Fan Zhengyi is the 2022 European Masters Champion

Fan Zhengyi beat Ronnie by 10-9 in the Final of the 2022 European Masters to win his first ranking event final.

Congratulations Fan!

This tweet by David Hendon summarises the match:

2022EuroMastersHendonTweet

Here are the scores:

2022EuroMastersROSFinal-Scores

Only two breaks over 50 in a best of 19 gives a measure on how much Ronnie struggled. He did have opportunities, he just made too many mistakes.

And the report by WST:

China’s Fan Stuns O’Sullivan In Dramatic Final

Fan Zhengyi registered a massive upset in the final of the BetVictor European Masters as he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 to win his first pro title.

China’s Fan had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event and was even in danger of tour relegation before this week. But incredibly he beat the likes of Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao, David Gilbert and Graeme Dott to reach the final in Milton Keynes before edging out O’Sullivan thanks to a superb break of 92 in the deciding frame.

The 21-year-old collected the trophy and a first prize of £80,000, by far his biggest career pay day which boosts him 49 places up the world ranking list to 31st.

His victory bears similarities to Jordan Brown’s triumph over O’Sullivan at last season’s BetVictor Welsh Open as both started the event a 750-1 outsider and both made an excellent break to beat the sport’s greatest ever player in a deciding frame. Brown was 81st in the rankings while Fan was 80th, and neither had even played in a ranking event semi-final before. Both results must be considered among snooker’s all-time biggest final shocks.

Fan becomes the fourth player this season to win his a maiden ranking title, joining David Gilbert, Zhao Xintong and Hossein Vafaei. Originally from Harbin in northern China, he now lives in Sheffield and practises with the likes of Zhao and Yan Bingtao. Their recent success has undoubtedly inspired Fan and he has proved himself the latest player on a conveyor belt of Chinese talent with vast potential.

Former World Under-21 champion Fan becomes the fifth player from mainland China to win a ranking title, joining Yan, Zhao, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo.

O’Sullivan, playing in his 60th ranking final having won his first in 1993, missed out on a 39th ranking title which would have extended his record over Stephen Hendry, who has 36. He earns £35,000, when the top prize would have given him a significant lead at the top of the BetVictor Series Rankings.  The world number two struggled with his game throughout the day and was never ahead after the opening frame. The 46-year-old from Chigwell made just one century and one other break over 50 in the 19 frames.

Fan won just two knockout matches in ranking events in the whole of last season, but has improved dramatically in recent weeks

Tied at 4-4 after the first session, Fan made a tremendous start tonight with breaks of 135 and 110 to go 6-4 ahead. O’Sullivan pulled one back, then in frame 12 he trailed 34-15 but a long red set up a break of 47 which proved enough to recover to 6-6 at the interval.

Fan had a chance to clear from 46-0 down in the 13th but missed the black, trying to get position on the yellow. O’Sullivan took yellow and green but then missed the brown with the rest to a baulk corner. Fan slotted in excellent pots on brown, blue and pink to regain the lead. And he dominated the next to extend his advantage to 8-6.

O’Sullivan found some fluency with a break of 107, his tenth century of the tournament. In the next he missed the final green when two pots short of clinching the frame, but later slotted the green into a centre pocket which squared the tie at 8-8.

Early in frame 17, O’Sullivan split the reds wide open, but then over-cut a tricky pink to a centre pocket and Fan took advantage with a break of 82. In the 18th, Fan had one clear scoring chance but made just 19 before running out of position. O’Sullivan knocked in a long red to set up a run of 44 which proved enough for 9-9.

A safety exchange early in the decider ended when O’Sullivan attempted a difficult long red to a top corner and rattled it in the jaws. Fan was left with the balls nicely spread, and was barely out of position as he built his match-winning break.

Fan said: “Just playing Ronnie in the final was a dream come true. He is every Chinese player’s idol, even Zhao and Yan because he is so generous to us. I was so happy just to learn something from him.

Beating Kyren Wilson earlier in the week was vital because that gave me the confidence that I can beat the better players. Then I knocked out Yan Bingtao and after that I just took every match frame by frame. I was happy just to get one frame today!

I have to thank Zhao and Yan because every day we play together and learn from each other. That’s the best thing about being together. We are like brothers.

Six-time World Champion O’Sullivan said: “It was fantastic to play against a great new talent. They are taking the game to the next level. It’s frightening – I can’t pot like these guys. They are pushing each other on and working hard. It’s great for China and great for snooker. (Manager) Victoria (Shi) is brilliant, she is like a mother for them. In a few years snooker could be like table tennis, with the Chinese players dominating and batting us off the park.”

Ronnie did indeed struggle all day but battled with all he had. Fan played well and kept a cool head, which is not easy to do when you are only 21, competing in your first final against a legend of your sport.

Unsurprisingly social media were full of “shocks” posts yesterday evening. Maybe it’s because I’m a native French speaker and, maybe, the words choc and shock don’t have the exact same meaning, but there was no “choc” to me. A “choc” is supposed to be surprising, unexpected and sudden.  It looked certainly unlikely for Fan to win the event BEFORE the start of the tournament, but as the tournament progressed he knocked out a string of top players. Therefore, when he reached the final, it was clear that he had both the ability and the temperament to be a winner. Of course he didn’t have the experience and Ronnie had played well to get to the final, except in his match against Zhang Anda. Ronnie had to be the favourite. It was not dissimilar to the Welsh Open scenario last season. Jordan Brown however had shown clear signs of improvement before the event, and he was not a shy 21 years old either. But the way he had beaten Mark Selby, at his own game, was a strong clue about his form that week. This week, the clues were multple as Fan  had beaten a host of top players – Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao, David Gilbert and Graeme Dott – on his way to the final. And, yes, I include Dotty. Even when not at his best he can be very hard to beat, he’s tenacious, experienced and shrewd.

