2020 Q-School results

The Q-School format is far from ideal, and this year, with the covid-19 situation, it was even more tricky. Early rounds matches were shortened and the first two rounds, of all three events were played on a “roll-off/roll-on” basis so to speak. It was a crazy schedule, and quite difficult as well for the fans who wanted to follow the action.

But here we are and we have out twelve laureates …

Event 1

Fan Zhengyi, Peter Devlin, Lee Walker and Simon Lichtenberg earned a two years tour card through this event. Fan, Lee and Simon are immediately bouncing back from relegation. Peter, 24 years old, turns professional for the first time.

Despite all the issues around the event this is a rather satisfactory outcome. Three of the laureates are young players, and two of them – Fan and Simon – on non-UK players.

Simon, from Germany, has struggled badly on the tour, but hopefully will be able to build on his experience and break through this time.

I’m particularly pleased fo Fan who was clearly not ready for the main tour. He was too young, and being far away from his family, having to cope with an alien culture and a different language was clearly too much for him. He was lost. But during the second half of this season, he started to find his foot, he worked hard, matured and progressed a lot. It was too late though and he couldn’t avoid relegation. He’s bounced back magnificently.

Peter Devlin is a “character”. The boy is handsome and knows it only too well. He’s an extravert through and through. He writes songs – raps mainly – and sings them. Enough said. Check his youtube channel and see/hear by yourself

Here are all detailed results for Event 1 on snooker.org

Event 2

Jamie Jones, Zak Surety, Oliver Lines and Ben Hancorn are the laureates of event 2. Oliver Lines immediately bounced back from relegation. Jamie Jones and Zak Surety have been pros before. Ben Hancorn, 38, and winner of the 100th English Amateur Championship earlier this season, turns professional for the first time.

Jamie Jones of course was banned from the sport for failing to report a match fixing approach. From what transpired, it was a case of misguided loyalty towards a mate more than anything else. Jamie was never to gain any advantage from the approach. As such – in my opinion – the length and timing of the ban were quite harsh, because it effectively meant that he would be relegated. I’m glad he managed to get back on tour via the Q-shool this year (he failed in the WSF event in Malta before this).

Ben Hancorn is someone you may know, without knowing that you know him … Ben is Andrew Norman’s brother in law, and, along with him, he was a constant presence at the SWSA in Gloucester. Everyone who went to a tournament there – PTC, junior event, Pink Ribbon – will have met Ben. Turning Pro has been his dream for a long time. Good luck Ben.

Here are all detailed results for Event 2 on snooker.org

Event 3

Event 3 event laureates are Rory McLeod, Steven Hallworth, Farakh Ajaib and Jamie Wilson. Rory and Steven have been pros before, Farakh and Jamie are new to the tour.

I know nothing about Farakh, and very little about Jamie. Jamie is 16 years old, and playing at the Cuestars Academy, run by John Hunter, a place where Tim Dunkley also uses for coaching. The Academy is oriented towards attracting young people to snooker and developing young talents.

I’m also glad to see Rory McLeod back on tour. Having met Rory at WSS events regularly over the last two years, I know how desperate he was to regain his professional status. Job done. And the good news for Rory, is that, under the new rules, he will still be able to play on the WSS Tour until he gets into the top 64 in the main tour.

Here are all detailed results for Event 3 on snooker.org

Of course it ended in heartbreak for many … amongst those who didn’t succeed, we have Michael Georgiou, Michael White and Alfie Burden.

It’s hard and sad for all of them – and so many others I didn’t name – but Michael White is partitcularly tragic. He’s only just turned 29, he was tipped as the possible “next big thing” as a junior, he won two ranking events – the 2015 Indian Open and the 2017 Paul Hunter Classic – and he was ranked as high as 15th in the World in 2016. What’s happened there? And why?

World Championship 2020 – Ronnie beats Ding by 13-10 in the last 16 round

Ronnie has beaten Ding Junhui by 13-10 tonight and is through to the quarter-finals where he will play Mark Williams. This was Ronnie’s 100th match at the Crucible.

Those are the numbers:

RonnievDingL16WinRonnievDingL16WinScoresRonnievDingL16WinStats

I think this is pretty impressive.

And two interesting quotes that transpired on social media.

RonnievDingL16WinQuotes-1RonnievDingL16WinQuotes-2

Apparently Ronnie’s interview with BBC was quite something, but I can’t watch BBC where I am. I hope it will be available somewhere in the coming days 😇

And this was Mark Williams’s reaction on twitter:

Willo on twitter ahead of the RS-Willo QF at the 2020 Crucible

Here is the report by WST:

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased into the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship with a trademark display of rapid attacking snooker to beat Ding Junhui 13-10.

RonnievDingL16Sesh3-1

O’Sullivan is into the last eight at the Crucible for the 19th time, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record. He faces old adversary Mark Williams over 25 frames on Monday and Tuesday, and victory for O’Sullivan would put him into the semi-finals for the first time since 2014.

The Rocket hasn’t won a title since the Shanghai Masters 11 months ago but has looked sharp and focused so far in Sheffield as he chases a sixth Crucible crown. In Ding and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh he has faced two opponents happy to trade blow for blow, and O’Sullivan’s scoring prowess has carried him through.

In the 23 frames he has won so far, he has compiled four centuries and 15 more breaks over 50. The 44-year-old will hope for a similarly open match against Williams.

O’Sullivan knocked in breaks of 87 and 73 in the first two frames tonight to lead 10-8, before Ding pulled one back with an 88. In frame 20, Ding had a clear chance to draw level, but missed a mid-range red to a top corner on 39, letting O’Sullivan in for a 60 clearance to lead 11-9 at the interval.

O’Sullivan missed a black to top corner on 22 in the next and China’s Ding raised his hopes of a fight-back with a break of 81. But world number six O’Sullivan rose to the challenge and fired runs of 117 and 93 to take the last two frames. The seven frames in tonight’s session took just 67 minutes.

