The 2022 UK Championship – Day 2

Day 2 at the Barbican saw 3 out of 4 seeded players bow out of the tournament, Luca Brecel being the only one to reach the last 16 round. This means that half way through the “main event” first round, we have lost half of the top seeds who played so far. OK, Neil Robertson was unwell, but this still tells us a few things.

  • The strength in depth on the tour is probably higher than ever. This was discussed recently on social media and the consensus is that the players at the very top some 30 years ago were probably as good as the top guys now, Reardon, Davis, Hendry would have been dominant players in any era. What has changed – massively – is the quality of the opposition down the rankings.
  • A tiered system, correctly implemented, does not disadvantage the lower ranked players. In fact it’s quite the opposite. It puts the top players under added pressure because they come in the main event cold and face an opponent who has already won at least one match and has already secured good prize money and ranking points. Of course the seeds get the money, even if they lose, but not the ranking points, therefore their (future) ranking suffers big time.

By correctly implemented I mean this:

  • The qualifying rounds must be played right before the main event, so that the “form” players get to the main stages, as opposed to “the players on form three months before”.
  • Ideally they should be played at the same venue as the “main event”. If that’s impossible, at a geographically close location, in the same city or close by. They definitely should NOT be played in the UK for events that are scheduled to be held in China, mainland Europe or outside UK in general. The “local” fans should be given the opportunity to watch and appreciate all the players, including their fellow citizens if any. It makes no sense to give “local wild cards” if they need to qualify (elsewhere) in the UK as they usually don’t qualify and held-over matches are far from ideal for a number of reasons, mainly organisational reasons.
  • The conditions should be as close as possible to the “main events” conditions. The lighting on all tables should be identical to the “television tables” one.
  • The qualifiers should be broadcasted, with extensive media coverage. The venue should accommodate fans and offer reasonable comfort, decent catering and good accessibility.
  • If huge gaps between sessions are to be expected, having a cue zone and a fan zone is desirable too.

This is what this event has offered and there has been more excitement and interest for this event than for any previous event this season. By far. Fans have genuinely enjoyed the qualifiers, thanks to the excellent coverage. The quality of the main venue and setup have been hugely appreciated. A word that has been used extensively so far this week is “classy”. That’s what snooker needs: “class”, a “classy image”, not DJs, blaring music, gimmicks, shouting fans and sloppily dressed players. “Class” is what will attract more/better sponsoring because image is all important to sponsors.

Here are the reports by WST

Afternoon session

Robertson Knocked Out By Perry

The last two winners of the Cazoo UK Championship are out of the tournament already in York, as Neil Robertson followed Zhao Xintong out of the exit door after losing 6-2 to Joe Perry.

Robertson won this title in 2013, 2015 and 2020, but has since won just four frames at the Barbican as he lost 6-2 to John Astley last year, and by the same scoreline today. The world number two was unwell with a cold, but insisted that there were no excuses as he was outplayed by close friend Perry.

Australia’s Robertson was player of the season in 2021/22, winning four titles, but having elected not to enter the first three ranking events of the current season, he has now left himself in danger of missing out on the World Grand Prix. The 40-year-old is currently 39th on the one-year ranking list and could need a deep run in either the Scottish Open or English Open to get into the top 32.

In the final qualifying round last week, Perry beat Graeme Dott 6-0 with what he described as his best performance since winning last season’s Welsh Open. He carried that form into today, dominating from the early exchanges. The 48-year-old from Cambridgeshire goes into the last 16 to face Stuart Bingham or Liam Highfield.

Breaks of 102, 85 and 68 helped put Perry 4-0 ahead at the interval. Robertson made an 88 to pull one back, but early in frame six, Perry converted an excellent pot on a red to a centre pocket to set up a run of 81 for 5-1.

The Englishman had a chance to clinch the result in frame seven, but missed the pink to a centre pocket when he trailed 21-26 and his opponent punished him with 62. Robertson had an opportunity to further reduce the deficit in the seventh, but at 41-0 he left a tricky black in the jaws of a top corner. This time there was no mercy from Perry, who cleared with 64.