 

The 2022 European Masters – the QFs and SFs

Here is the story of the 2022 European Masters quarter-finals and semi-finals.

Here is WST report on Friday afternoon QF session, that saw Fan and Dott progress:

Fan-Tastic! Zhengyi Into Last Four

China’s 21-year-old Fan Zhengyi reached the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time with a 5-3 victory over David Gilbert at the BetVictor European Masters.

Meanwhile Graeme Dott edged out Ryan Day 5-4 in a tense finish to reach the 21st ranking event semi-final of his career and first since 2020. Dott and Fan will go head to head for a place in the final on Saturday from 1pm.

Fan first showed his potential when won the World Under-21 Championship in 2017, and he turned pro the following year. His first few seasons on the circuit have been a learning experience, but he has made a leap forward in the last few weeks, reaching his first ranking event quarter-final at last month’s BildBet German Masters, and now going one step further this week in Milton Keynes.

The talented potter could have the potential to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong, who have won multiple titles in recent years. This week’s run has already guaranteed him £17,500 and he is sure to leap up from his current world ranking of 80th.

Breaks of 56, 62 and 117 helped put him 4-0 up on world number 19 Gilbert. After the interval, the momentum changed as Fan missed chances to seal the match. Gilbert took a scrappy fifth frame then made a 98 for 4-2. In frame seven, Fan missed the last red to a baulk corner, playing with the long rest, when he led by 34 points. Gilbert battled back to steal the frame and raise his hopes of a fight back.

And the Englishman led 46-0 in the eighth, but Fan worked his way back into the frame, and eventually made a fine clearance from the last red, including an excellent shot on the blue to dislodge the pink from a side cushion.

For the first four frames I wasn’t thinking about the match, I was just playing well,” said Fan, who is based in Sheffield and practises with the likes of Zhao and Yan. “Then after the interval I started thinking, and I got nervous and needed a lot of chances. But overall I really enjoyed the game and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Scotland’s Dott, the 2006 World Champion, has struggled for form for much of this season and dropped to 47th in the rankings. But the 44-year-old’s game has clicked this week and he is just two wins away from his third professional title and first since 2007.

He had leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 over Day but couldn’t shake his opponent off and it came down to a decider in which both players had clear chances. Dott took the last two reds to lead by 28 points with just the colours left, and survived Day’s battle for snookers on the green and brown.

It was the worst I have played this week,” said Dott, whose top break was just 49. “Sometimes you get matches like that where the balls go scrappy, and you just have to get the win. It wasn’t pretty. I never felt in control, even at 2-0. I made a lot of unforced errors which I need to cut out. Either of us could have won that match.

I don’t want to end up one of the players who always says he’s playing well in practice, but I have been doing that, and I’m not producing it in matches. Even today it was hard not to be disappointed because I know I can play a lot better. I just had to accept it, try to win the match and hopefully play better tomorrow.

There are so many good young Chinese players now, you could name ten, and probably miss out six or seven. It won’t be long before they are dominating. Fan will be so happy to be in the semis, he could play out of his skin. Or he could completely crumble – I’m hoping that’s the case!

Fan played very well indeed before the MSI but was there for the taking after the resumption. I honestly didn’t expect him to be able to win the decider from 46-0 down the way things had gone in the second part of the match, but he did and all credits to him. He was very strong mentally.

Both Dott and Day struggled. It wasn’t pretty.

You’ll find my piece on Ronnie’s QF win over Tom Ford here.

This WST report on Liang’s win on Friday night:

China’s Liang is into his second ranking semi-final within five weeks as he reached the same stage of the BetVictor Shoot Out. Prior to that, he had gone five years without an appearance in the last four of a ranking event, and admits he had become “lazy” but has taken a more professional approach to the sport this season. The 34-year-old is seeking his second ranking title having landed the English Open crown in 2016.

Breaks of 60 and 71 put Scotland’s McGill 2-0 ahead, then Liang took the next three frames with top runs of 66 and 61. McGill’s run of 50 made it 3-3, and in the seventh he capitalised on a miss from Liang on the final blue to a centre pocket, slotting in blue and pink to lead 4-3. World number 35 Liang dominated the next to force a decider.

A superb long red from McGill set him up for a match winning chance and he made 62 before running out of position. Liang battled his way back into the frame and it came down to a safety battle on the yellow. Trapped in a tough snooker behind the black, McGill narrowly failed to hit the yellow, and left his opponent a free ball. Liang kept his nerve to clear the table before celebrating in exuberant fashion.

Anthony was very unlucky when he ran out of position on 62 in the last frame,” admitted Liang. “In the end I played a good safety behind the black and then took the chance. I just tried to calm down and keep strong. I haven’t felt like that for a long time. We both played very well. Everyone is different. I celebrated at the end to take the pressure off.

For the last few years I have gone the wrong way, not really concentrating on my game. When I won the English Open (2016) and got to the UK Championship final (2015) I was playing very well. Then in 2018, 2019 and 2020 I was lazy when I should have been professional. For those three years I wasn’t good enough, there was something wrong. My confidence is coming back now but I still need to try my best.