RonnievDingL16Sesh3-2

“If Ding had been a bit tighter and taken certain opportunities he could have run away with it,” said O’Sullivan. “In both sessions I had to come back from bad starts. I was over the moon to be 8-8 at the start of this session. Tonight I just tried to focus and play each shot as it comes, and I’m pleased with how I finished the match off.

“I had a few days at home after my first match which was helpful. When you get out of Sheffield, even to go into the Peak District to have a bit of dinner, it gets you out of that pressurised environment. The emotions are running high because it is such an important tournament.

“I have been playing Mark Williams since we were on the junior circuit in 1986. We were in pro-ams together all of the time, then John Higgins came along in 1989. We had some battles as amateurs and then as professionals. We have been in each other’s heads for 34 years.

“Mark has done really well for himself, he’s got a lovely family, enjoys his holidays, he has achieved a lot in the game, and if he gave up snooker he’d just live on the golf course. He’s got a very simple lifestyle, which is brilliant. I am similar, but I couldn’t play golf every day, so I have had to create something else for myself, so that I have something to do when snooker stops being the be-all and end-all.

“We’ll both want to play well because we have pride in performance. Even if we were playing a practice match in the club we would still want to beat each other, so at the Crucible it’s going to have an extra edge to it.”

Ding’s wait to become the first World Champion from Asia goes on – his only final appearance was in 2016 when he lost to Mark Selby. He said: “In the first two sessions, Ronnie missed a lot of blacks or pinks off the spot and I took those chances. I played well, but today wasn’t as good as the first two sessions. Sometimes I need to score heavily and I didn’t do that well enough.

“I’m working hard. I’ve got my own academy and I’ve got my own tables now. I’m playing more and I’m enjoying practising now. I’m just looking forward to the new season. It is a tough time for everybody and for all snooker players, we should take every chance to play.”

You can listen to Ronnnie’s interviews here:

With BBC:

With Rob Walker for WST/press:

 

 

On Day 9 at the 2020 Crucible

Yesterday we reached the middle of the championship in terms of duration, but still far from the middle of it in terms of number of frames to be won to lift the trophy. Indeed we are still in the last 16 round. It was also a day where no match was played to a finish.

Two matches started yesterday morning and had their second session scheduled in the evening. This is the outcome: Kyren Wilson leads Martin Gould by 11-5 whilst Barry Hawkins and Neil Robertson are tied at 8-8.

Here are the reports by WST:

Morning session:

Kyren Wilson finally entered the fray at the Betfred World Championship on day nine of the event, and started strongly by taking a 5-3 lead over Martin Gould.

World number eight Wilson became the only player in Crucible history to receive a walkover when his first round opponent Anthony Hamilton pulled out. But that meant the Kettering cueman was coming into the event cold in the last 16, while Gould had a fine win over Stephen Maguire under  his belt.

However there were no signs of rustiness for Wilson in a high quality session which featured two centuries and seven more breaks over 50.

Three-time ranking event winner Wilson eased into a 3-0 lead with runs of 52, 113 and 63, before Londoner Gould pulled one back with a 129. After the interval, Wilson extended his lead to 5-1 with 90 and 64.

Gould, who has dropped to 60th in the rankings and would have been relegated from the tour if he had lost his opening match in the qualifying rounds, took frame seven with a run of 62. In the last of the session, Wilson missed a red on 54, and his opponent punished him with an excellent 70 clearance to trail by just two frames.

They return at 7pm tonight for eight more frames. First to 13 goes through to the quarter-finals for a crack at defending champion Judd Trump.

On the other table, world number two Neil Robertson holds a 5-3 advantage over Barry Hawkins after their first session.

The start of the match was delayed when Robertson accidentally spilt a cup of coffee on the carpet and his trousers. But he was full of beans as the action got underway as he ground out a break of 78 to take the opening frame.

Hawkins made a 68 as he took frame two and he compiled a run of 61 in the next only for his opponent to steal it with a 54 clearance. World number 15 Hawkins made it 2-2 with a 59 and had chances in the next but crucially missed a tough long pot on the green when leading 60-46. Robertson cleared from green to black and added a scrappy sixth frame to lead 4-2.

A superb 111 from Hawkins gave him frame seven but Robertson responded in kind with a 105 to give him the advantage. They are back on the baize at 7pm.

WST on twitter:

Before we’ve even hit a ball, @nr147 has booked his place at the dry cleaners😅

Evening session:

Kyren Wilson is just two frames away from a quarter-final place at the Betfred World Championship as he opened up an 11-5 lead over Martin Gould in the second session of their last 16 tie.

Wilson took to the baize for the first time in the Championship today, having received a bye in the first round, and was quickly into his stride as he made two centuries and eight more breaks over 50 in the two sessions. If he gets the two frames he needs in the concluding session on Sunday he’ll set up an intriguing quarter-final meeting with defending champion Judd Trump.

Kettering’s Wilson has an impressive record at the Crucible in recent years – he is aiming to reach the last eight for the fifth time in a row.

Leading 5-3 after the first session, world number eight Wilson reeled off the first five frames tonight with top breaks of 83, 57 and 109 to lead 10-3. At that stage he looked capable of taking the next three frames and finishing the match a session early.

Qualifier Gould avoided that fate by winning frame 14 thanks to a 40 clearance which included an excellent long pot on the last red to a baulk corner. Londoner Gould took the next as well with a 61 clearance to close to 10-5. But Wilson won the last of the session with 59 and 48 to lead by six overnight. They resume at 1pm on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Barry Hawkins came from 6-3 down to level at 8-8 against Neil Robertson ahead of their concluding session. Hawkins is another Crucible specialist, having won 20 of his last 27 matches at the venue, and is putting up an impressive fight against world number two Robertson.

Australia’s Robertson, the 2010 champion, made a strong start tonight with a break of 132 to go 6-3 ahead. Londoner Hawkins took the next with a 95 then got the better of three fragmented frames to lead 7-6.

