2020 European Masters in Austria – Day 1

The 2020 European Masters started yesterday in Austria, with just 32 players at the venue. There are four tables in use, all in the main Arena.

Prior to the event, Hector Nunns – who made the trip to Dornbirn – had interviewed John Higgins.

John Higgins admits he is super-charged for the start of the BetVictor series of tournaments – and checking out a new venue in Austria.

By Hector Nunns

The World Snooker Tour sets down in the picturesque town of Dornbirn in the mountainous Vorarlberg region this week for the BetVictor European Masters.

And it looks like snooker in the snow for the 32 players having qualified to take part at the Messe complex, with the nearby ski slopes at Boedele having been covered by a fresh fall in recent days.

It might be more remote than capital city Vienna, but the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby have played an exhibition here to huge crowds, and similar are expected for this event.

For Scotland’s Higgins, 44, who like the others present has won two qualifiers to be in the draw, the attractions of the tournament are numerous.

While others arrive via Zurich and a train, he was flying in to Munich, hiring a car, and then meandering down over the Germany-Austria border taking in some wintry scenery.

There is the obvious target of the world number six adding to his 30 ranking titles, and trying to get closer to O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry, currently locked on 36.

But perhaps most of all, four-time world champion Higgins is licking his lips at the prospect of having a real tilt at the BetVictor series bonus of £150,000 for being the leading money-winner.

Any player claiming the £80,000 first prize in either Austria or at the BetVictor German Masters in Berlin next week will have a real shot at the bumper extra pay-out.

Doing well in both could make them a red-hot favourite, with the quickfire Shoot Out and Gibraltar Open to follow.

Higgins said: “The bonus on offer for winning the most money on this BetVictor series is massive, on top of what you would win anyway.

“And it isn’t some incentive that looks impossible, but very real and achievable.

“You would have to think that if a player wins one of the first two, the big European tournaments in Austria and Germany, they would be in a very strong position.

“I have qualified for both of those, and will be giving it everything. So I would love to do well this week in Dornbirn and then in Berlin. And then if I was in the mix and it was in the balance, I would probably go to Gibraltar which I might not normally.

“The idea of different bonuses for different series is a good one, the players like it – and there is a lot of great stuff going on.

“I think I have been to play in Austria – in Vienna – once in the past for an exhibition. Obviously we are not in the capital this week, but somewhere a bit more remote.

“But I am really looking forward to a new experience. I am flying over to Munich in Germany, hiring a car and then driving down from there.

“I think it is maybe a couple of hours, just over, so I’ll see some sights from the car as it should be a scenic route.

“And with the coverage on Eurosport so good now all over the continent and fans keen to see the top players, I think there will be great crowds turning up in Dornbirn.

“I only heard late that it was so close to some ski slopes. It is probably just as well the missus didn’t know about that earlier!

“She keeps going on about us going on a family skiing holiday, and I say ‘no way’. If she’d known before it might have been a more difficult conversation!”

One thing is certain, the big crowds weren’t there yesterday. The arena look pretty empty, even in the afternoon. This is probably the result of a combination of factors: the absence of some of the biggest stars, notably Ronnie and Judd Trump, as well as the fact that the local wilcards had to play two rounds and didn’t make it to the venue, are two of them. Add to it the rather remote venue, not necssarily easy to get at in the winter with the snow and the time of the year (post Christmas holidays  paucity of  money)  are others.

The big bonus may have inspired John Higgins but the fact remains that a lot of top players didn’t qualify. Having the qualifiers just before the Christmas holidays is simply dooming: I’m sure that it’s not just John who likes the idea of £150000, but when you are exhausted … you are exhausted and it’s hard to find the mental resources needed to win matches. It’s that simple.

Most top players involved yesterday won their matches. The exception being Kyren Wilson who lost by 5-2 to Scott Donaldson. Kyren is clearly going through a bad spell.

Here are the reports by WST:

Morning and afternoon session

Top stars John Higgins, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson all enjoyed comfortable wins on day one of the BetVictor European Masters to reach the last 16.

It’s the first ever world ranking event in Austria, in the city of Dornbirn at the foot of the Eastern Alps. The tournament runs until Sunday with a top prize of £80,000 up for grabs.

Higgins battled to a 5-2 win over Fergal O’Brien though he made a top break of just 44 and admitted that consistency in his game is missing.

“Maybe when you get to this age you’re going to have good days, bad days and different days,” said Scotland’s 44-year-old Higgins. “I’m resigned to that fact. The good games are still a good standard but the bad games can be really brutal.

“The World Championship has maybe masked over a lot of things because when you get to three consecutive finals you think you’re close again. But then when you come to some tournaments and play poorly you realise you’re a million miles away again. I’m trying to correct it and when I come to a tournament I still have aspirations of winning it.”

Higgins now faces Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who scored a 5-2 win over Robbie Williams. Thailand’s Un-Nooh established a marker for the £5,000 high break prize with a 146 in the sixth frame, taking a pink from the first red and then blacks from the other 14. He sealed the result in the next with a 124.

 

Thunder Back To Winning Ways

Robertson is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event this season but will do so if he beats Graeme Dott on Thursday. Today he saw off Lyu Haotian 5-2 with top breaks of 71, 100 and 110.