Ronnie and I are very good friends. We have been to China together and been to my home town and played exhibitions. I think we are the best snooker playing friends in the world. Tomorrow I will just enjoy it. I want to win but it will be very tough.

This is WST report on yesterday’s afternoon match:

Fab Fan Downs Dott To Reach Final

World number 80 Fan Zhengyi kept his astonishing run going at the BetVictor European Masters as he beat former World Champion Graeme Dott 6-4 to reach the final.

Up-and-coming Chinese 21-year-old Fan came out on top in his first ranking semi-final to earn a clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Liang Wenbo in Milton Keynes on Sunday. He is guaranteed £35,000 and victory would boost that figure to £80,000,

Going into 2022, Fan had reached the last 32 of a ranking event just once in his career. He gained momentum with a run to the quarter-finals of the BildBet German Masters in January, and has now gone two steps further. This week, the 2017 World Under-21 champion has beaten the likes of Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao, David Gilbert and now Dott.

Fan now has the chance to become the fifth player from mainland China to win a ranking title, joining Ding Junhui, Liang, Yan and Zhao Xintong. Based in Sheffield, he practises with Yan and Zhao, and their recent success has clearly rubbed off.

Scotland’s Dott missed the chance to reach his 11th career ranking final, and saw his hopes of winning a first title since 2007 disappear. The world number 47 earns a much-needed boost to his ranking having banked £17,500.

Fan took a scrappy opening frame then in the second made a superb 131, his third century of the tournament. Dott took the third with a 66 clearance, but made a crucial error at the end of the fourth when his safety shot on the final pink hit the bump of a centre pocket, handing his opponent a chance to clip the pink into a baulk corner and go 3-1 ahead.

Another safety mistake from Dott in the fifth, when he led 47-8, let Fan in for a 58 clearance to extend his lead. Frame six came down to a safety battle on the green and Dott laid a tough snooker behind the black, and took the chance that followed to close to 4-2. The Larkhall potter looked to be on the comeback trail as he made a 62 to draw within a frame.

Fan’s run of 77 put him 5-3 ahead and he had chances for victory in the 37-minute ninth frame but Dott eventually got the better of a battle on the colours to keep his hopes alive. Dott had two scoring opportunities in frame ten but when he missed a tricky red to a baulk corner at 32-0, it proved his last shot as Fan made an excellent 84 to clinch the result.

It’s hard to believe I am in the final, it has been an amazing week,” said Fan. “I played well today. I felt pressure when Graeme came back from 4-1 to 4-3. I thought it was going to be 5-5 but I got a chance and made a very good break. I tried to keep calm and not think about what it would mean to reach the final. Every round this week I have beaten good players and got more confidence.

I don’t mind who I play tomorrow. To play Ronnie in a big final would be a dream come true but it would also be very special to meet Liang. I will have to try not to think about the big occasion and just play my game. This is the best week of my career for sure. Playing every day with Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao has helped me to get better. I hope there is still a lot of improvement to come.

Fan has done extremely well all week, and yesterday afternoon he constructed some very good breaks and took most of the opportunities he was presented with. It’s fair however to say that Dott didn’t play well. He fought extremely hard, as he always does, but he didn’t play well.

That said, whatever happens today Fan’s run to the final is another indication that the young Chinese generation has arrived, and Victoria has played a huge part in their development. It was futher confirmed by another win yesterday for one of her young players as Si Jiahui has won the WSF Open Championship and will get a tour card starting next season.

Si Beats Stephens In WSF Open Final

China’s Si Jiahui won the 2022 World Snooker Federation Open, beating England’s Lee Stephens 5-0 in the final at the Ding Junhui Snooker Academy in Sheffield.

Si earns a two-year World Snooker Tour card and will enjoy a return to the pro circuit from next season, having played on the tour from 2019 to 2021. This season, the 19-year-old has played as a Q School top up in pro events and scored wins over the likes of Shaun Murphy, Matthew Stevens and Graeme Dott.

Breaks of 63 and 104 helped Si to a comfortable victory in the final against Stevens. Earlier in the semi-finals, Si came from 3-1 down to beat Michael White 4-3, while Stephens scored a 4-2 win over Daniel Wells.

Overall, some 280 players competed in the event, from 43 different nations. For all the results click here.

My account on the evening semi-final between Ronnie and Liang is here.

 

The 2022 European Masters – Ronnie books his place in the Final

Ronnie beat his good friend Liang Wenbo by 6-2 yesterday to book his place in the final today. He will play Fan Zhengyi, 25 years his junior.

Here are the scores:

2022EuroMastersROSSF-Scores

It’s impressive but it could and probably should have been 6-1. In frame 7, Ronnie had Liang snookered behind the blue. When Liang failed to hit a red, Ronnie could have put him back. However, he elected to play instead. He needed just one red and Liang would have needed penalty points, he went for a far from straightforward red,  failed to pot it and Liang came back from there. After that, Ronnie looked rather cross at himself.

Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Reaches 60th Ranking Final

2022EuroMastersROSSF-1Ronnie O’Sullivan scored a 6-2 victory over close friend Liang Wenbo at the BetVictor European Masters as he kept up his quest to win a 39th career ranking event title.

In Sunday’s final in Milton Keynes, O’Sullivan will meet Fan Zhengyi, a player aged 25 years younger and 78 places lower in the world rankings. The Rocket starts a huge favourite to win this trophy for the first time and take the £80,000 top prize – though he’ll be wary of a repeat of last season’s BetVictor Welsh Open final when he lost to massive underdog Jordan Brown.

