The 2020 UK Championship – Matt’s preview

The 2020 UK Championship starts in less than an hour… here is Matt Huart’s preview:

With the Northern Ireland Open set to reach its conclusion tomorrow (Sunday), there will just be a matter of hours before the action resumes with the staging of the Betway UK Championship from Monday.

Snooker’s oldest ranking event outside of the World Championship, the UK Championship will be the first Triple Crown Series tournament of the season with a top prize of £200,000 to be won.

Last year it was Ding Junhui who claimed the title for a third time following a 10-6 victory against 2004 champion Stephen Maguire and both will be among those returning to contest the title once again in 2020.

Once again, the tournament will be held at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, rather than its traditional home in York due to the ongoing coronavirus restrictions. The event will however be televised in full for the first time after it was announced that Eurosport will cover the opening round matches for the first time.

As in previous seasons, the draw has been made strictly in accordance with seeding, meaning that the top seed will play number 128 in the opening round, the second seed will player number 127 and so on. This can often throw up a number of ultimately key matches in the battle to stay on tour at the end of the season, with big money to be won and players close to each other around the crucial ‘top 64’ cut-off drawn to play each other in the first round.

All matches up to and including the semi-finals will be played over the best of 11 frames, increasing to 19 for the final (8/11).

Once again, the overwhelming majority of professional players will be involved, with all but five (Mei Xiwen, Marco Fu, Bai Langning, Stephen Hendry and Steve Mifsud) in the main draw.

#RACETOTHEMASTERS

As well as being a highly prestigious event in its own right, as has become tradition in recent seasons the UK Championship also acts as the decisive tournament in the battle to secure one of the richly coveted 16 players at January’s Masters tournament.

A full analysis detailing all of the permutations and key matches to follow will be posted here at WPBSA.com shortly.

PLEASE NOTE: PREVIEW WRITTEN PRIOR TO THE NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN SEMI-FINALS.

THE TOP QUARTER

The draw is led by defending champion Ding Junhui with the former world number one looking to capture his first ranking title since his victory 12 months ago in York.

First up will be a first career meeting with Jamie Curtis-Barrett, with Northern Ireland Open semi-finalist David Grace or Ian Burns awaiting the winner in the second round.

Opposite Ding in the quarter is three-time champion John Higgins, with the Scot handed a tricky opener with veteran Irishman Fergal O’Brien. The pair met earlier this year at the European Masters in January, Higgins emerging a 5-2 victor.

Elsewhere ahead of Higgins in the draw could come the likes of Scott Donaldson or Ryan Day, with Champion of Champions winner Mark Allen a potential last 16 opponent.

Elsewhere in this quarter, Jack Lisowski and Gary Wilson are also in close proximity, with the pair on course to meet in what could be a hugely significant last 16 encounter. This is because the pair are separated by just £1,250 in the latest Race to the Masters standings, with Wilson currently on course to qualify at Lisowski’s expense.

Finally, there is also a 21st career meeting ahead between Alan McManus and Jimmy White, the latter currently leading their respective head to head record 13-7.

THE SECOND QUARTER

The second section is bookended by two-time UK champions Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, with the pair both set to begin against amateur opposition.

For Robertson, an opening-round clash with promising Frenchman Brian Ochoiski could precede a meeting with either Chris Wakelin or Louis Heathcote, with Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao among those potentially standing between him and a first quarter-final appearance in the event since his 2016 victory.

Selby too has not reached the last eight of the tournament since he lifted the trophy in 2017 and has been handed a potential banana skin in the opening round with a match against former ranking event winner Michael White to begin.

Selby could then face Liam Highfield, Michael Holt, and David Gilbert should the tournament progress according to seeding. Gilbert in particular is among those looking to make certain of his place at the Masters, currently 13th in the standings [UPDATE: Gilbert is already mathematically certain of Masters qualification].

Among those in the chasing pack are Anthony McGill (19) and Barry Hawkins (22) who can also be found in this section.

THE THIRD QUARTER

At the time of writing prior to the Northern Ireland Open semi-finals, world number one Judd Trump comes into the tournament in a rich vein of form following his fifth career maximum break last week and victory at the English Open last month.

Despite his victory in York back in 2011, Trump has only once more reached the quarter-finals of one of snooker’s most historic events and begins his latest bid with a clash against Paul Davison – a recent winner against Mark Williams at the German Masters qualifier.

Either Dominic Dale or Luo Honghao will await the winner, with potentially Liang Wenbo and Williams himself – the Welshman looking to seal his Masters place – to follow en route to the quarter-finals.

Also among those still in with a chance of a place at the Masters is Ali Carter, who has made significant ground on the top 16 following his deep run at the Northern Ireland Open. He could play Williams as early as the last 32.

Not for the first time this season, Championship League winner Kyren Wilson finds himself as the highest ranked player in Trump’s quarter, looking to reach the last eight for only the second time in his career.

First up for Wilson will be WSF Open winner Ashley Hugill, with two-time UK quarter-finalist Mark Joyce, Kurt Maflin and Stuart Bingham among those between him and a meeting with Trump.

THE BOTTOM QUARTER

Record seven-time UK Championship winner Ronnie O’Sullivan heads up the bottom section of the draw as its second seed following his strongest performance of the season at the Northern Ireland Open.

First up for the reigning world champion will be experienced amateur Leo Fernandez, who three years ago earned a famous win against Ding Junhui from 5-1 down at the same stage of the event in York.

Ahead of the winner will be either Alexander Ursenbacher or Nigel Bond, with Matthew Stevens and Masters-chasing Thepchaiya Un-Nooh potentially to come.

