2021/22 Championship League Snooker – Yan Bingtao wins Group 6

Yan Bingtao won this season’s CLS Group 6 convincingly, losing just one match en route to qualifying for the Winner’s Group.

Here is the report by WST:

Yan Secures Spot In Winners’ Group

Yan Bingtao won Group 6 of the 2022 BetVictor Championship League Snooker Invitational, beating Martin Gould 3-1 in the group final at the Morningside Arena, Leicester live on FreeSports in the UK and networks worldwide.

Yan started the day on top having won three of his four matches on day one to all but secure a play-off spot. The world number 15 continued that form, beating Kyren Wilson in his penultimate group match 3-0 with breaks of 110, 114, and 75 before a similar whitewash over Gould to complete the group section with five wins from six.

Gould ensured his progression with wins over Jordan Brown and Ali Carter. In the semi-finals, Gould then came from 1-0 down to beat Ding Junhui 3-2. In the other semi, Yan scored a 3-0 success over reigning champion Wilson.

It was Yan who got off the mark the quickest in the final with a break of 94 in the first frame and 65 to pinch the second. Gould did take the third frame, but Yan proved too strong overall and sealed it with a run of 63 in the last frame.

Yan said: “I feel very good. It is difficult to win the group with seven players. This is very good practice for me. I think I have more confidence in myself.”

Wilson, Ding, Carter, and Gould will all return in Group 7 alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, and John Higgins who will join the competition. Brown and Matthew Selt were both eliminated after taking sixth and seventh spots, respectively. Each group champion advances to February’s Winners’ Group.

Yan played very well indeed, and scored heavily: there were 15 centuries made in that Group and Yan contributed by scoring 6 of them. He was a joy to watch.

There were encouraging signs for Ding’s fans as well. Ding managed to win 4 out of 6 matches, his defeats coming against Yan Bingtao and Kyren Wilson. My feeling was that he got better as the event unfolded but he still looks vulnerable under pressure. Ding is only 34 and far to good to plummet in the rankings the way he has in recent years. Of course, there are reasons for it that have nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of his game but he needs to play and rebuild his confidence to get back where he belongs.

Neil Robertson is the 2022 Master

Yesterday, at Ally Pally, Neil Robertson beat Barry Hawkins by 10-4 to becone the 2022 Masters Champion.

Congratulations Neil !

Both were far from their best during the first session; it finished on a 5-3 score in Neil’s favour. As I expected, Neil came back stronger in the evening, but Barry was unable to raise his game significantly, despite or, maybe, because having most of the crowd on his side. Neil has been there a lot, Barry not so much. Quite simply Barry didn’t score enough.

Here are the scores:

Masters2022FinalScores

This is the report by WST:

Thunder Strikes For Second Masters Title

Masters2022WinnerFamily

Robertson with wife Mille, son Alexander and daughter Penelope.

Australia’s Neil Robertson landed his second Cazoo Masters crown, ten years after his first, with a 10-4 defeat of Barry Hawkins in the final at Alexandra Palace.

The Melbourne cueman beat Shaun Murphy 10-6 in the 2012 title match, but was runner-up to Mark Selby the following year. His most recent appearance in the final was in 2015, again up against Murphy, when he fell to a heavy 10-2 defeat. Today’s victory ends his decade long wait for Alexandra Palace glory.

This is 2010 World Champion Robertson’s sixth Triple Crown title, moving him ahead of Alex Higgins into eighth position on the all-time list. Only Ray Reardon, Mark Williams, Selby, John Higgins, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan have won more.

Robertson had an impressive path to lifting the Paul Hunter Trophy and securing the £250,000 top prize. After a 6-3 defeat of Anthony McGill in the opening round, he scored a 6-4 win over O’Sullivan. He then secured a thrilling 6-5 defeat of Williams in the semi-finals, where he came back from requiring two snookers in the decider.

Hawkins will be disappointed to succumb to another defeat in a Masters final. He lost out 10-1 against O’Sullivan in 2016. The three-time ranking event winner leaves with the consolation of a £100,000 runner-up prize. He enjoyed a superb week, defeating Murphy, Selby and Judd Trump en route to today’s showpiece showdown with Robertson.

This afternoon saw 21-time ranking event winner Robertson take control of proceedings, establishing a 5-3 cushion heading into the final session.

World number four Robertson kept pressing forward when the concluding session got underway and moved three ahead at 6-3, with the help of a 50 break.

The Hawk clawed his way back within two when he composed a break of 69 to make it 6-4. However, that would prove to be his final frame of the evening.

Robertson surged for the finish line and crafted breaks of 68 and 114 on his way to four frames on the bounce, which secured him the 10-4 win and his second taste of Masters glory.

Masters2022WinnerFamily2I’m so happy to win this wonderful title again. I had my first win after Alexander was born at this event back in 2012. I always wanted to do a repeat with Penelope here as well, so I’m happy to do that,” said 39-year-old Robertson.

Barry was the underdog tonight and I felt like I was the villain spoiling the fairytale at some points. He is such a wonderful player. He really deserves to win one of the big titles. I had to stay focussed with the job at hand. I knew that the majority of the crowd were with him. Luckily with my experience I knew how to silence that a little bit, play well and get a good lead.

When I won my first title I thought I’d be able to go back to Australia happy. Who’d have thought I’d still be living here 16 years later. I think a lot of things have happened since Barry Hearn took over and gave us more opportunities to play. He has been a massive part of allowing myself and all of the great players in the game to win as much as we have.

So many people have said they’ve never seen anything like my deciding frame with Mark Williams in sport, let alone snooker. I was absolutely dead and buried and all of a sudden it was like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Hawkins said: “It’s a bit disappointing. I expected to go out there and play well. I was over the moon to be 5-3 down after this afternoon. I felt better tonight, but Neil played stronger. I just made too many mistakes overall. Neil is a fantastic player and a fantastic cueist. You just can’t do that at this level.

This has been one of the best weeks of my life. The atmosphere at every match has been phenomenal. There aren’t many snooker players that will have experienced that. I am going to remember all of those cheers and they will stay with me for a while.

It’s typical of Neil’s fundamentally kind disposition to feel sorry for his opponent, but that doesn’t stop him trying his hardest to win.

