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.
Wilson Makes 147 In York
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.
‘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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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…