“I felt I played really well and I’m pleased not to come all this way and lose,” said Robertson. “I’ve got a day now to go out and explore a bit because I’ve never been to Austria before.”

At the Masters last week, Robertson squandered a 5-1 lead as he lost 6-5 to Stephen Maguire, but has put that result behind him. “Those kind of matches happen, “said the Australian. “If it happened in my first season I might have been traumatised but I have now won and lost matches like that, it’s part and parcel of the game. It’s not as if I threw the match away, Stephen played very well.

“It was disappointing because it’s such a big event, but the good thing about the tour now is that you are straight back into another tournament so I took a couple of days off then I was back on the practice table.”

Round-up

UK Champion Ding looked sharp in a 5-0 defeat of Robert Milkins. After taking a scrappy first frame on the colours, Ding stepped up a gear with runs of 54, 81, 78 and 73 in taking the last four frames. He now meets Scott Donaldson or Kyren Wilson.

Masters runner-up Ali Carter came from 2-0 down to beat Tian Pengfei 5-3 with a top break of 58. Dott made a 104 as he beat Liang Wenbo 5-3, while Michael Holt top scored with 130 in a 5-0 whitewash of Daniel Wells.

Evening session

Scott Donaldson, one of the most improved players on the circuit in recent years, scored an impressive 5-2 win over Kyren Wilson at the BetVictor European Masters.

Perthshire’s 25-year-old Donaldson has jumped from 93rd to 26th in the world rankings since 2015, reaching four semi-finals. And he is targeting another deep run in Austria this week; he faces Ding Junhui in the last 16 on Thursday.

Breaks of 96, 55, 57, 58 and 50 helped the Scot to a fine win over world number eight Wilson.

“I played well, I know I’m capable of beating these guys on my day. I am just looking to enjoy it when I’m out there,” said Donaldson. “It’s not rocket science, I’ve just been working on my game and finding little clues here and there which might help my performance. The one thing I want to do is get used to the TV tables because that’s something I have not mastered. I can play some really good stuff on outside tables.

“Everyone on the tour wants to win tournaments, that’s why we play snooker and that’s why we play for hours a day.”

Donaldson now needs to win just one more match either this week or at next week’s BetVictor German Masters to go above Ben Woollaston in the race to qualify for the Coral World Grand Prix in Cheltenham.

“I’m good mates with Ben so it’s funny he’s the one I’m chasing. If I get above him I’ll give him some abuse on WhatsApp,” added Donaldson. “It’ll be tough to get into the World Grand Prix but that’s not what I’m thinking about, I’m just trying to keep my head down and play well.”

Three-time World Champion Mark Selby eased to a 5-2 win over Jak Jokes to set up a match with Barry Hawkins. Runs of 80, 78 and 73 helped Selby into round four.

Hawkins came from 2-1 down to beat David Lilley 5-2 with a top break of 80 while China’s Xiao Guodong saw off Alfie Burden 5-3 with a top run of 121.

I only watched two matches: John Higgins v Fergal O’Brien and Mark Selby v Jak Jones.

The first one was much closer than the score suggests. Most frames were hard fought and went to the last balls. Amazingly it’s Fergal who scored the three 50+ breaks of the match.

The second one was rather poor despite featuring five breaks over 70, three from Mark, two from Jak. Mark Selby didn’t look confident and, as a result, played a lot of negative shots attracting criticism from the ES commentators. Jak was more positive but missed too many balls, especially from distance.

Finally, Alfie Burden who lost 5-3 to Xiao Guodong, from 2-0 up, was unhappy with his opponent behaviour and told so on twitter .

25 years as a pro teaches you how to behave as a player unfortunately some players have no class my opponent was warned twice for chalking his cue on my backswing whilst in his chair , I then declared i feathered the white on 60 at 3/2 down and showed him how a sportsman behaves

Maybe Lewis will be able to tell us more?

The 2020 European Masters starts tomorrow …

sEuroMasters2020Poster

This is the poster, or maybe it’s the banner. Nevermind, Two out of three of those players failed to qualify, Jimmy Robertson, the defending Champion and Judd Trump, the World Champion and World n°1.

It’s a 32 men event, and the fitters are already at work for a couple of days.

Actually it’s a 31 men event now, as Yan Bingtao withdrew because of a back injury, giving Jackson Page a pass to the last 16.

So this is the draw:

EuroMasters2020Draw

The first quarter

The most interesting match IMO in this quarter is Tian v Carter. Tian is a very dangerous player, very solid, and Carter may be a bit tired from his exploits last week. Also, although European audiences are usually quite good and supportive of all players, this may feel to Carter as a “come down” after the splendor of Ally Pally. It will be interesting to see how he reacts.

I expect Ding Junhui or Kyren Wilson to emerge from this quarter.

The second quarter

This one is “loaded” with John Higgins, Thepchaiya Un-nooh and Neil Robertson all in there, plus liang Wenbo who can never been dismissed if he finds some form.

John Higgins faces Fergal O’Brien and it’s the kind of opponent who could give him problems if John doesn’t find his best potting. Fergal is schrewd and infinitely patient. He won’t be bothered if things get awkward, quite the opposite. He will not try to force the issue, if the table gets messed up. He will play safe – skilfully – a thousand times if needed. And he will take his time. This might be one for the purists.

