York Barbican – Day 9 at the 2019 UK Championship

This is not the UK Championship … it’s the Resurrection Championship.

Yesterday saw wins for Nigel Bond, Ding Junhui and Matthew Stevens as well as the exits of Ronnie and Mark Selby.

Nigel Bond, allegedly well past his prime, having taken the scalp of the World Champion in the previous round, beat Gary Wilson by 6-5 from 5-2 down. Gary who was semi finalist at the Crucible last April had looked extremely strong this week… until mid match yesterday. It didn’t go down well with Gary. Remarkably, Nigel Bond, at 54, has become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist in 39 years. Fred Davis was 67 when he reached the last eight in 1980 (source David Hendon on twitter)

Matthew Stevens who has gone missing for years now, all of a sudden looks like the player he was in the early 2000th again.

This is the clearance he made to force a decider

Ding had looked unhappy, dispirited and demotivated for the best part of the last two seasons, and here he is, playing the marvellous brand of snooker we know he can … at the expense of Ronnie. Ronnie had no complaints. He probably played better than most who are still in the tournament, but Ding outplayed him in large part of their match, exploiting Ronnie’s current weakness, his unreliable long potting.

You can read all about the Ding v Ronnie match here

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten at the Betway UK Championship for the first time since 2016 as he lost 6-4 in a high quality match against Ding Junhui in the last 16.

O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy seven times and was aiming for a third successive crown, but was second best today against an inspired Ding in York. The result means that the top four players in the world – O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson – have been knocked out before the quarter-finals.

Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, goes through to the last eight to face Liang Wenbo in a Chinese derby. World number 16 Ding has had a disappointing run of form having not win a ranking title for over two years, but on today’s evidence looks to have regained his scoring prowess.

Breaks of 82, 51 and 110 put Ding 3-0 ahead before O’Sullivan pulled one back with a run of 78. Ding won the fifth but didn’t pot a ball in the next three frames as O’Sullivan fired 77, 107 and 124 to level at 4-4.

In frame nine, Ding led 60-0 when he missed a red to a top corner, but O’Sullivan’s reply ended at 16 when he missed a red himself, allowing his opponent to regain the lead. Ding made 45 in the tenth before missing a red to centre, but he soon got back in and added 37 for victory.

“I played well, about 90% of my best,” said 32-year-old Ding. “Ronnie didn’t pot many long balls so he left me chances. I knew I had to start well because he can switch it on at any time, score heavily and win frames. I played good safety. Hopefully I can remember this feeling and play like this in every match.

“I didn’t play many tournaments earlier in the season so I needed ranking points and that’s when the pressure comes. Everyone is looking at me expecting me to win.”

Ding’s mother died in 2017 so he has deep sympathy with Liang, who suffered the same misfortune last week. “He’s got a tough time now,” said Ding. “He is very brave to keep playing and winning. We all love to see him playing well again.

“I know how he feels.  (When it happened to me) my mind was here but my heart was back home. I think he’s the same. I’m sure he just wants to win matches for his mum.”

O’Sullivan, who turns 44 today, said: “I was happy to win four frames because that could have been a mauling. I had a couple of chances from 4-4 but I didn’t take them. I missed a few balls at vital times. Ding played a great match and deserved to win. He could win this but there are still so many good players.”

O’Sullivan will be back in action next week at the Scottish Open in Glasgow.

Bond – I’ll Die Another Day

Nigel Bond followed up his win over Judd Trump by coming from 5-2 down to beat Gary Wilson 6-5 – with the help of a monumental fluke in the deciding frame.

At the age of 54, when Bond meets Mark Allen on Friday he will become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist since Fred Davis who was 67 when he reached the last eight in 1980.

Wilson took the opening frame then Bond won a marathon 67-minute second before adding the third to lead 2-1. Breaks of 78 and 75 helped Wilson take the next four frames as he went 5-2 up.

World number 98 Bond won the eighth then made an 85 for 5-4. Wilson, a Crucible semi-finalist earlier this year, had a clear match-winning chance in the tenth but missed the black with one red remaining when he trailed by two points. Bond punished him to set up the decider.

The crucial moment came when Chesterfield’s Bond went for a long red to a top corner and missed his target, but the red hit another which drifted the diagonal length of the table and dropped into a baulk pocket. From that chance he made 66 which proved enough.

“When the fluke went in I thought it must be written in the stars,” said 1996 British Open champion Bond, whose last quarter-final appearance in this event came in 2003. “Gary went for a crazy plant at 5-2 and sometimes the balls don’t forgive you.  It was frustrating not to play as well as I did against Judd. Once I was 5-2 down I found a better rhythm.

