The news about the max fixing crisis have overshadowed the current tournament, the 2023 World Grand Prix and it’s a shame because there has been a lot of excellent snooker on show. I have to admit that the latest developments around the match fixing enquiry have affected me more that I thought it would, and going by reactions on social media I’m not the only one in that situation. But let’s forget that for a moment…
Other than that…
On what happened on the second full day, here are the reports by WST and some personal comments
Patience Key For Magician
Shaun Murphy scored a 4-0 win over Ali Carter on day three of the Duelbits World Grand Prix in Cheltenham and afterwards admitted he needs to remain patient in his quest for a first major title since 2020.
Murphy has stated he is extremely happy with his game at present, but has been outdone by a number of top level performances in recent tournaments. The most notable of those losses was a 6-0 whitewash at the hands of Stuart Bingham at last week’s Masters. The last time Murphy picked up professional silverware was at the 2020 Welsh Open, shortly before the pandemic hit.
The 2005 World Champion still has work to do in order to secure his place in the remainder of the Duelbits Series. He currently sits in 14th position on the one-year list. The top 16 progress to the Players Championship and only the best eight will earn a place in the Tour Championship.
Breaks of 91 and 65 helped Murphy on his way to this afternoon’s victory. In the 22 years since they first met on the professional circuit, it is the first time there has ever been a whitewash in a match between Murphy and Carter.
“I’m really pleased and it has carried on the form I’ve shown for most of this season, when I’ve been allowed to play! In some of the matches I’ve had in recent weeks I haven’t been allowed to play and you can’t win from your chair! Given the chance, I can still do it, ” said nine-time ranking event winner Murphy.
“The patience required in snooker is the biggest test of all. We did a school visit at the Prestbury St Mary’s in Cheltenham yesterday and I was really hammering home the point about perseverance, resilience and never giving up. I think to some degree that’s been my challenge this season. Having prepared well, constantly practised hard and sacrificed quite a lot to make a physical difference to myself, some of the matches I’ve lost have been hard to take. You have to keep dusting yourself down, getting off the floor and keeping going. I know that if I keep doing the right things, eventually it will pay off.”
Glasgow’s Anthony McGill scored an impressive 4-1 win over recent Scottish Open winner Gary Wilson to book his place in the last 16.
McGill, who made the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open earlier in the season, composed breaks of 69 and 76 on his way to victory and now plays Sam Craigie, who beat Tom Ford 4-2.
After the match, the two-time ranking event winner revealed that he has been working with 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon, who is also in the corner of world number 12 Jack Lisowski.
McGill said: “We’ve just seemed to get together for a little bit. It is worth trying. I think John Higgins has mentioned there are a lot of players looking for that edge. I’m no different. I’d love to be doing better than I am. Peter has been there, done it and got the t-shirt. He is helping me a lot.
“You look at players like Ronnie O’Sullivan and think there is something magical about him, whereas I look at Peter and think I could get as much out of my ability as Peter has. He is a good guy to have in my corner.”
This afternoon’s other game saw Luca Brecel beat Welsh Open champion Joe Perry 4-1. The Belgian now plays Judd Trump in the last 16.
I’m not sure I’m thrilled about the news that McGill is now working with Ebdon 🙄 … Ants is already more than capable enough to turn any match into an exhausting grinding fest, he doesn’t need to get any help to improve on that. That said, this week, that’s not the way he’s played. His scoring has been very good.
Superb Saengkham Downs Rocket
Thai number one Noppon Saengkham recorded his first ever victory against seven-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, coming through a 4-2 winner at the Duelbits World Grand Prix in Cheltenham.
The shock win continues Saengkham’s excellent showing so far this week. He’s already beaten four-time Crucible king Mark Selby 4-1 in the opening round and now progresses to face an in form Mark Williams in the quarter-finals.
Saengkham had lost all three of his previous encounters with 39-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan, but today’s result sees him finally get a win over the Rocket.
O’Sullivan now has it all to do to qualify for the next stage of the Duelbits Series, the Players Championship. Only the top 16 on the one-year list will earn a place in Wolverhampton and the 47-year-old must at least make the semi-finals of the Welsh Open to stand a chance of qualifying.
