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.


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.


2 thoughts on “The 2021 UK Championship – the last 64 round

  1. Ding will play in the Scottish Open (against Zhang Anda again), but after that… who knows. Perhaps he will return for the World Championship only. He’s obviously not concerned about making the top 16.

    The Zhao-Thepchaiya match was indeed very exciting. First 3-0 to Thepchaiya, then 5 frames for Zhao. Ultimately, in the decider, Zhao missed an easy red which allowed Thepchaiya in, but he was very unlucky not to free the last 2 reds. He played a safety, but with the white on the baulk cushion, Zhao produced an incredible pot and cleared up to win. By that time most of the other matches were just past the mid-session interval.

    On the adjacent table, Fan Zhengyi lost a winnable match against Peter Lines, in a very long match. The £5500 loss will very likely cost him his tour card come the end of the season.

    There were also very tense late-night wins for Hamilton and Brecel.

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