“I’m proud to have been a pro for 31 years, I have never dropped off the tour or needed a wild card. The money I have earned here (£24,500 guaranteed) will help me stay on for longer. Moments like this are more special now.”

A fuming Wilson said: “The whole match was a joke, I had no form at all. Not just the fluke in the last frame, but every time he missed the balls finished awkward. It was pathetic. Nigel was snatching at every shot. He’s a great bloke but he got away with murder today. I had my chances though so I only have myself to blame.”

Evening session:

Two-time winner Mark Selby was knocked out of the Betway UK Championship, losing 6-5 to Matthew Stevens in a match which finished at 12.30am.

Selby couldn’t convert a 5-4 lead into victory and he follows the likes of Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy in dropping out before the quarter-finals.

Welshman Stevens, champion back in 2003, now faces Stephen Maguire, who saw off Michael White 6-4. The last time Stevens reached the last eight in York was 2012.

World number 43 Stevens led 3-1 at the interval with a top break of 54 then Selby hit back with three in a row, making runs of 51, 52 and 49, to lead 4-3. Stevens took the eighth with a break of 77 and had chances in the 51-minute ninth but couldn’t take them and Selby eventually got the better of a safety battle on the yellow and cleared to lead 5-4.

Selby looked in control of frame ten when he led 39-7 with four reds left, but Stevens cracked in an excellent long red and cleared with 45. The scrappy decider lasted 46 minutes, Stevens making breaks of 29 and 17 which gave him a lead to defend, and when he slotted in another fine long pot on the penultimate red he was able to add the points he needed.

“It wasn’t a pretty match,” admitted 42-year-old Stevens. “I was very lucky because Mark had chances to win 6-4.”

Maguire – He Should Have Killed Me Off

Scotland’s Maguire recovered a 4-2 deficit to win the last four frames against Welshman White. World number 14 Maguire won this title in 2004 and has since reached the quarter-finals a further ten times.

The Glaswegian has already won two titles this season – the invitational Six Red World Championship and the World Cup alongside John Higgins. He is now chasing his first ranking title since 2013.

White fired breaks of 104, 115 and 91 in taking a 4-2 lead. Maguire took a scrappy seventh frame then made a 56 in the next to level at 4-4. In the ninth he cleared with 41 to force a respotted black then potted it after a safety error from his opponent. That proved vital as Maguire clinched victory in the tenth with a break of 116.

“From 4-2 he should have killed me off, he had chances,” admitted 38-year-old Maguire. “I was nicking frames. Michael will feel he has missed the boat tonight. All the matters for me is the win. I didn’t play well but I can improve tomorrow.”

Quarter-Final Line-Up

Ding Junhui v Liang Wenbo
John Higgins v Yan Bingtao
Stephen Maguire v Matthew Stevens
Mark Allen v Nigel Bond

If Ding can maintain the level he played at yesterday, he has to be the favourite for the title come Sunday and if Yan Bingtao plays the way he did to beat Neil Robertson, he should also beat John Higgins who has progressed without being convincing.

Ding’s match v Liang Wenbo may prove difficult psychologically. Ding has gone through exactly the same ordeal as Liang. He too lost his mother when she was in her 50th. He probably feels a lot of empathy and sympathy for his opponent. He will have to block that out. Liang has shown outstanding courage this week, he was very emotional after his last match. How much has it taken out of him? What has he left in the tank? It’s hard to know.

The Maguire v Stevens match is hard to call – it should be close. Finally, the way things have gone when Agent 00147 was on a mission this week, I’ll abstain from predicting anything about the Allen v Bond match.

 

UK Championship 2019 – Ronnie’s defence comes to an end at the hands of Ding Junhui in the last 16.

Ding Junhui put an end to Ronnie’s hopes for a 8th UK Championship title, a possible 3th in a row, and a 37th ranking title as he beat him in the last 16 round. All four top seeds have now left the tournament.

It was a very high quality match:

UKC2019ROSL16Scores

Ding was the best player today and totally deserved the win. He started very strongly by winning the first three frames, denying Ronnie a single point! At that point, I have to admit, I was fearing that Ronnie would suffer the same kind of complete drubbing that Neil Robertson suffered yesterday at the hands of Yan Bingtao. Ronnie however managed to punish a rare mistake by Ding to go to the interval “only” 3-1 down. Ding won the first after the MSI and things looked very dire for Ronnie. But he did respond well, and managed to get back to 4-4 with two centuries. Ding didn’t surrender – as he had done only too often in the recent years – he hit back, and fully exploited the most obvious weakness in Ronnie’s game currently: his long potting.

