The last ranking event of the decade got underway in Glasgow yesterday. Mark Allen is the defending champion.
Here is the trailer:
John Higgins defeated Jamie O’Neill 4-1 to progress to the second round of his home event, the 19.com Scottish Open in Glasgow.
Scotland’s four-time World Champion has enjoyed plenty of success in this tournament since its inception in 2016, but is yet to lift the Stephen Hendry Trophy.
Higgins reached the inaugural Scottish Open final, but was defeated by Marco Fu 9-4. In 2017 he bowed out at the semi-final stage against Neil Robertson and last year he fired in the ninth maximum 147 break of his career in a 4-0 win over Gerard Greene.
The Wizard of Wishaw wasn’t at his best this afternoon, failing to register a break over 50. However, he dug deep and still managed to comfortably see off the less experienced world number 110 O’Neill.
From 2-1 up Higgins claimed a scrappy fourth frame, before stealing the fifth on the final black to emerge a 4-1 victor. Next up he will face Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher, who whitewashed Michael Holt 4-0.
Higgins said: “He let me off the hook a few times there. I didn’t play great myself, but a win is a win and I am happy to get through.
“My son was here, with my mum, a couple of mates and my father in law. That is the good thing about being here. You get a few friends and family and they can shout you along.
“I’ve done alright here in the past. Obviously I would love to put my name on that trophy, but it is pretty difficult nowadays.”
Defending champion Mark Allen recovered from 2-0 down to defeat Andy Hicks 4-2 in their opening round encounter.
The Pistol claimed the title here last year after a thrilling 9-7 win over close friend Shaun Murphy in the final. However, despite appearing in five ranking event semi-finals since then, he hasn’t registered any further silverware.
Former Masters winner Allen turned today’s match on its head with breaks of 88, 55 and 64 on his way to four frames on the bounce to secure victory. Next up Allen faces Louis Heathcote.
Graeme Dott produced a blistering display to whitewash Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo 4-0.
Scotland’s 2006 World Champion averaged just under 20 seconds a shot, while compiling breaks of 69, 125, 71 and 137 to wrap up an impressive win.
Dott will now face either Ben Woollaston or Chen Zifan in the second round.
Dott said: “My brother Billy was here and I don’t think he has actually ever seen me play live before. He will probably think the game is unbelievably easy and that I play as well as that all of the time. However, it isn’t normally that straightforward.”
World number 78 John Astley emerged with a shock 4-0 win over three-time ranking event winner Barry Hawkins.
Mark Selby booked his place in the second round courtesy of a hard fought 4-2 defeat of Mark Joyce, while Neil Robertson beat Ken Doherty 4-1 to secure his place in round two.
This report is obviously focussed on the Scottish players.
However the main talking point was an incident that occured during Mark Allen’s match. Here is the account on that by Eurosport:
‘You can’t do that!’ – Controversy at ‘VAR’ decision in Mark Allen win
Technology intervened during Mark Allen’s clash with Andy Hicks at the Scottish Open.
Mark Allen came back from a two-frame deficit to beat Andy Hicks 4-2 at the Scottish Open… but only after there was a bizarre VAR-style incident.
The odd moment occurred midway through the second frame when the Pistol, hampered by the jaws of the middle pocket, feathered the white ball as he attempted to roll the blue to the opposite middle pocket.
Initially, referee Leo Scullion missed the incident but after being prompted by marker Marcel Eckhart, he reviewed the footage before awarding Hicks five penalty points.
Hicks, the world number 143, needed two visits but eventually took the frame. It would be his last.
‘YOU CAN’T DO THAT!’
The Eurosport commentary box insisted Allen was not to blame, with Alan McManus questioning the decision to belatedly award a foul.
Alan McManus: “Mark wouldn’t have felt it but I think he did touch the cue ball.”
Phil Studd: “He inadvertently cued the white before he actually did; there is no way Allen would have known of that because he would be the first to hold his hand up. But in the event he has missed the blue anyway. I think the marker Marcel Eckhart is going to bring that Leo Scullion’s attention.”
Alan McManus (after the referee had reviewed the incident): “It is all after the event, you can’t put the cue ball back to the middle pocket so… you can’t call a foul now because he has played a foul. What are you going to do? Call a foul after a shot has been played? Doesn’t make any sense to me!
“He has effectively played a shot after a foul and then a foul has been retrospectively called. You can’t do that!”
‘I HAD NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE’
Mark Allen in the Eurosport studio post-match: “I had no idea. Ideally if I had been called on a foul I wanted to leave the cue ball on the jaws.
“I didn’t really know why they had stopped play… I had never seen that happen before but at least the right decision came of it!”
Alan McManus: “The sequence of events went as follows: myself and Phil saw in commentary and then Marcel Eckhart, whose wired up, he heard us mention ‘oh there’s a foul’, so he has then put his hand up and brought it to Leo’s attention, who has come over and then said: ‘oh, there was a foul’ but this was after Mark has missed the blue. So, really he has called a foul retrospectively, which you can’t do.”
Jimmy White: “We are all very proud in out sport that we declare our fouls – very rarely do you see someone pull a stroke or try to cheat. But when you are on a leather pocket sometimes you can touch it without knowing it, you know? Sometimes it feels different.”
Whether it was the right decision, strictly by the rules, I’m not entirely sure, but Mark Alllen wouldn’t have been happy to learn that he had fouled and that the penalty points had not been awarded to his opponent. We all remember how devastated Ronnie was when he found out about the incident against Sunny Akani at the 2018 English Open.
Most top players won, but appeared tired. Mark Allen actually said it in the studio. Having this event right after the UK championship isn’t ideal. The only top 16 player to fall yesterday was Barry Hawkins who was whitewashed by John Astley. After the match Barry admitted that he wasn’t enjoying his snooker at the moment and didn’t intend to play in the qualifiers next week. Sounds like burnout to me…