after losing to teenager Si Jiahui that those not currently on the professional tour had “no place in the building” at York’s Barbican – or at any major tournament as a top-up player.

But unranked Geordie Astley, 32, a yo-yo player who has fallen off the circuit twice, proved his worth with a stunning shock 6-2 victory over the Australian.

The last-time three-time UK winner and world No4 Robertson defended his title in York in 2016 he also went out to an amateur in the shape of Peter Lines.

But after world No6 Murphy’s ‘boot them out’ rant Astley was under no illusions that this was an especially sweet win against a man who publicly agreed with Murphy – and one for the little guys.

Astley said: “It probably is the biggest win of my career, in a massive tournament. And maybe the stars were aligned a bit with all that has been said this week.

“I was having a joke about it with my brother this morning who was down with my dad, that wouldn’t it be funny if I beat the defending champion as someone not on the tour.

I had seen Neil’s opinion on it too, which everyone is entitled to. One thing where I really don’t agree with Shaun is about byes, you should earn your wins.

There shouldn’t be byes in a big event, and there is talent off the tour as I and Si Jiahui have shown this week. Shaun said he is trying to put food on the table – but so am I.

There was probably only a handful of people who thought I could win this match. I haven’t won a match in the UK since beating Ken Doherty a few years ago.

Even if I am an amateur at the moment, I do play pretty much full-time, as well as doing some coaching. Snooker is still very much my life, and so I am not a naïve young player.”

It was only the second match Astley had ever won at the UK Championship after the victory over former world champion Ken Doherty he referred to, a thrilling 6-5 success over the Irishman that came way back in 2013.

A crestfallen Robertson, 39, said: “I defended Shaun a bit because I know where he is coming from. Ronnie O’Sullivan drew Michael White and he is not an amateur at all, really.

“Ronnie, me, Shaun would all rather play the world No125 than Michael in the first round. Maybe I paid the ultimate price for expecting things to happen and not forcing them.

Maybe John was fired up by the row about amateurs and even what I had said about it. He was getting a lot of support from friends and family in the arena.

“John is technically an amateur…but it’s not like he’s a 17-year-old golfer. He has spent a lot of years on the tour, and keeps getting on and falling back off, like a semi-pro.

“The reason these guys don’t win more matches is sometimes when they under the pump they don’t produce – but today he did.

“It hurts, as defending champion you don’t want to go out in the first round and I made it a bit easy for him.

“Look, John played a great, brilliant match – the match of his life –  and was fearless out there. He had a crowd, stood up to it and played as if he had nothing to lose.

“I was pretty off the pace for the first five frames, and lacked focus and energy. If I had played well today, I would have won. But I didn’t.”

Whilst I agree that, in sport, no matter what sport, you shouldn’t be allowed to play in events you didn’t qualify for, the thing is that, with the Q-School rules set by WST/WPBSA, the players at the top of the Order of merit did actualy “qualify” to fill the gaps whenever there aren’t 128 professionals in the draw. It’s that simple really.

The “anomaly” here is that there are players on the main tour – and it’s not just one or two – who are significantly weaker than those “top amateurs” and this is an indication that there are serious flaws in the way tour cards are allocated. I don’t want to open the can of worms here and now, but certain “nominations” are clearly wrong as the beneficiaries stand next to zero chance to succeed. The Q-School itself is inadequate in many ways. The pros who just dropped off the tour have a massive advantage over pure amateurs, notably because they are used to the environment and the conditions. The vast majority of Q-School laureates are former pros. This season we have only ONE true rookie.

Lewis will tell me that all this could be solved by opting out of the “ranking” model and opting for an elo type of rating system … he’s rigth but it’s not gonna happen for a zillion of reasons. Let me just cite a few

  • for WST it would mean relinquishing power and control over the “professional” game
  • it would need the various bodies involved in snooker to agree, work together, adhere to the model and the way to apply it. No chance here.
  • it would definitely be harder for the fans to “follow”.
  • that in turn could make snooker less attractive for the betting market, currently its main sponsors

 

The 2021 UK Championship – Days 2 and 3

We had two eventful and dramatic days at the York Barbican as the first round of the UK Champuonship was played to a finish: two massive upsets, a 147 and a media/social media storm around the “status” of the amateurs in snooker and their rights to play in “professional” events. I will write a specific post about that topic later today. Meanwhile here is what happened on the baize.