Victory for O’Sullivan would give him his second title of the season having won the Cazoo World Grand Prix in December, and would extend his record of career ranking crowns, ahead of second-placed Stephen Hendry who has 36.

Chigwell’s 46-year-old O’Sullivan will be playing in his 60th ranking event final, a remarkable 29 years after the first when he beat Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship. This week he could win the title without facing a player inside the world’s top 25, but perhaps few opponents could have survived his scoring power as he has fired nine centuries and 18 more breaks over 50 in his six matches so far.

In the opening frame tonight he missed a red to a top corner on 50 and Liang got the start he needed with a 74 clearance. The Chinese cueman could have made it 2-0 but missed the yellow – attempting to split the pack – on 42 in frame two and his opponent cleared with 81.

Again in frame three Liang had first chance, but only compiled 27 before failing to convert a difficult red to a top corner. World number two O’Sullivan punished him with a run of 72 then pulled away with 60, 127 and 109 to lead 5-1.

In frame seven, O’Sullivan was on the verge of victory when he led 64-11, but a missed mid-range red handed Liang the chance to make a superb 56 clearance. The eighth lasted 41 minutes and came down to a long safety battle on the green, O’Sullivan eventually coming out on top and potting green and brown to secure his progress.

2022EuroMastersROSSF-2I would have been really happy to see Liang win because I know how much he puts into the game,” said O’Sullivan, who will go £33,500 clear at the top of the BetVictor Series rankings if he wins the final. “I know how much he loves the game. I am very close to him and I want to see him do well and have the best life he can possibly have.

If winning tournaments makes him happy then that makes me happy. He makes me laugh, he’s a great character for the game. He’s got a clean heart and a beautiful soul. But you have to do a job, a packed crowd had come to see the match and I had to do my best.

Ding Junhui and Liang have done a lot for grassroots snooker in China. They have brilliant academies there and in the UK. They are geared up to take over and dominate the game. It’s happening now but I think in ten years it will be like table tennis, every snooker player will probably be from Asia. I have a great love for China, their culture and their people, they are so nice to me when I go out there. I do my best to support their players, they are lovely boys. I want pass on a bit of knowledge and experience to them because I am a snooker fan and I want them to do well.

I am under no illusions, I am not as dominant as I used to be. I can still score a few when I am on my game, I am a handful, I just don’t do it often enough or consistently enough. I miss balls here and there. I am not the player I was and I never will be. But I enjoy playing, I enjoy the lifestyle. If I can get another three World Championships out of my career then great. After that I’ll look to play at a lower level, do some exhibitions, have some academies in China and just have involvement in the game that way.”

The best-of-19 final gets underway at 1pm with eight frames, with the balance to be played from 7pm.

This is the post-match shared by WST on their YouTube channel

There are more quotes by Ronnie in this piece by Hector Nunns:


I am old enough to be his grandad at 25 years older! Mind you, it seems like pretty much everyone I play these days. I’m not doing bad for a grandad.

It may be a surprise to see Fan in the final, but it was a surprise when I got to the UK final at 17, so everyone has to cause a surprise at some point. I think Tiger Woods did that winning his first green jacket at the Masters. But people I respect in Sheffield say he is a very good player.

Rankings don’t mean anything, it is all about form on the day. Winning a 39th ranking title wouldn’t mean too much to me, though.

Liang is a good friend, I love him, in fact he is like a brother to me. I looked up in the crowd and I could see his son sitting there and I know how much he loves playing, he is a good player.

Part of me almost wanted Liang to win, I am closer to him than some of my own family. I am glad if people enjoyed the match, from my perspective I am always working on stuff. The result isn’t really important.

I have talked about snooker depression and anxiety this week, but winning the title won’t help that, in fact it might make it worse. And whatever happens, if mentally I don’t feel good about playing in Wales next week on Monday…that is hard.

I like a smiley face, not a miserable face and if I think I’ll be miserable next week after getting to the final here then sometimes you have to do the right thing for yourself. I’ll wait and see on playing in that, if I am at a low ebb I’ll haver to make a decision.

I’m not too sure about being a granddad at 25 but hey…

I don’t think Ronnie was in a great place yesterday after that match. Hopefully he will feel more positive today. He should win this final given the gulf of experience between him and Fan, as well as the scoring power he has shown all week. But of course, nothing is ever guaranteed in sport.

The 2022 European Masters – Ronnie wins his QF match

Ronnie scored heavily in beating Tom Ford by 5-1 to reach the semi-finals of the 2022 European Masters. He will face Liang Wenbo tonight over best of 11 frames to try to book his spot in the final.

Here are the scores:

2022EuroMastersROSQF-Scores

And the report by WST:

O’Sullivan To Face Liang In Semis

Ronnie O’Sullivan stepped up his pursuit for a 39th career ranking title and second of the season as he thrashed Tom Ford 5-1 to reach the semi-finals of the BetVictor European Masters.

O’Sullivan is into his 87th ranking event semi-final and on Saturday evening in Milton Keynes he will meet close friend Liang Wenbo, who edged out Anthony McGill 5-4 by coming from 58 points behind to win the deciding frame.

O’Sullivan has lost just nine frames in his five matches so far this week, albeit without meeting an opponent ranked inside the world’s top 25. He has made seven centuries and 14 more breaks over 50 during the event and the 46-year-old will be hard to stop as he seeks to double his tally of titles this season, having won the Cazoo World Grand Prix in December.

