The Masters almost always delivers and it definitely did yesterday as well.
In the afternoon match Barry Hawkins “did a job” on Mark Allen and beat him by 6-0.
In-Form Allen Outplayed By ‘Phenomenal’ Hawk
Mark Allen has been the player of the season so far, but his miserable run of results at Alexandra Palace continued as he was whitewashed 6-0 by Barry Hawkins in the first round of the Cazoo Masters.
Allen won the Northern Ireland Open and the Cazoo UK Championship in the first half of the season, but was soundly beaten today and outmaneuvered in tactical exchanges. “Barry’s safety was phenomenal,” said Allen, who won the Masters in 2018 but has since suffered five consecutive first round defeats. “So many times I came to the table had no shot. I said to him at the end, it was probably one of the best safety displays I have come against as a pro. I lost to John Higgins at the Crucible in 2017 and his safety was incredible, but what Barry did today was right up there.”
Hawkins enjoys the big occasion and reached the final in London last year, knocking out Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby and Judd Trump before losing 10-4 to Neil Robertson. The 43-year-old, who was also runner-up in 2016, will meet Trump again in the quarter-finals on Friday afternoon, if Trump can get the better of Ryan Day on Wednesday.
World number five Allen led 55-0 in the opening frame but couldn’t close it out, and eventually lost a safety battle on the brown, Hawkins slotting in a long pot and adding blue and pink to snatch it. Breaks of 76 and 114 saw the Londoner extend his advantage to 3-0.
In the fourth, Hawkins led 64-43 when he left the last red in the jaws of a top corner, playing with the long rest. But Allen’s chance to pull a frame back ended when he overcut the brown to a baulk pocket, leaving him 4-0 behind. World number 13 Hawkins dominated frame five with runs of 45 and 41 to stretch his lead.
Northern Ireland’s Allen had opportunities to gain a foothold in the match in a scrappy sixth frame, but missed a red with the rest on 45, and later made a safety error with two reds remaining. Hawkins cleared the table to reach his fifth Masters quarter-final.
“Every department has to be strong at this level,” said Hawkins. “My safety was the strongest part today and I didn’t make many unforced errors. I had a bit of luck as well and you have to take that when it comes along. The first frame was massive, to nick that really settled me down. Then the fourth was important as well because at 3-1 he would have been back in the match. When he missed that brown it must have been in his head.
“It’s all about how you settle and how you handle the occasion. I have been to big finals and won massive matches under pressure, but I have also folded in finals. Neil played fantastic stuff against me last year, I have played some of the best players who have ever picked up a cue in finals, as soon as you are off your game then they destroy you. But I feel I’m in a good place to handle that situation if I got there again.”
Allen said: “I could have won the first frame, then didn’t see a ball for the next two. Frame four was the one that got away, it was a bad miss on the brown. I’m disappointed to be out of the Masters, but I don’t really know how I played because I didn’t have many chances to get my hand on the table. I’ll get back to the practice table and get ready for the World Grand Prix.”
It was a masterclass in tactical play by Barry Hawkins. Mark Allen never got going, never settled because he just got no opportunity, no table time, nothing to go at. It was quite mesmerising.
The evening match threatened to go the same way when Mark Williams lead by 4-0 at the interval, although in Williams’s case the main factor during the first mini-session was outstanding potting accuracy. To David Gilbert’s credit he kept fighting and made a match, or at least a session, of it after the MSI.
Williams Buzzing After Beating Gilbert
Despite being attacked by a wasp in the closing frame, Mark Williams was thrilled to beat David Gilbert 6-2 at the Cazoo Masters, setting up a blockbuster quarter-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Williams revelled in the Alexandra Palace atmosphere last year, particularly during a 6-5 win over John Higgins, and he can look forward to another ‘Class of 92’ clash with O’Sullivan on Thursday at 1pm. Both players are sure to receive a rousing reception from 2,000 fans in their first Masters meeting since 2016.
“I can never get a better reception than last year against Higgins, it was unbelievable,” said two-time champion Williams. “But it might be just as good against Ronnie. Obviously 99 per cent of the crowd will be on his side, I won’t worry about that because it will be a great occasion. I’m 48 in a couple of months so who would have thought I’d be playing Ronnie here in front of a full crowd.”
Williams showed some handy moves in the eighth frame to avoid the wasp, but his most impressive work was on the table as he made two tons and potted important balls at key moments. A quarter of a century after winning the famous respotted black final against Stephen Hendry, the Welshman is through to the quarter-finals for the 15th time.
Williams made a sizzling start as breaks of 126, 127 and 95 put him 3-0 up inside 40 minutes. In frame four, Gilbert led 49-40 when he missed the penultimate red to a baulk corner, playing with the rest. Williams’ clearance included an excellent pot on the last red along the side cushion, as he extended his lead to 4-0.
Gilbert got going after the interval with a break of 59 to reduce the deficit. In frame six, Williams led 42-0 when he missed a short range red to a top corner, and Gilbert punished him with a superb 80 clearance. The seventh came down to a safety exchange on the last red, and Williams laid a tough snooker then converted a mid range pot on the red and cleared for 5-2.
Frame eight was resolved on the colours, Gilbert missing two chances at the yellow when he led by 22 points, and Williams punished him by clearing for victory.