Day 2

Morning session – Gary Wilson makes a 147 (WST report)

Wilson Makes 147 In York

Gary Wilson made the fourth maximum break of his career in the first round of the Cazoo UK Championship at the York Barbican.

His perfect break came in the sixth frame of his match with Ian Burns and put him 5-1 ahead. Wilson had already made breaks of 104, 71, 67 and 89.

World number 21 Wilson becomes the 11th player in snooker history to make more than three 147s. It’s his second maximum of the year, having made one at the WST Pro Series in January. This time, the 147 will be worth £15,000 if it is not equalled during the tournament.

It’s the 172nd maximum in snooker history and sixth of the season.

Wilson, who went on to win 6-2, said: “I knew on 32 that I was going for it. I didn’t care what angle I had on anything, I was just going for it. It’s nice to make a few 147s and be in the elite group of players making that many on the tour.

But mainly I’m happy to just win the match, the 147 only gets one frame. I was a little bit disappointed by the way I finished the match, in the last couple of frames I missed a few, maybe it was just a little lapse in concentration. I was trying to tell myself don’t let it slip now that you’ve made a maximum and got such a big lead.”

David Gilbert top scored with 131 as he beat Alfie Burden 6-1 while former semi-finalist Ricky Walden saw off Craig Steadman 6-4.

You can watch Gary’s 147 here:

There were also wins for Noppon Saengkham, Xiao Guodong, Stuart Carrington, Liam Highfield and Robbie Williams.

The latter will be Ronnie’s opponent tomorrow afternoon.

In the afternoon Mark Williams beat tiredness, covid and gout aftermaths AND his opponent.

‘Knackered’ Williams Into Round Two

Mark Williams admits that the effects of Covid and gout have left him exhausted, but he summoned the energy to beat Lei Peifan 6-3 in the first round of the Cazoo UK Championship.

Welshman Williams has suffered from both illnesses in recent weeks and had to pull out of the BetVictor English Open and BetVictor European Masters. Following a period of isolation he has recovered enough to be able to compete, but is still battling symptoms.

Williams won the British Open earlier this season

I am knackered all the time and my body aches,” said the three-time World Champion. “The gout has gone and I’m improving every day since I got through Covid, but I am still very tired. They are two things I never want to get again.’’

Williams made top breaks of 106 and 112 against China’s Lei as he set up a second round match with Anthony Hamilton or Allan Taylor.

World number one Mark Selby also progressed safely into the last 64 as he beat Ross Muir 6-2. Two-time UK Champion Selby was hauled back from 2-0 to 2-2, but then stepped up a gear after the interval and compiled runs of 67, 93, 95 as he earned a match with Hossein Vafaei or Pang Junxu.

I played well really from start to finish,” said Leicester’s Selby. “Ross started well, at the interval I was happy to be at 2-2 because I could have easily been 3-1 down. After the interval I played a lot better, when I got my chances I took them.

Ross is a good player as he was on the tour himself a few years ago. It’s not the easiest first round draw because you look at some of the amateurs and the standard they play to is probably better than some of the pros on the tour.

Ding Junhui, who has lifted the trophy three times, saw off Zhang Anda 6-2 with a top break of 129. Barry Hawkins beat women’s World Champion Reanne Evans 6-1 with a top run of 94.

There was also a good 6-1 win by Cao Yupeng over Jamie Jones in that session. Why it isn’t mentioned is a mystery to me.

Also no less than three matches scheduled that session were interrupted because they were running late. They were played to a finish in the late evening, and resulted in wins for Sunny Akani, who very importantly keeps winning his first round matches, Hammad Miah who beat former UK Champion, Matthew Stevens in a decider and Fan Zhengyi who got the better of Elliot Slessor, also in a decider. This is a very good and important result for young Fan who struggled during his first years in the UK.

In the evening Ronnie beat Michael White by 6-3 in an enternaing match.

This is WST report on the other evening matches:

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh equalled the record for the most century breaks in a best-of-11 frame match as he made five tons in a 6-1 defeat of Stephen Hendry.

Thailand’s Un-Nooh needs wins under his belt to be sure of keeping his tour card at the end of this season, and boosted his hopes with a tremendous display against legend Hendry.