Breaks of 136 and 90 put O’Sullivan 2-0 up within 20 minutes. In frame three, Ford led 58-27 when he missed a tricky final red to a baulk corner, and his opponent punished him with a 32 clearance. The fourth was even more painful for Ford as he made 72, only for O’Sullivan to respond with 74.

After the interval, Ford got the better of a scrappy fifth frame, but the contest was soon over as O’Sullivan finished in style with a 109 which included a fabulous shot from black to yellow.

Here is the shot mentioned above:

Ronnie made a terrific start of the match, but after a terrible miscue in the third frame, he looked concerned by the state of his tip and it appeared to lower both his confidence and his performance to an extend.

The 72 by Ford in the fourth was a maximum attempt: nine reds with blacks. Had Tom managed the feat he would have shred the high break prize with Thepchaiya Un-nooh who had made a maximum at the qualifiersnearly 4 months ago.

I’m sure that our resident troll will make the most of  the fact that Ronnie hasn’t faced a player in the top 25 yet, but another fact is that you can only beat who is in front of you. Ronnie was due to face Ali Carter in the last 16; Ali is a player he doesn’t particularly like to play and who has caused him problems in the past. But Ashley Hugill beat Carter, before being beaten by Ronnie. Ronnie was due to face John Higgins in the quarter-finals, but Tom Ford whitewashed Higgins, before being beaten by Ronnie. And Ronnie was initially due to face Judd Trump in the semi-finals, but Trump went out to Kurt Maflin. He could have been facing Anthony McGill instead. Anthony is the man who beat him at the Crucible last year, and the only other top 16 player remaining in the draw at QF stage, but Liang got the better of Anthony yesterday …

What this tournament has amply demonstrated is how good a lot of players down the rankings are nowadays and that the idea that the top boys only have to turn up to beat them easily is preposterous.

The 2022 European Masters – the last 32 and last 16

The 2022 European Masters is developing into a really interesting tournament. The last 32 and last 16 rounds provided a number of upsets, and we got to see some excellent performances from young players, particularly from China.

You will find all the detailed results on snooker.org

Notable casualties in the last 32 round were John Higgins, Judd Trump, Luca Brecel, Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins.

John Higgins had a nightmare traveling to the venue and maybe it caught up with him a bit but his conqueror Tom Ford is a heavy scorer when on top form. Even so, the 5-0 scoreline and Higgins scoring a mere 50 points all match is a bit of a shock.

Neil Robertson lost to Pang Junxu, 22 years of age from China. This defeat prompted Neil to reflect on the current state of the game and a perceived lack of hunger by the young UK players:

Neil Robertson – UK Players Lack The Same Hunger As Chinese Wave Of Talent

Neil Robertson has accused young players in snooker’s traditional power base of the United Kingdom of lacking the raw hunger to compete with the wave of talent flooding through from China.

The Australian, based for many years near Cambridge, received another reminder of the deep reservoir of Chinese potential champions after losing 5-4 to 22-year-old Pang Junxu in the last 32 of the European Masters in Milton Keynes on Thursday.

And it was no fluke, as the in-form world No4 – the man of the season to date, with three titles already under his belt and more big even to come – watched Pang roar back from 4-2 behind with breaks of 73, 101 and 90 to seal victory.

The ‘second wave’ from China after Ding Junhui’s emergence is looking ever stronger, with Yan Bingtao having won last season’s Masters, and Zhao Xintong this season’s UK Championship – and the likes of Zhou Yuelong, Yuan Sijun and others lined up behind them.

But by comparison the cupboard is looking a lot barer in the UK of players with the same potential and big wins already under their belts at the same age. And this from the nation that has produced most of the legends including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Mark Williams.

Robertson, 40, said: “It looks like China have got another really good young one to join Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong on the conveyor belt of talent from that country. Wu Yize, who is only 18, also impressed Ronnie O’Sullivan this week, and he got through a couple of rounds at the UK, so that’s another one to impress – and there are more besides.

It’s good to see, and good that everything that World Snooker did in China to make the most of Ding Junhui’s success is bearing fruit. At one time you were concerned that all the investment into China wasn’t producing champions, but it clearly is looking at the last 18 months.

And by comparison there aren’t the same number coming through in the traditional power base in the UK – and I think the main reason for that is that there are fewer and fewer places to play that support junior snooker players. There are restrictions at some clubs on hours.

I don’t know also if the youngsters here are more distracted by things like social media than the Chinese lads, although they certainly have that as well. But I have seen that for many of the Chinese players, they see professional snooker as a way of improving their lives, and in some cases getting out of poverty.

In the UK I don’t see the kids wanting it enough, and they know their lives will be okay no matter what. I don’t see that absolute hunger in young players in the UK and I hope that changes because this country has produced unbelievable players, the best that have ever played it.

I hope to see that change and we can see more young and very hungry players emerge. Clearly a lot of them here do work hard – but do they work hard enough? And the answer is definitely no.

Ezgifcom Webp To Jpg 2022 02 24T135749516jpg

Pang did really well in the win against me – and it was good match, real attacking stuff. I was maybe a little too aggressive going for a brown going into the pack in the decider, but that’s the way I play and you’d much rather lose at least having gone for your shots.

I could have played a bit better but he played a fantastic match – beautiful positional play and a good long potter, striking the ball really well. He’s got everything you hope to see in young players coming through. He looks the real deal.

I played him once before in this same event last season and beat him, but said to a couple of players ‘This is another one from China that if he keeps improving could get good results’. A couple laughed at me and weren’t so sure, but he has proved them wrong as he stands up to big names.