At the opposite end of the section is 2008 champion Shaun Murphy, who having lost his opening match at the tournament during each of the past two seasons will be looking to avoid an unwanted hat-trick when he opens against Welshman Lee Walker.

Ahead of the winner could be Elliot Slessor, Matt Selt and old rival Stephen Maguire ahead of any potential meeting with O’Sullivan.

Elsewhere in the section can be found Joe Perry, currently 20th in the Race to the Masters and a potential last 16 opponent for O’Sullivan.

Let us know who will take home the trophy at our social media platforms linked at the top of the page!

Judd Trump wins the 2020 Northern Ireland Open

Judd Trump won the Northern Ireland Open for the third time running yesterday evening. In all three instances he beat Ronnie by 9-7, which is quite extraordinary. This is Judd’s 19th ranking title, one more than Mark Selby and Neil Robertson. 

Congratulations Judd Trump

Ronnie fought with all he had. He actually lost that match in the first mini-session. He was struggling badly and nothing worked for him. But he never gave up. 

Here are the reports by WST

Afternoon session

Trump Leads The Rocket

World number one Judd Trump leads World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3 heading into the evening session of their Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open final.

They will return at 7pm to play the best of 17 tie to a conclusion, with the winner pocketing a top prize of £70,000 and the Alex Higgins Trophy.

Incredibly, this is the third consecutive year Trump and O’Sullivan have contested the Northern Ireland Open final. It’s the first time that has happened in a specific ranking event since the 1994 World Championship, when Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White contested their third straight final.

Trump, having won the previous two finals 9-7, is aiming to make his own piece of history this evening by becoming the first player to win a specific ranking title three years in a row since Hendry at the 1996 UK Championship.

The opening stages were unexpectedly cagey from both players, but it was Trump who managed to establish a 3-1 advantage at the mid-session after just under 90 minutes of play.

The pair traded frames upon the resumption, before Trump fired in a superb break of 128 to lead 5-2 after the first century of the match. That seemed to kick O’Sullivan into gear, who duly responded with a run of 130 to leave the tie hanging in the balance at 5-3.

Evening session

World number one Judd Trump beat World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 to win the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open for a third successive year.

Victory for Trump sees him become the first player to win a specific ranking title three years in a row, since Stephen Hendry completed the feat at the 1996 UK Championship. It’s the 19th ranking title of 31-year-old Trump’s career and he has now won 11 of his last 12 ranking finals. O’Sullivan remains on a record breaking 37 career ranking titles.

Trump’s achievement is all the more remarkable, given the last three finals in this event have all seen him beat O’Sullivan by a 9-7 scoreline. It’s the first time the same two players have contested a specific ranking final in three consecutive years, since Hendry and Jimmy White at the 1994 World Championship.

Trump now edges ahead of O’Sullivan in their head-to-head standings, leading 12-11. He’s also been the stronger of the two players in finals against each other, leading 7-3 in title matches.

The Ace in the Pack leaves with the £70,000 top prize, as well as £5,000 for the high break after he made his fifth career 147 earlier in the week against Gao Yang. It is two Home Nations titles out of two this season for Trump, who beat Neil Robertson 9-8 in the English Open final last month.

A tightly contested afternoon session saw Trump emerge with a 5-3 advantage heading into this evening’s concluding frames.

Trump made an authoritative start tonight, composing breaks of 89 and 55 to move just two from victory at 7-3. However, O’Sullivan refused to give in and hit back to claim the 11th, before a run of 63 helped him to make it 7-5 at the mid-session interval.

When they returned the match burst into life, as Trump fired in a sublime 115 to move one from victory at 8-5. O’Sullivan immediately responded with a break of 93 to reduce his arrears and a further contribution of 74 saw him pull within a frame at 8-7.

O’Sullivan had the first opportunity to force a decider in the 16th frame, but broke down on a run of 32. Trump ruthlessly stepped in and made a nerveless break of 89 to secure the title.

“I’m delighted. It was a tough game. I felt confident at 8-5. I felt like I was going to get chances and that didn’t happen. I played a couple of bad safeties, he forced me into a couple of errors and before I knew it the score was 8-7 and looking like 8-8.” said Bristol’s Trump. “I was wondering if I was even going to get a chance to win the match. I made a brilliant clearance, it was up there with one of the best clearances I’ve made.

I can’t remember anyone else in the history of the game even getting close to my record in finals against Ronnie. To have a winning record of 7-3 now is absolutely incredible. He is probably the best player that’s ever lived and I’ve got a record like that against him.

“The World Championship is the biggest tournament in our sport and an amazing achievement, but it is one tournament over a whole season. I won six events last year, none of them the World Championship, every tournament for me is the same. Although the World Championship is a little bit more difficult. I still put myself up there as the one to beat. It just shows in my level of consistency and how far in front I am in the rankings, to keep doing it again and again. It is nice to have that matchup, that he is the World Champion and I’m the world number one.”

NIOPen2020ROS-11O’Sullivan said: “I’m not disappointed. I’ve had a great week and a fantastic time. I played some good snooker and enjoyed it. I’d have taken quarter-finals all day long. This is a bonus.

“I just play for a hobby now. I don’t have to play for a living. If I had to play this game for a living, I would be miserable as hell. I just play for fun and do my business off the table. I obviously would like to win. It is a tough school.

“I think I can play until I’m 60 now, with the way things are going. If I am fit and healthy, then I might not be on the tour, but I would be doing the exhibitions. I’m going to be like Jimmy White. I love playing, I just didn’t enjoy playing on the circuit as it was like hard graft. Now that is taken care of and it has become a hobby. It is like I am ten years old again. I wish I could have felt like this when I was in my prime.

I have put some quotes in bold.