Just 30 minutes into the contest, former Shoot Out champion Un-Nooh led 3-0 thanks to breaks of 129, 100 and 107. Hendry made a 57 clearance to steal frame four, but was on the wrong end of another barrage after the interval as Un-Nooh fired runs of 52, 136 and 106.

Hendry said: “I told him at the end he’s a fantastic snooker player, he really is, he just plays beautifully. Someone told me he’s fighting for his place in the tour which I found absolutely bizarre. I just sat and admired him all night.

I’ve got a pretty good idea where my own game is. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, I make fun of people who say they play well in practice so I don’t want to be that person.

Jack Lisowski needed just 76 minutes to beat Sean Maddocks 6-0 with a top break of 126, while Mark King top scored with 101 in a 6-2 defeat of Jackson Page.

Stephen Hendry’s reaction to being properly outplayed, outpotted  and out-everything surprised and amused me. He used to be the grumpiest, angriest person when he lost as a younger professional. The press could barely extract a word off him at times, nevermind a praise of his opponent.

Once again a WST just fails to mention half of the matches outcomes. There were wins for Alexander Ursenbacher, Gerard Greene, Matthew Selt and Anthony Hamilton.

Day 3

The second major upset of the first round came in the afternoon of day 3, as the defending champion, Neil Robertson was beaten, and well beaten, by John Astley, another amateur.

Here is WST account of the morning afternoon sessions on that day:

Champion Robertson Crashes In York

Neil Robertson was on the wrong end one of the biggest first round shocks in Cazoo UK Championship history as he lost 6-2 to amateur John Astley.

World number four Robertson won this title for the third time last year, but failed to jump the opening hurdle this time as Astley recorded what he described as the best win of his career. He goes through to the last 64 to play Mark Joyce.

Astley’s career best ranking event performance took him to the quarter-finals of the 2016 Riga Masters

Robertson becomes the second top player to lose to an amateur in the opening round this week, following Shaun Murphy’s defeat against Si Jiahui on Tuesday.

Australia’s Robertson arrived in York full of confidence having won the BetVictor English Open earlier this month, but was well below his best today. It’s the second time he has lost to an amateur at the Barbican when defending the title, having been knocked out by Peter Lines in 2016.

Breaks of 74 and 83 helped give Gateshead’s Astley a 4-1 lead. Robertson pulled one back with a 124 but his opponent responded superbly with a century of his own, 119 to lead 5-2.

In frame eight, Astley went 26 points ahead by potting the final yellow, then Robertson got the snooker he needed on the brown. But Astley converted a clever cocked-hat double on the brown to clinch the result.

It’s got to be at the best win of my career considering the tournament and who I was playing, I can’t think of anything bigger,” said Astley, who earns a place in this event as one of the leading players in the 2021 Q School rankings.

It’s a massive tournament so I’ve been practising hard, I’ve felt like my game has been getting better and better this season because I have played in nearly all of the tournaments and the match play has sharpened me up. I thought I was going to have a good chance at putting up a fight today.

I had a lot of friends and family here today and I could hear them up on the balcony. It’s great because we didn’t have crowds last season, it gives everything a different feel when you’re potting balls and getting claps and making breaks. That makes it makes it even more special.”

Robertson said: “It obviously hurts, as a defending champion you don’t want to give up the title so easily, but you have to credit John there, he played a great match. He was fearless out there, he went for his shots, I was off the pace and lacked a bit of focus and energy to play at the right tempo.

He probably played the match of his life, you’ve got to give him every credit for that because there was a crowd watching, it was on the main table and he stood up to it. In the early rounds seeds are vulnerable in any sport, if you don’t play well then you leave yourself open to getting beat.

Ali Carter top scored with 134 in a 6-3 defeat of Jimmy White, while Masters champion Yan Bingtao compiled runs of 100 and 107 in a 6-0 thrashing of Ng On Yee.

Martin Gould fired breaks of 64, 82, 59, 81 and 103 in a 6-1 thrashing of Barry Pinches. Gould said: “I picked up on Barry’s negativity right from the start, my game plan was to give it to him and make him sit there and rue not taking on the couple of shots that he could have taken on.