For me Neil Robertson should be the one “winning” this quarter, but only if he plays better than he did last week. How he lost to Maguire from 4-0 and 5-1 up is still puzzling me. Graeme Dott could be a dark horse in this quarter.

The third quarter

With Yan Bingtao not playing and both Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins looking low on form and motivation, Mark Selby has to be the hot red favourite to win this quarter. But maybe it’s a golden opportunity for one of the young ones? Zhou Yuelong, Jackson Page? Will they step up to the plate?

The fourth quarter

This is a quarter of two halves. From the first half of it, I fancy Lu Ning to get to the QF stages. The second half is packed: Gary Wilson, Luca Brecel, MIchael White and Zhao Xintong. All hugely talended but all with something to prove. I can’t choose a winner amongst those four. Whoever it is, he should get to the semi finals … “should”, because it would be a mistake to dismiss Lu Ning. His game may not be as “brilliant” as others’ , but he’s a tremendous fighter.

Now… as usual … I’ve probably jinxed a few players. Sorry guys.

Two interviews, one with Ali Carter, one with Ronnie

The media are always after stories, and the needle between Ali Carter and Ronnie is one topic they like to bring forward and write about.

Now this interview with Ali Carter brings a quite different light on the topic 

Ali Carter thanks Ronnie O’Sullivan after grabbing his Masters spot, but they’re still not best pals

Phil Haigh

Monday 20 Jan 2020 2:51 pm

Ali Carter insists he has no animosity towards Ronnie O’Sullivan, but isn’t sure the feeling is mutual.

The Captain took the Rocket’s place in the Masters this year as O’Sullivan didn’t fancy playing in the tournament, saying he had other things to do with his time. Making the most of the situation, the world number 17 beat three former world champions – Mark Selby, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy – to reach the final, where he was narrowly beaten by Stuart Bingham.

The 40-year-old picked up £100,000 for his week’s work but predictably faced a string of questions about O’Sullivan over the tournament, with whom he endures something of a strained relationship.

He’s always been on my Christmas card list, I’m not sure I’m on his though,’ said Carter after defeat in the final at Alexandra Palace.

The pair have known each other for the best part of 30 years and have never been best mates, but tensions really bubbled over at the 2018 World Championship when O’Sullivan nudged Carter with his shoulder between shots, and they got into a heated exchange.

Carter and O’Sullivan met during the Masters this year, as Ronnie was working in the Eurosport studio.

The Captain insists things were cordial and he thanked the Rocket for allowing him the opportunity to play at Ally Pally. ‘I’ve done a couple of interviews in the studio, he seems very pleased for me. I said “thanks Ron.”‘

Carter said after his semi-final win. Carter has moved to clear up the infamous ‘shoulder barge’ in the past, saying that the veterans have put the daft incident behind them

Yeah I spoke to him plenty about it, actually, there’s no hard feelings, it was heat of the moment stuff,’ Carter said after qualifying for the 2019 World Championship.

‘I haven’t been the fondest of Ronnie over the years, but I’ve got the ultimate respect for him as a player and what did give me ultimate respect for him was at the UK Championship, at the hotel when I was having breakfast.

‘This was some months later and he came over to me, he doesn’t need to speak to me, and he came over and said, “Ali, I’d just like to apologise and there’s no hard feelings” and he shook my hand

‘So I thought to myself “hats off to the man,” and he looked me straight in the eye when he said it and he meant it. It’s all water under the bridge and he’s a good guy.’

The Rocket said of the event in 2018: ‘I’ve known Ali since he was 10 years of age, sometimes it gets a bit tense out there but it’s all behind us.’

The clash is in the past, but don’t expect these two Essex lads to be sharing a pint any time soon.

The last sentence for me is totally unecessary. Ronnie took the initiative to go and talk to Ali, and to apologise. Ali has accepted the apology and says that Ronnie has gained his ultimate respect doing this. So why not if circumstances lead to it?

Then there is this other interview, this time with Ronnie who seems to be in a good place.

Ronnie O’Sullivan backs himself as the best in the business: ‘If I had to choose a snooker player, I’d take me all day long’

Phil Haigh

Sunday 19 Jan 2020 10:57 am

Ronnie O’Sullivan says his days of learning from other players are over and is completely confident in the skills he brings to the snooker table.

The Rocket has been watching on at the Masters this week, after choosing not to play in the event and sticking to his gig in the Eurosport studio instead.

The five-time world champion saw fellow veterans Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham book their places in the Alexandra Palace final on Saturday night as they beat Shaun Murphy and David Gilbert respectively. O’Sullivan was asked if he still picks up pointers for his own game while taking a watching brief and the Rocket was entirely dismissive of the suggestion.

‘I don’t think there’s anyone I can possibly learn from, I don’t want to learn from anyone else,’ Ronnie told Eurosport. ‘I love what I’ve got, I love what I do, I’ve tried to harness and just better what I’ve got.

‘There’s players in the game who have got things: Selby has got more grit, Higgins has got a better temperament. ‘But if I had to choose a snooker player, I’d take me all day long, I like my chances.

