The 2022 UK Championship – Day 4

Yesterday was the last day of the first round proper at the 2022 UK championship.

Here is what happened as reported by WST:

Afternoon session

Relieved Trump Comes Good To Beat Xiao

Judd Trump made an excellent break of 88 in the deciding frame to beat Xiao Guodong 6-5 in a fierce four hour battle at the Cazoo UK Championship.

Trump was far from his best in York and made several unforced errors, but at the crucial moment he took his chance to book a last 16 meeting with Shaun Murphy or David Gilbert. The world number three’s record in this event is inconsistent – he won it in 2011 and was runner-up in 2014 and 2020, but otherwise has never got past the last 16. This time the 33-year-old will hope to book a quarter-final spot when he returns to the baize on Thursday.

The past eight months has been a barren spell for Trump as his last title came at the Turkish Masters in March, though he was runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the recent Cazoo Champion of Champions and made a 147 in the final.

Xiao took the opening frame today thanks to a fluke on the final brown. Trump responded with a 97 then Xiao regained the lead with a break of 118. In frame four, Trump laid a clever snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed he made it 2-2. The fifth again came down to safety tussle on the brown, Xiao winning it to edge ahead for the third time.

Trump’s run of 66 helped him level at 3-3 and he added the seventh to go ahead for the first time. The Bristol cueman had a clear chance to go 5-3 ahead, but ran out of position on the colours then missed a difficult brown. Xiao thumped in the brown from distance and cleared for 4-4. Trump made a break of 60 as he went 5-4 ahead and he had a match-winning chance in frame ten but missed the pink with the rest to a top corner at 24-2. Xiao punished him with 60 for 5-5.

Early in the decider, Xiao’s attempt at a risky plant when wrong and he left a red over a top corner. He spent the rest of the match in his chair as Trump rose to the occasion.

It was a battle out there,” said 2019 World Champion Trump. “The conditions were tough so I’m just happy to get through. I saved my best until last, it was a good break, it was just about holding myself together.

My record here is so bad that it’s important just to get through those kinds of games. They’re the ones that I have been losing to some of the lower ranked players. I know that I’m going to have to improve but I’m glad to have another chance and anything can happen in the next game. I just don’t ever play well here and I don’t know why it is. The only time recently that I have done well in this event was in Milton Keynes (in 2020).

Trump has often had opinions about how snooker can appeal to a wider audience and is impressed with the new format and set-up at the Barbican. He added: “It definitely feels a lot more like the Crucible. After walking down from the top of the stairs you can feel the crowd a bit more on top of you. It was an amazing crowd in for me today as well which I was surprised about – it seemed to be rammed out there.”

Jack Lisowski swept into the second round, beating Xu Si 6-1 with top breaks of 73, 83 and 66. World number 12 Lisowski reached the quarter-finals of this event for the first time in 2020, and got to the same stage last year. It will be three runs to the last eight in a row if he can beat Mark Selby or Hossein Vafaei on Thursday.

Gloucestershire’s Lisowski enjoyed perhaps the best win of his career at the end of last season when he beat Neil Robertson 13-12 at the Crucible to reach the World Championship quarter-finals. After a quiet start to the current campaign, he hopes he can bring his best again to the major stage.

I was patient, played the right shots,” said the 31-year-old. “There were no fireworks, but it was nice to win comfortably. I made a few good clearances and I think that made the difference. Lots of the seeds are out already, it’s very tough to beat these qualifiers sometimes. They’re coming in with a lot of momentum.”

It was indeed a battle for Judd Trump. For most of it it was an extremely tactical match. A few years back he would have grown impatient and would have tried to force the issue by opening the balls wildly. He stayed patient and was rewarded eventually.

Judd felt happy with the setup and the general atmosphere at the event. I find it very funny because what this event reminds me of is how the snooker was presented in the 90th… we just need some flowers in the arena maybe 🤔 . Of course, I’m speaking about the setup and format here, obviously the broadcasting is quite different.

I saw nothing from the Lisowski v Xu match but going by the comments on social media Jack is taking on board Peter Ebdon’s advices and is a more complete player as a result.

Evening session

Selby Becomes Seventh Seed To Lose

Hossein Vafaei knocked Mark Selby out of the Cazoo UK Championship for the second consecutive year with a 6-4 victory, a result which means that seven of the top 16 seeds have lost in the first round in York.

Two-time champion Selby was handed a tough draw against Shoot Out champion Vafaei, and his hopes of adding to the titles he won in 2012 and 2016 came to an early end. Selby joins Zhao Xintong, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Barry Hawkins and Yan Bingtao as the seeded players to be knocked out in the opening round in York.