Ronnie stuck to his game plan, attack, and took a few very risky shots. He got a fair share of them but he last one – a very tricky pink in the middle pocket that he missed – proved to be his last. After the match, Ronnie was very gracious and smiling. He likes Ding and has a lot of respect for him.

For the neutral it was an excellent match, and, as a snooker fan, I’m very happy to see Ding playing so well again, enjoying his snooker and smiling. He’s a beautiful player. I wouldn’t mind if he won the title come Sunday.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten at the Betway UK Championship for the first time since 2016 as he lost 6-4 in a high quality match against Ding Junhui in the last 16.

O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy seven times and was aiming for a third successive crown, but was second best today against an inspired Ding in York. The result means that the top four players in the world – O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson – have been knocked out before the quarter-finals.

UK2019ROSL16-7.jpg

Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, goes through to the last eight to face Liang Wenbo in a Chinese derby. World number 16 Ding has had a disappointing run of form having not win a ranking title for over two years, but on today’s evidence looks to have regained his scoring prowess.

Breaks of 82, 51 and 110 put Ding 3-0 ahead before O’Sullivan pulled one back with a run of 78. Ding won the fifth but didn’t pot a ball in the next three frames as O’Sullivan fired 77, 107 and 124 to level at 4-4.

In frame nine, Ding led 60-0 when he missed a red to a top corner, but O’Sullivan’s reply ended at 16 when he missed a red himself, allowing his opponent to regain the lead. Ding made 45 in the tenth before missing a red to centre, but he soon got back in and added 37 for victory.

“I played well, about 90% of my best,” said 32-year-old Ding. “Ronnie didn’t pot many long balls so he left me chances. I knew I had to start well because he can switch it on at any time, score heavily and win frames. I played good safety. Hopefully I can remember this feeling and play like this in every match.

“I didn’t play many tournaments earlier in the season so I needed ranking points and that’s when the pressure comes. Everyone is looking at me expecting me to win.”

Ding’s mother died in 2017 so he has deep sympathy with Liang, who suffered the same misfortune last week. “He’s got a tough time now,” said Ding. “He is very brave to keep playing and winning. We all love to see him playing well again.

“I know how he feels.  (When it happened to me) my mind was here but my heart was back home. I think he’s the same. I’m sure he just wants to win matches for his mum.”

O’Sullivan, who turns 44 today, said: “I was happy to win four frames because that could have been a mauling. I had a couple of chances from 4-4 but I didn’t take them. I missed a few balls at vital times. Ding played a great match and deserved to win. He could win this but there are still so many good players.”

O’Sullivan will be back in action next week at the Scottish Open in Glasgow.

Here is the match as well as both players interviews with BBC at the end of it:

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those very nice pictures

 

York Barbican – Day 8 at 2019 UK Championship

I saw nothing of the afternoon session, so I can’t comment on the action itself. Regarding the phone incident though, yes, it’s disturbing and, yes, it’s unacceptable. I would however like to report my own experience with phones going off in the arena. It was at the Crucible, during the Selby v Ding final. So, we are talking about the highest profile match of the season. I was sat on the thrird or fourth row, so rather close to the arena floor, in the middle of a group of Selby fans. I’m saying they were Selby fans because they were cheering on him whenever he was at the table. Several of them had their phones in their hands during the match and I could clearly see what was going on with the one closest to me. They were on betting sites, and busy betting in play. At least three times one of those phones went off, whilst Selby was at the table, immediately triggering assumptions that this came from Ding fans trying to put Selby off. Actually they were getting betting alerts… They weren’t thrown out. Now, nearly every snooker tournament nowadays is sponsored by the betting industry. I’m sure that Worlrdsnooker is nowhere near ready to take any serious measure that could impact their main sponsors profit. Therefore those things will go on.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session

 

Stuart Bingham was left furious by a mobile phone interruption at a crucial moment of his 6-4 defeat against John Higgins at the Betway UK Championship.

Higgins goes through to the quarter-finals in York while Mark Allen is also through to the last eight thanks to a nail-biting 6-5 win over Kurt Maflin.

Bingham was among the balls in frame nine, with the score at 4-4, when a mobile rang. Fans are always told before matches to turn their devices off, but this time the warning went unheeded.