It was O’Sullivan who made the strongest start this evening, with a break of 70 to take the opening frame. Saengkham had an opportunity to take the second, but broke down on 53 and O’Sullivan stepped up to make it 2-0.
From that moment it was Saengkham who took a stranglehold on proceedings. Breaks of 68 and 96 helped him into a 3-2 lead and a superb long range pink in the sixth got him over the line a 4-2 victor.
“I feel over the moon, because Ronnie is a hero for all snooker players. It isn’t easy to beat him. I had to beat my heart first,” said world number 33 Saengkham. “I still want to win a trophy. I want this week to be my week.”
“It is a good test for me to beat Ronnie. I had to do something to beat him. I had to beat him to help myself to do something bigger in the future. It is a good day for me.”
Williams continued his sparkling run of form to set up a meeting with Saengkham, scoring a 4-0 win over Ding Junhui.
The 24-time ranking event winner made the final of the Masters on Sunday, but was narrowly beaten 10-8 by Judd Trump. Williams showed no signs of a hangover in his opening match this week, beating Welsh compatriot Jamie Jones 4-1.
This evening’s tie saw Williams dominate in the break building department. Runs of 67, 65 and 69 helped him establish a 3-0 lead and he had looked like easing over the line in the fourth, before breaking down on 57. Ding battled back into the frame and got down to the final black. However, he eventually left a roll up safety short and handed Williams the tie.
Local hero and world number 12 Jack Lisowski kept his run going with a 4-2 win over China’s Zhou Yuelong. That sets up a quarter-final clash with number one seed Mark Allen, after the Northern Irishman beat Joe O’Connor 4-3.
The way Ding lost the last frame is something you won’t see often. He had the possibility to extend the match, the last black was over the green pocket, he played it slowly and the cue ball didn’t reach! Ding looked like he was playing well again in the first half of this season. I can’t help to wonder how much the current match fixing scandal is affecting him. Probably a lot because the majority of the players involved play at his Academy. That’s such a shame.
On what happened on the third full day, here are the reports by WST and some personal comments
Afternoon session (the last session of the last 16 round)
Trump Reaches Quarters
Judd Trump whitewashed Luca Brecel 4-0 to earn his place in the quarter-finals of the Duelbits World Grand Prix.
The world number four arrives in Cheltenham off the back of what he describes as the “biggest win of his career”. Trump edged out Mark Williams 10-8 in an epic Masters final to lift the Paul Hunter Trophy for a second time at Alexandra Palace last Sunday.
The Juddernaut continued his momentum with an entertaining 4-2 win over Iran’s Hossein Vafaei in round one, but faced what looked to be a stern second round test this afternoon against Belgium’s Brecel.
The Englishman wasted little time in securing victory. He took a clean sweep of the frames thanks to breaks of 57, 62, 72 and 79, with the match lasting just an hour and 14 minutes. He now faces a quarter-final tie against Xiao Guodong, who beat Ryan Day 4-1 this afternoon.
Trump said: “I’m probably playing a little bit better than I did last week. I’m scoring a bit heavier. I should have had a maximum in that match and I should have had a century in the last frame as well. I still get a bit disappointed when I’m not clearing the table up. The hard work was done and the frame winning breaks were done. It would have been nice to do it in style but another winning performance.”
Shaun Murphy scored a 4-2 win over Kyren Wilson to earn his place in the quarter-finals. The Magician composed breaks of 79 and exactly 100 on his way to winning.
Englishman Murphy needs a strong showing this week to ensure he continues progressing through the Duelbits Series. The 2005 World Champion currently sits in 14th position on the one-year list. Only the top 16 will make it to the Players Championship, with eight making the finale at the Tour Championship.
Next up Murphy faces Scotland’s Anthony McGill up next. McGill was in fine form during a 4-0 demolition of Sam Craigie. The two-time ranking event winner fired in breaks of 78, 55, 131 and 76 on his way to victory.
Luca Brecel played some outstanding safeties in that match but didn’t score enough when he had the opportunity. That was quite unexpected. Maybe he’s working on his safety game and is a bit in a transition period.