I scored heavily, that’s something I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. I’m trying to get the flow that I show on the practice table and take it into the arena, which isn’t always the easiest part to do. Sometimes you bog yourself down, but in my last few matches I’m averaging around the 20 second a shot mark so that’s the flow I like to be in. That way my free scoring comes and I become a handful again.

China’s Tian Pengfei came from 3-0 down to edge out Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg 6-5 while Joe Perry saw off Fraser Patrick 6-1 with a top break of 111.

Once again, a number of results aren’t even mentioned. It’s a bit as if the arena two barely exists. There were wins for Graeme Dott, Luca Brecel, Martin O’Donnell, Jimmy Robertson and Jordan Brown. Maybe the person writing those reports is following the matches on the streams and not in the arena. But then, Graeme Dott, who is a former World Champion, twice a World finalist, was playing in the main arena… so?

Neil Robertson, who had been very supportive of Shaun Murphy’s views about the presence of the amateurs in the tournament, and had specifically targeted the young Chinese amateurs, got very little sympathy from the fans both in the arena and on social media.

This is WST report on the evening session, the last of the last 128 round:

Trump Keeps Momentum Going

Four days after lifting the trophy at the Cazoo Champion of Champions, Judd Trump was straight back into a winning groove at the Cazoo UK Championship as he thrashed David Lilley 6-1 in the first round.

Trump lost just five frames in Bolton last week as he landed one of snooker’s biggest invitation titles, and insists he is ready for another deep run in York. He lost a dramatic final 10-9 to Neil Robertson in this event last year and hopes to go one better this time and double his tally of UK titles having lifted the trophy ten years ago.

Trump has reached the UK Championship final three times

It was draining, winning the event last week,” said Trump, who made top breaks of 100 and 132 against Lilley. “But I’ve had a good couple of days practice and I’m prepared for another big tournament. I want to keep my momentum going and enjoy playing snooker.

I have been playing well all season and I felt it was just a matter of time before I won a title. Getting over the line last week gives me extra belief. To have a title under my belt already this season, I can play with more freedom.

Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy have been knocked out this week so Trump was relieved to make it to the last 64, where he will meet Chris Wakelin. “Every year there are a few shocks, one or two of the top players go out,” added the world number two from Bristol. “There are a lot of great players lower down and they are capable of beating anyone. You need these FA Cup-style  storylines. When I saw John Astley celebrating earlier, he was just so happy to win. It means a lot to every player.

As for his next opponent, Trump added: “Chris should have beaten me in the World Championship a few years ago. He likes the big stage, he has beaten Mark Selby before. He will be more than up for this game.”

Stuart Bingham came through a tense 59-minute decider to beat tour rookie Dean Young 6-5. Scotland’s Young came from 4-1 and 5-3 down to 5-5, only for 2015 World Champion Bingham to take the last frame on the colours.

I missed a lot of easy balls and Dean played well to come back,” said Bingham. “I held my nerve to get over the line and that gives me confidence, it could kick-start my season.

Andy Hicks and Liang Wenbo were pulled off at 5-5 earlier today, and when they returned tonight, former UK Championship semi-finalist Hicks finished the match in style with a tremendous 135 total clearance. He will now meet Michael Holt, who won a knock-out match for the first time this season by beating Zak Surety 6-4.

Leeds potter Peter Lines top scored with 113 in a 6-3 win over Ryan Day while Sam Craigie beat three-time finalist Ken Doherty by the same scoreline. BetVictor Northern Ireland Open champion Mark Allen scored a 6-2 victory over Michael Judge.

I find it very strange to read that last week was “draining” for Judd Trump who is in his early thirthies and fit. He played only four matches over a full week, had the easiest group of all by far, had three days off before his semi-final, where he whitewashed an out-of-sorts Kyren Wilson, had another day off before getting a comfortable win (10-4) over a visibly tired John Higgins. Draining? Seriously?

Robert Milkins, Hossein Vafaei and Ben Woollaston also went through in the early hours of today and unoticed by whoever reports for WST…

 

 

 

 

The 2021 UK Championship – Ronnie beats Michael White by 6-3 in the last 128

Ronnie won an entertaining match yesterday evening, beating Michael White by 6-3. They both went for their shots, but there was nothing reckless from either of them.

There were some very good safeties as well. I remember Michael years ago: he was a tremendous potter but he had no B game. He surprised me in a good way yesterday: he played some good tactical stuff.