With what he has already won during the current campaign, Robertson could afford to be fairly phlegmatic about a rare defeat – and there were compensations, including the chances to go and watch his beloved Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final, and son Alexander in football action.

He added: “Defeat to Pang at the European Masters is one I can take on the chin, especially the way he finished off the match. In any tournament, to win it, there is at least one match you need to get away with it and I didn’t in this one. And I made him win it.

What it does mean is that I can go to the Carabao Cup final this weekend, and also go and watch my son Alexander who is playing this weekend. It’s not really me to lose with a smile on my face…but when you have good things to look forward to away from the table and you have already won a couple of titles, you are playing with less pressure.

I think Ronnie plays with that mindset at the moment, and maybe that’s the key to longevity – keep it as stress-free as possible because eventually you could start to do yourself some damage if winning is everything and your become miserable away from the table.

So I look forward to playing in the Welsh Open where I am playing Jimmy White, which is always a good occasion.

Luca Brecel lost to Sunny Akani who is having a miserable year and deserves a lot of praise for the way he fights to stay in the top 64. Indeed covid hit him hard and he still isn’t feeling healthy months after catching the virus:

Long Covid Leaves Sunny Under A Cloud

Sunny Akani contracted Covid-19 in July last year. As restrictions across England come to an end, his story is a reminder that many people are still severely affected by the virus.

By Oliver Slack

Seven months after first testing positive, the 26-year-old Thai, who lives in Darlington, still feels excessively tired just walking up the stairs to his first floor flat. Jogging to keep fit has now become impossible. Most frustratingly of all, one of the hardest practisers in the sport has had to cut down his time on the cloth from eight hours a day to just 30 minutes.

If I practise too much I feel dizzy, I get mind fog and sometimes loss of memory,” said Akani. “I talk to my wife and I can’t remember what I said. I lost a few matches recently so I tried to practise more, what I used to do, seven or eight hours. But my body felt so tired, sometimes when I line up the shot my vision is not clear.

There is more pressure, it is making me feel depressed. Some nights when I sleep, it’s not good sleep. Sometimes I wake up and I sleep for only four hours. Sometimes I have bad dreams, I’m dreaming I am going to play in a match. Right now, I’m talking with my dad and a doctor to help. It’s helped me try to think more positive.

Akani’s run this week at the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes has given him a vital boost. He has beaten Mark Allen, Jackson Page and Luca Brecel to reach the last 16 and faces Ryan Day on Thursday afternoon.

Currently sitting 60th in the provisional end of season rankings, Akani faces a battle to remain inside the top 64 and keep his tour card at the end of the campaign.

Five years ago, Akani looked like one of snooker’s best up-and-coming prospects. At the 2017 UK Championship, he whitewashed Barry Hawkins 6-0 before a narrow 6-5 defeat to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16. Since then he has struggled to make a breakthrough on the circuit.

Right now I’m not setting a target,” said the former Asian Under-21 Champion. “I’m still suffering with long Covid and depression. My health is more important. I’m trying to focus on my body first right now and if my body is getting better, I think I can show I can play better on the table.

I know what I can do but when I go to play in a match, my health is not allowing me to play well. I’m just trying to feel more relaxed and hope I get better and I can show what I can do.

I sincerely hope that Akani’s health improves soon. He’s a good player, a hard worker and a lovely man.

Judd Trump was beaten by Kurt Maflin whose form has been iffy in recent years but who is a very good player, and great to watch, when at his best.

The last 16 round brought more surprises, the biggest one being 21 years old Fan Zhengyi win over Yan Bingtao after defeating Kyren Wilson in the previous round. Fan who is fighting to stay on the tour played two extraordinary matches. He’s training at Victoria’s academy and Victoria stressed that those wins are no fluke but a just reward for a player with an exceptional work ethic.

Ronnie beat Wu Yize in the last 32 and Ashley Hugill in the last 16

He was full of praize for both of them afterwards. Here he is speaking to Hector Nunns:

A big shout out to Ashley Hugill. He’s 27, so not very young in snooker terms, but a very good player and still not very experienced in tour terms. He has a lot of good qualities, and I’m not one for giving out compliments unless they are deserved. The same as Wu Yize earlier in the week, he will be a world champion if he develops and gets good advice. 

There is a right way and a wrong way to play a sport, and they both play snooker the right way. You might win, but if you do it in the wrong way you ain’t getting my eyeballs. It’s the way you do it, sometimes. You have good players, great players and exceptional players. 

And even some exceptional players win tournaments but are not great to watch. And you get good players that don’t win so  many events but I’d pay to watch them, because they play the game the right way. 

 

The 2022 European Masters – Ronnie wins his last 16 match

Ronnie played an excellent match to book his place in the 2022 European Masters yesterday afternoon. Here are the scores:

2022EuroMastersROSL16-Scores

It does take two though to play an excellent match though and Asley Hugill certainly played his part. I remember Ashley from his amateur days and I wasn’t a fan of his game back then but he has become much more positive and aggressive and I truly enjoyed watching them both yesterday. The commentators mentioned that Ashley practices with the Chinese boys at Victoria’s Academy. It certainly does him no harm! Victoria really does a sterling job for her players, and for snooker as a sport.

Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan: Snooker Makes Me Feel Like Superman

2022EuroMastersROSL16-1Snooker’s man of steel Ronnie O’Sullivan booked his place in the quarter-finals of the BetVictor European Masters with a 5-2 win over Ashley Hugill, then admitted that a great performance can make him feel like Superman.