“It’s just a sickener,” said world number 12 Bingham. “Some idiot left his phone on and I had a chance there to win the frame to go 5-4 up. I missed and that put me in a bad frame of mind. It’s just pathetic. I had the frame in my hands. If the guy had been any closer I would have knocked him out.”

Bingham had earlier led 2-0 before Higgins fought back to 4-4 with top breaks of 93, 78, 58 and 61. The crucial ninth frame went Higgins’ way and he gained the advantage in the tenth with a run of 50. Bingham had one chance to counter but after making 35 he missed a difficult pot with the rest to a top corner, and that proved his last shot as Higgins sealed victory.

Wizard of Wishaw Higgins is through to the quarter-finals of this event for the 14th time and remains in contention for a fourth title. He meets Yan Bingtao or Neil Robertson on Friday.

“The two of us really struggled, we brought each other down,” admitted 44-year-old Higgins. “If I’m playing someone like Neil in the next round, if I play like that I might as well not turn up. I’ll get on the practice table tomorrow and try and iron out a few little things. I’ll try get a bit of rhythm into my cue action because it wasn’t really there at all today. That match is behind me now and I can look forward.”

As for the phone interruption, Higgins added: “I don’t think the gentleman even heard the phone, it kept on going on and on. Stuart is sure to be kicking himself because he was in front and he could have put the foot down.”

Last year’s runner-up Allen was pushed all the way by world number 42 Maflin but eventually made it through to a meeting with Gary Wilson or Nigel Bond.

Norway’s Maflin had leads of 3-1 and 5-4, making breaks of 81, 113 and 128. Allen made a vital 68 clearance to win the tenth frame from 34-0 down, and he also trailed 53-0 in the decider. World number seven Allen countered with 40 before missing the penultimate red. Maflin later fluked the last red to lead by 21 points and went for a do-or-die pot on the brown to centre pocket, but it hit the far jaw, letting Allen in to clear for victory.

“Kurt played well throughout the game I didn’t feel like he was going to miss at any point,” said Northern Ireland’s Allen. “The only way that I could have won at the end was for him to go for the brown and miss. I know how aggressive Kurt is and he would have fancied that brown all day long. But maybe a bit of inexperience at these big events cost him there.

“I can’t criticise because I miss shots but I’m sure he might look back on that brown and think he should have played safe. Maybe that is the only thing he’s missing to get him to that next level because in my opinion he’s a top player. He was the better player, some of his long potting was frightening at times. He scores heavy and pots crazy balls.

I always fancy myself when it goes close. I think a great quality to have is to fancy the job in these deciding frames even in these big events. I always back myself.”

Evening session

Neil Robertson became the third player ranked among the world’s top four to be knocked out of the Betway UK Championship before the quarter-finals as he was hammered 6-1 by Yan Bingtao.

World number four Robertson followed Judd Trump (one) and Mark Williams (three) on the road out of York after being outplayed by China’s 19-year-old rising star Yan. The talented teenager, who won his first ranking title at the Riga Masters earlier this season, goes through to face John Higgins on Friday.

Yan was making his first appearance in the last 16 of a Triple Crown event but looked at ease from the start against two-time UK Champion Robertson. Breaks of 66, 74 and 56 helped give him a 5-0 lead.

Australia’s Robertson was in danger of being white-washed when he trailed by 49 points on the last red in frame six, but he got the snookers he needed and cleared the table to avoid that ignominy. But there would be no fight-back as the seventh frame came down to a battle on the final black and Yan’s long pot sealed the result.

“My game wasn’t perfect but my potting was good,” said Yan, who has acquired the nickname the Chinese Tiger this week. “Once I was 4-0 up I played a more strategic game and didn’t give Neil many chances.

“John Higgins is very good under pressure. I will have to score well or hope he has a bad day.”

Robertson said: “He’s in the mould of a giant-killer, he’s extremely dangerous. I saw him dismantle Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-1 in a match in China (at the 2017 International Championship).

“He played really well tonight. His safety was awesome and he kept getting in first, I stuck in there but didn’t take enough of my chances.

“It gives me a few extra days to prepare for the Scottish Open so hopefully I can do well there and finish the year on a high.”

Liang Keeps Brave Run Going

Liang Wenbo’s remarkable progress in the tournament continued as he beat Li Hang 6-4 in a Chinese derby. Liang’s mother died at the age of 56 last Tuesday and he flew to China after his first round tie to attend the funeral. Since returning to York he has won three more matches.