Ronnie played an open game, but you could see that he really wanted to win.

Here are the scores:

UKC2021L128ROS-Scores

Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Rises To White Challenge

Ronnie O’Sullivan began his quest for an eighth Cazoo UK Championship title with a 6-3 win over Michael White in a high quality contest in York.

The Rocket looked in danger of a shock first round exit when amateur White fought back from 3-1 down to 3-3, but O’Sullivan regained his footing and won the last three frames to set up a last-64 tie with Robbie Williams.

UKC2021L128ROS-1O’Sullivan is aiming to win a tournament for the first time since the 2020 Betfred World Championship

Breaks of 139, 131 and 72 gave O’Sullivan his early lead. White fought back impressively by taking frames five and six, and in the seventh he had a chance to clear from 59-1 down, but ran out of position on the final red. O’Sullivan got the better of a safety battle on the colours to go 4-3 ahead, and that proved the turning point as the world number three added the next two frames for victory.

Michael is too good a player not to be on the tour,” insisted O’Sullivan, who celebrates his 46th birthday on the final day of this tournament. “He is a proper player, he has won two ranking events. He’ll get back on the tour, stay on it and do well. I know my snooker and I offered him some advice after the match. Whether he takes that or not is up to him, but it might be good for him to go away and look at that.

He has got so much potential to win many more tournaments. When I stop playing I would love to help him, free of charge, because I really like the guy. He plays the game in the right way and plays to win. Some of the matches I was watching tonight, they play as if their life depends on it and you can’t play this game that way. We all want to win, but you have got to play the right shots. Most of the tour are just desperate to win so they play ugly snooker. He’s not like that, he plays to win trophies, and if you don’t do that then the game won’t forgive you.

The crowd got their money’s worth tonight and they deserved it because they are a good crowd, they have supported this tournament very well. They didn’t have it here last year, because we were in Milton Keynes. It’s good for snooker that the crowds have come back. Big up to York, it’s one of my favourite places on Earth.”

In this article by Phil Haigh, there is a bit more about the quotes by both players:

The Rocket is surprised to see a man of White’s immense talent being classed as an amateur at 30 years old, and feels he probably has to work on the mental side of the game look for help in doing so, as O’Sullivan has with the likes of Dr Steve Peters.

He’s been on and off the tour, but should never be off the tour. He’s far too good,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport. ‘He had a strong junior and amateur career and is a double ranking event winner.

You just never know why people fall off, but sometimes they’ve got their own problems.

Your game can deteriorate and go missing for spells, and maybe that’s what happened to Michael. But there is time for him to get back there competing with the top guys.

It’s a tough sport, you know. I call it snooker depression. Some people struggle with it and it’s important to get help. You have to work on your weaknesses. If one of them is the mental side of it, then you need to work on that side of things and work on yourself.

White has been open about problems off the table in the past, speaking to Metro.co.uk earlier this year about giving up drinking after he felt alcohol was ruining his game and his life.

Speaking in May, White explained: ‘I’ve changed my whole lifestyle around basically, obviously from me going from top 16 to coming off the tour, there are reasons behind that.

I’ve stopped drinking completely. To be honest I had a bit of a problem with alcohol. It stemmed from a lot of things really, I put a snooker room in my house, which wasn’t a great idea. I wasn’t practicing for events, I was turning up, getting beat, going back and I was a bit depressed as well at the time. I was turning to drink.

He is yet to regain his professional status, but White was then very confident of not just doing that, but returning to the top of the sport.

I strongly believe I can get back into the top 16,’ he said in May.

I feel like I’m stronger mentally after going through the things I’ve been through. I was quite young getting into the top 16 – 23, 24 – so I’m a lot more experienced now, not just snooker-wise but in the way I conduct myself. I know more things that work for me and against me, I’m more wised-up on that side.

Michael hasn’t managed to requalify via the Q-School but finished high enough in the order of merit to get many opportunities to play this season. If he can play regularly the way he played yesterday he should be back on the main tour in a near future. Good luck to him.

Ronnie will now face Robbie Williams some time during the week-end.

 

The 2021 UK Championship – Day 1

There was one big upset on Day 1 at the York Barbican as Shaun Murphy was beaten by Si Jiahui, currently an amateur.

