The 2021 UK Championship – The QFs

Other than Kyren Wilson’s 6-5 win over Ronnie, this is what the QFs in York brought us.

Luca Brecel beat Anthony McGill by 6-2

This is a result that I didn’t expect, nevermind the scoreline. McGill usually has a way to get under the fluent players’ skin. I  didn’t watch the match, so can’t really comment. Here is the report by WST:

Brecel became the first player from continental Europe to reach the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event with a comfortable victory over McGill. The 26-year-old Belgian has lost just three frames in his last three matches, reaching the last four of a ranking event for the first time since the 2019 China Open.

A break of 68 gave Brecel the opening frame and he took a scrappy 40-minute second on the colours. A run of 59 helped put him 3-0 up and he had chances in the fourth but McGill eventually cleared from blue to black to pull one back.

Runs of 60 and 62 helped Brecel extend his lead to 5-1. Scotland’s McGill took the seventh but his hopes of a fight-back ended when Brecel got the better of a fragmented eighth frame.

Brecel said: “I played some good frames. I will need to kill the frames off in one visit against Kyren but if that doesn’t happen I’m just going to try hard to win the scrappy frames as well. It’s going to be a big match for me. Kyren has been there, he has got more experience at that level, but we will see what happens. Hopefully I can get to the final

The first day I was here for the tournament, there is this wall with all the winners and there is a question mark on the empty one next to 2021. I said to my girlfriend – what if I just wrote my name of it just for fun? Now there is a chance to do it!”

Every win by Luca in a high profile match is a boost for snooker in continental Europe and in Belgium in particular. Asked about snooker in Belgium, Luca cited Ben Merten and Julien Leclercq as great prospects for the future. They are indeed.

In the evening, Zhao Xintong beat Jack Lisowski by 6-2. That was another unexpected result as far as I’m concerned. I only watched the four first frames. Up to that point, it was a poor match really. Jack could have been 4-0 up if it wasn’t for silly mistakes. Zhao who was playing in his first ever semi-final looked very shaky (he probably was, literally). Credits to him to make it 2-2 at the MSI. I gave up at that point. The commentators were doing their best to promote the “exciting” side of the match, but really it wasn’t exciting at all and that, combined with the time difference, got the better of my willingness to watch the second part of the match. I may do that later this week though.

Barry Hawkins got the better of Andy Hicks without playing anywhere near his best.

Here are the reports by WST:

Zhao To Meet Hawkins In Semis

China’s talented Zhao Xintong, described this week as “our Federer” by Ronnie O’Sullivan, reached the semi-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship with a 6-2 thumping of Jack Lisowski.

On Saturday evening, Zhao will face Barry Hawkins, who booked his place in the last four with a 6-1 win over Andy Hicks. With Kyren Wilson to take on Luca Brecel at 1pm, it’s a semi-final line-up featuring four players who have never reached the final of this event before. On Sunday night in York, one of them will lift the trophy and collect the top prize of £200,000.

Asked about Zhao earlier this week, O’Sullivan said: “He is amazing, I think he is our (Roger) Federer. I’ve never seen a more talented snooker player.” World number 26 Zhao, age 24, now has the chance to live up to his potential by winning one of snooker’s biggest tournaments. He is through to his second ranking event semi-final and first since the 2018 China Championship – when he beat Hawkins 5-4 in the last eight.

Both Zhao and Brecel have the added motivation of a chance to book a place at next month’s Cazoo Masters. Reaching the final could be enough for a top 16 spot for Zhao, while Brecel needs to win the title.

Lisowski started strongly tonight with breaks of 79 and 63 to win the first two frames. And he had a clear chance to go 3-0 ahead but missed the brown to a baulk corner when leading 57-56. Xiao punished him to close to 2-1 and that proved a turning point.

Sheffield-based Zhao won the fourth frame on the colours then came from 61-0 down to take the fifth with a 74 clearance. From 3-2 ahead, he reeled off the last three frames with top runs of 56, 56 and 83.

“It was an amazing game,” said Zhao. “When I was 2-0 down, I was just thinking ‘take it easy now.’ He missed balls in the third and fourth frames and so I was able to get back into it. Then I was thinking I can do it, I can win the match.

“I’m very happy now. It’s a big tournament for me and this was a big match because it can give me more confidence, which is important in this sport. Barry Hawkins is a great player and also in the top 16. I don’t want to think to much about it, I don’t want to add pressure on myself.”

Hawkins is through to the 27th ranking event semi-final of his career and is looking for his fourth title. The 42-year-old Londoner has made serene progress through the draw so far, losing just eight frames in his five matches. This is his first appearance in the semi-finals of the UK Championship, though he has made it to the last four of the Betfred World Championship on five occasions.

Hicks, the world number 102, had chances in each of the first four frames tonight, but couldn’t take them and Hawkins went 4-0 ahead with a top break of 55. Hicks pulled one back after the interval, But Hawkins compiled a run of 57 in the sixth to go 5-1 ahead, then came from 35-0 down in the seventh to seal victory with breaks of 30 and 45.

I was hoping to play well tonight but it didn’t work out like that,” admitted Hawkins. “I’m just pleased to be through to the semi-finals. It was scrappy from the word go, we were both missing pots and couldn’t control the white. I just wanted to get the match out of the way.

It’s more mental than technical, my focus wasn’t good enough tonight. I’ll do some practice tomorrow and try to get my timing back. If I can find my A game then I have got a chance, I need to believe in myself to go out there and play well on the big occasion. There’s no getting away from the fact that the draw has opened right up. I could have been playing Judd Trump or David Gilbert but they got knocked out.

I remember the first time I played Zhao, he beat me 6-1 at the International Championship eight years ago and he potted everything in sight. He was so talented, even back then I knew he was going to do well in the game. It’s surprising he has taken so long, but the game is tough and there is a lot to learn. If I have any advantage over him I have to try to use it, but I won’t be playing in a negative way, I’ll just play my own game.”

All this means that, no matter what happens today and tomorrow, we will get a new name on the UK Championship trophy this year.



6 thoughts on “The 2021 UK Championship – The QFs

  1. I don’t think the Zhao-Lisowski match was so poor. Lisowski started strongly, but then lost his sharpness and started missing pots. Zhao played well enough to close him out, and didn’t get nervous. If Zhao makes the final, he will displace his best friend Zhou Yuelong in the top-16.

    The really poor match was Hawkins-Hicks.

    It’s great to see they are interviewing Zhao Xintong. They have avoided the Chinese players for a few seasons, which seems ridiculous now, as Zhao’s interviews have been perfectly fine. We are finally seeing a change of heart from the broadcasters, perhaps helped by a change of personnel.

    • Is it possible that the Chinese players whom they interview have a better command of English than the ones they did not interview? Therefore they are more willing to speak and interviewing them causes fewer/no difficulties.

      • There is truth in that Csilla, but for years they just never interviewed them without an interpreter, wether they spoke English or didn’t.

      • Oh OK. Just because I thought using an interpreter is cumbersome, but if they do it no matter what…

      • They didn’t even interview players like Zhao, Zhou and Xiao who speak perfectly acceptable English, as we have seen. For example, in the Autumn Championship League last year, they interviewed every group winner except the 6 Chinese players. Broadcasters tend to get criticism on their social media when they interview Chinese players, which scares them off. Twitter ‘likes’ are so important to media…

    • I didn’t ever consider watching the Hawkins v Hickx match.Nothing against either of them, but I knew what the combination of their style would produce and that’s not something you fancy when the match actually starts past 9pm in your time zone. Maybe I was expecting too much from the Lisowski v Zhao match, and it probably got better after the MSI.

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