This Masters was one of the best events I ever watched in snooker and it’s been largely thanks to the London crowd.

There were suggestions that, maybe, the World Championship should move to Alexandra Palace. As a playing venue, it would be suitable, it could even accomodate the qualifiers probably. But there aren’t that many hotels or restaurants nearby, it’s outside of the city, and public transport to and from the place isn’t fantastic, especially in late evening.

Here are Ronnie and Jimmy thoughts about the idea:

‘I’D LIKE TO SEE IT STAY AT SHEFFIELD’ – JIMMY WHITE AND RONNIE O’SULLIVAN BACK CRUCIBLE AS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP VENUE

“Do they have the facilities here?” Jimmy White said on Eurosport of the Alexandra Palace. “There’s not many hotels, but the actual playing conditions when it gets to a one-table situation… The Crucible has two tables and you could probably do it here, it is big enough also to have the qualifiers and all the matches.

RonnieAndJimmy - Getty

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White feel the World Championship should remain at the Crucible in Sheffield.

The Masters is taking place at Alexandra Palace this week, and the amazing atmosphere has led to calls for snooker’s flagship event to be moved to the capital.

Judd Trump said following his win over Kyren Wilson, admittedly in the heat of the moment, that he would like all tournaments to be played at Alexandra Palace.

Other players have floated the idea of the World Championship moving to north London, but O’Sullivan and White are not convinced.

Do they have the facilities here?” White said on Eurosport. “There’s not many hotels, but the actual playing conditions when it gets to a one-table situation… The Crucible has two tables and you could probably do it here, it is big enough also to have the qualifiers and all the matches.

I’d like to see it stay at Sheffield as it made snooker, but when that contract comes up it might move to somewhere like the Ally Pally.

O’Sullivan echoed White’s sentiment, despite suggesting a move to Alexandra Palace would benefit him personally.

It is a great venue, but I am like Jimmy, Sheffield and the Crucible is a special tournament,” O’Sullivan said.

You’d have to look at the facilities, the hotels, getting in and out, would it be suitable for the players? Probably not.

I only live 20 minutes up the road so it is probably ideal for me, but as a tournament as a whole I think Sheffield is a great place to host the World championship.

 

The Masters 2022 – Day 7 – Semi-finals

Yesterday was an extraordinary day at Ally Pally as both semi-finals went to a deciding frame. Neil Robertson emerged the winner of the afternoon match after a dramatic finish – he needed two snooker in the last frame – and Barry Hawkins won the last two frame to deny Judd Trump of a shot at the title.

Here are the reports by WST

Afternoon session

Robertson Downs Williams With Epic Fightback

Neil Robertson is through to the Cazoo Masters final after winning a thrilling deciding frame, in which he required two snookers, to beat Mark Williams 6-5.

The Australian had hauled his way back from 4-1 and 5-3 down to make it 5-5 and force a final frame. Alexandra Palace was at fever pitch when both players took to the arena for the decider and the 2,000 strong crowd gave them a standing ovation. A break of 67 had appeared to be enough to take Welshman Williams into the final, when Robertson was left requiring two snookers.

However, a situation developed where the final red was placed on top of the black, which itself hung over the edge of the top left pocket. A nerve-shredding safety exchange unfolded. Williams did give four penalty points away, before playing a remarkable shot to dislodge the red and give himself breathing space.

World number eight Williams then spurned two opportunities to pot the red and put the match to bed. The tie came down to the colours and Robertson left Williams in a tricky snooker on the yellow. He hit the green when attempting a swerve and left Robertson his chance. The 2012 Masters winner pulled off a superb clearance of 27 to win on the black.

World number four Robertson now faces either Judd Trump or Barry Hawkins in tomorrow’s final over the best of 19 frames. The Paul Hunter Trophy and a top prize of £250,000 will be on the line.

The Melbourne cueman hasn’t appeared in a Masters title match since 2015, when he was soundly beaten by Shaun Murphy. He will be hoping to land a second Masters title tomorrow, ten years after his first. Robertson’s 2012 victory came after a 10-6 defeat of Murphy in the final.

At the beginning of the afternoon it was 1998 and 2003 Masters winner Williams who seized the early initiative. The three-time Crucible king was aiming to reach his first Masters final in 19 years. He defeated Stephen Hendry in the 2003 title match.

Breaks of 59, 71 and 60 had seen Williams establish a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval. When play resumed, a run of 60 helped him to move 4-1 ahead. Robertson then pulled one back, before firing in a run of 83 to turn up the heat and claw within a frame at 4-3.

A contribution of 91 then took Williams to the verge of victory. He had his chance to win in the next frame, but missed a black off the spot on 23. Robertson ruthlessly punished him by making 95 to keep the tie alive and make it 5-4.

The 2010 World Champion showed nerves of steel in the tenth frame, crafting a sublime century break of 119 to force the decider at 5-5. He then went on to clinch the win in the pulsating finale.

We both left the arena before the deciding frame and came back to a standing ovation, it was bone chilling stuff. We just smiled at each other and realised how lucky we were to experience something like that,” said 39-year-old Robertson.

To come back when I was literally out of the tournament, needing two snookers in the decider, was amazing. To land on the black where I couldn’t miss it was a nice feeling walking round the table. I have to enjoy the win, reset mentally and go again tomorrow.

Any final is a great opportunity to win another trophy. I can’t allow myself to think what it will mean if I win or lose. I just have to play the best I can and when I shake my opponent’s hand I need to be gracious in defeat or humble in victory. The most important thing is to play my heart out and see what happens.”

Williams said: “I could have won it in the end and people may say I have thrown it away, but I don’t see it like that. I just think I lost a snooker match and I should have won it. I’ve got no grumbles.

I’m not gutted at all, I’ve lost a snooker match. Best of luck to Neil. I did twitch a black off the spot to win 6-3 and that is the only one I’ve twitched all game. I’ve had a good week, the crowd has been fantastic and I’m out. I’ve got no problems.”

Here is a “condensed” version of the decider, shared by WST on YouTube

Evening session

Hawkins Edges Thriller

Barry Hawkins won a pulsating semi-final encounter with Judd Trump 6-5 to set up a Cazoo Masters final showdown with Neil Robertson.