Li made a 136 in taking a 2-1 lead tonight then Liang, who was runner-up to Robertson at this event in 2015, took four frames in a row with top breaks of 57, 69 and 104. Li pulled two back before Liang clinched victory in frame ten with an 83. He left the arena in tears, overcome with emotion.

Yan played extremely well, anshowed great maturity for someone so young. I’m very pleased to see how well he’s progressing. As for Liang Wenbo, he’s showing admirable courage.

Ronnie will play Ding Junhui today, a close friend, and should he win he would play Liang next, another close friend. It’s also Ronnie’s birthday; he’s turning 44. He doesn’t like birthday’s although he never fails to bring a cake to the press room…

So here are my wishes …

Happy everyday Ronnie, play well today, enjoy your match!

 

York Barbican – Day 7 at the 2019 UK Championship

In the afternoon I watched Ronnie’s match. Ronnie didn’t play well and looked a bit distracted at times but he did enough to get to the last 16 and set a new record.

You can read more about his match here. The post also contains an inteview – done before the match – with BBC Owen Philips from BBC Sports about his practice and his approach to snooker at this stage of his career. 

As I didn’t watch anything else that afternoon, I can’t really comment, but I’m glad that Ding seems to get back where he belongs, the top.

In the evening I chose to watch Yan Bingtao v Jack Lisowski instead of the main table match and I think I made the right choice. Whatching two defenders slogging it out is not my thing. I was pleased to see Yan play well, but infuriated at Jack’s performance. I like Jack and I would love to see him fulfill his potential and do justice to his talent, but by now I’m starting to seriously doubt that it will ever happen. I’m not sure what he would need to get where he should be in his career.

I’m also happy for Michael White. I remain convinced that the young man had too much expectations on him too soon and it didn’t help him. I remember him at 16, and all the hype around him.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session

Ronnie O’Sullivan admits his game is affected by a long-term foot injury, but that hasn’t stopped his pursuit of an eighth Betway UK Championship title as he beat Noppon Saengkham 6-2 to reach the last 16.

O’Sullivan now faces a blockbuster clash with Ding Junhui in York on Thursday afternoon. Ding beat Ali Carter 6-4 which virtually guarantees his top 16 place in the Race to the Masters.

World number two O’Sullivan has won this event in each of the last two years. If he lifts the trophy on Sunday night he’ll become the first player to capture any of the Triple Crown events on eight occasions. Today’s victory over Thailand’s Saengkham was the 90th match he has won in the tournament, one ahead of Steve Davis who had previously held the record with 89.

He was not at his best against Saengkham but breaks of 76, 97 and 65 helped him into round four. However, 43-year-old O’Sullivan is concerned about an injury to his right foot which has troubled him for several months.

“It’s a really bad bruise, it’s quite a common running injury,” he said. “I didn’t run for four months because I wanted to rest it but I started running again four or five weeks ago and it’s just really sore again. I’m due to see someone in January but until then I just have to take painkillers. If it gets any worse as it effects my back.

“I’m not prepared to stop running because I love it. I just have to manage it and hopefully it gets better. I’ll just not run on the days I play and hopefully it will be a bit better by Thursday. I don’t want to pull out.”

Looking ahead to his next match, O’Sullivan added: “Ding is playing well, he looks like he’s cueing well. I’m looking forward to playing him and there will be a few watching in China I reckon! I have a really good following in China, a lot of support out there and I love my time there, I’m like their adopted son. It will be the real son against the adopted son  – it should be good fun.”

Resurgent Ding Gets Carter 

Ding scored arguably his best result of the season so far with an impressive win over Carter. China’s top player Ding has struggled for form in recent weeks but his run in York looks likely to give him a Masters place, as he is now 14th in the provisional rankings and only an unlikely series of results could deny him a place at Alexandra Palace next month.

He built a 4-0 lead with breaks of 64, 104, 52 and 69, then Carter hit back after the interval, taking four of the next five frames with a top run of 100. But Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, finished in style with a break of 116 to win 6-4.

Maguire Top Of The Scots

In another crucial match in the Masters race, Stephen Maguire scored a 6-2 win in a tartan tussle against Graeme Dott. That puts Maguire ahead of Carter into 16th place – they are tied on £287,500 but Maguire is in front on countback.

Breaks of 115, 60, 81, 106 and 82 helped Maguire set up a match with Michael White or Mark Davis.

“It’s a great result,” said 2004 UK Champion Maguire. “I was worried about today and I was nervous at the start. Graeme has played better than me in the last couple of games so he was going in favourite. I just played better than him.