He might have taken the 14th as well but missed the last red to a centre pocket with the balls at his mercy. Robertson took advantage for 7-7 and made a 69 in the next to regain the lead. Hawkins finished strongly with a 117 to square the match. They resume at 1pm.

In the afternoon, Ronnie and Ding played their second session and it ended at 8-8.

The other match saw Jamie Clarke take a big lead over Anthony McGill at first. At that stage Anthony complained that Jamie was repeatedly standing in his eyeline and the incident turned a bit nasty. It certainly affected Jamie, who appeared to lose his concentration. The session concluded at 8-7, the players being pulled off as it was running late.

Here is the report by WST:

day-9-afternoon-7-Clarke-McGill

On the other table, Anthony McGill came from 8-2 down against Jamie Clarke to within a frame at 8-7.  The battle between two qualifiers is finely poised going into the final session on Sunday evening, with Kurt Maflin awaiting in the quarter-finals.

World number 89 Clarke, the lowest ranked player in the field, led 6-2 overnight and stretched his lead today by taking the opening frame with a run of 77 and the second with a green to black clearance.

There was a brief debate between the two players towards the end of frame ten, McGill appearing to feel that Clarke was standing in his eyeline on a shot. Referee Jan Verhaas stepped in and the action resumed.

Glasgow’s McGill then fought his way back into the contest, taking five frames in a row with top breaks of 41, 46, 42 and 47. The session was brought off a frame early, and 2015 Crucible quarter-finalist McGill will hope to continue his momentum when they return.

The “brief debate” was actually far from friendly.

This article by Neil Goulding gives a more accurate account of the incident and the atmosphere surrounding it:

Anthony McGill hits out at rival Jamie Clarke after referee Jan Verhaas was forced to step in following angry exchange in fiery World Championship showdown at the Crucible

  • Rivals were involved in fiery World Championship second-round showdown
  • McGill accused Clarke of standing in his eyeline when he was lining up shots
  • Ref Jan Verhaas was forced to step in after an angry exchange between the pair 

Angry Scot Anthony McGill took a potshot at opponent Jamie Clarke as their heated Crucible clash boiled over.

McGill accused Welshman Clarke of deliberately standing in his eyeline when he was lining up shots in their fiery World Championship second-round showdown.

It overshadowed a tight encounter in which McGill won five frames on the spin from 8-2 down to finish 8-7 behind and keep his quarter-final hopes alive.

Crucible 2020 McGill v Clarke
Referee Jan Verhaas was forced to step in after an exchange between McGill (L) and Clarke (R)

The duo had been due to play one more frame but were hauled off early because the evening matches risked not starting on time.

Earlier, referee Jan Verhaas was forced to step in after an angry exchange between the two players. Trailing 7-2, McGill complained to Verhaas about Clarke not sitting in his seat after he finished his shots.

Dutchman Verhaas told McGill: ‘I’m sure it’s nothing malicious, but stay out of it now please.’

And then the experienced referee spoke to debutant Clarke and instructed him to sit in his seat for the remainder of the match when it was McGill’s turn to play.

‘You’ve got to try and avoid being in the eyeline of the player, so if he’s playing in that direction I’d like you to be in your chair,’ Verhaas told Clarke. ‘Let’s draw a line under it and get on with it.’

During the mid-session interval, the Welsh player cryptically tweeted: ‘You want to dance, let’s dance.’

BBC commentator Alan McManus reflected: ‘Tensions can run high at the Crucible, it’s understandable. Anthony wants, and rightly so, his opponent not to be impinging at all.

‘Not to imply Jamie is doing anything untoward, but there’s an unwritten rule in snooker that when it’s your shot it’s your table.’

Whether they drew a line under it and got out of it, I’m not sure. McGill appeared to go after Clarke as he was leaving the arena after the incident, and Clarke’s tweet proves that the incident was still very much in his mind when the MSI came.

Martin Gould might be on the brink of defeat at the Crucible, but he’s won a much more important battle in recent months. Here he is, explaining his mental struggles to ES Desmond Kane. Long article, but well worth the read.

Martin Gould on his battle against depression: ‘I felt ashamed, pathetic and my body ached’

Martin Gould tells Desmond Kane how opening up about his mental health problems has lifted the pressure on his shoulders as he sets about rebuilding his life and once burgeoning snooker career.

Martin Gould is a gloriously straight cue artist, but arguably a more impressive straight talker these days. Which he has had to be to quell the turbines of his inner turmoil.

Gould’s act of bravery beyond the old green baize in realising he required help for his mental health has been career-saving, and potentially life-affirming, in his battle to beat the black dog of depression amid a striking penchant for potting black balls.

He has cut a rejuvenated figure in Sheffield, producing arguably the performance of the first round at the World Championship with a 10-3 win over Stephen Maguire – the former UK champion and recent Tour Championship winner – that included four centuries and five breaks over 50 in a resounding triumph that left his opponent flabbergasted by Gould’s lowly ranking of 60.

It followed victories over Amine Amiri, Chris Wakelin and 2006 world champion Graeme Dott in the qualifiers, but it is a minor miracle that Gould has made it back to the Crucible Theatre after teetering on the edge of quitting the sport for good.

There was a point in the not too distant past when Gould would prefer to be left alone with his thoughts rather than discussing feeling “ashamed and pathetic” as his self-loathing burned violently inside, proving to have a debilitating effect on the rest of his system.

The grounded Londoner known as the ‘Pinner Potter’ can pinpoint the moment he decided to admit that he was having serious problems as a golden snooker career – that saw him lift the German Masters in 2016, reach world number 11 in 2012 and compile over 200 centuries – threatened to completely disintegrate in the morass of a caustic mental compass.

Gould vividly remembers the moment he opened up for the first time to a member of the World Snooker Tour team about his problems during the Shoot Out at Watford Colosseum in February after losing early on left him confronting a colossal problem.

“I spoke to a few people at the Shoot Out. They could have taken it a different way because I had been drinking all afternoon,” said Gould.