The Londoner’s first appearance in a Masters title match came back in 2016, when he also defeated Trump in the last four. He was emphatically beaten 10-1 by Ronnie O’Sullivan on that occasion.

Hawkins will be hoping for a closer contest tomorrow when he meets Robertson with a £250,000 top prize and the Paul Hunter Trophy on the line.

The Alexandra Palace crowd were also treated to final frame drama in this afternoon’s first semi-final, when Robertson came from requiring two snookers to beat Mark Williams.

It’s the first time both semi-finals have come down to a decider since 2002, when Paul Hunter beat Alan McManus 6-5 and Williams defeated Jimmy White by the same scoreline.

A tense 30-minute opening frame this evening came down to a safety exchange on the final blue. Eventually Hawkins deposited a superb long range pot and added the pink and black to move 1-0 up.

Trump responded immediately to draw level at 1-1 following a contribution of 86, before hitting the front by adding the third courtesy of a 63 break.

An important last frame before the mid-session also came down to the colours. Once again it was the Hawk who pounced, taking it on the pink to draw level at 2-2.

When play got back underway Hawkins continued his momentum as he pushed to establish a stranglehold on proceedings. Breaks of 60 and 124 helped him to move 4-2 ahead.

World number two Trump showed his resolve and bounced back with three in a row, including breaks of 65 and 54, to come within a frame of the win at 5-4. However, Hawkins refused to back down and ensured the tie went the distance with runs of 46 and 76 in the tenth.

Hawkins gained control in the decider by crafting a contribution of 58. Trump missed a difficult opportunity with a red to the left middle and that proved to be his final shot. Hawkins punched the air with joy after getting over the line and celebrated with the raucous and adoring London crowd.

I’ve had a few big wins in the past, but that is definitely the biggest win in terms of playing in front of that many people, the prestige of the event and playing against Judd,” said 42-year-old Hawkins.

I couldn’t help but celebrate at the end. It was a massive occasion, a massive event and a massive crowd. All my friends and family were up there. I was giving them something to cheer as well, but inside I was bubbling. Getting closer and closer to that winning line it was building. It was completely natural and it got the crowd going. It was an unbelievable feeling.

I’ve got a mountain to climb against Neil tomorrow. He is an unbelievable player and you don’t fancy him to miss a ball with that cue action of his. I have to block all of that out, forget who I’m playing and concentrate on what I’m doing. I will enjoy every moment of it and try my best. ”

Trump said: “I felt good and felt like I’d take my chance at the end but I just didn’t get any. That is just the way the game goes. He completely shut me out from 5-4. I made a mistake and let him in straight away. You can’t do that at this level and it went 5-5. I was just hoping for half a chance and I didn’t get any.

Everyone will be happy for him. He has been to quite a few major finals now and he is one of the nicest guys on tour. Neil is also a great guy so it will be a great final.

Off the table, Mark Selby revealed that he is struggling mentally and will seek help:

Mark Selby reveals mental health struggles after Masters exit

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Eight
Mark Selby is struggling with a mental health issue at the moment (Picture: Getty Images)

Mark Selby has revealed that he is struggling with his mental health and will seek help to improve the situation after his exit from the Masters on Friday night.

The world champion and world number one was beaten 6-1 by Barry Hawkins in the quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace on Friday, a performance he described as ‘rubbish’ and was certainly well below par for a player of his quality.

He has since revealed that he is suffering mentally and admits he was putting a ‘brave face on it’ this week in London.

There was no need to, but Selby has apologised to friends and family for ‘letting them down’ in the Hawkins game, but they will all just be hoping he can be well again as soon as possible.

Selby tweeted: ‘Just want to apologise to all my friends and family for letting them down. Mentally not in a good place at moment, had a relapse and trying to bottle it up and put a brave face on is not the way. I promise I will get help and become a better person #mentalhealth.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has responded, offering support to the world number one and any other player who needs it.

The WPBSA is not just a governing body, it is a members association which includes a players support body for players on the World Snooker Tour,’ said Ferguson.

We are always sorry to hear if any of our players are going through difficult times, support is there for Mark and any other playing member on the WST.

Selby had tweeted after the game last night and, while disappointed, was looking towards his return to the table and wished his good friend Hawkins all the best for the rest of the event.

Well I don’t think I could play that bad if I tried too!!!!’ Selby tweeted. ‘Good luck to Barry I so hope he wins it! Shootout here we come.

Selby has spoken out about his mental health struggles before, explaining dealing with depression at last year’s Masters.

It is tough,’ he said. ‘When people are going through depression it’s very tough and times like this don’t make it any easier because you’re locked in your house and you have so much time to think about stuff.

When I was going through it – and even now I’m still on the medication to this day – I went to see the professional people and they were telling me to do things that you enjoy and you try to keep your mind active. But it’s difficult when you go through times like this because the things you do enjoy you cannot go and do.

The only thing you can do is speak to the professional people. Speak to your family and cry for help and get them to help you as well.’

I wish Mark the best and hope he will feel much better soon.

Ronnie was in the Eurosport studio and reflected on what Mark could possibly do to avoid putting too much strain on his mental health:

It can be tough,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport. “But you have to make a decision whether you are going to rule it, or it rules you.
There are two camps to be in. I chose to go the other way and be a bit more carefree, and treat it like a bit of fun.

IF YOU ARE GOING TO GET INVOLVED IN THE MUSTARD, YOU HAVE GOT TO TAKE ON ALL THAT COMES WITH IT. 

It is a tough sport, mentally it is tough.

You have just got to get in and take the battle scars. If you want to be a top player, world champion, winning tournaments like he does, you have to put yourself through the mill. Or you take a step back and lower the intensity, enjoy it and not win as much.

You have to choose one or the other.”

I don’t think Mark Selby is ready for that just yet.

As for today, Neil Robertson will start favourite, but Barry, a Londoner,  will have a lot of support and he’s more than capable if he can stay calm. It’s his second Masters final. In 2016 he was beaten 10-1 by Ronnie. I would be very surprised though  if he was to lose heavily today. I expect the match to be close.

The Masters 2022 – Day 6

Day 6 at Ally Pally saw the conclusion of the quarter-finals round with two matches that I, personally, found disappointing. The crowd gave the players a fantastic reception as they had all week. Ronnie was back in the ES studio.

