The 2022 UK Championship – The Semi-finals

Today’s final will be contested between Ding Junhui, who has won this title three times already and Mark Allen who has been the form player this season so far and tops the one year list comfortably.

here is how we got to this, as reported by WST:

Afternoon session

Ding Stays On Course For Fourth UK Title

Ding Junhui survived a late rally from Tom Ford to win 6-3 and reach the final of the Cazoo UK Championship, boosting his chances of becoming only the fourth player to win this title on four occasions.

Many millions of fans in his native China will tune in on Sunday when Ding takes on Mark Allen or Jack Lisowski in the final in York. First to ten frames will lift the trophy and bank a record £250,000 top prize.

Victory would make Ding the only player other than Ronnie O’Sullivan (seven titles), Steve Davis (six) and Stephen Hendry (five) to win this event four times, putting him ahead of all-time greats John Higgins and Neil Robertson who have three UK titles apiece.

Ding will be playing in his 21st ranking event final and aiming for his 15th title. Since he beat Stephen Maguire in the 2019 final here in York, Ding had reached only one ranking event semi-final, prior to this week. He is currently number 38 in the world so this run at the Barbican is a remarkable return to form for the 35-year-old.

He had to win two qualifying matches just to make it to the venue – and if he goes on to lift the trophy he’ll be the first qualifier to do so since his own 2005 triumph. The title would also come with a return to the top 16 and the added bonus of a place in January’s Cazoo Masters.

Having thrashed Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-0 in the quarter-finals yesterday, Ding came into today’s tie on the crest of a wave, and swept into a 5-0 lead. Ford recovered to 5-3 but it was too little and too late for the Englishman, who is still seeking his first ranking title.

The first frame came down to a safety battle with two reds on the table. Ding laid a tough snooker behind the yellow, and from the chance that followed he cleared for 1-0. A break of 55 in the second doubled his lead. Ford had a clear scoring chance in frame three but, with the balls at his mercy, he ran out of position on 26. He later missed a difficult black to a top corner when he trailed 27-33, handing Ding the chance to add 24 and extend his advantage. A break of 84 made it 4-0 at the interval.

In frame five, Ford made 46 before missing a straight-forward pink to a top corner. Again that proved costly as Ding made an excellent 62 clearance for 5-0. Then came the fight-back from Leicester’s Ford as breaks of 77, 64 and 64 got him back to 5-3. He looked set to pull another back as he potted eight reds with blacks in frame nine, only to miss a red to a top corner on 64. Ding countered with 37, then took advantage of a botched safety from his opponent on the penultimate red to secure victory.

I did feel pressure in the end when he got back to 5-3, and in the end I was lucky that he left me a red,” said Sheffield-based Ding. ”I wasn’t making big breaks so I just scored as many points as I could then played safe and waited for the next chance.

I have confidence to win. I’ll keep my eye on the shots and concentrate fully. I’m enjoying it and feeling good. Tomorrow is a different day but I think it helps that I have played in the final three times before. I know how to play in a final. Jack and Mark are both great players, they are quick and attacking.

It’s been tough for me in the last three seasons. My fans are waiting for me to win a tournament – and so am I. It’s a great chance.”

Ford said: “I was terrible out there, Ding didn’t play great himself, but he played the better of us. I just couldn’t control the white, it was rolling just a little bit extra and when I was falling out of position it was just getting harder and harder. From 5-0 I was just trying to get a respectable score line. I could have won that last frame to make it 5-4 and then all of a sudden, it’s a different game. I’ve got to take the positives that I’ve done well this week getting to the semis.”

Speaking to Ronnie and Radzi after the match, Ding said a few important things about the format. He insisted that this tiered format definitely helps the lower ranked players, giving them a more winnable opening match and allowing them to perform better at the main venue because they are under less pressure. They have already secured some money and ranking points, they have already won at least one match in the event and they know where they stand with their game. Of course all this is only relevant if the qualifiers are played just before the main event. It was also mentioned that Ding’s only run to the final at the Crucible came when he was a qualifier. That time he completely froze in the first session of the match: lost the first six frames of the match. Hopefully this won’t happen today.

Evenin session:

Allen Floors Lisowski In Black Ball Drama

Mark Allen won a breath-taking deciding frame on the last black to beat Jack Lisowski 6-5 and set up a Cazoo UK Championship final against Ding Junhui.

A tremendous semi-final, the best match of the tournament in York so far, came down to the last few balls. Lisowski earlier led 5-3 and had chances in the decider, but couldn’t get over the line and Allen produced a typically gutsy clearance from green to black to snatch victory.