Let’s start with WST reports:

Afternoon session

Wilson – Great To Be Back

Kyren Wilson enjoyed the York Barbican atmosphere and his own performance as he beat Soheil Vahedi 6-2 in the first round of the Cazoo UK Championship.

This tournament was played in Milton Keynes last year behind closed doors but now returns to its home in York, where it was first staged in 2001. Wilson made a 147 in the event last year and reached the quarter-finals – matching his best run – and hopes to go further this time.

Wilson is a winner of four ranking events

The Kettering cueman was far too strong for his Iranian opponent today, making breaks of 71, 56, 110 and 86 as he set up a last-64 match with Jak Jones.

That was a tough first round draw, Soheil has beaten a few top players so I’m pleased to get the win,” said world number five Wilson. “It’s brilliant being back here, the set-up is fantastic.

There was a pretty good crowd in there for my first game which was nice, and the table played beautifully. It’s so good to be back in York. You want to get the first few rounds out of the way as the tournament feels more classy when the numbers are cut down, so I’m delighted to get through.

Wilson suffered a 6-0 defeat against Judd Trump in the semi-finals of the Cazoo Champion of Champions last Friday but quickly put that result out of his mind with a weekend trip to Yarmouth. “I actually went and played in an eight-ball pool team event,” he added. “That was a bit of fun and a chance to release the shackles, I had a few beers and enjoyed myself.

Last year’s semi-finalist Lu Ning suffered a first round exit against promising rookie Wu Yize, who top scored with 115 in a 6-3 success.

Zhou Yuelong boosted his chances in the Race to the Cazoo Masters as he thrashed Chen Zifan 6-1 with a top break of 80.

Yorkshireman David Grace, another former semi-finalist, saw off Peter Devlin 6-2  with a top run of 104 while Anthony McGill white-washed Iulian Boiko 6-0.

Wu Yize was the object of some very negative comments on social media after wins earlier this season. People downplaying his achievements and saying that he’s unidimensional. He may be, he’s still very young – he only turned 18 last month – but the fact that nobody can deny is that, as a rookie, he has won 5 out of 6 of his first round matches so far.

Iulian Boiko, who is in his secind year, but still only 16, was far too young when awarded a tour card, and still is too young, especially considering that he has to live as an expat in the UK, away from his family. I just hope the experience will not leave him irretrievably damaged, something that happened to others before him. I have said it before and will say it again: WST should reinstatiate an minimal age limit for turning professional. It used to exist, and it was 16 at the start of the season. I would even increase it to 18, because 16 may be OK if you have your family around you, but not if you have to live on your own as an expat, need to learn a different language, adapt to a diffrent culture AND play professionally.

Evening session

Murphy Stunned By Amateur Si

Shaun Murphy suffered a first round exit at the Cazoo UK Championship for the third time in four years as he lost 6-5 to Chinese amateur Si Jiahui.

World number six Murphy lost to Chen Feilong in the opening round in York in 2018 and to Eden Sharav in 2019, and now must endure another early exit from a tournament he won in 2008.

Si finished fifth on the 2021 Q School ranking list and earns a place in the event as a top-up amateur

Murphy, who reached the final of the Betfred World Championship in May, was suffering from neck and shoulder pain and only intensive physiotherapy allowed him to compete, but would still have expected to beat a 19-year-old opponent who has never been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event. Si is into the last 64 this time to face Dominic Dale.

Si took the first three frames with a top break of 65 and might have added the fourth but for a miss on the final brown. Murphy made it 3-1 but then saw his opponent compile a run of 76 in frame five, and Si took the sixth as well to lead 5-1.

In frame seven, Si got the two snookers he needed on the last red, and had a chance to clear for victory but missed the final blue to a centre pocket. He also let slip chances in the eighth frame and Murphy took advantage with a break of 60 to close to 5-3. Runs of 87 and 85 from the Englishman got him back to 5-5.

In the decider, Murphy trailed 44-53 when he converted an excellent long pot on the penultimate red, to leave the remaining balls at his mercy. But he then missed the blue to a top corner, and Si cleared the table for victory.

It was a shame to come all the way back to 5-5 and then miss the blue,” said Murphy. “Last week I was in agony on every shot. I have worked with my physio John Cox every day. I wasn’t able to hit any balls until today. Over the weekend I had episcleritis (inflammation within the eye) and I could barely see at one point. That cleared up thanks to the help of Specsavers in York.