“I could see Neil wasn’t a hundred percent, but that probably made my task a bit more difficult. Not on the table, but to deal with that sort of emotion, I had to really keep my concentration and focus,” said world number 30 Perry. “I’ve always liked playing Neil because he’s such a great person around the table, he’s always so well behaved, and he brings out the best in you.

“I’ve always felt relaxed around him because we’ve spent much of the past 20 years, together. He knows what I’m capable of, I never feel like I have to impress him, he knows what I can do.”

Perry is very much a fan of the change in format and new fan experience at the Barbican this year. He added: “I love the whole set up, the fact that you can just walk in, get on the practice table no problem. You could tell in qualifying, it was a big deal to qualify and get here, and then once you’re finally here it’s even better.

Robertson said: “Joe played really well. His strength has always been his scoring and positional play around the balls. When he’s knocking in long pots, and his safety was excellent, he’s tough to beat.

I wasn’t feeling great but with the way Joe was playing today I would have had to be at my best anyway. I downed a Red Bull at the interval, guzzled it down, and it did actually help. I tried, you always have to, things can turn around. I got back to 5-2, but then rattled the black and he made a very clinical finish. It’s good to see because he’s a friend and I always want to see him do well. Now I’m out, I hope he wins it.”

On table two, last year’s runner-up Luca Brecel came through a tough test against Lyu Haotian, winning 6-4. Belgium’s Brecel played outstanding snooker in York 12 months ago before losing to Zhao in the final, and has since won the Scottish Open and Championship League.

World number 11 Brecel took the opening frame then made a 124 for 2-0. China’s Lyu hit back with 58, 97 and 79 to lead 3-2, then Brecel levelled before regaining the lead with a 72. In frame eight, Lyu had a chance to clear from 62-0 down, but failed to convert a double on the last red on 29, and his opponent potted it for 5-3.

Brecel made 55 in the ninth before under-cutting a tricky red to a top corner, and Lyu cleared with 79 to close to 5-4. The tenth came down to the colours and Lyu, trailing 42-49, missed a tough pot on the yellow to a baulk corner, which proved his last shot as Brecel clipped home the yellow to a blind pocket and added the points he needed.

I’m happy with how I won the match in the end,” said Brecel, who now plays John Higgins or Tom Ford. “Reaching the final last year set me up nicely and I’ve had some good results and some nice tournament wins. It’s like I’m a different player now. Every time I come to a tournament now I’m thinking ‘win it’, and before we were looking at quarter-finals, maybe semi-finals.

It takes a lot to get me excited but this time I felt quite excited when I saw the set up and the crowd were amazing. The tables were nice as well, so it’s perfect – like a dream. It felt a bit like the Crucible. You can just feel it’s such a big tournament and it’s great to still be in.”

Evening session

Higgins Joins York Casualties

John Higgins became the latest former winner to be knocked out of the Cazoo UK Championship as he was beaten 6-4 by Tom Ford in the first round in York. The result means that there will be no Scottish players in the last 16 of this event for the first time since 1987.

Following the exits of Zhao Xintong and Neil Robertson, three-time champion Higgins becomes the third of the top six seeds to lose on the opening weekend at the Barbican. It has been a poor start to the season for 47-year-old Higgins; he has not gone beyond the last 32 of a ranking event and languishes in 89th place on the live one-year ranking list.

Leicester’s Ford has now beaten Higgins four times in a row in knock-out ranking event matches, and tonight showed his ability to raise his game at crucial moments on the big staqe as he came from 3-2 down to win four of the last five frames. His reward is a last 16 tie with Luca Brecel.

After sharing the first four frames, Higgins made a break of 85 to lead 3-2. Ford levelled the tie then made a 71 to edge ahead at 4-3, before Higgins took the eighth.

A safety exchange early in frame nine was resolved when Higgins got an unwanted double kiss on a red near the top cushion, leaving his opponent plumb among the balls. Ford took advantage with a break of 99 to go 5-4 up. And when Higgins missed a long red at the start of frame ten, it proved his last shot as Ford secured the result with a superb 90.