O’Sullivan made two centuries and four more breaks over 50 in his best display of the week so far. In the last eight on Friday evening in Milton Keynes he will face Tom Ford or Fraser Patrick.

Asked after today’s match how he would like to be remembered when he eventually retires, the six-time World Champion replied: “As someone who played the game in a unique way. I craft breaks in an effortless manner and I know I’m going to do it. That’s why I play snooker because it makes me feel like Superman sometimes. I have tried a lot of things in my life but I’m yet to find anything else that makes me feel as good and as strong.”

World number two O’Sullivan made a 141, the highest break of the week so far, in the opening frame. A run of 96 put him 2-0 ahead, then Hugill pulled one back with a 77. In frame four, Hugill led 49-1, only for his opponent to make a fantastic 62 clearance which included a series of pinpoint positional shots.

Hugill battled gamely and compiled a run of 73 to close to 3-2, but O’Sullivan stepped up a gear and took the last two frames with breaks of 105, 52 and 58.

O’Sullivan, chasing his second title of the season having won the Cazoo World Grand Prix in December, had some kind words for his opponent. “I really like Ashley, he’s a great guy and plays the game in the right spirit,” he said. “He’s probably the most improved player on the circuit. I wasn’t surprised when he gave Ali Carter a good hiding yesterday. He hits the ball fantastically well, a bit like Anthony Hamilton. I like watching him and enjoy his style of play.

This is the last frame of the match:

And Ronnie’s post-match interview:

Tonight, Ronnie will play Tom Ford who whitewashed John Higgins. Ford is a heavy scorer when on form but often struggles on the television table.

The 2022 European Masters – Ronnie wins his last 32 match

Ronnie beat Wu Yize by 5-1 yesterday afternoon withoutbeing anywhere near his best until the very last frame.

Here are the scores:

2022EuroMastersROSL32-Scores

And the very short report by WST:

2022EuroMastersROSL32-1

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 5-1 scoreline over Wu Yize flattered the Rocket somewhat as his opponent had chances in most of the frames. But Chinese tour rookie Wu couldn’t take advantage and O’Sullivan progressed to round four where he will face Ashley Hugill.

From 1-1, six-time World Champion O’Sullivan took the third frame with a break of 51 then both the fourth and fifth on the final black to lead 4-1. He rounded off the match with his best moment, a break of 112.

Eurosport though provided an “as it happened” detailed report:

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN BEATS WU YIZE 5-1!

And he finishes it with a ton, before stopping to encourage Wu and debrief. He meets Ashley Hugill next.

O’SULLIVAN 4-1 WU (70-16)

This is Vintage Ronnie, picking off reds and colours to see himself home. Wu will be a player, I think – though he’ll need to sort his cue-ball control – and woill go to bed feeling radge with the chances he missed, but proud with how close he made the frames, if not the score.

O’SULLIVAN 4-1 WU (15-16)

In again, Wu loses the white so can’t address the pink; he redeems himself with a good long blue, but this behaviour isn’t sustainable and shonuff, right as my SkyGo quits, he misses and Ronnie is back at the table. This looks a lot like curtains.

O’SULLIVAN 4-1 WU

Yup, Ronnie eliminates what’s left to steal his second straight frame on the black, and Wu will be feeling very poorly. He should be bang in this match, but instead it’s nearly over.

O’SULLIVAN 3-1 WU (27-61)

Oh Wu! He misses a black off its spot trying to take the white in and out of baulk, when he really didn’t need to – it was frame-ball. If he’d made sure to make the pot, or planned to wind up near the bottom cushion, he’d be in business. But what’s going to happen now is that Ronnie will clear up and go three up with four to play.

O’SULLIVAN 3-1 WU (4-46)

No matter. Wu gets in again, and already 30 points in front, should clinch the frame at this visit.

O’SULLIVAN 3-1 WU (4-32)

Wu runs out of position on 31, then on his next visit unloads the suitacase at a red, a double kiss follows … and he’s been lucky. A tight snick to the green pocket is all Ronnie has on, he misses, and Wu again sinks a red only to lose the white.

O’SULLIVAN 3-1 WU (0-11)

Wu misses a long red by a distance but gets lucky, leaving nowt, and when Ronnie’s forced to knock the same ball away from the pocket, he doesn’t get enough on the white, marooned in the middle of the table and with a red to right corner on.

WE GO AGAIN

O’SULLIVAN 3-1 WU

That’s gonnae sting. Ronnie strokes the black into left-middle, and it’ll be a long, lonely interval for Wu.

O’SULLIVAN 2-1 WU (58-63)

Oh, Wu! He rattles home a difficutl yellow and Ronnie applauds – imagine that, 18 years old! – then overcuts the green! The black is on the side, but Ronnie has the perfect angle to disturb it, and plays the shot beautifully.

O’SULLIVAN 2-1 WU (40-61)

Wu clips in the final red but, on nowt, faces a tricky safety with no balls available for him to push safe. He needs to the greeb, while Rnonie needs everything.

O’SULLIVAN 2-1 WU (40-60)

The first, he just gets behind and slots, but the second ends up on the side, and though he knowcks it off, it’ll need a fine cut to send it down … or not. Ronnie plays safe now back in the frame, and the difference between 3-1 and 2-2 at the mid-sesh is chasmic – enough to tell us whether we’ll see a match or not, I’d say.