Masters2022ROSinStudio

Here are the reports by WST

Afternoon session

Trump Feeding On Crowd Energy

Judd Trump paid tribute to the “different energy” of the Alexandra Palace crowd this year as he crushed Kyren Wilson 6-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo Masters.

An elated Trump shouted “Come on baby!” to the 2,000-strong audience after wrapping up an emphatic win. With Ronnie O’Sullivan out of the running, Trump has picked up the mantle of crowd favourite and hopes the London fans will inspire him to a second Masters crown. The world number two faces Mark Selby or Barry Hawkins on Saturday evening.

There’s a different energy this year,” said Trump. “We all appreciate everything more because of what is going on. Over the Christmas period it didn’t even look like there would be a crowd here. It feels like everyone wants to let their hair down, go to venues and see sport live and experience it all again. Everyone is happy to be allowed out to do what they want to do, and the players are feeding off that. There have been some incredible games and incredible atmospheres, the players are enjoying being out there.

This tournament is extra special. The players are surrounded by the seats, we are in a bubble and it makes you want to play well. It’s hard to say don’t go to the Crucible, but if you’ve never been to snooker then this is a great place to start.

Before the match the pundits said that it’s 9-9 in Judd v Kyren head-to-head but that’s irrelevant when one of them – Judd – has won all the most recent encounters. Ronnie reflected that Kyren tends to lose the cueball under pressure. He didn’t have the run of the balls either but all that doesn’t explain the 6-1 trashing. The truth I’m afraid is that Kyren can’t cope with Judd’s game and/or reputation on the big stages.

Evening session

Hawk Swoops To Semis

Barry Hawkins reached his third Cazoo Masters semi-final after thrashing World Champion Mark Selby 6-1 at Alexandra Palace.

Londoner Hawkins has now won both of his Masters meetings with close friend Selby, having also beaten him 6-3 in the 2017 quarter-finals. The head-to-head record between the pair now stands at 11-9 to Selby.

Hawkins first qualified for snooker’s most prestigious invitational event in 2007. However, he failed to win a match in his first five Masters appearances. Hawkins emphatically rectified that in 2016, when he progressed all the way to the final, where he was comfortably defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan. He also reached the last four in 2017, losing out to Joe Perry.

Hawkins now faces world number two Judd Trump tomorrow night for a place in this year’s title match. The Hawk will be hoping he can land a maiden Triple Crown title this weekend, having also been runner-up to O’Sullivan at the World Championship in 2013.

World number one Selby is a three-time Masters winner but his recent woes at Alexandra Palace continue. The Jester from Leicester hasn’t been beyond the quarter-finals since he reached the final in 2014, when he was runner-up to O’Sullivan. Selby hasn’t won this event since 2013.

When play got underway this evening Hawkins hit the front immediately by taking the opener with a break of 58. He then landed an important early blow by taking the second on the black, after requiring a snooker, to lead 2-0. Selby closed the gap, but it was Hawkins who took the fourth to head into the mid-session 3-1 ahead.

Upon the resumption it was Hawkins who stretched his lead further by firing in a run of 65 to extend his cushion. Hawkins then pulled within a frame of victory after pouncing on what proved to be a critical mistake from his opponent. Selby missed a straightforward red whilst leading 56-0 with the balls in difficult positions. Hawkins recovered to take the frame on the pink and move 5-1 up.

Selby is famed for never giving up and mounting unlikely fightbacks, but nothing transpired on this occasion. World number 10 Hawkins closed out the match by winning the seventh frame to secure a momentous 6-1 win.

I can’t believe I’ve won 6-1. It was a strange sort of match,” said 42-year-old Hawkins. “It is difficult, in a tournament like this you expect him to play well. When a few extra chances come along it is a bit of a shock to the system. It is hard to get the mindset right and not get too carried away.

I was shaking like a leaf in the first frame or two. The nerves were going mad and it was quite hard to settle down. The reception I got in the end was unbelievable. I want the family to come across tomorrow now so they can soak that atmosphere up tomorrow and see what it is like.

You just have to go out there, play your game, be confident and have the belief. I’ve beaten Judd before so I know what I have to do. I just have to go out there and play well. There is no getting away from the fact he is confident and will be fancying the job. If I can play well tomorrow then I have a chance to win.”

Selby said: “It was pathetic from start to finish. I carried on the way I did against Stephen Maguire in the first round. I felt he was the better player in that game as well, but I kept pinching the scrappy frames. I clung on. Barry didn’t have to play fantastically to beat me. I laid down and rolled over. It is disappointing.

I’d love Barry to go on and pick up the trophy at the end of the week. I’ll be rooting for him tomorrow and tuning in. I wish him all the best.”

Mark Selby admitted that he took a good break after winning the World Championship last season. Unfortunately for him, he seems to struggle badly to regain his form. Barry played well and I really want him to win tonight but I’m not sure he has the self-belief to do it against Judd Trump.

 

 

Tour News – 14.01.2022

WST has published several pieces of news in recent days …

Updated calendar and Turkish Masters infos:

Updated Tournament Calendar

The updated calendar for the remainder of the 2021/22 season is now available.

Click here for the updated 2021-22 calendar

The qualifying dates for the Nirvana Turkish Masters have been confirmed – the qualifying round will run from February 2 to 6 at the Morningside Arena in Leicester. Players will need to win one match to make it through to the final stages in Antalya in March. Matches involving the top four seeds plus the two local wild cards will be held over and played at the final venue.

All matches up to and including the quarter-finals will be best of nine frames, with the semi-finals best of 11 frames and the final best of 17 frames.

The qualifying round for the BetVictor Welsh Open will run from February 15 to 20 at Aldersley Village in Wolverhampton.

The part I have put in blue gives me hope that Ronnie might play in this one. It’s a best-of-nine based format, which I like.

Updated Shoot-out draw:

Updated BetVictor Shoot Out Draw

Four players have withdrawn from the BetVictor Shoot Out, which runs from January 20 to 23 at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

Ng On Yee has withdrawn and been replaced by Haydon Pinhey
Sam Craigie has withdrawn been replaced by Simon Blackwell
Hammad Miah has withdrawn and been replaced by Mark Lloyd
Kurt Maflin has withdrawn and been replaced by Billy Castle

Click here for the updated draw

Click here for the format

Ever-present on the calendar since 2011, the tournament has a unique format, with every match lasting a maximum of ten minutes. Tickets for the world ranking event are on sale now and start at just £15 – for details click here.