“I had lost my match at the Shoot Out, but stayed at the venue with a couple of friends to watch. It was one of the days where I wondered if I should go home or have a beer because I knew I didn’t have any events coming up.

“I decided to have a few beers. One turned into 10 or 12 and then I saw Mark Williams, who works on the security team at World Snooker. I pulled him to one side. I said to him: ‘Listen, I’ve got a real problem and I don’t know what to do about it. You are the first person I’ve managed to speak to about it’.

He told me World Snooker have some system in place to help, but I said I have no idea what to do. He just looked at me in complete and utter shock because whenever he sees me I’m always chirpy.

“I told him: ‘That’s just a complete front’. If there was an award for it, I’d be able to pick up an Oscar for some of the acts I used to pull off making out I was fine. Mark said he was concerned and contacted a few people. I went to see my own doctors. It turned out, I was getting restless, wasn’t sleeping. For six or nine months, I hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep.

“I felt mentally and physically drained. My legs and body constantly ached. It turned out I had a Vitamin D deficiency which can have an effect in bring you downwards. I was sent for blood tests. I didn’t speak to too many people. I wanted to stick to one or two people. My dad (Michael) used to buy what I told him when he asked. I’d say there was nothing wrong. I knew there was, but didn’t want to say anything. I found it really difficult to explain anything. Some people don’t quite get it. They think you can click your fingers, wake up the next day and everything is rosy.“

Gould believes he started to encounter serious problems when matters of the heart took a turn for the worse a couple of years ago in his personal life.

“I kind of know where my problems started. About two years ago, I had some personal stuff going on away from snooker. It had a huge effect on me when it came to an end,” said the former English amateur champion.

“I had a really nasty break-up and it hit me for six. It really did have a huge effect on me and things started to spiral after that time. It is one of those horrible moments in life. I understand it is hard for males to open up. I found it very difficult. I felt ashamed and at times I felt pathetic. That’s how bad I felt. I do feel bad for my family because they probably wonder how could he not trust us? It wasn’t trust, just that I couldn’t explain what was going on in my head. I felt like I couldn’t speak to anybody.”

Gould admits the anguish of losing his mum Shirley to cancer in 2004 a year after he turned professional had helped in storing up problems for himself in later life. He was only 22 when he suffered the pain of her death after caring for her.

“I lost my mum 16 years ago,” said Gould. “That could have had something to do with it because I never got the chance to grieve properly after helping to nurse her.

“It hit me hard when I lost my mum. We tried to make it as a peaceful and enjoyable for her in the last few months she had. That was a horrible time.

I went off the rails a little bit, but I’m only human and you are going to find some sort of solution at the end of a bottle.

“It wasn’t an easy time. Luckily I had my sister (Sue) around. We looked after each other. My dad moved away not long after that. I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to nearby.”

The loneliness of the long-distance runner is nothing compared to the isolation of the long-distance snooker player.

Gould dropped to 60 in the world prior to the World Championship and admitted before lockdown he was considering disappearing into the ether rather than resurrecting his career.

For a player who beat Belgium’s leading player Luca Brecel 9-5 before a crowd of 2500 at the Tempodrom in Berlin to lift the celebrated German Masters title four years ago, it had been an inexplicable decline.

“The Welsh Open in Cardiff in February was a prime example,” explains Gould, who faces world number eight Kyren Wilson over the best of 25 frames for a place in the quarter-finals. “I was due to play Stuart Bingham. I travelled in the morning, got into my hotel, changed and I had already looked to see what the last train home was that evening so I could go home.

“I didn’t want to be there. I just turned up and thought I’d get the match out of the way. I had no expectation of winning, and I thought to myself: ‘I can’t keep doing this’.

“I would have been more than happy to drop off the tour, give up playing on the main tour and concentrate on playing some seniors stuff later on after giving myself a year or two to get back to normal.

“While I was feeling down, I started to get some issues with my back and neck that started to restrict me. Quite a few bits and pieces started to really get on top of me. The more it got on top of me, the worse it started to feel. It got to a point where sometimes you wanted to say something, but just bottled it. You start to feel a bit ashamed.

“My ranking suffered. When you start turning up at tournaments and you are looking at how quickly you can get home again, you are on a losing battle.

“Snooker is one of the sports that can be very lonely. You tend to do a lot of travelling on your own,” continued Gould, who has rejected the chance of anti-depressants or any medication to help him cope.

“Even when you are flying to other countries, you tend to do your own thing. More often than not, you are practising on your own. I find it very difficult to mix with people anyway.

It can be a very lonely game and when your head is not in it properly, it can get to you even more.

“There have been occasions when I’ve gone to China and paid stupid money to get myself back. The only difference was getting back an hour earlier to the UK than my original flight just to make sure I got home sooner rather than later.

“Some people like to have a drink and be themselves, but I’m not really a drinker. I like my own space, but the problem with liking your own space is you get to the point where you like it too much.”

Despite the grim seriousness of the global Covid-19 health pandemic, Gould feels the UK lockdown in late March played a huge role in saving his career.

“If lockdown hadn’t happened, I would probably have dropped off the tour and probably never been seen again,” said Gould.

“I really feel the pain of anyone who has lost their lives or lost loved ones during this period in time, but I used the time out to get a second chance to get myself back into the groove of wanting to find the love and the joy of playing snooker again at a high level.

“The lockdown helped me to refocus and get my head in its rightful position of where it should be. I was fortunate enough to be allowed into my club to allow me to practise. I had someone with me picking balls out every day so it meant I wasn’t on my own all the time.

“Everything I did in lockdown just proved that hard work can pay off. Gould realised he was facing problems when he could not countenance spending time in his own company inside his own house before quickly turning full circle into a hermit.

“I had spells at the beginning where I found it difficult to be at home, but I didn’t want to be around anybody,” he said. “I just wanted to go out. I used to get up, jump in the shower, get changed and then I’d be out walking with my headphones on. I’d be in my own little planet and I’d just got for a long walk. When I got home, it was time to get something to eat and then go to bed.

