2022 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 4

The second round of the qualifiers continued yesterday at the EIS bringing relief for some, heartbreak for others. Here is WST report on the day:

Un-Nooh And Holt Boost Survival Hopes

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Michael Holt both won their opening matches in the qualifying rounds of the Betfred World Championship to strengthen their hopes of avoiding relegation from the pro circuit.

Thailand’s Un-Nooh and Nottingham’s Holt have both won the Shoot Out in recent years, but poor form over the past two seasons has seen them drop into the danger zone in the tour survival race. But wins tonight in the second qualifying round in Sheffield have helped their cause.

Un-Nooh saw off Andrew Pagett 6-4 in a high quality match which featured four centuries. From 3-0 down, Pagett took the next two frames with a top run of 122, before Un-Nooh made a 137 in frame six, missing the final black for a 144 which would have been the highest break of the event so far.

Welshman Pagett then fired 116 and 100 for 4-4, only for Un-Nooh to take the last two frames with 90 and 54. He now plays Jak Jones.

I have to fight for everything – for my tour card, for my family,” said Un-Nooh. “My family is in my head when I am down on a shot.”

Holt scored breaks of 56, 63, 77, 67 and 54 in an impressive 6-1 win over Hammad Miah as he set up a third round match with Tom Ford – another tie which could be vital to his survival.

I was a bit nervy,” admitted Holt. “I was a bit lucky as well, I had the run of the balls. I know the position I am in and I have got to win. That has taken the doubt out of my mind. Being a pro has been a massive part of my life for a long time so to drop off the tour would be a disaster.

Nigel Bond is the only player to have turned pro in the 1980s and kept his place on the tour until now, without needing a wild card. But the 1995 Crucible finalist will have to go to Q School to maintain his pro status as he lost 6-1 to Germany’s Lukas Kleckers.

Amateur Michael White scored a 6-2 win over Martin O’Donnell while Ashley Hugill top scored with 84 in a 6-0 whitewash over Dean Young.

One match that isn’t mentioned is the encounter between Sunny Akani and Zhang Jiankang. Zhang won it by 6-4 and this means that Sunny is losing his tour card and will need the Q-school. Sunny was 5-0 down in this match and fought with all he had. He was one ball away to force a decider…  The bad start cost him. I’m really sad and sorry for Akani because long covid hit him very hard, ruined his season and probably his perparation as well. He’s a very hard worker and a lovely person. I really hope that he can bounce back immediately.

Yesterday’s results mean relegation for Sunny Akani, Martin O’Donnell, Nigel Bond, Fergal O’Brien and Lee Walker. They also propelled Ashley Hugill at the top of the 4-men one year rescue list.

4 thoughts on “2022 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 4

  1. I feel really bad for Sunny: what a comeback it would have been (and was actually). I really hoped he could scrape it together.

  2. Yesterday’s matches comprised players with very different styles. Sunny Akani was really bad for the first half, and should have lost 6-0, but scraped a respotted black. But then he started to score, and Zhang looked extremely nervous – it would be a big win for him as well after many disappointments. Ultimately Akani missed with the rest and Zhang had a chance to win, which to his credit he took well.

    It could have been the same for Thepchaiya as well. I don’t know what happened to Andy Pagett at the interval, but he was transformed into a superman! After 3 centuries, levelling at 4-4, he finally missed a red into the middle pocket on 41, and Thepchaiya was able to regain his lead. It was probably crucial.

    Irish snooker was not quite so fortunate. I actually think Fergal O’Brien is (still) an excellent all-round player. But when he’s under pressure – especially in World Championships – he becomes excessively negative. His tactics were to pot a couple of balls, then play safe every time. The consequence was that the frames got spoiled, with all the balls on cushions. Davies looked tired (it was close to midnight), but produced a great clearance. He is definitely a real player to watch. O’Brien will probably make it back on tour, but he should question his tactics.

    Still, some of these matches are so critical that best-of-11 is really not enough. Players coming into this round cold (top-80) might get off to a slow start and are then under huge pressure, especially if their tour card is not safe. This can result in horrible matches. A best-of-19 might sometimes end that way also, but at least there would be time for the better player to take control. It’s not quite so important for the L144 round to be best-of-19, but this round, definitely. People’s livelihoods are at stake.

    • Lewis, I can’t remember if we were together watching the O’Brien v Gilbert match in the last round in 2017. Fergal won it by 10-9 from 7-9 down. Same tactics, AND very slow play. Not just taking a long time to decide on the shot, but taking his time to get up when it was his turn to play, consirering the table for minutes and often returning to his seat to sip some water. All that was considerably slowing down the already late match and visibly upsetting Gilbert. The referee warned Fergal at one point but it didn’t really change anything, and, given the importance of the match, the referee did not take further action. When so much is at stakes it’s always hard to know if it’s gamesmanship or if Fergal was just trying to cope with the pressure of the moment.

      • We weren’t together for that match, because I didn’t attend ‘Judgement Day’ that year. However I did watch the previous match O’Brien-Tian, which was almost identical. I reckon the final frame lasted about 80 minutes, Tian got 3 snookers, but missed the final pink. It finished at 2:30am! Nobody talks about that match because only 8 people were left in the building, including the players, referee and Tian’s wife. It says a lot that it happened twice in 3 days. Also, if you look at O’Brien’s WC record, you’ll find a number of similar agonising 10-9 defeats. He doesn’t do it deliberately, but he’s never found a way to avoid the downward spiral.

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