The Northern Irishman is through to the final of this event for the third time, and having lost to Judd Trump in 2011 and Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2018 he hopes it will be third time lucky. Victory would give Allen his second Triple Crown success, having captured the Masters in 2018.

Allen is in a fabulous run of form, having reached the final of the Cazoo British Open and won the Northern Ireland Open within the past eight weeks. The 36-year-old is through to his third consecutive ranking event final and 16th of his career, and the silverware would give him an eighth ranking title.

First he’ll need to beat China’s Ding, who has already won this event three times and looks close to his best form. First to ten frames on Sunday takes the trophy and a record top prize of £250,000, which would be a career high pay-day for either player.

Breaks of 58 and 77 put Lisowski 2-0 ahead, and he made 60 in the next before narrowly missing an attempted double on the penultimate red. Allen later converted an excellent pot on the last red to a centre pocket and cleared to halve his deficit, then made a 63 in the next for 2-2. In frame five, Allen trailed 25-29 with three reds left when he over-cut the black to a top corner, letting Lisowski in to regain the lead.

In the sixth, Lisowski got the snooker he needed on the yellow, but then played a weak safety on the yellow, gifting Allen a pot to centre for 3-3. A run of 54 helped put Lisowski back in front, and he took frame eight after getting the better of a safety battle with two reds left. World number nine Allen pulled one back with a 115. Lisowski had two early chances in frame ten but mustered only 17 points, and Allen’s 74 made it 5-5.

Allen had first chance in the decider and made 36 before playing safe, then Lisowski countered with 57 before failing to dislodge the last red from a side cushion. It came down to the yellow and Lisowski potted it to a centre pocket before missing a tough green. Allen knocked in an equally difficult green to a baulk corner and seized his opportunity to clear the table.

My performance was really poor, but I stayed patient hoping something would change,” said Allen, who is sure to climb to fifth in the world rankings.  “Throughout the match I felt I got the better of the safety battles so when it came down to the last red in the decider, I felt I would get a chance.

Getting over the line in these big matches is tough and Jack hasn’t done it in these big tournaments yet. I always felt there was a chance he would miss. His time will come but this will be a sore one for him. He was the better player tonight and probably deserved to win.

You only play your best a handful of times in a season, so you have to win when not at your best, like Selby, Higgins and Robertson do regularly. I’m in such a good place mentally which helps me get through these matches.

I need to improve tomorrow. But I’ve done better than 142 of the players who started this tournament. I’m doing lots of things well, just not well enough. As long as I’ve got my cue in my hand and breath in my body, I’ll be giving it everything. It would mean so much to lift the trophy, these are the type of tournaments I want to win in my career.”

Lisowski said: “I did well to get back into the last frame and just didn’t move the red off the cushion. After that I played a bad frame. It’s really disappointing, I wasn’t good enough tonight.”

I would have loved to have Jack in the final, but Mark was the strongest player yesterday night. Not the best, but the strongest mentally.

Because BBC insist on that, the draw for the 2023 Masters will be made today. This is completely wrong in my views because there are two more ranking to be played between tomorrow and the Masters. The top 16 by then, in more than 6 weeks time, may well be different from what it will be tonight. Also, whilst Mark Allen will stay fifth no matter what happens today, Ding, currently out of the top 16, would climb to tenth if he wins and Yan Bingtao would then miss out.

3 thoughts on “The 2022 UK Championship – The Semi-finals

  1. Both semi-finals were not the best in terms of quality, but the second match made up for that in terms of drama. Possibly the table conditions were difficult to handle for all players. If Jack Lisowski is to break through and win a tournament, he will probably have to do it by winning matches easily (like Zhao Xintong). Close matches and tense finishes put him at a disadvantage,

    After Ding’s comments about the qualifiers having momentum, and after many top seeds were ‘ambushed’, I suspect WST will change the schedule next year to ensure a 2-3 week gap between qualifiers and main event, with conditions in the qualifiers as awful as possible! They have to promote the game by having the top players on show in the latter stages! It is however true that tiered draws do make the rankings swing (after a 2-year delay of course) and put pressure on the top-16, who have to win.

    • I hope they don’t. As Ding said this system is definitely better for the qualifiers and it’s the reason I have been advocating for a return to a tiered system, for most, if not all, ranking events. Because it does give a better chance to the low ranked players, and that’s particularly important for the younger ones; they may not qualify but will likely have the opportunity to play more matches, and go though more winnable games and learn. Petrov’s run last week was a prime example. If Ding wins today, he’ll be back in the top 16 right away… where he belongs.

      • It’s very suspicious from the BBC to only change (back) to this tiered format, after a final with two players well outside the Top 16 (at the time, last year).

        Maybe a further revert to Bof17s will stop as many seeds losing their first match.

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