Day 1 at the 2022 Champion of Champions

Mark Selby is our first 2022 Champion of Champions semi-finalists after he won his group yesterday.

Here is the report by WST:

Selby Battles Past Higgins

Mark Selby is through to the semi-finals of the Cazoo Champion of Champions, after beating John Higgins 6-4 in the Group Four final at the Bolton Stadium Hotel.

Selby has played in all ten editions of the tournament, but this will only be his third semi-final appearance. He’s yet to capture the Champion of Champions title.

The Jester from Leicester faced World Seniors champion Lee Walker in his opening match. Selby took the opening frame after just over half an hour, before a quick break of 82 put him 2-0 up. Selby then claimed the third, before a clearance of 88 ensured a 4-0 victory.

Higgins faced Iran’s Shoot Out winner Hossein Vafaei in the afternoon’s other match. Vafaei made the early running with a run of 83 to take the opener, before Higgins restored parity at 1-1. Scotland’s four-time World Champion then took the following two frames to lead 3-1. Vafaei clawed one back with a break of 72 in the fifth. However, Higgins saved the best until last though with a century break of 118 to seal a 4-2 win.

The group final began with four-time Crucible king Selby crafting a superb break of 140 to take the opener. Higgins replied with 57 to draw level and he then claimed a re-racked third to lead 2-1. The Scot couldn’t pull clear though and Selby ensured they headed in for the mid-session all-square at 2-2.

After the interval, Selby took the initiative once again at 3-2, thanks to a 64, to be move half way towards the required total of six frames to progress. Higgins fired in a stunning run of 141 to make it 3-3. The contest then became a best of three when they locked horns again at 4-4.

Selby then made 105 to move a frame from the win. In what proved to be the last frame, Higgins made the early move with 45 points on the board, but Selby made a gutsy clearance of 81 to win it.

Selby: “It’s been a long day but worthwhile in the end. I played okay in the afternoon. I knew I had to be at the top of my game playing John tonight, and I did that. I thought it was a great game. If I’d come out on the losing side, I don’t think I could’ve done any more than I did. I managed to make a good break in the last and hold myself together.

Matchroom and everyone involved put on a great event every time we come. It’s great to be involved in the back end of it. I will likely stay around here, put my feet up and watch everyone else sweat it out.

The group final was a titanic battle.

I’m very surprised that this report doesn’t mention how emotional Mark was after the match, as this was the 23d anniversary of his father passing away. It is well documented how much Mark loved his father and that, to his own admission, to this day, he still struggles to come to term with his loss. It has been a huge factor in Mark’s recurring depression.

Stephen Hendry withdrew from the coming UK Championship.

The reason I put this piece of news here is because it’s directly related to the event. Indeed, WST chose to start the 2022 UK Championship qualifying round this week-end. Hendry had to start in round one because of his low ranking. His first match, and the second had he won the first, were scheduled the coming week-end, clashing with his “Champion of champion” duties as a commentator/pundit for ITV.

The announcement triggered a lot of angry reactions. Some fans were angry at Stephen, calling for his tour card to be removed. Frankly, I believe that he wanted to play this time and he shouldn’t take the blame this time although, the dates for both events being known, this was always a possibility. Maybe raising the issue with WST well ahead of both events might have helped finding a solution?

A lot of fans, and amateur players, are angry at WST for not “replacing” him. Indeed, Andrew Pagett will now get a bye to round 2, where he will face Xu Si. Personally, I’m pretty neutral about this. I was never a fan of the top-up system anyway.

4 thoughts on “Day 1 at the 2022 Champion of Champions

  1. If you are going to argue for tiered draws, you probably should support top-up players being given the chance, and providing an opportunity for their opponent to win a match. If I was a spectator at the UK Championship (I have been many times) I wouldn’t be happy to pay to see an empty table if there was any alternative – top-up players have been recruited at much shorter notice. But yes, it does seem as if there is a bit of friction between Stephen Hendry and the authorities over this.

    • Players should not be put in such situations. I know that Hendry, contrary to Mink is not playing in the CofC but he’s doing a job that ultimately benefits the sport and WST must know that. Why not show a bit of flexibility especially as provision for the situation was described in the entry pack?

      • Hendry needed to request that before the schedule was announced. You can’t just ask 3 other players to change their match times to accommodate “one of the all-time greats”. He’s not working for WST or playing in a WST event, he’s doing a paid job for ITV. If Andy Pagett wanted to change the match time because he was coaching children at his club, nodoubt that wouldn’t have been accepted. Above all, WST needs to uphold fairness.

      • I see your point Lewis. On the other hand, Hendry is doing a great job as a pundit and one that ultimately benefits the sport and WST. I agree with you that Hendry should have been pro-active. However, from what I understood it’s not the morning match with Pagett that’s the issue, it’s potentially the second match, the one with Xu Si, causing the problem, because it clashes with the first session of the Final. There are plenty of matches in that round that are scheduled on the next day. Solving this issue would probably have been easy enough provided it’s not causing a major problem for Xu.

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