‘Every time I get on the start line I think I fancy my chances, whoever I play. If I don’t perform and the other guy plays well, fair play, but over a 30-year period, I like what I’ve got.’

O’ Sullivan disappointed many with his decision not to play at Alexandra Palace this year, especially as he said it was because he had other things to do and then spent his week at the venue on punditry duties.

However, even without Ronnie, it is an all-Essex final on Sunday between Carter and Bingham, neither of whom have ever reached this stage of the event in their lengthy careers to date.

The Rocket didn’t make an outright prediction, but is very confident in the mental strength of Bingham going into the huge match. ‘He’s got a great temperament, he’s won the World Championship, big matches,’ Ronnie said of Ballrun.

‘He knew Dave Gilbert is playing well tonight [in the semi-finals]. He come out there and looked the more comfortable player. ‘He hasn’t produced his best snooker, but he’s done it when it matters. He won a match yesterday not playing great, just because of his temperament.

‘He’s going to be fine tomorrow, don’t worry about that.’

Obviously it was done before the final and Ronnie was right.

The title IMO is misleading. Ronnie doesn’t say anywhere that he is the best, he says that he’s happy with what he has and wouldn’t want to be otherwise. Well, after years of beating himself up for not being able to be perfect at the table 7/7-24/24 this is a very welcome change of perspective.

There was also a similar but more complete article in Polish published by ES Poland, and here is the automatic translation

The prestigious Masters tournament was held in London last week. 16 best players from the world ranking took part in it. However, we did not see the third player in the classification. The game makes him happy – I have a good relationship with sponsors and I can determine with them which events to play. China is a very important market, so I have to play in some tournaments there. I will not attend just any event. I can choose. But I know that if the world championships were to start even tomorrow, I could take part in them. I feel good and I enjoy playing – said the Englishman. “I left Masters, but it’s not related to money,” he continued. – This tournament doesn’t just suit me and that’s why I didn’t play there. Thanks to this, I have not had stress recently and felt no pressure. During the holidays I spent time with my children and partner. It was a nice time because I didn’t have to prepare. All in all, I gave up many events in my life, but I have no reproaches for this – the player assured. He loves his own style. O’Sullivan is a role model for thousands of snooker players from around the world. In his career he won five world championship titles. He also won 36 ranked and 34 unranked tournaments. “I don’t want to learn anything from other players,” he explained. – I love how I play. My style gives me a lot of pleasure. There are probably no elements that I would like to do better. Maybe I could get something from John Higgins or Steven Hendry, who no longer performs. They are perfect snooker players. All in all, however, I like my game the most. Many players announce that they will beat me, but then we approach the table and it turns out that my snooker is better. I am satisfied with what I did – he assured. – There are a lot of things I can do outside of tournaments. It could have been like this in the past, but I thought I had to do only the game. I participate in many businesses and just enjoy snooker. I don’t have to play for money anymore, I do it with passion – added the 44-year-old. At the end of the unique meeting, Ebert asked O’Sullivan to recreate the 2008 World Cup game. The Englishman made a maximum break in the second round match against Mark Williams from Wales. At one point he had to show off an extremely difficult play. Now it was only in the third attempt that he managed to approach the perfect blow. Then he won the entire tournament.

It’s probably the same interview, but reported with more details.

Ronnie confirmed what Jimmy White has hinted at during the Masters. Ronnie wanted to enjoy family time without having the “burden” to prepare for a major event.

I have put the bits I found most interesting in bold.

Enjoy the reads.

The Masters 2020 – Stuart Bingham is your Champion

Congratulations Stuart Bingham!

BinghamMasters2020Champion

Stuart Bingham, 25 years a pro, beat Ali Carter by 10-8 yesterday evening to become the oldest Masters Champion in snooker history. He was very emotional during the Trophy ceremony and later in the studio.

Here are the reports by World Snooker Tour:

First session: Bingham 5-3 Carter

Stuart Bingham will carry a 5-3 lead over Ali Carter into this evening’s final session of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace.

Regardless of the result there will be a new name on the Paul Hunter Trophy at the close of play, with both players making their first appearance in the final of this event.

There are a potential 11 frames remaining this evening, with the first to ten picking up the £250,000 top prize.

Carter is seeking a maiden Triple Crown title, having been World Championship runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012. Victory for Bingham would be a second in snooker’s big three events, after his stunning World Championship win in 2015.

Carter, nicknamed the Captain, got off to a flying start this afternoon. He fired in a break of 126 to take the opening frame

Bingham immediately responded with a contribution of 75 to restore parity. They then traded frames to head into the mid-session locked together at 2-2.

When they returned, four-time ranking event winner Carter made a break of 93 to edge in front at 3-2.

Carter gained an opportunity to double his advantage when he came from snookers required to have a chance on the colours in the sixth frame. However, he missed the brown, allowing Bingham to eventually win on the black to make it 3-3.

Bingham then stepped up to claim the final two frames of the afternoon to secure his 5-3 lead. They will return to play the match to its conclusion at 7pm.

Second session: Bingham 10-8 Carter

Stuart Bingham defeated Ali Carter 10-8 in a thrilling contest to lift his maiden Dafabet Masters title at Alexandra Palace in London.