The one by Judd might anger some of you, as Ronnie fans, but I see it as a big compliment. Judd is 31, at the peak of his powers, Ronnie will turn 45 in about two weeks, he should be nowhere near Judd’s level. When Stephen Hendry retired, at 43, he hadn’t won a title for more than 8 years, and  that last was the Malta Cup, a tournament that many players treated as a holiday … That Ronnie is still the World Champion, and still the benchmark by which the World number one player in the sport assesses his own performances, well, that’s quite something.

Judd is the man to beat currently, but that does not mean that he will win everything. Last season he won six titles – a record – but didn’t perform in any of the majors.

This is a twitter snippet by two of the best known bloggers in the sport

Gary Moss Michael Day 2020-11-23 at 07.46.02

The Eurosport pundit discussed two peculiar aspects of this match

Ronnie’s costly decision to put Judd back in after a foul

NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN SNOOKER 2020: ‘SURELY NOT!’ – WHY DID RONNIE O’SULLIVAN MAKE BIG MISTAKE?

Ronnie O’Sullivan made what was considered a baffling mistake during the Northern Ireland Open final with Judd Trump on Sunday. O’Sullivan elected to put Trump back in after the Bristolian had fouled on the black when trying to play a swerve shot. Neal Foulds said in commentary that he couldn’t understand the decision while Alan McManus thought The Rocket may have misread the situation. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s decision to put Judd Trump back in after the world number one had fouled on the black sparked a discussion during their Northern Ireland Open final on Sunday.

The Rocket was trailing 55-15 when he elected to give Trump a second go at his missed attempt. Trump duly dispatched the red and then rolled the brown safe – the mistake would cost O’Sullivan the frame.

This is how the shot selection was reported on Eurosport’s live frame-by-frame coverage of the final:

TRUMP 1-0 O’SULLIVAN (56-15): “Trump fouls on the black when trying to swerve the white to pot it. With no path to the easy red, and no other pot on, O’Sullivan puts Trump back in; that’s really surprising, given that Trump has already had one go at it. It’s a risk, and it backfires; Trump pots the red, and then plays safe to baulk.”

‘I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND HIS DECISION THERE!’

It was a moment that Neal Foulds, in his role as commentator on Eurosport, found baffling, with the former world number three first saying:
“He is obviously not going to put him in again because he will get it.”
Before realising O’Sullivan’s intention and going on to say:

“SURELY NOT, ARE YOU KIDDING? HE WILL SURELY GET IT THIS TIME. I AM AMAZED HE HAS HAD THAT PUT BACK. JUDD IS A LITTLE CONFUSED THAT HE HAS BEEN ASKED TO PLAY THIS AGAIN. I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND O’SULLIVAN’S DECISION THERE – IT WASN’T A PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT SHOT BUT HE HAS ASKED TRUMP TO PLAY IT A SECOND TIME.”

‘RONNIE MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT IT WAS A FULL-BALL SNOOKER’

The decision to put Trump back in was addressed during the mid-session interval, with Eurosport’s Alan McManus suggesting O’Sullivan might not have understood the difficulty – or lack thereof – of the shot.

“Ronnie might have thought it was a full-ball snooker, as Judd missed it the first time. So Ronnie was probably thinking: ‘He aint going to hit that so I will give him another pop at it’, said McManus while chatting it through with Andy Goldstein and Jimmy White.

“I AM NOT QUITE SURE HOW GOOD A LOOK RONNIE HAD AT IT – IF HE HAD KNOWN I BELIEVE HE WOULD HAVE CHOSEN ANOTHER SHOT.”

White would then go on to replicate Trump’s escape before going through other potential methods the defending the champion could have used to pot the red.

The decision would ultimately cost O’Sullivan the frame, even if the world champion would play on, as he has done all week, despite needing six snookers to win.

Ronnie playing on whilst not trying to get snookers

NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN SNOOKER 2020 – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON DRAGGING OUT DEAD FRAMES

Ronnie O’Sullivan may have lost the Northern Ireland Open final to Judd Trump, but he has a new string to his bow – dragging out dead frames. The Rocket’s behaviour may have irked viewers and his opponent, but it is a tactic he intends to use “for the rest of my career” after stumbling upon it in Milton Keynes.

Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he will keep playing after a frame is dead to hone his skills on the green baize.

O’Sullivan regularly returned to the table needing an unfeasible amount of snookers during the Northern Ireland Open, which culminated in his 9-7 defeat to Judd Trump on Sunday.

It led to the bizarre spectacle of O’Sullivan clearing up the table, with no interest in pursuing the snookers required, only to finish well adrift of his opponent’s total and still lose the frame.

However, the current world champion said he would continue to do it for the “rest of my career” after admitting he rarely practises between tournaments.

“I don’t practise much at home so for me this is the best place to get practise,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport’s Andy Goldstein after losing to Trump.

“I wanted to get as much table time as I can. I wasn’t trying to put balls safe and make the frame long, I just wanted to get a chance to clear the balls up.

“I’m just enjoying playing and when you’re enjoying playing you want to pot balls. You just love the game.

“If my table at the club played like this I would be over the moon, but this table just plays so lovely that I’ve come to the conclusion that this is as good a place as anywhere to get table time.

“I’ve done it every match this tournament and I’ll probably do it for the rest of my career now.

“I know the commentators are sitting there thinking ‘we want to go home’ so it’ll be the short straw if their drawn to commentate on me, they’ll be hating it.”

Having dragged out a couple of frames beyond their natural expiry date, O’Sullivan turned a 7-3 deficit to 7-5 and then 8-7 in the final to suggest it may have had a positive impact – although ultimately he was able to pull off a comeback.