Top stars including Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson, Zhao Xintong, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen, Luca Brecel and defending champion Ryan Day are all in the 128-player field.

I couldn’t care less but still hope that On Yee withdrawal is only for this and not an indication of further travel restrictions preventing her to compete this season.

WPBSA Statement regarding Peter Lines

WPBSA Statement: 14th January 2022

The WPBSA and Peter Lines Disciplinary Hearing Finding.

After a complaint made to the WPBSA by WST and another Member, Peter Lines was charged with breaches of the WPBSA Members Rules following his match with Xiao Guodong at the 2021 Northern Ireland Open Qualifiers.

The allegation was that Mr Lines took issue with Mr Xiao over incidents in this match. After the match Mr Lines confronted Mr Xiao in the Players Lounge at the venue and accused him of cheating and swore at him. As Mr Lines was removed from the lounge by security, he asked Mr Xiao to go outside with him. Mr Xiao said he was in fear that he was going to be attacked by Mr Lines.

Soon after the incident Mr Lines apologised to Mr Xiao for his conduct after the match.

The case was heard on 16th December 2021 by the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee, which consists of three members who are independent from the WPBSA. The virtual hearing was attended by Mr Lines who accepted the facts in part.

On 13th January 2022 the Disciplinary Committee published its finding and decision on sanction. The Committee found that the breaches of WPBSA Members Rules 1.1 and 1.3 were proven in full. In making their decision on sanction the Committee took into account the early apology made by Mr Lines to Mr Xiao and Mr Lines’ unblemished career in snooker. Following the disciplinary hearing, the Committee decided that the appropriate sanction was a fine of £2,500.

Mr Lines was further ordered to pay costs of £5,464.80.

Mr Lines has until 28th January 2022 to appeal the decision of the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Appendix 1

WPBSA Members Rules extracts:

1.1 Members shall, at all times (i.e. whether at a Tournament or not), behave in a proper and correct manner consistent with their status as professional sportsmen.

1.3 A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards.

The full WPBSA Members Rules can be viewed here.

The fact that Peter Lines is a member of the board makes this whole situation even more awkward.

 

The Masters 2022 – Ronnie goes out to Neil Robertson on day 5

Neil Robertson avenged last month Worl Grand Prix defeat by beating Ronnie by 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Masters.

Here are the scores and the stats:

Masters2022ROSQF-ScoresMasters2022ROSQF-Stats

It was a good match overall, although Ronnie wasn’t at his best. The telling number in the above stats is the 50% long pot success. That was Ronnie’s undoing mainly. It also dragged down his overall pot success. He was well better than 88% pot success when in the balls.

Neil’s positional game wasn’t great – it’s not really Neil’s biggest strength – but his potting was out of this world at times so it mattered little.

Here is the report by WST:

Robertson Knocks Out Crowd Favourite O’Sullivan

Ten years after winning the title for the first time, Neil Robertson boosted his hopes of another Cazoo Masters crown with a 6-4 victory over seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals.

Masters2022ROSQF-4Robertson has now won ten out of 28 career meetings with O’Sullivan

The majority of a 2,000-strong crowd at Alexandra Palace had hoped to see O’Sullivan march towards an eighth title, but he was never in front against Robertson, who eventually pulled away from 4-4 to take the last two frames. For the Australian, it was a measure of revenge as he lost 10-8 to O’Sullivan in last month’s Cazoo World Grand Prix final.

World number four Robertson, who turns 40 next month, is the first man into the semi-finals in London and will face either John Higgins or Mark Williams on Saturday afternoon. Having been knocked out in the first round of this event in both 2020 and 2021, he is now just two wins away from the £250,000 top prize.

Robertson took a 2-0 lead with breaks of 119 and 56, then O’Sullivan hit back, dominating the third frame and taking the fourth with a run of 66. O’Sullivan had a chance to snatch the fifth from 50-0 down but missed a close-range pot on the penultimate red to a centre pocket on 29, allowing his opponent to regain the lead.

In frame six, Robertson was on 37 when he failed to convert a tough long red to a baulk corner, and O’Sullivan punished him with a 102, his 80th career century at the Masters. Once again the Englishman fell behind, missing a red to top corner early in frame seven which let Robertson in for a superb 130 to lead 4-3.

Robertson is into the semi-finals of the Masters for the fifth time

There were two scoring chances for Robertson early in frame eight but he mustered just 32 points, and O’Sullivan replied with 68 for 4-4. Runs of 43 and 49 from Robertson saw him take the lead for the fourth occasion. And this time he made the advantage count, as a run of 54 gave him control of frame ten. O’Sullivan had one final chance to fight back, but made just 6 before missing a mid-range red, and that proved his last shot.

I saw the stats after the match and my pot success was 96% which is incredibly high in such a high pressure environment,” said 2010 World Champion Robertson. “I’m really proud of myself, the way I managed to pull through. Ronnie wouldn’t go away, very much like our final in Coventry where he kept hanging on.

When you play Ronnie here, you need to show what you can do when you get chances. The crowd were complimentary when I was making breaks, but of course most of them are supporting Ronnie. You have to stay calm, think positive and don’t take it personally that they are cheering for their hero. He has absolutely earned that through the decades he has been on top of the game.

I have ultimate respect for Ronnie and I have come to his defence a few times where I have seen where he was coming from. He has always been really good with me, win or lose. It makes for great matches when you have two players who respect each other so much, there’s no needle between us.

This is an event I haven’t won for a while, I got to a couple of finals after I won it in 2012. I would love to go that step further and put myself in position to win another one.

O’Sullivan, who bit the tip off his cue at the end of the match, said: “Good luck to Neil, I hope he does well. My mindset is that I don’t care too much whether I win or lose and I am not going to change that – even when I won the event in Coventry last month I didn’t get too excited about it.

Here are some images, including the tip biting moment … poor tip!

There was another report , this one by Eurosport, with more details on how the match unfolded:

MASTERS 2022 – NEIL ROBERTSON HOLDS NERVE TO BEAT RONNIE O’SULLIVAN AND BOOK PLACE IN SEMI-FINALS AT ALEXANDRA PALACE

Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan locked horns at the Aexandra Palace for a place in the semi-finals of the Masters, O’Sullivan got the better of the Australian when the pair met in the final of the World Grand Prix in Coventry towards the end of last year. On this occasion, it was the Australian who secured victory.

Neil Robertson exacted revenge for his recent loss to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the World Grand Prix with a 6-4 victory in the quarter-finals of the Masters.

The Australian could not withstand a late assault from O’Sullivan in Coventry before Christmas, but on this occasion he secured an early lead and fended off a fightback to prevail.

Two centuries were the highlights for Robertson, but of greater significance was how he kept fending off a player who has often found a way of putting him under the cosh at the business end of matches.

O’Sullivan made a cagey start, as a wild missed pot and poor safety handed Robertson a chance and he set his stall out with a break of 119 to take the opener.
Despite ultimately running out an impressive winner against Jack Lisowski, OSullivan made a nervous start in the first round. It was a similar theme against Robertson, as he saw a red into left middle hit the far knuckle and shortly afterwards missed a long red by a distance. The second miss proved costly, as Robertson crafted a break of 56 to move two frames ahead.

O’Sullivan had been kept cold for two frames, and a huge roar greeted the Rocket’s first successful pot – after 35 minutes of playing time. It earned him a solitary point, as he did not drop on a colour. But a good safety earned him a chance a short while later and he did enough to get on the board.

Robertson looked sure to head into the interval with a two-frame cushion, but he missed a red into the left middle with the balls well split. O’Sullivan, buoyed by taking the previous frame, knocked in a 66 to draw level.

The fifth felt like one that got away from O’Sullivan as he mounted a counter to Robertson’s break of 50, but missed the penultimate red – seemingly focused on position for the final red – and the 2012 champion edged back in front.

Robertson has been guilty of over-thinking things, and that appeared the case in the sixth. He was in the balls and seemingly well set, but took an age over a black and when he eventually executed the pot, he finished awkwardly on the following red. It wriggled in the jaws of the green pocket, and the Rocket punished with a break of 102 – his 80th Masters century.

The seventh was an adventure for Robertson, as he visited areas of the table he did not want to go anywhere near. But he kept pulling out top-class pots, and the 808th century of his career put him back in front once again.

The pattern of the match was similar to the World Grand Prix, as Robertson made the running but could not shake off O’Sullivan.

Robertson got in first in the eighth, but broke down and O’Sullivan countered brilliantly and a break of 68 was enough to bring him back on level terms, despite frustratingly dropping out of position at one stage.

The Australian took the ninth to move within one frame of the semi-finals and unlike in the World Grand Prix, Robertson was able to get over the line.

It was not done without drama, as he missed a routine brown off its spot when on 54. O’Sullivan’s counter was short-lived, and Robertson knocked in a pressure red to left middle and it helped him get over the line.

Eurosport also reported on how Ronnie felt about the outcome anf his goals for the future:

O’Sullivan has said he was not disappointed by the defeat, but would have liked to have pushed Robertson harder.

I tried to make as much of it as I could,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “I tried to hang in there and do what I could. I am not too disappointed, it’s the way it goes sometimes.

You set yourself to have a certain mentality towards something, so you can’t change your mind halfway through it. I’ve decided how I want to feel about how any of my games go.

I am not as disappointed as I would be a few years ago, or most players would be on the circuit.

I play for different reasons and I enjoy it and I enjoyed being out there today, it’s just a shame I could not find a good enough game which would have deserved to win.

As a seven-time Masters and UK Champion and a world champion on six occasions, O’Sullivan holds most of the major records in the game and said it is nice to mention that on occasions.

““It is a good target for someone to chase, they have to chase that record, the Triple Crowns, the Masters, the UK,” O’Sullivan said.I have not got the worlds, [Stephen] Hendry has that one, but I am chasing that one so it is good for everybody else to go for.

I am not big headed, I am not someone who likes to blow smoke out of my whatever it is. But sometimes the statistics say everything and sometimes you have to remind yourself and everybody else that I have set pretty much every target to achieve in the game. Hendry did it in the 80s and 90s and [Steve] Davis, and I am pleased to be in that bracket, but I still like to enjoy playing.

 

Here is the last frame of the match

And Ronnie’s post-match interview

Mark Williams beat John Higgins in the evening match. The reception that the players got was incredible, really something extraordinary. It probably was even louder than the Crucible reception for Judd Trump and John Higgins before their last session of the 2011 final, and, believe me, that was deafening! The match went to a decider.

Here is the report by WST:

Williams Wins Clash Of 92

Mark Williams edged out fellow ‘Class of 92’ member John Higgins 6-5, in what he described as an unforgettable atmosphere, to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo Masters at Alexandra Palace.

This evening’s encounter was the 41st clash between the pair, who hold 55 ranking titles between them. Victory for 24-time ranking event winner Williams sees him reduce his head-to-head arrears to just one at 21-20 to 31-time ranking event winner Higgins.

Williams now faces Neil Robertson in the last four on Saturday. It will be the first time he has graced a Masters semi-final since 2010. The Welshman last won the Masters when he claimed the title for a second time 19 years ago in 2003.

Higgins will have to continue his wait for a first Masters title since 2006. The four-time World Champion was Masters runner-up to Yan Bingtao 12 months ago.

Glasgow’s Higgins has enjoyed a fine season so far, but today’s loss joins a string of gut-wrenching deciding frame defeats during the campaign. He lost Northern Ireland Open and English Open finals 9-8 at the hands of Mark Allen and Robertson respectively.

The two 46-year-old competitors were given a standing ovation by a raucous North London crowd when they emerged this evening. Higgins hit the ground running with a break of 126 to take the opener and lead 1-0. He extended his advantage by claiming the second on the pink to move 2-0 up.

Williams warmed to the task and a break of 116 helped him get his first frame on the board. He then took the fourth to restore parity at 2-2.

When play resumed they traded frames, before Williams composed a run of 66 to edge ahead at 4-3. The high standard relentlessly continued in the eighth, with Higgins drawing level thanks to a break of 127.

It had looked as if Higgins would be the first to move a frame from victory. He was going along nicely on a break of 43 when he inadvertently knocked a red in when developing the pack from the black. Williams ruthlessly stepped up and fired in a contribution of 78 to go 5-4 up.

Higgins refused to buckle and a break of 61 ensured that the nearly 2,000 strong crowd would be treated to a deciding frame. Both players left the arena to compose themselves and when they returned they were greeted by a second standing ovation. However, it was Williams who was the last man standing in the middle as he crafted a nerveless run of 91 to run out a 6-5 victor.

That’s the best reception I’ve ever had in 30 years as a professional. I’ve had some good atmospheres, but that was electric. It felt like they were applauding for ten minutes before we could even break off. Coming out for the final frame they were doing it again,” said three-time World Champion Williams.

I’ve got nothing but respect for John. He’s not my rival anymore and he hasn’t been for a few years now. When we were youngsters I really wanted to win, it’s not like that anymore. It is a special occasion every time I play him.

I’ll never forget the atmosphere in there tonight. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve got to thank the crowd for making that atmosphere, because I wasn’t expecting it. That was unbelievable. If I could go out and shake every one of their hands I would.

Higgins said: “That was one of the best nights in my snooker career, with the atmosphere. Rob Walker got the crowd into a frenzy when I played Judd Trump in the 2011 world final, but this was noisier because there were more fans in there. Rob did a great job getting the crowd whipped up and they were treated to a great game.

I’m not even gutted, because I gave it everything and I just wasn’t good enough in the end. I am just delighted that the crowd had a great match. I had a great match and I loved playing out there. It is great to be back playing at Ally Pally.

It was a clash of styles, as it always it between these two.

I was also another instance of a strange pattern that heas been there throughout the “Class of 92” career: John Higgins has the upper hand on Ronnie, Ronnie has it on Mark Williams, and Willo has it on John Higgins. It’s hard to be sure why.

For what it’s worth (not much) the only explanation I can see to the Higgins-Williams situation is that Willo’s unconventional game gets John out of his “patterns” and out of his comfort zone.

Mark Williams will now face Neil Robertson on Saturday and it should be another great match.

Despite Ronnie’s defeat, and a powercut depriving me of watching the afternoon match live from the MSI on, I enjoyed both matches.

Today the other half of the draw is in action. I’m not particularly enthralled…

The 2022 Masters – Days 3 and 4

Day 3

In the afternoon session, Ronnie beat Jack Lisowski by 6-1 and you can read about that match here.

Evening session – WST report:

Selby Sets Up Hawk Showdown

World Champion Mark Selby won a Cazoo Masters match for the first time in three years, securing a 6-3 defeat of Stephen Maguire at Alexandra Palace to book a quarter-final meeting with close friend Barry Hawkins.

The Jester from Leicester is a three-time Masters winner, but hasn’t made it to the semi-finals since 2014 when he was runner-up. He last won the event back in 2013, by defeating Neil Robertson in the final.

Despite occupying the summit of the world rankings, Selby is still aiming to hit top form this season. He landed a fourth World Championship crown last May, beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in an enthralling Crucible final. Since then he has only reached semis of a ranking event on one occasion, at the Cazoo World Grand Prix in December.

Selby now holds a 10-8 advantage over Maguire in the pair’s head-to-head record. Today’s win avenges an opening round Masters loss at the hands of Maguire 12 months ago. Selby also exited at the first hurdle to Ali Carter in 2020.

A ferociously contested opening frame set the tone for the encounter this evening. They slogged it out for 45-minutes, before Selby eventually moved 1-0 ahead.

Maguire then swiftly levelled proceedings with a break of 87. They then shared the following two frames to head into the mid-session level at 2-2.

When play resumed Selby edged ahead once more, before winning the sixth with a break of 64 to make it 4-2.

Selby then won the seventh on the colours to move a frame from victory. Maguire provided some resistance by firing in a contribution of 84 to make it 5-3. However, it was to no avail as Selby ran out a 6-3 winner by taking the following frame.

I didn’t feel as though I played fantastically, but I didn’t miss ball after ball,” said 38-year-old Selby. “It was a tough game. It was always going to be that way against Stephen as he is a class act.

Barry is probably one of my best friends on the tour. I get on with everyone, but when we are at tournaments we are always texting each other to go out for food. He stays at mine and I stay at his when we are practising. He is a great lad and a great player.

Walking out there tonight was a great atmosphere. It would have been a shame to lose tonight and be sat at home watching the rest of it. That isn’t the case. I have another few days here and I’ll look forward to Friday night against Barry.

Day 4

Afternoon session – WST report

Proud Trump Beats Allen In Thriller

Judd Trump made a fantastic match-winning break in the deciding frame as he beat Mark Allen 6-5 in the best tie of this year’s Cazoo Masters so far at Alexandra Palace.

Trump missed this event last year after testing positive for Covid but returned in superb style this time, coming from 25 points down in the last frame to make a crucial 62 which gave him victory. He is through to the quarter-finals of this event for the sixth time and will face either Kyren Wilson or Stuart Bingham on Friday afternoon.

Trump won the Masters in 2019 when he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final

To get a chance in the last frame and stay calm, keeping position all the time, makes me proud,” said world number two Trump. “I’m so happy to be back out there playing, missing last year was really tough. I wanted to show the crowd how much it means to me and I think they really warmed to that.

This is on a different level to the UK Championship – no disrespect to that event. The atmosphere here from the very start, just watching it on TV over the last few days I was excited to drive up here. I was desperate to get through because all the top players are in the field.”

The Ace in the Pack has already landed one huge invitation title this season, winning the Cazoo Champion of Champions in November, and is among the favourites for the crown this time.

Allen had won eight of the previous 11 meetings between the pair but will rue missed opportunities at crucial stages of today’s clash.

It was heavy scoring in the opening exchanges as Trump made two breaks of 101, sandwiching a run of 92 from Allen to leave the score at 2-1. In frame four, Trump trailed by 11 points when he was trapped in a tough snooker on the last red, and his attempted escape left the red over a top corner, allowing Allen to level at 2-2.