Basildon’s 43-year-old Bingham is now the oldest ever winner of the Masters, taking the record from Ray Reardon, who was just under five months younger when he won the title in 1976.

Victory sees Bingham lift Triple Crown silverware for the second time in his career, following his stunning victory at the 2015 World Championship. He picks up the top prize of £250,000, the richest in the event’s history.

It’s the third year in a row that a new name has been added to the Paul Hunter Trophy, with Mark Allen claiming the title in 2018 and Judd Trump securing his maiden title 12 months ago.

Carter was competing in his first Masters final and third Triple Crown title match. He was a late entrant to the event after world number three Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled out. Carter was runner-up to O’Sullivan at the World Championship in 2008 and 2012. The 40-year-old leaves Alexandra Palace with the consolation of this week’s second prize of £100,000.

In a match which went back and forth, Bingham produced his nerveless best to charge the title down in the closing stretch. He came into tonight 5-3 ahead after this afternoon’s opening session.

However, it was Carter who came charging out of the traps this evening, claiming the first two frames to draw level. He then fired in breaks of 95 and 133 to complete a clean sweep of frames prior to the mid-session and lead 7-5.

The interval came at the right time for Bingham, who looked like a different player when they returned. Breaks of 64, 85, 58 and 88 saw him relentlessly string together four frames in a row and move to the verge of victory at 9-7.

Carter showed his resilience to respond with a run of 77 and close within a frame. However, Bingham wasn’t to be denied his moment. The six-time ranking event winner composed in a supreme run of 109, his first century of the event, to secure Masters glory.

“To get my hands on that trophy, finally, means everything,” said Bingham. “I was getting ready for the loser’s speech at the interval. Ali played brilliantly and it would have been fitting him getting his hands on the Paul Hunter Trophy. I had a coffee and a Mars bar and it seemed to calm me down. Ali missed a couple and I went from strength to strength.

“I just think I have been so tired from the last couple of days, it all came out. Especially at 7-5 down and the way I was thinking. How I put those five frames together to get over the line, I have no idea. I suppose champions are champions for a reason.

“I’ve always played with a smile on my face and enjoyed it all. The atmosphere is similar to the Shoot Out, in that if you can get the crowd involved then it is like having a couple of extra points. Sometimes it felt like an exhibition getting the crowd involved. It was a bit like Bubba Watson trying to get them cheering on the shot.”

Carter said: “You have to say it wasn’t meant to be. I hit him with everything to go 7-5 in front. The interval came at the wrong time for me. I missed a pink with the rest and I never really got another shot.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be in this event. I’ve picked up £100,000 and it pays the school fees! I am gutted I’ve lost, it is all about winning. You guys aren’t interested in talking to me really, it is all about Stuart.

“It has renewed my belief. I am working with Chris Henry as my coach now. That has made a massive difference and hopefully there are a lot of good times to come.”

Here is the last frame and the emotional trophy ceremony

More content will be added if/when available

The Masters 2020 – Day 7

So … we have Ali Carter v Stuart Bingham in the Masters Final today. Neither of them has been there before. Ali has been a Word Championship finalist twice, Stuart is a former World Champion. It’s not as if they never competed in a major final, but the Masters is special, it’s a bigger arena than the Crucible and it’s a much livelier, rowdy crowd as well.

They are both from Essex and know each other since the junior days. That doesn’t mean that they are friend or even good pals. There is a lot going on in juniors sport, not always positive. Rivalries pushed too far not just because kids are naturally competitive but because of pushy coaches and parents as well. You may be surprised how many parents/coaches interfere and  put huge pressure on their kids to succeed and to make their own unfulfilled dreams a  reality, living them “by proxy” in a way. But it’s very common, and extremely unhealthy.

From bits and snippets I overheard when I  spent time on the tour, there seems to have been a lot of that in Essex in the days when King, Carter, Bingham and Ronnie were juniors and it left scars.

Anyway, here is how we got there.

Ali Carter 6-3 Shaun Murphy: (WST report)

Ali Carter defeated Shaun Murphy 6-3 at Alexandra Palace to make his first ever Dafabet Masters final.

This will be the third time that the Captain has graced a Triple Crown final, having been runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the World Championship on two occasions in 2008 and 2012.

Carter’s run to this year’s final has seen him take down three former World Champions and Masters winners, having beaten Mark Selby, John Higgins and now Murphy. World number 17 Carter’s exploits this week have been all the more remarkable given he was a late entrant to the event after world number three O’Sullivan pulled out.

With David Gilbert and Stuart Bingham contesting this evening’s second semi-final we are now guaranteed a new name on the Paul Hunter Trophy. Carter will face the winner tomorrow over the best of 19 frames for the £250,000 top prize.

Triple Crown winner Murphy will have to wait to end a five year run without claiming one of snooker’s big three titles. However, he leaves Alexandra Palace with £60,000 for reaching the last four.

Breaks of 55 and 91 saw Carter move into a 2-0 lead in the early stages this afternoon. Murphy hit back with a superb contribution of 105, but Carter claimed the fourth to lead 3-1 at the mid-session.

When they returned Murphy compiled his second century of the evening, a break of 110, to pull within a frame at 3-2. Carter came from behind to compose a run of 70 to steal the sixth frame, before a dramatic seventh.