The first five or six frames were embarrassing,” said world number 32 Ford. “My hands were freezing so I had a packet of hand warmers and once I started using those I warmed up and felt more comfortable. I quickened up my game and found something. I’m proud of the way I kept my head because sometimes my head goes down and I beat myself up. Tonight I battled through that.

World number five Higgins said: “I dragged Tom down to my level for the first four frames and I was lucky to be 2-2. After the interval it was a bit better, but Tom finished the match off really well.

On the other table, another three time champion, Ding Junhui, scored a 6-3 success against Barry Hawkins. China’s Ding passed a significant milestone as he became the seventh player in snooker history to rack up six hundred century breaks. Ding is through to the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time since last season’s Gibraltar Open and now meets Mark Williams or Jamie Clarke.

Hawkins led 3-1 with a top break of 85, but Ding dominated after the interval, winning five frames in a row with breaks of 105, 62, 122 , 72 and 91.

Ding said: “Before the interval my safety wasn’t good. It’s nice to make big breaks, but you can’t forget that you need to play good safety to create the chances. From 3-1 down I tried to keep control and make the right decisions and that worked for me. I’m lucky to be the seventh player (to make 600 centuries). I was thinking in practice the other day that I want to get to 1,000, and I worked out that I have to make 40 every season for another ten years.

I only had the opportunity to watch the afternoon session, and I chose to focus on Luca Brecel and Lyu Haotian. It was a good match and the right result too.

4 thoughts on “The 2022 UK Championship – Day 2

  1. These 2 points are a bit unrealistic

    “The conditions should be as close as possible to the “main events” conditions. The lighting on all tables should be identical to the “television tables” one.”
    You can’t put TV Style lightings on all tables or even at all in Qualifiers, at the end of the day that will come down to Cost. It’s important to realize Streaming of the Qualifiers is extra at the expense of World Snooker and only a Bonus for us the fans.

    “The qualifiers should be broadcasted, with extensive media coverage. The venue should accommodate fans and offer reasonable comfort, decent catering and good accessibility.”
    Media coverage is down to the media. Yea of course WST can publicize it properly, but without the likes of Ronnie, Judd or any of the top players in them the Media won’t be that interested. The qualifiers are just a means to an end. The World Qualifiers are the One standout Event.

    • I get what you are saying Edd, but things are only unrealistic until they happen. We have countless examples in the last decades, be it in sports or in politics (the latter, for the worse I’m afraid). Putting a better lighting on all tables would come at a cost, but it would only be fair to the players and ultimately beneficial to the spectacle the sport has to offer. Maybe not the exact television full set, but something better and closer to that ideal. Stuart Pettman in his book explains how knowing only “club” lighting was a massive disadvantage for lower-ranked players when, on rare occasions, they were put on the main table. So much so that he installed “television” lighting on his practice table in his club, despite the cost.
      As for media coverage, yes, it’s down to media. But I feel that things are changing. Hector Nunns was always a snooker fan and was often aggrieved when the editors weren’t interested in his pieces about less known players. But I feel that things are changing there too. Now we have Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe who are two massive snooker fans. Nick is the one who “rescued” Snooker Scene. Over the last three years those two have published a good number of articles about lesser known players. They have spoken to non UK players, including the Asian ones. And it’s catching. Yesterday Rob Walker, for BBC, interviewed Zhou “live” right after his win over Yan. That was unthinkable only three years ago.
      There is still a long way to go but, as Jason Francis would put it we must “dare to dream”. I do.

      • I Just think your other too points has to be priority and where cost must go to Play Qualifier’s near the actual event not 3 months before and in the Country of Choice ie Scotland, Wales, Germany or China wherever the Main events is

  2. Yes it’s good that the report does say a bit about what happened in the Brecel-Lyu match. Often, they would concentrate on Robertson and Higgins and end with “…and Luca Brecel won 6-4”! It was an enjoyable match, and it will be very interesting to see how the two players develop their game in the next 2 years to make themselves harder to play against – it was a very open match with lots of chances.

    Ding was also superb, after the interval.

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