“That way was easier for me than sitting indoors doing nothing or playing on the PlayStation. I’d get to a point where if there was something really good on TV, I couldn’t sit still. I had to be on the move walking around or asleep. Then after a while, I could feel myself getting back into a position where I could watch a couple of programmes and I felt bit more at ease sitting indoors.

“Then I got to the position where I’m indoors a lot and didn’t want to go out. I got myself into a position where I’d get up in the morning, have some breakfast and a cup of tea before going to sit on the sofa. I’d be on the sofa until seven or eight o’clock at night then I’d go to bed and watch TV in bed. It became like a constant routine.

“The only time I’d go out would be to get the essentials such as bread and milk, but other than that I never rung anybody or invited everybody over to my house. I’ve always been somebody who doesn’t like people intruding on where I live. I’m very funny about it. I have my dad and family, but it is very rare that I let anybody in my house. It is just the way I am. I can get into a mode where I don’t do anything.

“That is how it went for a while. I’d go to the club for a practice, but after half an hour I’d want to go home and didn’t want to be around people. I just wanted to be in my own comfort zone with my own creature comforts.”

Gould thanks his dad Michael, his sister Sue and few close friends for helping to go public with his problems and feels like a heavy burden has been lifted from his shoulders.

“I’ve got a good friend in Scotland who suffers badly and is trying his hardest to do the right things. I was fortunate enough because I knew what was going on with him and he trusted me enough to tell me what was going on,” said Gould.

“I remember having a five or six-hour conversation on the phone with him and we poured out everything between us trying to help each other. We still have a lot of banter, but I respect him as a brother more than a friend. He has been a great help.

“My dad has been good, but has never experienced anything like it so it is difficult for him to understand. Which I understand because I don’t even get it myself. I try to explain as much as I can. His girlfriend understands it a bit more. He’s been really good and couple of other friends I’ve got could relate to it.”

According to Samaritans, men are three times as likely to commit suicide in the UK than women.

Gould believes men could learn a lot from women by speaking more openly and honestly about their problems rather than bottling them up.

“You understand why a lot of men do not speak about it. For us men, we find it harder to open up about any problem than women do,” comments Gould.

“Women find it easier to say what they want to say, but men are always fine and struggle to find five or six avenues to say what they feel. Then someone will tell you to man up and get on with your life or wake up and do something different. Sometimes it is not that simple.

“You can’t click your fingers and say that’s me sorted. You need to speak to the right people, have some good friends who you can involve in the conversation where you don’t feel they are going to take the mickey out of you.

“I definitely feel 100 times better which is a good thing. I want to enjoy playing snooker, not feeling like I have to do it, but that I want to do it.”

Depression as an illness is major cause of disability across the world, contributing to suicide and heart disease.

Gould is urging anybody struggling with mental heath problems to seek out help rather attempting to cope in isolation.

“Hopefully me speaking about it, can encourage others to speak about it,” said Gould. “More than anything, it is finding people you can trust.

“If you don’t feel you can get to see a doctor, speak to someone you can trust and try not to feel ashamed about wanting to speak to them. Someone you can trust, a family member or a good friend, bite the bullet and go for it.

“Explain any problem that you feel is dragging you down. I wouldn’t tell it to anybody what I was going through because they would tell someone else and messages get misinterpreted.

“I want to know that when I have a conversation and it is finished, they are not going to go and start blabbing and tell someone else. For me, not having a huge circle of friends didn’t help. Some people will find it difficult and may not understand.

“My dad must have started to pick up some vibes looking at me. He asked me and I told him. I hated myself for it because I knew I had upset him. I knew he felt that I’m his only son and he can’t talk to him when he has a problem. It’s just the way I felt at the time. I felt like I could do it on my own, but I bottled it and it spiralled and it took longer and longer for me to admit I had a problem.”

Gould will be fully focused on his match against Wilson in the second round having twice before reached this stage of the World Championship in 2010 and 2011 buoyed by a healthy frame of mind that has given him a new lease of life.

Opportunity knocks for Gould, but he is happier to have restored a sense of normality to his life. The potting prognosis is a sense of personal contentment is far more important to achieve than winning a snooker match.

“I don’t think I would have entered the world qualifiers a few months ago,” said Gould, who used his 13-12 defeat to Neil Robertson after leading 11-5 in the last 16 a decade ago as a “positive learning experience”.

“I had reservations about entering because I wouldn’t have given it 100 percent.

“That bridge changed when the pandemic started. It gave me the chance to get fit, healthy and get my mind clear.

“My shoulders feel a little bit lighter, but this gives me the opportunity to play some snooker. I’ve taken the opportunity so far.

“If I do feel a blip, I can speak to my dad or speak to someone at World Snooker who can put me onto someone who can help.

“I don’t ever want to be back in that place ever again. At least I know what can trigger it and what I can do to stop it getting to the point where it gets out of control again.

“Touch wood, there have been no blips. Everything is just running nice and smooth. Long may that continue.”

Desmond Kane

Just a short comment on this. It might be perceived as bizarre that Martin finally opened up to a security man of all people, but I’m not surprised. Big Mark Williams from the security is someone who oozes kindness and positivity. Nobody will dream to mess up with him, but his aura is one of down-to-earth goodness.

World Championship 2020 – Ronnie and Ding all square after the second session of their last 16 match

The second session of Ronnie versus Ding last 16 match followed the same pattern as the first. Misjudged safeties from Ronnie and an unexpected miss gave Ding the opportunity to win the first mini session by 3-1. Just like yesterday, after they resumed, Ronnie  managed to win three frames on the trot to lead by 8-7. Ding took the last of the session after Ronnie missed a couple of long pots.

Again the feeling was that Ding was the better player out there. Ronnie appeared very frustrated at times, by his own mistakes or by the conditions, or by both.

Regarding the conditions, Stephen Hendry in commentary reflected that the table was playing very heavy, and that finger marks on the cloth were a sign that the cloth was damp despite the heating. The table was slow, but the cushions were bouncy. It’s a bad combination. Both Ding and Ronnie are touch players, they don’t like to have to hit the balls hard and they tend to lose accuracy when they are forced to do so. Both missed a few long ones at speed by some margin. Also, whatever side they put in their shots,  it takes on differently depending on the state of the cloth.

Ding however seems better than Ronnie at keeping his negative emotions in check.

Tomorrow morning the tables will be reclothed, or mabe it’s just the cushions, I’m not sure. Hopefully the table will play a bit better.

What will happen in the last session is hard to predict. From what I’ve seen so far I have to make Ding slightly favourite… I hope to be wrong.

Here are the numbers:

RonnievDingL16Sesh2RonnievDingL16Sesh2ScoresRonnievDingL16Sesh2Stats

And the report by WST:

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui are tied at 8-8 going into the final session of their Betfred World Championship second round clash.

Having started the second session at 4-4, the pair shared the eight frames again, leaving the match perfectly poised. They return at 7pm on Sunday with first to 13 frames to go through to the quarter-finals to face Mark Williams.

O’Sullivan is targeting his sixth world title, though he hasn’t been past the quarter-finals since he lost to Mark Selby in the 2014 final. China’s Ding is aiming to become the first Asian winner; the closest he has come was runner-up spot to Selby in 2016.

A scrappy opening frame today went O’Sullivan’s way, then Ding hit back with breaks of 64, 118 and 101 to lead 7-5.  The high scoring continued after the interval as O’Sullivan turned the tide in his own favour with 90, 89 and 73 to take three frames within 35 minutes. In the last of the session, Ding made 41 and 53 to restore parity.

 

On Day 8 at the 2020 Crucible

Here are the reports by WST:

Mark Williams beat Stuart Bingham by 13-11 (morning session):

plus Trump v Yan second session

Three-time Crucible king Mark Williams insisted that no one can question his ‘bottle’ after beating Stuart Bingham 13-11 in the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

Williams came from 9-8 down to win five of the last seven frames and book a quarter-final meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Ding Junhui. At the age of 45, he is the oldest player to reach the last eight in Sheffield since Steve Davis in 2010.

“There was a lot of pressure in that session and I produced my best stuff,” said Williams. “People can question my game but they can’t question my bottle. It’s not easy out there but I stuck in there. I threw away a few frames and missed easy balls but that’s my game now – when I miss I have to put it out of my mind.”

The Welshman won this title in 2000, 2003 and 2018 – one more victory would bring him level with John Higgins on four crowns. Williams has shown few signs of form in recent months – his only ranking final this season came at the China Championship last September when he lost to Shaun Murphy. But, like all of the greats, he has a habit of coming alive at the Crucible.

Masters champion Bingham made a break of 70 in the opening frame today to go 9-8 ahead, then Williams took the next two with 67 and 90. Bingham’s 51 made it 10-10 at the interval, then world number three Williams won frame 21 with a run of 74.

The 22nd came down to a safety battle on the pink and 2015 World Champion Bingham outfoxed his opponent to level at 11-11. In frame 23, Bingham trailed 55-44 when he went full-blooded at a long pot on the penultimate red, and missed his target. Williams added 23 points to edge 12-11 ahead.

An excellent break of 75 put Williams in control of frame 24, and while Bingham battled hard for snookers, when Williams potted yellow and green the game was up.

“I would love to play Ronnie in the next round because we grew up together as juniors and we haven’t played here for a while,” Williams added. “I would have to play out of my skin and even if I did it still might not be enough. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If I lose 13-0 I’ll just go home. All the pressure would be on Ronnie and I would just enjoy the experience.”

Meanwhile, defending champion Judd Trump wrestled the initiative away from Yan Bingtao to take a 9-7 lead going into their concluding session, which starts at 7pm tonight.

Trump trailed 5-2 at one stage, then won seven frames in a row before losing the last two of the session. He needs four more frames tonight to earn a quarter-final against Martin Gould or Kyren Wilson.

The first two frames today lasted 77 minutes in total and world number one Trump took them both to level at the match at 5-5. He then stepped up the pace as runs of 88, 73 and 93 helped him win the next four to lead 9-5.

China’s Yan won the 15th on the colours and made an 89 clearance in the last of the session to keep his hopes alive.

Mark Selby bests Noppon Saengkham by 13-12 (afternoon session):

plus McGill v Clarke first session

Mark Selby once again proved his calmness under pressure as he made a century in the deciding frame to beat Noppon Saengkham 13-12 in the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

A tremendous match featured five centuries and 15 more breaks over 50, and Saengkham gave as good as he got as he battled all the way. But in the end it was three-time Crucible king Selby who produced his best at the key moment. He goes through to meet Barry Hawkins or Neil Robertson in the quarter-finals; Selby’s first appearance in the last eight since he won the title in 2017.

Thailand’s Saengkham, the world number 42, came through the qualifying rounds and then scored an excellent win over Shaun Murphy in the last 32. He came so close to keeping the run going and his only regret might be a loose safety in the decider which let his opponent in for the kill.

Selby took the first frame of the concluding session to lead 9-8, and he made a break of 53 in the next, only for Saengkham to steal it with a 54 clearance. A scrappy 19th frame lasted 48 minutes and went Saengkham’s way, then Selby compiled a run of 77 to make it 10-10 at the interval.

Leicester’s Selby dominated frame 21 to edge ahead, and came from 48-0 down to take the 22nd with a 92 clearance to lead 12-10. Saengkham battled back, taking the 23rd in fragments before making a superb 90 for 12-12.

In the decider, Saengkham had two early chances but twice ran out of position and managed only 9 points. A brief safety exchange ended when Saengkham left a red over a top corner, and that proved his last shot as Selby’s marvellous 124 put him into the quarter-finals for the eighth time.

“I’m really proud to have made that break in the last frame,” said 37-year-old Selby. “It was a great match – that was as well as I have played in a while and I still just scraped through. I have been tested and that could help me later in the event.