IT’S LEGAL’ – MCMANUS AND WHITE WEIGH IN

O’Sullivan’s antics were debated during the mid-session interval in the final, with both Alan McManus and Jimmy White making a case in favour of the Englishman.

“Ronnie invents new ways of trying to keep himself in matches and trying to do different,” said McManus.

“Even if it’s only 1%, if that helps him get the job done in the end then he’ll do it. He’s entitled to do it, that’s alright.”

White added: “It’s legal. When it was 7-3 it looked a bit bizarre, but it ended up 7-5 so maybe he’s found something somewhere.”

2020 Northern Ireland Open – Judd Trump joins Ronnie in the Final

For the third time in a row, it will be Judd Trump versus Ronnie in the Northern Ireland Open. It’s the World numberone versus the World number two, the defending champion versus the reigning World Champion … and WST got the poster right from the start 😉.

Here is WST report on the evening semi-final:

Defending champion Judd Trump defeated David Grace 6-2 in the semi-finals of the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open, to set up a blockbuster final with familiar foe Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Trump has defeated O’Sullivan in each of the last two Northern Ireland Open finals, both by a 9-7 scoreline. In arguably snooker’s most compelling modern day rivalry, world number one Trump and World Champion O’Sullivan cannot be split. The pair have met 22 times, with each having won 11 times.

Tomorrow’s final will once again see the illustrious duo do battle over the best of 17 frames, for the Alex Higgins Trophy and a top prize of £70,000. It will be the first time the same players have contested a specific ranking final in three consecutive years, since Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White in the 1994 World Championship.

Defeat will do little to dampen what has been an important run for world number 67 Grace, who was appearing in just his second ranking semi-final. The Yorkshireman dropped off the tour in 2018, but regained his professional status last year by virtue of his performances on the Challenge Tour.

Grace made a confident start to this evening’s semi-final, taking the opener to establish an early 1-0 lead. However, from there Trump seized the initiative, making breaks of 57 and 91 on his way to three on the bounce to lead 3-1 at the mid-session.

Upon the resumption, Trump composed breaks of 101 and 59 to move a frame from victory at 5-1. Grace continued to battle away and reduced his arrears thanks to a run of 50 in the seventh frame. It was to no avail, as Trump fired in a contribution of 92 to wrap up the win.

“It was a tricky game. It is never nice losing the first frame, you never settle until you have your first frame on the board,” said 31-year-old Trump. “I was a bit fortunate. I played a bad shot at 3-1 and got away with it, I ended up getting in and making a break. That was kind of it then. At 4-1 up I felt confident.

“It would be nice to win 9-7 again tomorrow. It is incredible really, even for me to be in the final three times in a row. Against Ronnie it is very strange and not something that happens very often. There is probably something about this tournament that we both enjoy, even though it is here in Milton Keynes this year. It is still a special event for me. It would be nice to hopefully go out and play well, win the event and be able to defend my title back in Northern Ireland next year.

“I always enjoy playing him. I always look out for him in the draw and want him to get through so I can play him. Ever since I turned professional it is someone that I always want to play and someone I enjoy playing. He brings out the best in me. You know you have to play solid snooker and that is what seems to happen. I know I will have to be near my best to compete against him and he will know the same nowadays.”

 

What can we expect from this final?

On the season’s form there is no doubt that Judd Trump starts as strong favourite.

Ronnie hasn’t been at his best even if he reached the final this week, but he has been at his most determined and has applied himself in every match. He has battled through and through, never giving up. Will it be enough? I’m not sure. He needs to cut out errors and to find some kind of long potting.

That said, to get to the final, Ronnie has beaten Ding Junhui, ranked 10, Thepchaiya Un-nooh, ranked 15, and Ali Carter, ranked 19, twice a World finalist, and winner of their last encounter in the last 16 at the Crucible.

Judd, on the other hand, had a far easier route. Scott Donaldson, ranked 25, is the highest ranked player he faced. In his last two matches, he played opponents who hadn’t been on the television table in earlier rounds. Judd himself, in the ES studio, had explained how diffrent this table plays from the outside tables and what a massive advantage it is to play every match on it. I’m not sure how hard he has actually been tested. Today it will be different: his opponent is the World Champion and he has also played all his matches on the main table.

Hopefully it will be a good match.

 

2020 Northern Ireland Open – Ronnie is the first Finalist

Ronnie was the first to book his place in the final of the 2020 Northern Ireland Open yesterday. He beat Ali Carter by 6-3, from 3-1 down, in a hard fought match.

Here are the numbers that matter:

This is the report by WST:

Rocket Surges To Reach Final

NIOPen2020ROS-9.jpgWorld Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan battled back from 3-1 down to beat Ali Carter 6-3 in the semi-finals of the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open in Milton Keynes.

The Rocket is now through to the 54th ranking final of his career, where he will face either world number one Judd Trump or world number 67 David Grace, who contest today’s other semi-final.

If Trump were to prevail it would be the third consecutive Northern Ireland Open final between him and O’Sullivan. The last time that happened was at the 1994 World Championship final, when Stephen Hendry took on Jimmy White for the third consecutive year. O’Sullivan has been runner-up to Trump in the previous two Northern Ireland Open finals.

Today’s last four clash was the first meeting between O’Sullivan and Carter since their fiery match at the 2018 World Championship. On that occasion they exchanged words and a shoulder barge in the arena, before Carter prevailed 13-9. However, that is Carter’s only defeat of O’Sullivan on the professional circuit to date. Following today’s win, O’Sullivan now leads the head-to-head 14-1.

It was the Captain who asserted his authority on this afternoon’s tie in the early exchanges. He got the better of a fiercely contested first four frames to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval.

When play resumed, O’Sullivan returned a different player. He clicked into top gear by firing in breaks of 78, 66, 93 and 102 in consecutive frames to claim four on the bounce and move one from victory at 5-3.

Carter had appeared to be set to extend the match, before breaking down on a run of 48. With several reds seemingly safe on the side cushion, O’Sullivan embarked on an extraordinary clearance of 59 to steal the frame and seal the match.

O’Sullivan said: “I didn’t really do a lot wrong in the first four frames, but I didn’t make anything happen either. Ali kept it tight and was making it hard for me. I always think if I can find a bit of form against that type of play, it is easy to get back in the game. It was a bit like when I played Selby at the World Championship, you are on the back foot for so long, that you are just looking for that moment and spark. When it comes, you get excited and you start flowing.

“You just have to go out there and do your best. I’m just pleased to have made the final. I haven’t played badly all season, I just haven’t put the practice in. It’s been second round, third round, played alright in the Champion of Champions. With the amount of effort I’m putting in on the practice table, I’m not disappointed with my results. I actually feel like I’m cueing alright.”

Like in the QF stage, WST had shared short videos on social media as the match unfolded.

Frame 2: century from Ronnie to level at 1-1

Frame 4: Ali Carter takes a 3-1 lead at MSI

MSI talk

MSI fun

Frame 5: Ronnie launches the come-back

Frame 7: Ronnie gets in the lead with century number 2

Frame 8:  look at that!

Frame 9: Ronnie finishes the job

Job done…

NIOPen2020ROS-8

Post-match talk … Ronnie enjoys playing but refuses to go to the practice table!

Ronnie is in a final for the first time this season. He’s in the final of the Northern Ireland Open for the third time running. He’s now ranked 7th both in the “Race to the World Grand Prix” and the “One year list”, having climbed 39 places in the latter over the week.

En route, he has beaten Elliot Slessor, his nemesis, Matthew Stevens who beat him at the English Open earlier this season, Ali Carter who had won their last match, that infamous last 16 at the Crucible in 2018.

I certainly would have taken that at the start of the week. Whatever happens in the final, there are a lot of positives to be taken! That said… Go Ronnie! 

2020 Nothern Ireland Open – QFs

This one will be short.

Here are the reports about what happened yesterday.

Afternoon session

Defending champion Judd Trump booked his place in the semi-finals of the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open with an emphatic 5-1 defeat of Scott Donaldson.

World number one Trump is seeking a third consecutive Northern Ireland Open title this week, that would make him the first person to achieve the feat in a ranking event since Stephen Hendry at the 1996 UK Championship.

Both of the last two years have seen Trump defeat now World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final 9-7. The pair remain on a potential collision course for the final this week, with the Rocket meeting Ding Junhui in a blockbuster quarter-final this evening.

Despite suffering defeat, Donaldson exits the event having maintained his impressive consistency over the last few years. Today’s match was his ninth ranking quarter-final appearance since his first, back in 2017. However, he is still in search of maiden ranking silverware.

The pair took just under an hour and a half to contest an edgy first three frames, where Trump battled to establish a 2-1 advantage. From there he took full control of the tie, firing in a fine break of 112 to head into the mid-session 3-1 ahead.

When they returned Trump wasted little time in getting over the line, breaks of 52 and 86 helped him to wrap up the 5-1 win. Trump now faces either Yan Bingtao or David Grace in tomorrow’s semi-finals.

“It took me a while to get used to the table, which had been re-clothed overnight. It was playing a little bit different. It was probably the best conditions we have played on all season,” said 31-year-old Trump. “There are going to be a lot of high breaks from this point on. The table is playing beautifully. It is nice to still be in the tournament and potting balls with a chance to defend my title.

“I just want to win as many matches and as many titles as I can and compete in these big events. It is nice that Ronnie is still in, I want to play him in another final. It would be amazing to play him in another final again in the Northern Ireland Open.

“It would be very special if I won for the third year in a row. If you look back at the greats, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Ronnie O’Sullivan, you see a long list of years when they are winning events in a row and you see their dominance. If you are winning events two or three years in a row, you are stamping your authority on the game.”

Essex cueman Ali Carter defeated Norwegian number one Kurt Maflin 5-3 to book his place in the semi-finals.

This week’s run is a timely one for world number 19 Carter, who remains in the hunt for Masters qualification. Carter, who reached the final of this year’s Masters in January, came into this week having not been beyond the second round this season.

After trailing 2-0, the Captain managed to go up a gear and claimed five of the next six frames to earn a hard fought victory. The four-time ranking event winner top scored with a run of 91.

Carter said: “You have to win four best of seven matches to get to the quarter-finals. The last thing you want to do at that stage is go home. You feel like you are in touching distance and that you have done so much hard work to get there. That brings its own pressure. It is tough out there, so I am pleased to get through.

“I came here with zero confidence and having hardly won a match all year. I didn’t particularly, in the nicest possible way, want to be here. Life is tough for everyone at the moment. If you come away and you are in a low ebb, then it is easy to get in a rut and a big black hole. I gave myself a good talking to and said I had to turn this around. To be in the semis is great.”

 

Scott Donaldson looked all at sea on the television table. He can play better than that.

Evening session

O’Sullivan Sets Up Carter Clash

World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ding Junhui 5-2 to set up an intriguing semi-final with Ali Carter at the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open.

O’Sullivan, winner of a record 37 ranking titles, will compete in the semi-finals of a ranking event for the 78th time tomorrow.

It will be the first time the Rocket has faced Carter since their fiery World Championship encounter in 2018. On that occasion, the pair exchanged a shoulder barge and tense words, as Carter secured a 13-9 win.

Today’s victory for 44-year-old O’Sullivan extends his head-to-head advantage over China’s number one Ding to 15-4. Ding will now turn his attentions to the defence of his UK Championship title, which gets underway next week.

It was Ding who flew out of the blocks this evening. Asia’s top cueman fired in breaks of 121 and 87 to charge into an early 2-0 advantage.

However, at that point Ding started missing opportunities and O’Sullivan opportunistically capitalised. Runs of 59 and 58 saw him head into the mid-session interval level at 2-2.

When they returned he claimed a further three frames on the bounce, making runs of 70 and 79 in the process, to emerge a 5-2 victor.

Following the match O’Sullivan denied apologising to Carter in the aftermath of their 2018 World Championship clash, or to Mark Allen after they exchanged words in the arena at the recent Champion of Champions.

O’Sullivan said: “I didn’t apologise to Ali and I didn’t apologise to Mark Allen either. I just said, ‘look, let’s move on, let’s not hold any grudges’. It is what it is. I still feel I was right on both occasions. That apology they say I said, definitely wasn’t one. It was more like saying to move on. It doesn’t really matter. I will see you around tournaments and you will see me, we might as well say hello to each other.

“At one point in this evening’s match I’d have been happy just to get a frame. He went off the boil and that allowed me to get back in the game. I just picked up bits and pieces, tried to stay solid and capitalise on any chances I got.

“You just have to win as many frames as you can and try not to lose frames. You have to keep your head down and not look for the winning line. I make it hard for myself. I missed a few balls early on and left him in. I don’t pot as well as I used to. I missed a few balls, but that is a natural thing as you get older.”

World number 67 David Grace reached his second ever ranking event semi-final with a 5-2 defeat of world number 13 Yan Bingtao.

Grace appeared his maiden ranking semi-final in an epic run at the 2015 UK Championship, but fell off the tour three years later. He regained his professional status at the beginning of the 19/20 season thanks to his performances on the Challenge Tour.

Following an edgy start to this evening’s match, the pair found themselves locked level at 2-2. However, Grace mounted a fearless charge for the finishing line when play resumed. The Yorkshire cueman composed breaks of 70, 59 and 104 to secure the momentous victory. He will now face world number one and defending champion Judd Trump.

“It feels absolutely brilliant. I was really nervous at the start, I just couldn’t settle down. Every time I got something going, I would miss a complete sitter. I dragged him down to my level really, he struggled,” said 35-year-old Grace. “You put in the hard hours in the club, grafting away in qualifiers scraping wins here and there for moments like this.

“What have I got to lose? He (Judd Trump) is winning everything these days. He hasn’t lost in this tournament for about ten years! I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.”

I didn’t expect David Grace to win, but I’m happy for him. He’s a lovely person and someone who does a lot for grassroots snooker.

And here is all about Ronnie’s match

2020 Northern Ireland Open – Ronnie beats Ding Junhui in the QF round

Ronnie is through to the semi-finals at the 2020 Northern Ireland Open after beating Ding Junhui by 5-2.  Here are the scores:

NIOpen2020L16ROSvDingWinNIOpen2020ROSQFvDingScores

Looking at that, the impression might be that Ronnie had an easy victory. It certainly wasn’t the case. It was a very strange match actually, and one that was won/lost in the player’s head more than on the table.

Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Sets Up Carter Clash

NIOPen2020ROS-6World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ding Junhui 5-2 to set up an intriguing semi-final with Ali Carter at the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open.

O’Sullivan, winner of a record 37 ranking titles, will compete in the semi-finals of a ranking event for the 78th time tomorrow.

It will be the first time the Rocket has faced Carter since their fiery World Championship encounter in 2018. On that occasion, the pair exchanged a shoulder barge and tense words, as Carter secured a 13-9 win.

Today’s victory for 44-year-old O’Sullivan extends his head-to-head advantage over China’s number one Ding to 15-4. Ding will now turn his attentions to the defence of his UK Championship title, which gets underway next week.

It was Ding who flew out of the blocks this evening. Asia’s top cueman fired in breaks of 121 and 87 to charge into an early 2-0 advantage.

However, at that point Ding started missing opportunities and O’Sullivan opportunistically capitalised. Runs of 59 and 58 saw him head into the mid-session interval level at 2-2.

When they returned he claimed a further three frames on the bounce, making runs of 70 and 79 in the process, to emerge a 5-2 victor.

Following the match O’Sullivan denied apologising to Carter in the aftermath of their 2018 World Championship clash, or to Mark Allen after they exchanged words in the arena at the recent Champion of Champions.

O’Sullivan said: “I didn’t apologise to Ali and I didn’t apologise to Mark Allen either. I just said, ‘look, let’s move on, let’s not hold any grudges’. It is what it is. I still feel I was right on both occasions. That apology they say I said, definitely wasn’t one. It was more like saying to move on. It doesn’t really matter. I will see you around tournaments and you will see me, we might as well say hello to each other.

At one point in this evening’s match I’d have been happy just to get a frame. He went off the boil and that allowed me to get back in the game. I just picked up bits and pieces, tried to stay solid and capitalise on any chances I got.

“You just have to win as many frames as you can and try not to lose frames. You have to keep your head down and not look for the winning line. I make it hard for myself. I missed a few balls early on and left him in. I don’t pot as well as I used to. I missed a few balls, but that is a natural thing as you get older.

And two more, by Europsport this time:

This one is a report on the match:

NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN SNOOKER 2020: RONNIE O’SULLIVAN BEATS DING JUNHUI TO REACH SEMI-FINALS

Ronnie O’Sullivan fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Ding Junhui on Friday night, winning 5-2 to move one step closer to another final showdown with Judd Trump at the Northern Ireland Open. Ding threatened the upset with breaks of 121 and 87 in the opening two frames, but O’Sullivan responded quickly to keep alive his hopes of avenging back-to-back final defeats at this competition.