Leicester’s Selby has not lifted a trophy since capturing his fourth World Championship crown 18 months ago, though he has shown signs of a return to form this season, with runs of the semi-finals of the Cazoo Champion of Champions and the quarter-finals of two ranking events. But it’s now back to the drawing board for the 39-year-old as he seeks a return to the pinnacle of the sport.

Iran’s Vafaei is through to the last 16 of this event for the second consecutive year and will reach his first quarter-final if he can beat Jack Lisowski on Thursday. He also remains in the hunt for a place in the Cazoo Masters, needing a run to the semi-finals to stand a chance of a debut at Alexandra Palace.

Vafaei started strongly with a break of 80, then Selby levelled with a run of 100. In frame three, Selby missed a tricky pot on the final pink along the top cushion, and his opponent converted a clever double to a baulk corner to regain the lead. The next two were shared, then Vafaei’s 119 put him 4-2 ahead, before Selby responded with a 129 to close the gap.

In frame eight, Selby led 23-0, but Vafaei potted another shrewd double, on a red to centre, which set him up for a break of 88 to go 5-3 up. Selby dominated the ninth then had chances in the tenth to force a decider, but couldn’t take advantage. Trapped in a snooker on the final yellow, he handed Vafaei the chance to clear to the pink and seal the result.

I am so pleased because I respect Mark a lot and he is such a tough opponent,” said 28-year-old Vafaei, who beat Selby 6-2 in the same event last year. “I stuck with him on the safety side. I have to say sorry to his fans – and I am one of them!

World number four Selby said: “I don’t feel as if I played that badly. Hossein took his chances well. I seem to be playing well in matches and still losing. You need a bit of run of the ball at the right times. I’ll dig in and hopefully it will turn. I was confident coming here because I played well in the last few tournaments, so I’m gutted to go out in a big event like this. The biggest thing for me is that I am enjoying it. From where I was in January, it’s like night and day.”

On the other table, Shaun Murphy got the better of a thrilling tussle against David Gilbert, winning 6-5 to set up a match with Judd Trump – arguably the pick of the second round ties. World number 13 Murphy hasn’t reached the quarter-finals of a knockout ranking event since the Turkish Masters last March, so will end that sequence if he can beat Trump on on Thursday afternoon.

After sharing the first two frames, Murphy made a break of 94 to go 2-1 up. He had chances to extend his lead in frame four, notably missing the pink to centre with one red left when he led 54-24, and that proved costly as Gilbert cleared to level the tie. A run of 83 put Gilbert ahead and he looked set for 4-2 until he missed a red to centre on 67 in the sixth. Murphy cleared to force a repotted black, and when he potted it after a long tactical exchange, he punched the air in celebration.

Murphy continued his momentum by making a 63 clearance to snatch frame seven, but Gilbert showed resolve by levelling at 4-4 then making an 86 to take the lead. A superb 133 brought Murphy back to 5-5, and he had first chance in the decider, making 48 before missing a red to a top corner. Gilbert had a half-chance to counter but failed to pot a tough mid-range red, and his opponent added 46 for victory.

I never let my head drop, I kept believing,” said Murphy, who won this event in 2008. “I am so proud because at 5-4 down I could have folded, but that’s never been my way. I’m delighted. There are players on tour who talk about how little the game means to them. To me it means absolutely everything.”

I didn’t watch much at all of the evening session. From what I saw, I had the feeling that Mark was trying to play a more open, aggressive game. If he is indeed working at transforming his game, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t get many great results at the moment. Those things take time.

2 thoughts on “The 2022 UK Championship – Day 4

  1. Lisowski was quite good, but he did make some errors. Unfortunately Xu Si wasn’t quite able to win frames – he got close but always something went wrong, a clear sign of inexperience. He was the only player here this week who has never qualified for the World Championship. I can’t quite understand Mark Williams’ tweet about Xu. He said “I’ve watched him loads…” which is surprising: does he really spend time watching footage of obscure players like Xu? And then “…he has everything it takes to be a top player”. Really? I suspect it’s just Willo being sarcastic about a tour player he’s never heard of (John Parrott admitted he knew nothing about Xu Si and even Mark Allen said he didn’t know much). If so then it’s a bit cruel – Xu is a hard-worker, trying to make his way as a professional. With the reduced number of Q School places, it’s going to be a real fight for such players to keep going.

    • Maybe the loss to Xu Si (6-5) in the 2016 International Championship has always stayed with Williams…

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