“I have lacked a bit of confidence lately so I’ve been working with (coach) Chris Henry to help me belief in myself. We have done a bit on the technical side but it has mainly been mental and it seems to be working.

“I’m sure my next game could go all the way as well because Neil and Barry are both great players.”

On the other table, Crucible debutant Jamie Clarke opened up a 6-2 lead over former quarter-finalist Anthony McGill. Welshman Clarke won three qualifying matches to make it to Sheffield and his dream run could continue as he needs just seven of the last 17 frames to book a quarter-final with Kurt Maflin.

The opening frame went to a respotted black and McGill missed a tricky thin cut to a top corner, gifting his opponent an easy pot. Glasgow’s McGill levelled but then couldn’t get any momentum going as Clarke, the lowest ranked player in the field at 89th in the world, surged ahead. Breaks of 60, 49, 52 and 60 helped the 25-year-old from Llanelli go 6-1 up.

McGill made a 57 in the last of the session to reduce his deficit to four frames. They return on Saturday at 2.30pm.

This was a fantastic match. Noppon Saengkham did himself and Thailand proud. He gained an illustrious fan in Stephen Hendry. This really is a case where it’s a shame there had to be a loser.

Judd Trump beats Yan Bingtao by 13-11 (evening session):

Judd Trump’s defence of his Betfred World Championship title remained on track as he came through an immense battle against Yan Bingtao by a 13-11 scoreline.

If Trump ends up with the trophy a week on Sunday he could be looking back on this as his toughest match, as he trailed 5-2 in the early stages and struggled to shake off a gritty opponent on the home stretch. The world number one is yet to find top gear so far in Sheffield – indeed since the tour got going again after lockdown he has not regained the form which saw him win six titles earlier in the season.

But the key for Trump is that he is still in the draw, still with a chance to find his rhythm. He faces a quarter-final against Kyren Wilson or Martin Gould on Monday and Tuesday.

China’s 20-year-old Yan saw his hopes of becoming the youngest ever World Champion disappear for now, though he will have one more chance next year to beat Stephen Hendry’s record, set at the age of 21 in 1990.

The first two frames of tonight’s concluding session were shared, then China’s Yan took the next to trail 10-9. In frame 20 he had a chance to clear from 45-1 behind and made 64 before missing a tricky pot on the final brown. Trump took advantage with excellent pots on brown and blue and he added pink and black to lead 11-9 at the interval.

Early in frame 21, Trump missed a tricky black on 9, and his opponent punished him with a run of 94. The next lasted 52 minutes and came down to a long safety battle on the blue. Yan got the two snookers he needed, then attempted a thin cut to a centre pocket but failed to make contact with the blue, and that proved the key moment as Trump went 12-10 ahead.

A missed red to centre from Trump in the 23rd let Yan in for a superb 130 to halve his deficit. Yan also had a chance in the next but made just 6 before missing a mid-range red. This time there was no mistake for Trump as he finished in style with a 127. That was his first century of the match and 101st of the season, bringing him within two of the record of 103 set by Neil Robertson in 2013/14.

“I’m over the moon to be in the quarter-finals,” said Bristol’s 30-year-old Trump. “I feel really involved in the tournament now and there are a lot of top class players in it. The break I made in the last frame gives me a boost and I can have a couple of days rest now and hopefully find my feet.

“No one plays well for the whole 17 days in this event. You are bound to have tough points, and it’s all about how you deal with them. Last year, when I played well in the final, no one was talking about the first couple of rounds when I struggled.

“If you have a bad session you don’t want to lose it 6-2, you have to stay in the game. In the first session against Yan it felt eerie out in the arena, very quiet. I didn’t feel involved in the match, Yan shut me out. I fought back well in the second session.

“I feel I can step my game up if I need to. I am confident that I have put the work in to prepare for this event and I am thinking positively.”

Yan really lost this match in the second session, losing seven frames on the trot against a player of Judd Trump’s calibre is usually damning. The two first frames this morning were disjointed, scrappy affairs; they could have gone either way. Yan fought with all he had in the end and should be proud of himself. But he will feel disappointed as well because he could have won the match had he not suffered such a bad second session in the morning.

And my take of the other evening match:

Ronnie and Ding are all sqare at 4-4 after their first session

World Championship 2020 – Ronnie and Ding all square after the first session of their last 16 match

Ronnie and Ding shared the first session of their last 16 match at the 2020 World Championship. Neither player was at his best yesterday evening and the standard of the match wasn’t quite as high as most of us expected.

Here are the numbers:

RonnievDingL16Seh1RonnievDingL16Seh1ScoresRonnievDingL16Seh1Stats

The start of the match was delayed as WST decided not to pull off Mark Selby and Noppon Saengkham who needed just one frame to finish their match. It could have been worse. Indeed the Selby v Noppon decider was a rather quick one. A deciding frame is usually a cagey affair and can take some time to deliver a result … ask Fergal O’Brien and Davind Gilbert 😉. But, quick as it was, it still didn’t help Ding and Ronnie in their preparation probably. The dressing room was likely not available to them, and, of course, at the start, they didn’t know how long this would take. Philip Studd downplayed it, saying that such things – and worse – are commom in tennis. This is true  but tennis players learn to deal with those delays, as they learn their trade, and, surely, in major tournaments, facilities are equipped and organised in such a way that the inconveniences are minimised for the players. Whatever, it was the same for both players.

Here is the report by WST:

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui shared the first eight frames of their Betfred World Championship second round clash to end 4-4 after the opening session.

The Rocket booked his place in the second round with a quickfire demolition of Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. He stormed to a 10-1 win in just 108 minutes, the fastest match in World Championship history. By contrast, China’s Ding required a dramatic final frame decider to book his second round spot, beating Mark King 10-9.