O’SULLIVAN 2-1 WU (17-60)

Oh Wu! With 75 left and the lead 60, he undercuts a pink into the far middle knuckle, and if he can seize the frame, he’ll be a long way towards seizing the match. There are two reds on black cush, but of the sort you can see being developed without too much hassle.

O’SULLIVAN 2-1 WU (0-27)

Anyhow, Ronnie misses another long pot – he’s 0/6 today! – but gets away with it. Not for long. Wu clunks home a middle-distance red, but with pink and black tied up he’s got plenty work to do. Except have a look! He rams in another red, cannons a second, and the black goes to both pockets! This is a phat chance.

O’SULLIVAN 2-1 WU

Has Wu missed his chance? There were signs in the back end of that frame that Ronnie is growing into this.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 WU (61-22)

Thirty ahead with 35 left, Rnonie plays safe because he can’t get at the final red. But Wu, who’ll already be rueing missed chances, double kisses; it doesn’t look like he’s left it but he has, the thinnest snick sending it into the yellow pocket, and that’s 2-1.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 WU (33-22)

Wu misses a red wildly, and Ronnie is quickly about the table potting balls. There’s a red on the side cushion that he’ll need, but he’ll have a handy lead by the time he comes to it.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 WU (1-22)

But when he runs out of position, a poor safety allows Ronnie to glide in a terrific opener … but again, he misses the black! It’s not a gimme like the ones he missed yesterday were, a delicate little cut-back from near the cushion, but it ought to have gone down. Lot of buts here, so here’s another: Wu gets in, but instead of playing on the pink, tries to work a tiny gap for a black along the rail, and the kiss doesn’t allow it. He’s letting chances slip through his fingers here.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 WU (0-13)

Ronnie lookes bemused after missing a long pot by a distance, and Wu has to cash in – the biggest win of his life does not look an impossibility.

O’SULLIVAN 1-1 WU

Wu will be smelling a chance here, because Ronnie hasn’t settled.

O’SULLIVAN 1-0 WU (29-59)

Wu misses with two hacks to left corner, but then with the red in the middle of the baulk cushion and the brown not far in front of it, he has Ronnie stuck behind the black, almost dead opposite. Ronnie gets really close, twice, but the second foul-miss leaves Wu a simple chance, and this will be 1-1.

O’SULLIVAN 1-0 WU (29-44)

But dropping in a starter on the stretch, he brings back the white to the only place on the table he can’t get at a colour! This game! So here comes Wu, who adroitly removes balls until he has to drop on the final red, marooned on the top cushion, and gives it too little, almost snookering himself. He can only play safe, and the chase is on!

O’SULLIVAN 1-0 WU (28-9)

But now comes another mistake, a black overcut to right corner! He did that a lot yesterday too, though his lucky here to leave nothing. This is now another scrappy frame, but whoever gets innext will expect to clear up, given the whereabouts of the balls … and Wu misses a tester to right middle that leaves it for Ronnie!

O’SULLIVAN 1-0 WU (20-9)

Left a red to send long to the green pocket, Ronnie eyes it up pensively, wondering what migh tbe available if he misses; he does, and Wu sends it down, then on nowt, snuggles in behind the brown. Ronnie, though, escapes easily enough, and left a thin red sees it away. He’s warming up.

O’SULLIVAN 1-0 WU (8-8)

Ronnie leaves a starter and Wu gobbles it, then makes his way back up the business end via the green …only to go in-off, again, slotting another red! He has a laugh about it, but what an absolute nause. All the more so when he finds himself struggling to make a thin contact, ceding two fouls in the process, but when he hits he leaves nowt.

O’SULLIVAN 1-0 WU

A scrappy first frame, but with more than enough about it to suggest we’re in a for a decent tussle.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 WU (40-29)

On my days, Ronnie misses a simple pink, the like of which he also missed yesterday. Looking again, he maybe got a kick, but even so, that should probably’ve gone down. But then poor old Wu goes in-off trying to come up the table off the blue and, after some protest from Ronnie, cedes a free ball. That might be the frame, though the final red is a tester, parallel with black cush … and Ronnie bangs it home like it’s nowt.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 WU (2-23)

Hello! Ronnie goes hard at a long red, over left corner, catches the wrong side of it, and watches as it leaps offf the table and onto the carpet. On which point, why do snooker players wear shoes? Thye’re indoors, who wears shoes indoors? Anyhow, Wu picks out a fine cut from middle to left corner … only to jaws a yellow! That is a significant oversight, leaving Ronnie a simple starter and who knows what else.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 WU (0-23)

Wu looks as confident as you’d expect an 18-year-old with prodigious talent to look, working his way onto the black. But in the process of sinking it, he misses a cannon on the pack and loses the white, so that’s end of break.

O’SULLIVAN 0-0 WU (0-4)

Ronnie tries to send a red down the side rail to left corner, but it doesn’t want ta kna, and Wu takes the opportunity to paste home a long one to the same pocket, cannoning the black in the process. But the bounce is unkind and he’s not on it as planned, so will have to work out a safety. It’s not a great one, offering Ronnie another chance, almost the full length of the table, and again he misses, overcutting and leaving Wu in. This time, he won’t be getting away with a one-point punishment.

Ronnie was far from his best and will need to improve to beat Ashley Hugill, a player whose pedestrian pace will not suit him. One thing he did really well yesterday though was taking his chances to come from behind and steal the frames whenever he got the opportunity.  It was nice to see Ronnie take some time to speak with Yu after the match.

This is the last frame of the match, shared by Eurosport: