The UK Championship starts today. It’s one of the three “BBC tournaments” but the BBC isn’t interested in the first round. The reason why there will be no play on FRiday is not a “rest day” for the players, it’s because the BBC needs that day to install and test their equipment.
Eurosport covers the first round.
Apparently four tables are streamed, probably the ones in the main arena.
Today the following matches will be shown:
- Chen Zifan v Zhou Yuelong
- Anthony McGill v Iulian Boiko
- Lu Ning v Wu Yize
- Soheil Vahedi v Kyren Wilson
- Tom Ford v Andrew Pagett
- Shaun Murphy v Si Jiahui
- Stephen Maguire v Sanderson Lam
- John Higgins v Michael Georgiou
This first round is very important for the lowest ranked players as Phil Haigh explains here:
High stakes at the UK Championship for lower-ranked players with careers in the balance
The first few days of the UK Championship seem something of a low-key affair with the BBC cameras yet to be switched on, but their importance cannot be underestimated for many players, with snooker careers heavily impacted by the early skirmishes at the Barbican.
All 128 players come in at round one at the UK and most attention will be on the big names, largely strolling into the next stage as they take on amateurs and those near the very foot of the rankings.
How the top players perform will take the headlines and any shocks will attract the most attention, but it will be defeats that fly under the radar that could have the most profound consequences.
Defending champion Neil Robertson was asked by the BBC who would likely be contending for the title this year, but he also pointed out: ‘The UK Championship is massive, especially for the lower players and their rankings.’ He is spot on.
With first round losers leaving York with nothing and £6,500 on offer for making round two – much more than most other ranking events open to all 128 players – that sum could well be the difference between a player being professional or amateur come the end of the season.
Last year’s edition of the UK Championship was a great example of this as every single player that won their first round match in Milton Keynes is still on the main tour.
In contrast, 14 professional players who lost their first matches last year no longer hold pro status, while nine more who were beaten in the first round also dropped off the tour but have since bounced straight back through Q School.
There is one anomaly in that Jimmy White won his first round match and still dropped off tour, only to be handed an invitational tour card, so one win in York is no guarantee, but it is hugely significant.
Clearly some of those players who were dumped out first round last year were never going to retain their tour status, I’m afraid I’m looking at you Amine Amiri and Alex Borg, but for many others one win at the Barbican would have made all the difference.
The likes of Ian Burns and Luo Honghao went into the UK Championship last year in the top 64, lost first round and ended up dropping off.
Gerard Greene did just enough to retain his tour status at the end of last season finishing eighth on the one-year list with £23,000, a large part in thanks to his win over Daniel Wells at the UK.
Nine players who dropped off tour were within £6,500 of Greene on that list and lost first round at the UK, so would have been saved by a solitary win.
Obviously there is more to it than this, players have the whole season to rack up the prize money required to stay on tour and the World Championship offers much more cash than the UK, but clearly the coming days will have huge consequences if last year is anything to go by.
Between the UK Championship and the World Championship qualifiers in April, there are precious few opportunities remaining for some players to pick up much prize money at all.
For any that have already failed to qualify for the Scottish Open, German Masters and European Masters, the only scheduled ranking events they are likely to play until Sheffield are the Shoot Out, Welsh Open, Turkish Masters and Gibraltar Open.
There are also fewer chances to book your place on tour for next season than there were for the current campaign, with the return of qualifiers from around the globe.
Windows of opportunity remain, but with prize money at events like the Shoot Out and Gibraltar so small, they are only just open and will be unceremoniously shut pretty soon.
Speaking to one player outside the top 64, he is already resigned to dropping off tour at the end of the season unless he can muster up a run to the last 16 in York.
He may not need as many as three wins at the UK, but a first round defeat and he would need something of a miracle – specifically a great run in World Championship qualifying – to survive, and we are still months away from that event.
With the importance of this opening round at the Barbican looming large, sympathy has to go out to world number 82 Lee Walker who has been forced to withdraw due to a positive Covid test.
His personal window of opportunity for tour survival has just been significantly swung inwards and only the gentlest of breezes now blows through it.
There will be glory and vast riches won at the business end of the UK Championship, but far from the ticker tape of the trophy presentation, there will be despondence and despair in the unglamorous setting of ‘Arena Two’ where players will be battling for their snooker lives.
Keep an eye out for them. They’ll appreciate it.
All credits to Phil for this article, it’s rarely that the lower ranked players’ fate gets the press’ attention and the OK by the editors.
As mentioned above, it’s a real blow for Lee Walker to have to miss this tournament.
Someone else who will also miss it, is Olivier Marteel. Olivier was on his way to York, when his father was taken ill and went in ICU. Unfortunately, he passed away. Olivier still drove to York, thanked everyone for their support, and returned to Belgium.
Our thoughts are with Olivier and his family in these difficult moments.
Meanwhile the sportsman had an interview with Ronnie
Relaxed Ronnie O’Sullivan Bidding For Record-Extending Eighth UK Championship Win
Ronnie O’Sullivan insists snooker’s ‘toxic’ side almost drove him out of the game. But the Rocket is now a content and relaxed man going into this week’s UK Championship bidding to extend his own record by lifting the trophy for an eighth time.
Six-time world champion O’Sullivan, who will turn 46 on the day of the final in York, remains one of sport’s ultimate mavericks. A 30-year career has taken him from child prodigy through some incredible career highs – but also flashpoints and clashes with authority.
That came to a head four years ago when incidents at the Masters and then the Betfred World Championships led to lawyers getting involved. Current world No3 O’Sullivan brought the lawyers in about the threat of disciplinary action for criticising a referee and swearing at a photographer at Alexandra Palace. And after accusing the governing body and then World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn of “bullying and intimidation” O’Sullivan himself was briefly threatened with legal action.
O’Sullivan has a tough opening match on Wednesday against two-time ranking-event winner Michael White – now technically an amateur after falling off the tour.
He said: “I am feeling very relaxed, enjoying life and what I am doing and looking forward to everything – I do feel like I am on holiday at tournaments these days.
“And I try to remove myself from that toxicity that I feel is sometimes around snooker, you get a lot of people bitching and moaning – and I was one of them for a while.
“I did it for about two years before making a conscious decision I can’t live my life like this, and it was the best thing I ever did. As long as there is a tournament and a table, I’m okay.
“There are a lot of things I would change about the game and I have talked about them in the past, but I don’t any more.
“I had one phone conversation a few years ago with a key figure in the game, they asked me my views, would I be prepared to do this or that.
“Certain things happened and I thought it was so toxic and so not right, so bad that I had no choice but to become more detached.
“And it was only with a few close friends that gave me a lot of support with the right people to make sure I wasn’t being taken advantage of and to fight my corner, or I was out of there.
“I was able to remove myself and guide myself in another direction. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Out of everything I do, snooker would be the first thing I would give up if one had to go. I wouldn’t give up anything else to play snooker.
“The fact is it’s my personal choice, and I still love actually playing. I love the buzz, I love competing, I only play because I really enjoy it.
“If I got a phone call tomorrow telling me ‘You’ve brought the game into disrepute and we don’t want you’, I’d say ‘Thank you very much!’
“I wouldn’t resist and say ‘That’s okay, give me a call when you feel I’m allowed to come back’, if not no worries, I won’t sit around waiting. It’s an empowering position.”
O’Sullivan can sometimes play down his array of achievements, but he admits that one burning ambition is to set a mark for wins in snooker’s ‘Big Three’ that can never be beaten.
The UK Championship, the Masters and the Betfred World Championship form the game’s majors of ‘Triple Crown’ – and O’Sullivan already has 20 of them, more than anyone else.
He added: “The final is on my birthday this year – so who knows if I can celebrate that in style. Obviously one of my goals is to leave some records that will be very tough to beat. 20 majors is already a good benchmark.
“And if I could get to 22 that would be even harder to match or beat. Look at Roger Federer, I bet he never thought his tally would be equalled but Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have got there.
“Records are there to be broken but if I can add one, two or three majors to that list then I think 23 majors would be a tough one to beat for anyone. But maybe a few things might have to go my way for that to happen.”
They have gone O’Sullivan’s way in this Triple Crown tournament in the past, and it is one that has seen some incredible highs and at least one memorable low. It was O’Sullivan’s first ranking title success at the tender age of 17 as he beat then dominant force Stephen Hendry in the final.
And it was against Hendry when trailing 4-1 in a quarter-final in 2006 that O’Sullivan turned tail in disgust after another poor shot, shook hands, and walked out of the arena and the building, for which he was later fined £20,000 and docked 900 ranking points.
But more recently it saw a joyous celebration with the fans in 2020 after beating Mark Allen in the final to set a new record for snooker’s ‘majors’ of 19 wins.
Ronnie was at Ding’s Academy earlier this week
4 thoughts on “The 2021 UK Championship starts today”
Aaaay UK time, love it !. I know matches are shorter these days but still better than best of 7. Also it remains prestigious ( Imo ) with the history and all that, so here s to a great 10 days or so. Enjoy Monique and all.
I agree. Good to see people correctly dressed and matches being of a more or less normal length.
Yeah Csilla, it’s a gentleman’s sport isn’t it?
Sorry sportsman, but that win was in 2018 not 2020. I just felt to get it wrong by two years needs correction.
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