Allen was playing in this event for the 14th consecutive time

A break of 88 gave Bristol’s Trump the lead for the third time, but once again Northern Ireland’s Allen hit back, making a 65 for 3-3. A scrappy seventh frame came down to the last two reds and Trump, 37 points behind, was unable to safely execute a slow roll to the reds on the top cushion, handing Allen the opportunity to go 4-3 ahead.

In frame eight, Allen led by 37 points with one red left, but failed to escape from a snooker, and then went in-off as he attempted safety. Trump’s clearance included a fantastic long pot on the pink to a top corner, and he pumped his fist as the black dropped. A cracking long red, to the same baulk corner, set Trump up for a 135 as he edged 5-4 ahead and set a new target for the £15,000 high break prize. A fragmented tenth frame went Allen’s way thanks to breaks of 18 and 38 as he set up the decider.

Allen had first chance and made 23 before calling a foul on himself as he bridged over the pack. He had one more opportunity but missed a mid-range red on 6, and that proved his last meaningful shot, as Trump took control.

“It was a great break in the last frame,” said 2019 World Champion Trump. “I felt like the stronger player but maybe that was just because I scored more heavily. Mark played well too, he kept it tight.”

Asked about his fist-pump in frame eight, Trump added: “Usually I am super calm and keep my emotions in check. You don’t want to do that and then lose the match. I saw Shaun Murphy celebrating in a similar way at the Crucible, he didn’t mean any disrespect by doing it. I was so excited, it would have been worse if I had kept all that nervous energy inside.”

Allen said: “I just wanted a chance in the last frame and got two so I’m disappointed not to take one of them. And earlier at 4-3 I missed the second-last red when I was 45 points ahead, that would have put me 5-3 up. But overall Judd was the better player and I was just proud of myself to hang in there and get to 5-5, I didn’t have my best stuff. At 5-5 I always back myself, it focusses my mind and I felt calm. But it just didn’t go my way this time.

Evening session – WST report:

Wilson Prevents Mirror Image Fightback

Kyren Wilson prevented history from repeating itself as he held off a Stuart Bingham fightback to win a thrilling opening round clash 6-5 at the Cazoo Masters.

The match mirrored Wilson and Bingham’s other Masters meeting at Alexandra Palace in 2020. On that occasion Bingham rallied from 4-1 down to win 6-4 and went on to win the title. The Essex cueman mounted a similar fightback this evening, but was eventually edged out by Kettering’s Wilson.

Former World Championship and Masters finalist Wilson is still seeking his maiden Triple Crown title. He will now renew hostilities with 2019 Masters and Crucible winner Judd Trump in the last eight. The pair met in a famous Masters semi-final in 2018, where Wilson won 6-5. He was denied the title by Mark Allen in the final.

Bingham was making his first appearance at the North London venue since winning the Paul Hunter Trophy in 2020. His title defence was forced behind closed doors in Milton Keynes 12 months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. He will be disappointed to leave Alexandra Palace after an agonising deciding frame defeat on his return.

Wilson made an electric start this evening to charge into a commanding lead. The Warrior fired in runs of 57, 82 and 79 to move 3-0 ahead. Bingham remained in touch at the mid-session with a break of 96 to make it 3-1.

When play resumed Wilson extended his lead to 4-1 with a break of 83. The match then turned on its head in a dramatic sixth frame. Wilson had a chance to make a frame winning break when he honourably declared a foul on himself on the final red. Bingham pounced with a break of 20 to reduce his arrears.

Bingham then turned up the heat by claiming the seventh and he restored parity with the tournament’s highest break so far, a run of 139, to make it 4-4. Wilson showed his resolve to edge a frame from victory, but Bingham refused to wilt and a sublime 132 helped him to force a decider.

It was Bingham who had the first chance in the final frame, but he spurned a straightforward pink to the left middle on 31. Wilson edged his way back into the frame and it was decided by a  battle on the yellow. Eventually he deposited a fine long range pot and clinched the tie on the final pink.

I thought it was a fantastic match to be a part of. Feathering the white was a big turning point and that got Stuart back into the game. I was completely in control and sometimes these little things turn matches,” said 30-year-old Wilson.

Snooker is renowned for being a gentleman’s sport. Honesty is always the best policy. As I was going up to the white I wasn’t sure if I had touched it, but my initial instinct was to get up.

What happened two years ago was really in my mind. I am a little bit stronger than I was then. I probably let it get to me because he started to get the crowd on his side. The same thing happened tonight and the crowd got on his side. I am delighted I managed to keep myself in the present and keep myself composed to go on and get the win.

It is going to be a tough match. Judd has done the same as me today to win a decider. We will both feel like we have an extra life after that. I will really look forward to the match.

Bingham said: “I am absolutely gutted. The match had everything and it was great to be involved in. I had my chance in the decider and missed an easy pink in the middle. That is what it comes down to.

At 4-1 he wasn’t missing. I knew that I felt good about my game. I am gutted because I felt like I could have had another nice run. Fair play to Kyren, he held himself together at the end there.

The only of those three matches I watched entirely was the afternoon match between Mark Allen and Judd Trump. Mark should have gone 5-3 ahead and I’m pretty confident he would have won from there. Judd needed a snooker in frame eighth and he looked rattled. It all turned on one shot mainly. Mark went for a red that would almost certainly have given him that frame had it gone in, but it didn’t and that opened the opportunity for Judd to lay a telling snooker. Credit to Judd though, he took his chance and played well from there.

The first frame between Mark Selby and Stephen Maguire allowed us to see a side of Maguire’s game that is seldom on display. When wants it, he’s a very, very good tactician but, he rarely has the patience for that type of game. Despite his efforts he ended up losing that frame though. By the time they finished the second frame it was nearly 11 pm where I am…

The quarter-finals start today and 7 of the 8 players still in the draw are in the top 8 in the rankings. The only member of the rankings top 8 missing is Shaun Murphy who is suffering from injuries.

Ronnie expressed the opinion that WST should organise more “Elite” tournaments like this one. I can understand where is is coming from: the Masters is high quality, great for the fans, great for the sponsors, great for the broadcasters and a fantastic advert for snooker. But you can’t sustain a sport relying on just a 16 players’ elite field. WST has to look after all their players and offering them opportunities to earn a living from their sport.