Ronnie O’Sullivan fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Ding Junhui on Friday night, winning 5-2 to set up a semi-final meeting with Ali Carter at the Northern Ireland Open.

O’Sullivan is attempting to right the wrongs of the past two years, having been beaten 9-7 by Judd Trump in both the 2018 and 2019 finals.

We could be heading for a hat-trick of showdowns between the pair after both men advanced to the last four in Milton Keynes on Friday. Trump meets David Grace in the other semi.

First, O’Sullivan must overcome Carter, a man with whom he has shared bad blood in the past..

The head-to-head between O’Sullivan and Ding ahead of Friday’s match stood at 14-5 in favour of the Brit. The pair had also shared three draws.

However, it was Ding who got off to a flying start, instantly taking the opening frame with a 121 break, despite this marvellous escape from the Rocket.

If frame one was a marker for Ding, the next was a genuine warning to O’Sullivan as Ding this time showed fine break-building skills to amass 87 for a 2-0 lead.

O’Sullivan needed to dig in and find a foothold in the match, which he promptly managed in the third with a gritty 58. It wasn’t vintage O’Sullivan, but it was extremely timely.

Momentum had shifted and the players entered the interval all square at 2-2 thanks to a break of 59 from O’Sullivan, although Ding will feel he should have taken the frame. An unfortunate kick had opened up the table, but an over-hit black left the world No. 10 with too much to do with the following red.

The theme continued upon resumption, Ding was among the balls, but an error allowed O’Sullivan to clear up, taking the lead for the first time in the match with a swift 59.

In the sixth, it was a simple red to middle pocket that left Ding hunched over the table. Switching seamlessly between hands, O’Sullivan moved to a 4-2 advantage, one frame from victory.

Even by this stage, O’Sullivan hadn’t hit anything like top form. This was a pragmatic display from the world No. 2, capitalising on mistakes that were visibly weighing on Ding as the match went on. Where Ding needed to take more care with his shots, he was instead addressing the ball all too quickly.

The outcome of the match was predictable by now, and even more so when the Rocket found himself with the table at his mercy again in the seventh.

O’Sullivan expertly opened the pack, screwing off the black to all but sign and seal his ticket to the semi-finals.

He saved his biggest break of the match for last, securing victory with a slick 79.

And Ronnie’s assessment of  the match and his performance:

NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN 2020 – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: I’M NOT THE PLAYER I WAS

Ronnie O’Sullivan booked a showdown with rival Ali Carter in the Northern Open semi-finals after fighting back in in the last eight. The Rocket resumes his quest for the title in Milton Keynes on Saturday, but admitted he “felt useless” during the win over Ding Junhui and said his powers were on the wane. 

NIOPen2020ROS-7

Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted he is “not the player he was” despite reaching the Northern Ireland Open semi-finals with an impressive comeback win over Ding Junhui.

The Rocket was staring at a two-frame deficit in Milton Keynes, which is playing host to the tournament due to Covid-19 restrictions, but reeled off five frames on the spin to progress.

O’Sullivan said he “felt useless” after watching Ding’s fast start, conceding that age had finally caught up with him along with fellow Class of ’92 players John Higgins and Mark Williams.

My potting’s not that good. I’m just not as good as I was,” O’Sullivan said, when asked why he had refused a long pot in the fourth frame.

“My long game used to be much better. I miss too many balls. Higgins is the same, Williams is the same. It’s just a natural progression as you get a bit older.

“So there’s no point going for it if you’re going to let him in amongst the balls. I might as well just smash into them and say, ‘here you are, clear up’.
“I used to be ‘the potter’. Now I wouldn’t even make the top 50 of potters on the tour.”

O’Sullivan, the current world champion, is on a collision course with Judd Trump, who bettered him in the 2018 and 2019 finals in Belfast.

But the 44-year-old was keen to salute the efforts of Ding, who at one stage looked set to sweep to a comfortable win after exploding out of the blocks.

His positional play was unbelievable with the first two breaks in the two frames. I thought ‘he’s going to punt me 5-0 here’,” said O’Sullivan.

“He wasn’t out of position once. You wonder why he hasn’t won numerous world titles.

“I literally felt useless out there, I felt embarrassed because I thought my position was OK, but compared to him it was amateur. You start to feel a bit embarrassed out there because you can’t play to the level he was playing at.

“And then he started to miss a few and I dragged him down to my level.”

O’Sullivan will next face Ali Carter in the last four, a rematch of their clash at the 2018 World Snooker Championship – the scene of their infamous ‘shoulder barge’.

Here are some short videos that WST shared on social media as the match unfolded:

Ronnie’s intro

Ronnie’s great escape in the first frame

Ding takes the first frame

And the next …

Ronnie fights back

And makes it level at the MSI

Ronnie takes the lead after the MSI

A wise decision earn him the sixth frame

And there is the win …

And part of the post-match with the ES pundits

My thoughts…

After two frames, I thought that Ronnie had no chance at all, Ding was playing incredible snooker. Ronnie, in fact had missed two balls and lost two frames. I just hoped that it wouldn’t be a whitewash.

However, in the next two frames, Ding took some unwise decisions, went for very ambitious shots and missed them. He allowed Ronnie to come back at the table, and, in the balls, at close range, Ronnie is still the best in the business.  Ronnie was patient as well when needed and manage to win those two frames. It affected Ding, he lost his confidence. It also allowed Ronnie to settle.

After the MSI, although the score was still 2-2, Ding looked a beaten man. The outcome never looked in doubt.