Evening session (first of the Quarter Finals)
Saengkham Continues Dream Run
World number 33 Noppon Saengkham scored his first ever victory over three-time World Champion Mark Williams, winning 5-3 at the Duelbits World Grand Prix in Cheltenham to reach the semi-finals
The Thai has enjoyed an extraordinary run so far this week. He beat world number two Mark Selby for the first time in five years in the opening round, before a first ever win over 39-time ranking event winner Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semis and a maiden win over Williams this evening.
Saengkham is through to the semi-finals of a ranking event for the third time. His previous last four appearances came in 2018, when he was knocked out in the last four of the Welsh Open and World Open and he also made the semis at the 2022 British Open earlier this season. However, he is still chasing a first appearance in a ranking final. He now faces number one seed Mark Allen, who he lost out to in the semi-finals of that British Open.
Williams will have to wait a bit longer to cash in on his fine form and capture silverware. He went on a sparkling run to the final of the Masters last week, but lost out 10-8 to Judd Trump in an epic title match.
Saengkham started quickly this evening and made a break of 93 to take the opener, before adding the second to lead 2-0. Williams dug in to claim a fragmented third and then composed a break of 85 to take the fourth and restore parity at 2-2 heading into the mid-session interval.
They traded the next two frames, with Saengkham then taking the seventh to move 4-3 in front. The eighth frame came down to the final ball, with Saengkham potting a superb pink into the right middle and then depositing a cut back black to get over the line a 5-3 victor.
“I am very happy today. It is a very big win to beat Mark Williams. I tried to protect every ball, but his long potting is so good.” said 30-year-old Saengkham. “I have had a very good performance this week. I am so happy. I still can’t believe it because in the last few months I haven’t been on form. I am here now and it is amazing.
“I have three experiences of semi-finals. This time I will try my best. I have good experience now. I will enjoy and keep smiling. I think this week is going to be my week.”
Allen earned his place in the last four with a gruelling 5-4 win over Jack Lisowski, which took four hours and 21 minutes.
The Northern Irishman has been the form player of the season so far, having notched up wins at the Northern Ireland Open and the UK Championship to top the one-year list. However, he had to summon all of his battling abilities in tonight’s game.
The pair traded 95 breaks to share the opening two frames. Lisowski then made it 2-1 by taking the third, before a marathon fourth. The frame lasted 58 minutes, with a portion of that being taken up by a debate over the award of a free ball, which Lisowski eventually elected not to take. It was Allen who took it in the end to go into the mid-session all square at 2-2.
World number five Allen won two of the next three to move to the verge of victory at 4-3. However, a stunning contribution of 68, with the balls in difficult positions, saw Lisowski force the decider. A break of 67 in the final frame was the decisive blow which got Allen over the line to book a last four meeting with Saengkham. Afterwards the Antrim cueman emphasised the importance of being able to battle when not at your best.
Allen said: “To be honest it is more important having a B game. You probably play your very best a couple of times a season, or a handful of times a year. You need to have that B game and sometimes your C game to get through. If you can nick those matches when you aren’t at your best it turns your season around. Two years ago I had a terrible season, because I lost almost every decider I played. I wasn’t getting on the right end of those close games, I’ve got on the right end of nearly every one this season. It makes a huge difference.
“Noppon is a class player. He is much improved and someone I rate very highly. I played very well against him in the semi-finals of the British Open. I need to play something like that to win tomorrow. He looks like he’s absolutely flying this week. I maybe need to try to do a bit of what I did tonight and keep him off the table.”
For all those who downplayed Noppon Saengkham merit this week, there you have it. You don’t beat Mark Selby, Ronnie and Willo in the course of half a week if you don’t play very, very well. Noppon has been aggressive all week, his long potting has been deadly and his break building excellent. Mark Allen is clearly aware of that and his plan is clear: he will be on a mission to prevent Noppon to play. That’s what he did against Jack Lisowski yesterday, with partial success but enough to win more frames than him. And of course, he scored well when in as well.
Also, many UK viewers have complained because table 2 is not available to them. They are right. OK ITV is the main broadcaster, but if they don’t show it, why can’t it be made available on another platform?