I don’t know a snooker player who doesn’t have problems with their neck and shoulders. This is something I have suffered from for many years and it has flared up very badly for me. Every shot was painful today. I don’t want to take a break from playing. I have to be ready to play at the Scottish Open and to try to get into the World Grand Prix.”

John Higgins, the most consistent player of the season so far having reached the final of the last three tournaments, eased to a 6-1 win over Michael Georgiou. Breaks of 60, 112, 55 and 134 helped Higgins set up a second round match with Sunny Akani or Steven Hallworth.

Michael didn’t really turn up today, he missed chances,” admitted Wishaw’s Higgins, who travelled straight to York on Monday from Bolton, where he was runner-up at the Cazoo Champion of Champions. “Yesterday I was just dozing on the sofa and watching Netflix. I woke up today and felt a bit better.

In the final against Judd on Sunday I got blitzed. In the other two finals this season I had my chances, but I lost and that’s the way it is. I’m trying to forget about that and I’ve come here to have another good tournament. Against the very top boys, maybe I get found out a little bit. I need to try to find a way to beat one of them.

York’s Ashley Hugill won a match at his home venue for the first time, beating Mark Davis 6-4 with a top break of 79. “I am delighted, it’s a huge relief,” said Hugill. “I was just so determined not to lose, especially in front of my family.

Stephen Maguire, who lifted the trophy in York in 2004, beat Sanderson Lam 6-3 with top breaks of 100 and 105.

Shaun has put on a lot of weight again during the lockdown and this isn’t helping probably. I’m not “body shaming” him here. A lot of people have struggled in various ways since the covid-19 outbreak, and it’s ongoing. We do not know what Shaun has been going through. Shaun is usually gracious in defeat but yesterday was different.

Shaun Murphy blasts snooker policy on amateur players after shock UK Championship defeat: ‘It’s not right’

George Flood

Shaun Murphy was stunned by amateur Si Jiahui at the UK Championship in York on Tuesday

Shaun Murphy was stunned by amateur Si Jiahui at the UK Championship in York on Tuesday

Shaun Murphy has blasted snooker authorities for allowing amateur players to compete in professional tournaments.

The 2005 world champion suffered a huge upset against Si Jiahui of China in the first round of the UK Championship on Tuesday evening, losing a thrilling clash 6-5 at the York Barbican.

Afterwards, Murphy – beaten by Mark Selby in the World Championship final at The Crucible earlier this year – ranted that Si should never have been in the competition in the first place.

I feel extremely hard done by that I have lost to someone who shouldn’t even be in the building,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments. This is our livelihood. This is our living. We are self-employed individuals and not contracted sportsmen. We don’t play for a team.

The other 127 runners and riders in the tournament, it is their livelihood too. It is wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who is not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am.

He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world. It is not fair, it is not right.

I am not picking on him as a young man, he deserved his victory. Amateurs should not be allowed in professional tournaments, the end.

This is our livelihood. This is how I put food on the table. This is how I earn money. Since turning professional at 15, I have earned the right to call myself a professional snooker player. He hasn’t done that. He shouldn’t be on the table.

Other than the fact that there are only 122 professionals this year… which obviously is an issue … what do we do with this.

Recently Mark Williams also took a stand against top-ups, and I agree with them both, in principle, but as long at WST “sells” the Q-School to amateurs with the promise for them to get opportunities to play in main tour events provided they did well enough in the Q-School and that there are spots to fill. they need to keep their promises. Obviously this season there will always be at least 6 spots in all “128 persons” events.

Si Jiahui can play. Last week-end he was runner-up to David Lilley in the Q-Tour event one. It’s not true that amateurs have no pressure. Entering those events cost them entry fees, and as far as the Chinese players are concerned, CBSA will have an eye on their performances I’m sure.

Ronnie will be in action tonight against Michael White. Michael is a two times ranking event winner but has clearly lost his way in recent year. On paper it’s not the easiest of draws, but ir might suit Ronnie because Michael will play an open game.