Essex cueman Carter missed a straightforward brown to move a frame from victory and Murphy capitalised to make it 4-3.

An outrageous fluke when escaping a snooker on the final red allowed Carter to move 5-3 ahead and he completed the win with a steely break of 97.

“It’s a massive event. It is a great event. To beat three players like I have, means I deserve to be in the final. Hopefully I go out there and produce the goods tomorrow,” said four-time ranking event winner Carter. “I was presented with an opportunity and I’ve taken it. That is all you can ask for. It is in my hands and I couldn’t believe it when Ronnie withdrew. You never know what he is going to do.

“It is a massive match for me tomorrow. The experience that has gone before in my career can only help. I am working on new things. I am feeling strong and feeling positive. I am just trying to do the right things out there and not get frustrated or let my frustrations get the better of me.

“It is one more match at the end of the day. I will turn up, chalk my cue and get stuck in.”

Murphy said: “I think that is just the game. I thought I played quite well. I enjoyed the match and thought we had some good battles. There was some good potting and break building.

“Very well done in terms of standing up to take his chance at the end. It is not easy out there and not as easy as people make it look from time to time. To get to his first final here in front of a packed house and on an invite. Someone shouted ‘finish him’ like from Karate Kid at the end and he did.”

I’m not too sure how Shaun assessed his own performance. He didn’t play well. He wasn’t terrible either but still far from his best. I don’t like the person Ali is, or at least how he comes across on social media, but I certainly admire his fighting qualities. He will give it his all today, I have no doubts.

Stuart Bingham 6-2 David Gilbert (WST report)

Stuart Bingham is through to his first Dafabet Masters final, after a thumping 6-2 semi-final defeat of David Gilbert at Alexandra Palace.

There is guaranteed to be a new name on the Paul Hunter Trophy tomorrow night, with Bingham being pitted against Ali Carter, who defeated Shaun Murphy in this afternoon’s match to reach his first Masters final.

It will be the third year in a row that the Masters has produced a maiden winner, after Mark Allen picked up the title in 2018 and Judd Trump was victorious 12 months ago.

Bingham and Carter will clash over the best of 19 frames for a top prize of £250,000, the richest in the event’s history.

As play got underway this evening, Bingham established control of proceedings with Gilbert struggling to settle. Breaks of 94 and 71 saw him establish a 2-0 advantage.

There was then an edgy third frame, where both players spurned opportunities. Ultimately it came down to a missed final brown to the baulk corner from Gilbert, which landed at the mercy of Bingham who cleared to the black to lead 3-0.

Gilbert steadied himself and got a frame on the board with a stunning break of 131 to keep himself in touching distance, trailing 3-1 at the mid-session.

They returned to a raucous reception from the packed crowd and 2015 World Champion Bingham managed to re-assert his authority. He took the fifth frame, before a run of 75 saw him move one from victory at 5-1.

Gilbert did pull another back courtesy of breaks of 45 and 42 in the seventh. However, Bingham wasn’t to be denied, firing in a run of 63 to secure victory.

“I settled down a bit quicker than Dave. You could see he was a bit nervous and missed a couple. I had a couple of good breaks,” said Bingham. “When we came back out after the break the atmosphere was mad. I have never even been anywhere like that before. We both looked at each other and thought ‘wow’. I am just glad to be over the line and in the Masters final.

“Myself and Ali used to play in junior tournaments in the Essex county, now we are competing in a major final. It is a bit surreal.

“It would mean everything to win. Just being in the VIP lounge and seeing all of those names on the list of past winners and the history of the game. To be amongst them would be fantastic.”

Gilbert said: “It was a really poor start. People will put it down to nerves, as they always do with me. That was probably the best I have felt this week early on. I just missed a few easy pots.

“Thanks to everybody for cheering me on. It has been a brilliant week. The Masters was everything and more than I ever thought it was. I showed that I could play a bit. Stuart is a tough matchplayer and he doesn’t give it to you easily.”

Coverage:

The preview

The review

Ronnie was in the studio and was critical of David Gilbert mentality. He compared him wto  Jack Lisowski and, to an extend, to Ding. Supremely talented players but who lack the belief that they can win when not at their best and/or the fight to keep battling under those circumstances and give up. Himself has been guilty of that on occasions of course, but he’s also battled very hard on his B od C game in many other circumstances. I’d say that in Ronnie’s case, it’s more been a matter of what mental state he was on the moment than a personality trait.  This attitude however can originate from a number of circumstances as much as it can be a fundamental aspect of a person’s character. In Ding’s case for instance, I’m convinced that years of sustained massive pressure and excessive expectations since a very young age have taken a lot out of him, mentally and emotionally. That he wants to step away from that at times isn’t surprising. Gilbert has been a journeyman for most his career – he’s 38, a late developper – and I’m not sure that deep down the self-belief is there, or “enough” there yet I should say. Jack for me is yet another case. He’s a cancer survivor, he was only 16 when he was diagnosed, he just turned pro that year. Who knows how much this battle has taken out of him physically and mentally? He was only a young teenager. Quite often he looks tired, and older than his years. And maybe, when you have got on the other side of such ordeal, you just want to enjoy your life. Everyone is different: Ali seeems to have got more hungry for it, all credit to him.

