2021 English Open – Last 64

The last 64 round concluded yesterday. It didn’t yield many real upsets. Amongst those who fell at that stage, we have Stuart Bingham, who has really struggled so far this season, Ali Carter, Gary Wilson, Cao Yupeng, who looks a bit fatigued after a terrific start of the season, Ricky Walden and Hossein Vafaei.

Allan Taylor withdrew for personal reasons.

Gary Wilson was beaten by Ben Woollaston who finally shows signs of coming back to a bit of form after a long time “in wilderness”.

Hossein Vafaei seems to suffer from a prolongued “hang-over” effect after his whitewash win over Ronnie. I find this very upsetting when one of my favourites – in any sport – gets beaten by someone who performs well on the day but does nothing afterwards.

Ricky Walden fell to an excellent Sunny Akani. I’m really pleased to see Sunny playing well again, but not happy to see Ricky go out early. I like them both.

Amongst those who did well is Mark Davis who beat Graeme Dott by 4-3 from 3-0 down. That’s some feat. Steven Hallworth also confirmed his good form: he beat Xia Guodong by 4-2.

On the other hand, I wonder what happened to Scott Donaldson who looks completely out of sorts since the “restart” of the season.

And finally, we have Ross Muir and Peter Deaville, two amateurs, who, at the time of writing are already through to the last 16.

Ross fell off the tour after serious health issues affected his vision, effectively making it almost impossible for him to play properly. I’m very happy to see him play well again. He’s a lovely lad and too good a player to be off the tour. He beat Wu Yize in the last 64 here, and then went on to whitewash Anthony McGill in the last 32!

Paul Deaville is the current under-16 English Champion. He only very recently turned 17. He whitewashed Mark Lloyd – replacing Mark Williams – in the held-over last 128 match, then beat the talended Chang Bingyu by 4-3 in the last 64 round, and, yesterday, got the better of Zhao Xintong by the same score. Both his Chinese opponents were the “highest scorers” in those matches, but young Paul seems to be a very hard match player, a rarety amongst the young ones nowadays. I will watch his matches on the ES player … when I find the time for it. As I wrote a couple of days ago, life is seriously coming in the way of snooker at the moment!

Anyway … here are the reports by WST:

Tuesday evening (it’s nearly all about John Higgins)

I’m a Better Player Than Ever – Higgins

John Higgins stated that he is hitting the ball better than ever before after his 4-0 win over Oliver Lines at the BetVictor English Open in Milton Keynes.

Scotland’s four-time World Champion Higgins has been in superb form so far this season. He defeated the likes of Mark Williams, David Gilbert and Yan Bingtao on a run to the final of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open. Higgins faced home favourite Mark Allen in the title match, but was on the wrong side of a 9-8 scoreline in an epic encounter.

The 31-time ranking event winner has a busy month ahead, with both the Cazoo Champion of Champions and the Cazoo UK Championship to come. At the latter, Higgins will be seeking a first Triple Crown title since his victory at the 2011 World Championship.

Higgins was in supreme touch this evening, shutting out his opponent with a blitz of breaks. He fired in contributions of 88, 88, 84 and 70 on his way to the 4-0 whitewash. Afterwards his contentment with his current form was clear to see. Higgins will face Lu Ning in the next round.

Higgins said: “I don’t think I’ve hit the ball better than I’ve done just now. I think I’m a better player. I don’t look back on my wins and things in the past, but right now with the way I feel in my game I think I’m as good a player as I’ve ever been and maybe even better I would say.

“It could be my outlook on the game or my outlook on life. I’m not putting pressure on myself and just going out there and enjoying it. I’ve got a good life now, so why would I get down on myself? That’s maybe what I’d put my form down to.

“I loved it in Belfast. I loved playing in the final against Mark. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. I just didn’t stand up to the pressure right at the very end. I had a big black to go for at 8-7 in front. I knew that was the shot and I just missed it. Even in the last frame I had a few good wee chances and I just didn’t control it. Mark did and every credit to him. It just makes you want to get back into those situations again as soon as possible.”

Chris Wakelin produced a fine display to whitewash seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry 4-0.

The result avenges a 3-2 loss at the hands of Hendry at the British Open. Wakelin made breaks of 135, 141 and 85 en route to an emphatic victory.

Fergal O’Brien scored a surprise 4-3 win against 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham, while Sunny Akani defeated Ricky Walden 4-3.

Wednesday morning/afternoon

this one is mainly about Ronnie except this small part

Shaun Murphy bounced back from 2-0 down to beat Joe O’Connor 4-2. The Magician fired in breaks of 89 and 138 to turn the tie around. He now faces Fraser Patrick in the last 32.

David Gilbert made breaks of 101, 109 and 53 on his way to a 4-1 win over Martin O’Donnell. Next up is an intriguing clash with Yan Bingtao.

Yan defeated Nigel Bond 4-1, while his Chinese compatriot Ding Junhui beat fellow countryman Tian Pengfei 4-1.

About Ronnie … you’ll find it here

Now about what’s coming in the next couple of days …

Judd Trump is set to face Ross Muir, an amateur, in his next match today (L16), and should he win, he”ll face either Mark King, ranked 59th and not a particularly heavy scorer, or Paul Deaville a 17 years old amateur in the QFs. It’s fair to say that he’s got an easy draw up to the SFs, where he could play Neil Robertson or his “good friend” Kyren Wilson.

The players in the other half of the draw will play two matches today, and that half is loaded: Mark Selby, John Higgins, Ding Junhui, David Gilbert, Yan Bingtao, Shaun Murphy … plus Luca Brecel who looks in great form.