“I have been working with Lee Walker and playing some good stuff,” added three-time World Champion Williams. “It could have gone 4-3 at one stage but I made a couple of clearances and got over the line. Dave played well to come back and didn’t miss many balls.”
Gilbert said: “I felt great even when I was 4-0 down. The fight back was on when I got to 4-2 and in the end 6-2 probably flattered him a bit. Mark is far superior to me at safety, it was like man versus boy. I’ll miss this place and I hope I can back here again.”
The wasp incident was shared by WST on their YouTube channel
Marcel was, by far, the bravest man on the scene!
Today is the last day of the first round at Ally Pally. It is also the first day of the 2023 Welsh Open qualifiers. Following the latest suspensions, WST has updated the draw:
One player has been withdrawn from this event, and replaced with a straight swap in the draw with the next available player on the Q School 2022 Order of Merit who entered the Top Up Places event.
Chen Zifan is replaced by Farakh Ajaib
With David Gilbert (M58 v Marco Fu) and Hossein Vafaei (M39 v Lyu Haotian) now competing in the Cazoo Masters, their matches in the Welsh Qualifiers will be held over and played at the final stages in Llandudno next month.
It has also been agreed with the players concerned that M61 (Matthew Stevens v Fan Zhengyi) will now be played on Thursday 12 January at 7pm
The green background has been added by me. I definitely think this is the best solution for the players and for the fans.
The following players have been withdrawn from this event, and their opponents will receive a bye into the next round:
As a result of these withdrawals, there is a slight change in the provisional format of play:
Match 8 – Elliot Slessor v Joe O’Connor will now be played on Wednesday 1 February, at 3.00 pm
Surprisingly Zhao Xintong is still in that draw …
Inevitably the media took the opportunity of the Masters to ask Ronnie about the match fixing issues. Here is what he had t say, was reported by Phil Haigh:
Ronnie O’Sullivan downplays snooker match-fixing scandal: ‘It’s not really that important’
Phil HaighTuesday 10 Jan 2023 11:03 am
Ronnie O’Sullivan has downplayed the ongoing match-fixing scandal in snooker, saying other sports have survived similar problems and adding: ‘In the grand scheme of things, it’s not really that important.’
10 players are currently suspended from World Snooker Tour events as the match-fixing investigation continues, with charges expected to be levied in the coming days before an independent tribunal assesses the cases.
The situation has been in focus this week at the Masters as Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao were both due to play but are among those suspended, so have been replaced in the draw by Hossein Vafaei and Dave Gilbert respectively.
It is undoubtedly a terrible situation for snooker, in terms of the integrity of the sport and how it looks to both the public and potential commercial partners.
However, the current world champion and world number one does not sounds too worried, saying similar has happened elsewhere and sports always survive.
‘I’m sure it has happened in football, tennis, golf and it hasn’t harmed them,’ said O’Sullivan after winning his opening Masters match 6-1 against Luca Brecel on Monday.
‘It hasn’t affected them. We have to talk about these things but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really that important.
‘There is a lot of stuff going on in the world like famine, starvation, malnourishment. These are really important issues and to me they are very important. Sport is just a game.’
O’Sullivan also urged caution before blaming individuals involved as it is yet to become clear what situations led to any involvement in match-fixing.
While there can be no excuses for some levels of involvement, the Rocket feels some mitigating circumstances will need to be taken into account.
‘I can’t really say because I don’t know,’ O’Sullivan told The Sportsman. ‘But before you start criticising the guys involved you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It can only be one of two things, they either have an addiction and if that’s a case then they need help, or they are struggling to make ends meet.
‘Maybe they are forced into desperation and that’s not a good situation either. World Snooker could help support them rather than being hard on them and maybe change their structure and not put these players in that situation.
‘I’m not one for being hard on them because I know it’s not easy for the bottom ranked players. I’m sure it’s happened in football and it hasn’t harmed football. I’m sure it’s happened in tennis and it hasn’t done tennis any harm.
‘I’m sure some golfer down the line has done something, it doesn’t seem to have effected that sport. I think it will get sorted and get done.’
Some thoughts about this interview:
- Ronnie is rights that in the grand scheme of things, sport is not that important. It has however often been used by the ones in power to distract the people from what’s really important. “Panem and Circensus” in ancient Rome… translates into – mainly – football, cricket and basket (depending on where you live) nowadays.
- Of course snooker will survive. Ken Doherty said the same. It is however important for its sponsoring to keep a clean image.
- To the Ronnie’s quotes about lower ranked players struggling to make ends meet, WPBSA/WST reacted, saying that the 20000 pounds now guaranteed, frees lower ranked players from that concern. It is true, but it is recent. As this moment in time we do not know when the matches currently investigated happened. Also once a player is caught in that “net” it’s easy to coerce them to continue.
- I find it interesting that Ronnie cites addictions. It was of course a factor in Stephen Lee’s case. It may be the case for some players involved in this too. I’m NOT looking to excuse anyone, but, and I have already touched this before, Liang Wenbo’s extreme volatility and anger issues, weren’t there, or at least certainly not this extreme, when I first met him some 10 years ago. Maybe there is more to it than meets the eye. If this was the case, for him and or others involved, they still need punishment, but they need help as well.