O’Sullivan comfortably leads Ding in their head-to-head record, having won 13 to Ding’s four. However, Ding was victorious 6-4 in their most recent meeting at the 2019 UK Championship, an event which he went on to win. The Asian number one also won their last Crucible meeting, downing O’Sullivan 13-10 in the 2017 quarter-finals.

O’Sullivan took the opening frame this evening with a break of 61. However, Ding immediately responded with runs of 57, 45 and 76 to surge into a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.

When they returned, breaks of 60 and 101 helped O’Sullivan to three frames on the bounce, which saw him move 4-3 ahead. However, Ding pegged him back by taking the final frame to set up an intriguing second session. They return on Saturday afternoon at 2:30pm.

There were mistakes on both sides. Before the MSI, Ronnie seemed to really struggle with the pace of the table; it has been recovered since he played his first match. On several occasions, he caught a baulk colour, or caught it too tick, whilst playing safe, and he misjudged the length of a few shots, which is quite unusual for him. Ding seemed to adapt better. One worry is that twice Ronnie missed a straight shot, cueing across the ball. On the other hand, he also played a few quite remarkable shrewd safety shots. Ding was the better player last night IMO, and when Ronnie was 3-1 down at the MSI, I was just hoping that he could take two of the last four frames. He took three.

Still Ronnie will need to play better if he wants to go deep here, at the Crucible, this year.

 

 

 

Ronnie speaks to CGTN Sports ahead of his second round match against Ding.

Ronnie spoke to CGTN Sports ahead of his second round match at the Crucible.

O’Sullivan reveals emotional connection with Ding Junhui ahead of World Championship showdown

CGTN

 

RonnievDingUK2019jpg Ronnie O’Sullivan (L) shakes hands with Ding Junhui after the fourth round of the UK Championship at The Barbican, York, England, December 5, 2019.

“If Ding (Junhui) looks at his career, he’ll say he’s probably got a great balance – he’s been super successful on the table, but he hasn’t been a slave to the sport,” observed snooker great Ronnie O’Sullivan on Thursday ahead of their blockbuster tie in the second round of the World Championship.

The five-time champion, arguably the best player in the world, has a soft spot for the boyish Chinese star. The heartwarming scene of the English veteran and Ding wrapping in a tight embrace after a classic battle at the World Championship quarterfinal in 2017 still lingers in many fans’ memory. “I love him, he’s such a lovely guy,” said O’Sullivan, explaining that long hug.

It will be the third meeting between the pair at the championship, each having won one of their previous encounters. Facing a potentially explosive showdown, O’Sullivan is relishing the “tranquility” at the Crucible in northern England, amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“My whole life has been about keeping it quiet and as simple as I can… I don’t go out to restaurants, takeaways are fantastic for me; it’s kind of how I’ve lived my life. Now I can go to snooker tournaments and still have that tranquility,” he told Eurosport.

RonnievDingRespect
Chinese star Ding Junhui sees world number 1 Ronnie O’Sullivan as his snooker idol. /VCG

“I’m a little bit in that bracket where I like to enjoy my life. There’s always a trade-off. I like to be healthy, live a good lifestyle and that means I can’t play in every tournament, otherwise my lifestyle wouldn’t be how I’d want it.

“Ding probably falls into that category as well. He gets really excited by the really big tournaments, but probably doesn’t want to be on the road 24/7. He drives his own car in many ways, and I respect that.”

Championship droughts weigh heavily on the 33-year-old Ding, a 14-time ranking event winner who is still searching for his first world title. During a brief interview with CGTN Sports Scene earlier this week, O’Sullivan predicted that Ding will eventually break his duck.

“I think Ding’s got a very good record and is a very, very reliable player. He’s delivered the goods for a good 15, 16, 17 years now,” he said.

“Obviously he would love to win the World Championship because as a player growing up and as a professional, you always get asked that question ‘Why haven’t you won the World Championships?’ That’s a horrible question to be asked when you are as good a player as Ding is.

“I had that for quite a while and when I won it for the first time it was a big relief. I think, for Ding, he’s more than capable of doing it, and I’m sure he will one day, I just hope it’s not this year, you know.”

DingAction
Ding Junhui aims to break his duck at the World Championship. /VCG

On Thursday, O’Sullivan said that time may be running short for Ding if he wants to taste the glory.

“I’m sure he’d love to get his hands on the world title, but each year you get older, it gets harder,” he noted. “Some players can play well into their 40s like me and John Higgins and Mark Williams, but we’re exceptions to the rule.”

Yet Ding remains upbeat about his prospects at this year’s showpiece event.

“Sometimes I need to learn the new things to control the game,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the second round, to improving my game again. I’m looking forward to winning.”

This is a short video excerpt that was shared on social media.

Ronnie played very well in the last 32, and this may be the best opportunity he’ll get to win another World title. He hates the hassle that comes with his status in the game, particularly in this tournament. The huge demands of the media, not being able to take a walk without being asked for autographs of selfies every three steps he takes, the constant weight of expectations … all that is a huge burden and one he’s been carrying since 28 years now. There is very little of it this year because of the pandemics.

But then, the same can be said about Ding who has been propelled to stardom at just 18 and has been carrying the hopes of his nation, China, ever since. Having been in the media room at the Crucible for six years, I have seen by myself how much pressure and expectations the Chinese media are putting on the shoulders of this man. It’s crazy really. They aren’t there this time.

Those two are friends, almost “brothers’. This goes back to the 2007 Masters Final, where Ronnie showed a lot of empathy in comforting his very distraught young opponent. He brought him to his own dressing room, made tea for them both, and also brought in one of his close friends who happens to be Chinese, in order to be able to communicate with Ding – who at the time didn’t speak English – and help him through this difficult moment. Many fans believe that the then very young Ding was upset because he was heavily beaten, but I have been told by reliable sources that there was more than that. He was also badly abused by members of the audience, including Chinese spectators that were probably angered because they had hefty bets on him to win.

I hope that this will be a good match, and one they can enjoy. I want Ronnie to win this, of course, but if he loses to Ding, I will then be 100% supporting Ding in his quest for a maiden World title.