In the pre-match presentation, Alan McManus was asked about Ding’s chances to win the World Championship. Alan’s answer was the Ding issn’t strong enough mentally. It may sound harsh, but it’s probably true. Yesterda’s match certainly does nothing to contradict Alan’s assessment.

Ronnie saying that he didn’t actually apologise, but rather invited Ali and Mark to move on, doesn’t surprise me. Mark certainly did stand in Ronnie’s eyeline on multiple occasions at the Champion of Champions, the match footage proves it. Ronnie was right about that, although he didn’t handle the situation well; he should have spoken to Mark and the ref before it “over-boiled”.

Ronnie has now almost certainly secured his 2020 World Grand Prix spot: he’s currently 9th in one year list counting towards that event. 

 

2020 Nothern Ireland Open – Rounds of 32 and 16

“Moving Day” at the Home Nations often produces some unexpected results and yesterday was no exception. Indeed, Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson, and John Higgins departed the tournament, leaving us with only four of the top sixteen players in the quarter-finals: Judd Trump, Yan Bingtao, Ding Junhui and Ronnie.

There was just one report by WST, about the last 16 round:

O’Sullivan Downs Un-Nooh In Thriller

NIOPen2020ROS-2World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan came through an enthralling clash with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 4-2 to book his place in the quarter-finals of the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open.

It’s O’Sullivan’s first trip to the quarters of a ranking event since securing a historic sixth World Championship win in August.

His most recent meeting with Thailand’s quickfire Un-Nooh came in the opening round at the Crucible this year. On that occasion O’Sullivan demolished Un-Nooh 10-1, this evening’s match was far more closely contested.

Each frame of the thrilling encounter contained a break over 50. It was Un-Nooh who claimed the opener with a run of 85. However, contributions of 106 and 60 saw O’Sullivan move 2-1 in front. Un-Nooh restored parity with a break of 98.

With the scores locked level at 2-2, there was a crucial fifth frame. Un-Nooh had looked set to move one from victory, before missing a straightforward red to the middle on 66. O’Sullivan ruthlessly capitalised by stealing on the black with a break of 70.

The Rocket then wrapped up the win to book a mouth watering quarter-final with Ding Junhui, who scored an impressive 4-1 defeat of John Higgins.

O’Sullivan said: “I didn’t have much choice in it. Thepchaiya just attacks the balls at all times. You can’t really keep him under wraps. You just have to try and score better, make less mistakes and capitalise if he makes a mistake.

“A bit of run of the ball here or there and it can be over very quickly. I feel I got away with that tonight. He was the better player and I got a bit of luck. I had no luck in the first three matches. They do say if you are patient enough then sometimes the luck turns around. I believe you make your own luck and I got mine tonight.”

Defending champion Judd Trump booked his place in the quarters with a hard fought 4-1 win over 2016 German Masters winner Martin Gould.

World number one Trump is aiming for a third consecutive Northern Ireland Open title, having beaten O’Sullivan 9-7 in both of the two previous finals to lift the Alex Higgins Trophy.

The Ace in the Pack is enjoying a superb 2020/21 Home Nations Series so far. He fired in a magnificent 147 break, the fifth of his career, in yesterday’s 4-0 win over China’s Gao Yang. Trump also won the first event of the series, defeating Neil Robertson 9-8 in a classic English Open final.

Trump and Gould shared the first two frames tonight, before the third came down to a re-spotted black. Trump narrowly avoided going in-off and left Gould angled by the top right pocket. Gould managed the escape, but left the black for Trump to deposit and move 2-1 up.

From there, Bristolian Trump charged to the line with breaks of 103 and 76 to wrap up victory. Next up Trump will face Scott Donaldson, who defeated Noppon Saengkham 4-2.

Trump said: “I could have been 2-1 down. I got a lot of bad luck in the third frame and I got a bit of good luck. It turned around in the end and then I made two good breaks to get over the line. I was a little bit tired, but I was just trying not to miss anything easy.

“It was a tough game. Martin is playing well and he is fearless as well. If you leave him anywhere on the table there is always a chance that he could clear up. It is always difficult and you are always under pressure against him. After losing to him earlier in the season, it was nice to get my own back.”

Norway’s Kurt Maflin booked his place in the quarter-finals with a 4-1 defeat of Brazillian Igor Figueiredo. He’ll face four-time ranking event winner Ali Carter, who beat Ben Woollaston 4-2.

The other quarter-final clash sees world number 13 Yan Bingtao take on world number 67 David Grace. China’s Yan beat compatriot Zhao Xintong 4-3 this evening, while Grace battled back from 3-0 down to beat Shoot Out champion Michael Holt 4-3.

You can find all detailed results on snooker.org

This is our quarter-finals line-up:

2020 NI Open QF line-up

Scott Donaldson is definitely coming of age this season and I fully expect him to climb into the top 16 soon. He’s currently number 13 in the race to the World Grand Prix. Yesterday he beat Mark Allen, who just won the Champion of Champions last week by 4-1. It might not be Belfast, but it is still the Northern Ireland Open and Mark Allen has a poor record in his home tournament.

David Grace only regained his professional status via the Challenge tour last season. Few players love their snooker as much as David does. When he was off the tour he organised countless events for players of all ages and abilities. He is a former English Amateur Champion, indeed he won that prestigious event twice, in 2005 and 2008. He reached the semi finals at the 2015 UK championship, beating Graeme Dott, Jack Lisowski, Peter Ebdon and Martin Gould en route. He qualified for the Crucible in 2017. So, he’s more than capable, even if he’s been off the radars for a while. And, last but not least, he’s a great person and a talented artist.

You can read more about Ronnie’s matches here.