 

Ashley Hugill is the 2020 WSF Open Champion

Here is the report by WPBSA

 

Hugill Wins WSF Open To Secure Main Tour Return

  • 17th January 2020

Ashley Hugill has defeated Iulian Boiko 5-3 to win the World Snooker Federation Open title in Malta this evening.

The victory sees the 25-year-old succeed Luo Honghao as champion and will also see him earn a two-year tour ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of the 2020/21 season.

Hugill was previously on the professional circuit from 2017-19, reaching the last 16 of the Scottish Open and is currently second on the Challenge Tour ranking list having won Event Four in Bruges last season.

The Englishman emerged from a difficult round-robin group including Junior Open finalist Sean Maddocks and fellow former professional Chris Totten, before winning five knockout matches to progress to the final.

Awaiting him was Iulian Boiko from Ukraine, who at just 14-years-old had lit up the tournament by taking the scalps of players including Sean O’Sullivan and Ross Muir, both among those favoured to take the title.

It was Hugill who would assert himself upon the final in its opening stages, a clearance of 113 and a further run of 56 enough to give him a 2-0 lead in their best of nine frames final.

The attacking Boiko – who earlier in the tournament had dispatched Sean O’Sullivan 3-0 in under 27 minutes with an average shot time of just 13.58 seconds – responded in style by taking three frames in a row, a break of 62 enough to put him into the lead for the first time at 3-2.

It was Hugill’s turn to raise him game however as he countered with breaks of 65, 50 and finally 89 to claim his own hat-trick of frames and seal a 5-3 victory.

“It is an incredible feeling to claim this title,” said Hugill who hails from York. “The thing that made it better was my family being here. It would have been the best day of my career if they weren’t here and to have them here to see it was perfect.

“I felt really calm all the way throughout the tournament. I was most nervous in the quarter-finals against Allan Taylor but I was just in the zone tonight. I felt great, even at 3-2 down I hadn’t made that many mistakes. I just couldn’t get in around the black spot during those frames.

Having left as the last man standing from a high-quality field of over 150 players, Hugill added that he had arrived at the event with confidence and now feels that he is well-placed to return to the professional circuit as a better player.

“I came here both expecting to win and I was hoping to win,” said Hugill. “You don’t come here to lose in the final and after I beat Kuldesh [Johal] in the first knockout round I hardly missed a ball and I knew I was in a good place to win it.

“It was awful not getting through Q School. I had a tough second year on the tour especially and I went into Q School with low confidence and I was devastated to be off the tour. What turned it around was my maximum break at Challenge Tour in Leeds. That gave me the confidence and the belief that I was good enough to earn a living at this game.

“Without a doubt I am better equipped for the main tour now. I have learned a lot more about the mental side of the game, controlling my mind and thinking clearly under pressure. That’s almost more important than your cue action.”

Hugill also had words of praise for his opponent, who despite defeat leaves with a number of new fans around the globe who have followed his progress during the event, as well as the event as a whole.

“He is an incredible talent,” added Hugill. “When his game develops further in respect of shot selection and safety, he can go as far as he wants in the sport and I told him that after the match.

“This has been a superb venue including the TV table and facilities at the Academy where we have also played are fantastic. I am sure that Malta will see some great young players coming through the ranks with those facilities.”

Full information about the WSF Open including results and standings can be accessed HERE.

Congratulations Ashley Hugill and good luck in the Main Tour

The Masters 2020 – Day 6

David Gilbert, this year’s only debutant, continued to impress as he booked his place to today’s semi finals. He’s clearly enjoying the whole tournament setup and atmosphere and it inspires him. He’s a breath of fresh air. He’s like a kid at their first Christmas. There is something fundamentally genuine and refreshing about him that is endearing.

His opponent, Stephen Maguire wasn’t enjoying himself at all and it felt. I like Maguire, he’s also a genuine guy who says it as he sees it. He was deeply annoyed with himself out there. He would rather have been elsewhere, preferably far away, rather than put up the display he did.

David Gilbert 6-2 Stephen Maguire (WST report)

David Gilbert said winning the Dafabet Masters would be “the best day of my life” after an emphatic 6-2 win over Stephen Maguire put him into the semi-finals.

Just five players have lifted the trophy at snooker’s biggest invitation event on their first appearance, and Gilbert is now two wins away from becoming the sixth. The Tamworth cueman is certainly playing well enough to go all the way; he has made two centuries and seven more breaks over 50 in the 12 frames he has won. He meets Kyren Wilson or Stuart Bingham at Alexandra Palace on Saturday evening.

Players to have won the Masters on their debut
1975 John Spencer (the first Masters)
1977 Doug Mountjoy 
1980 Terry Griffiths 
1989 Stephen Hendry 
2008 Mark Selby 

Age 38, Gilbert has played the best snooker of his life over the last two years, climbing into the top 16 for the first time. He reached the semi-finals of the World Championship last season and is now into the last four of a Triple Crown event for the second time. All that is missing from his snooker CV is a title.

He made a superb start today with a 144 total clearance in the opening frame – the new front runner for the £15,000 high break prize. The world number 11 took the next on the colours then made a 91 to lead 3-0.