This interview with Eurosport gives us some indication about his state of mind:

‘I WASN’T IN MOOD TO PLAY’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF INFAMOUS WALKOUT AT UK CHAMPIONSHIP

Ronnie O’Sullivan has reflected on his infamous UK Championship quarter-final with Stephen Hendry in 2006 that saw the Essex icon quit after only five frames of the best-of-17 frame contest. The seven-times UK winner admits his mind was elsewhere during that match as he trailed 4-1, but believes sports psychiatrist Steve Peters has been key in extending his elite career 15 years later.

BY
DESMOND KANE

Ronnie O’Sullivan has no regrets over his decision to walk out of his infamous UK Championship quarter-final with old foe Stephen Hendry in 2006, but is surprised he is still competing at the elite level 15 years later.

O’Sullivan has lifted the UK title a record seven times since becoming the youngest winner of a ranking event at the age of 17 years and 358 days with a glorious 10-6 win over Hendry in 1993.

But Rocket Ronnie’s most discussed moment at the UK Championship arguably came when he decided to quit his best-of-17 frame encounter with the Scotsman during the first session at the Barbican Centre in York.

O’Sullivan was trailing 4-1 when he missed a tough red leading 24-0 in the sixth frame before shaking hands with a stunned Hendry and equally bewildered Dutch referee Jan Verhaas.

O’Sullivan confesses he was in a fragile mental state at the time, but has improved his outlook due to work with celebrated sports psychiatrist Steve Peters over the past decade.

When asked if he thought he would have reached his 30th season as a professional upon reflection, O’Sullivan said: “Probably not, you know, probably not.

“But then again, I was going through a bit of a hard time at the time which I’m not sure I spoke about in either of my books. I don’t know. But yeah, I just wasn’t in the mood to play snooker so I walked out and that was that.

I’VE ALWAYS HAD THIS INBUILT DESIRE TO CHALLENGE MYSELF. AND, YOU KNOW, GET UP OFF THE FLOOR, IF YOU LIKE. PICK MYSELF UP, DUST MYSELF DOWN AND COME BACK.

“But I’m not sure the last time I done it, I really wanted to do it.
“It is only because of Steve and the work I’ve done with him that kind of kept me curious. So it was like a new way of looking at it.

“You know, you have snooker coaches, and you go through a lot of them and you think: ‘oh, that’s that done, there’s nothing else to learn there’.

BUT WITH STEVE IT BROUGHT A FRESH DIFFERENT ANGLE TO IT. WE DON’T ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT SNOOKER. WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE MINDSET AND HOW DO WE DEAL WITH A CERTAIN SITUATION.

And that’s been really interesting and good for me to go down that road.

O’Sullivan begins his latest UK campaign, his 29th after opting out of the tournament in 2015, against attacking Welshman Michael White on Wednesday evening.

He would dearly love to clasp an eighth UK trophy on 5 December, the day of his 46th birthday, but feels there is more to life than winning snooker tournaments.
“Success for me is just to enjoy your work and enjoy the people you surround yourself with,” he told Eurosport.

I think for the last 15 years, I’ve been guilty of doing a lot of stuff for a lot of other people and feeling like I had to. The guilt of not doing it..you maybe kind of beat yourself up.

“But I’ve had a bit of a wake-up call recently.

“Recently I just thought: ‘you know what, I’m going to live life for myself for a change, you know, and just not worry about this, that and the next thing.

So yeah, I feel quite free at the moment and I’m enjoying the freedom and the options that I have now.

Whereas before, I would never really embrace them because I still had a good life. I still enjoyed what I’d do, but I always made sure that it was okay with somebody else if I’d done X, Y and Z.

WHEREAS NOW, IF I WOKE UP TOMORROW AND WENT, YOU KNOW WHAT, I’M JUST GOING TO TRAVEL THE UK AND EUROPE FOR THE NEXT 12 MONTHS..I WOULD DO IT WITHOUT EVEN CONSULTING ANYONE.

I’m more than happy for you to come and visit me and join me if you missed me enough. If not, I’ll catch you later. Have a nice time, this is what I want to do now.

I feel like I’m at that stage in my life where I’m fit and healthy and I just want to experience as many great things as I can.

Obviously, I’d still make sure come back and do my punditry work for Eurosport because I love doing that.

There’s other stuff that I do away from snooker that I would make sure I do too, but it wouldn’t stop me from leading the life I want to live.