Glasgow’s Maguire took the fourth, helped by a run of 57, and he had chances in the next two. But a weak safety on the last red cost him frame five and he missed the last red to a centre pocket in the sixth. Both times Gilbert cleared as he opened up a 5-1 lead.

Early in frame seven Gilbert accidentally touched a red with his finger while on a break of 16, owning up to the foul immediately. World number 15 Maguire made 94 to pull one back and raise his hopes of another fight back as he beat Neil Robertson 6-5 from 5-1 down in the first round.

The Scot had first chance in frame eight and made 46 before missing a tricky red along the top cushion. That proved his last shot as Gilbert compiled a match-winning 77 clearance.

“I felt comfortable out there,” said Gilbert. “The big crowd helps me to focus. I used to go the other way. I believe in myself now and I’m not inhibited by the scenario. I want to be out there against the best players. Getting into this event was never on my agenda in the past but now to have people cheering for me in an arena like this is what you dream of.

“A lot of people talk about when I’m going to win a tournament and if it happened here it would be the best day of my life. I’m just keeping the same attitude and frame of mind for each match and if I do that I can beat anyone.

“I won a couple of scrappy frames today. I used to lose those all of the time but now I can nick a few of them and I know how valuable they are. When Stephen came back to 5-2 he looked like he was flowing so I was pleased to finish it with a good break.”

Maguire, who was runner-up at the UK Championship last month, said: “I was pathetic. I tried my hardest but it got to the point where I didn’t want to be among the balls because I knew I wouldn’t do anything. I had no touch.

“I wasn’t worried at 3-0 but the frame I lost to go 4-1, I knew that was it, I was going home. And then I did the same again in the next frame. Maybe I can’t handle the pressure. I played the same against Neil Robertson, he just let me off the hook.

“I’m happy for Dave and I hope he wins it because he is the most decent guy among the players left.”

Ronnie was in the studio in the evening. During this tournament he’s been rather critical of Kyren Wilson. I believe that there is more frustration than anything else here. Kyren is a great guy, blessed with a fantastic temperament, but his technique isn’t on par with his other qualities. Ronnie believes that the should, and is capable, of make changes in that department.

Stuart Bingham was clearly upbeat and enjoying the loud Ally Pally atmosphere especially whilst he was coming back. Kyren not so, he looked a bit flat, particularly towards the end. It was a very long match, with a number of hard fought frames. In his postmatch, he said that he was fatigued. I believe him, he’s not one for making excuses and players should be allowed to simply tell it how it is.

Stuart Bingham 6-4 Kyren Wilson (WST report)

Stuart Bingham battled back from 4-1 down to beat world number eight Kyren Wilson 6-4 and reach the semi-finals of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace.

Essex cueman Bingham will now face debutant David Gilbert tomorrow evening for a place in the final.

It will be Bingham’s second appearance in the last four of the Masters, he also made the semis in 2016. However, this is also only the second time Bingham has progressed beyond the first round in his ten attempts.

The other semi-final will be contested between 2015 champion Shaun Murphy and Ali Carter, meaning that there is only one former winner left in the field.

It was 2018 finalist Wilson who got the better of the early stages this evening. He opened up proceedings with a sublime break of 139 to go 1-0 up. He then claimed a 41-minute second frame on the pink to double his lead.

Bingham pulled a frame back courtesy of a 69 break. However, Wilson won his second 41-minute frame of the evening to head into the mid-session interval 3-1 up.

The Warrior made it 4-1 in dramatic circumstances after Bingham missed a vital red on 65. Wilson stepped up to punish him with a break of 71 to steal on the black.

A crucial turning point came in the sixth frame, where Bingham doubled the final black to the middle to keep himself in touch at 4-2. He then froze out his opponent for two frames, with breaks of 82 and 75 to draw level at 4-4.

After edging 5-4 ahead, the decisive tenth frame came down to the final two colours. Bingham eventually deposited a long range pink before falling nicely on the black to secure a dramatic victory.

“I’m not sure how I turned it around. I just tried to enjoy myself out there. At 4-1, whatever I was trying to do just wasn’t working,” said Bingham. “With the double in the sixth frame, I felt like I needed to do something to change things about. It went in and it did change everything. I started to get going.

“It will be a tough match against David Gilbert. He turned it on this afternoon first frame with a 144 and that shows what level he is at.

“It can be pretty daunting here, even if you are a seasoned pro like myself. I’ve come here and frozen out there loads of times. He is letting his snooker do the talking and fair play to him, he is here on merit.

“It would mean a lot to get to the final. This tournament has a lot of history to it. With the trophy named after the late great Paul Hunter it would mean everything to get my hands on it.”

Wilson said: “I’m not going to be too hard on myself. Maybe just a bit of fatigue came in at the end so it’s just one of them really.

“I thought Stuart played really well from 4-2 down. He nicked the sixth frame by doubling the black and I think that gave him a bit of momentum. He had a one-visit straight after and that started to put me under pressure. I lost the momentum from there.”

Coverage:

The preview:

The mid-session:

The review:

At this stage, I would absolutely love to see Gilbert lifting the trophy tomorrow. However, from what we have seen this week, and on experience, I believe that Shaun Murphy is now a firm favourite.