“I let the nerves get to me today. But the balls were still going in so I’m pleased with that. I’m not going to lie down to anyone. If I don’t play well and the guy beats me, fair enough but I will fight to the death.”

Maguire can still be overtaken in the Masters race by the likes of Gary Wilson and Yan Bingtao but added: “I can relax a little bit because somebody’s now chasing and there’s a bit of a gap. I’m in a better position now than what I was this morning. So I’ll take my dad for a bottle of beer.”

Liang Wenbo continued his valiant run as he beat Eden Sharav 6-4 with a top break of 75. Liang’s mother died last week but having spent a few days in China he is back competing. He now meets Li Hang.

Evening session

Michael White made what he described as the best comeback of his career to beat Mark Davis 6-5 on a respotted black in the last 32 of the Betway UK Championship.

White recovered a 5-2 deficit and got over the line in a thrilling finish. The Welshman’s recent slump in form has been so sharp that his place on the tour remains in doubt, but the £17,000 he is already guaranteed this week gives him a huge boost. The two-time ranking event winner beat Mark Williams in the previous round and can now look forward to a fourth round match with Stephen Maguire in York.

Davis made breaks of 105, 74 and 68 in building a 5-2 lead, before White hit back with 56 and 62 to close to 5-4, then made a vital yellow-to-black clearance in frame ten to force the decider.

Both players had chances in the last frame and it came down to the colours. Davis missed match-ball brown when he led by 22 points, allowing his opponent to clear to tie the scores. A tactical exchange on the respotted black ended when Davis left it over a centre pocket and White slotted it home before punching the air in relief.

“It’s my best ever comeback,” said 28-year-old White. “He played really well to go 5-2 up but I stuck in there. In the last frame I had so much bad luck and when he was on the brown I was ready to shake his hand. But when he missed it I made a good clearance and then played some superb safety on the black.

“I haven’t practised enough in the past and it has shown, but I’m working hard now. Tonight’s win is unbelievable for me – bigger than beating Mark Williams.”

Selby Set For ‘Dangerous’ Stevens

Mark Selby ground out a 6-3 win over Martin O’Donnell , setting up a last 16 match with a player he feels has “massively under-achieved.”

Two-time UK Champion Selby will be up against Matthew Stevens on Thursday evening. Welshman Stevens won this event in 2003 but that remains his only ranking title – though he has also won the Masters.

“I played Matthew in Northern Ireland and it looked like he was getting his game back,” said Selby. “He is a class act but I think he would say himself he has not put the work in over the years. In my eyes he has massive under-achieved. He’s a very natural player and he is dangerous.”

Breaks of 52 and 70 helped Leicester’s Selby to victory tonight against O’Donnell. “It was a poor match,” admitted the world number six. “I don’t enjoy playing like that but sometimes the balls just go awkward and you have to try to scrape through. We are down to the two-table set up now which is great.”

Wilson Rising To Big Occasion 

Gary Wilson beat Joe Perry 6-1 and has now won 12 of his last 13 frames in the tournament. In his previous match against Chris Wakelin he became the fourth player in history – after John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson – to score four consecutive centuries. And the Wallsend cueman was in fine form again tonight as breaks of 74, 103, 75 and 121 helped him to a convincing win over Perry.

World number 18 Wilson got to the semi-finals at the Crucible earlier this year. So far this season he has struggled for form, but is once again coming alive at a Triple Crown event. He now meets Nigel Bond, who knocked out Judd Trump yesterday.

“I feel good about my game again,” said Wilson. “It’s nice to find it this week in the second biggest ranking event. I am happy playing in the main arenas, I feel comfortable and I’m not putting pressure on myself. It doesn’t bother me who I play, I just want to play my own game.”

The result keeps Wilson’s hopes alive in the Race to the Masters while Perry remains in 15th place so must hope he is not overtaken by two other players.

Yan Completes Last 16 Line-Up

Riga Masters champion Yan Bingtao reached the last 16 of a Triple Crown event for the first time as he top-scored with 75 in a 6-3 win over Jack Lisowski. China’s Yan now meets Neil Robertson.

UK Championship 2019 – Ronnie beats Noppon Saengkham in last 32

Ronnie kept his UK Championship defence alive with a 6-2 victory over Noppon Saengkam. In doing so he broke a new record: indeed as David Hendon tweeted

Ronnie O’Sullivan through to the last 16 of the UK Championship for the 20th time in 25 appearances. Has also set a new record for most matches won in the tournament – 90 to Steve Davis’s 89 #baizeofglory

Ronnie wasn’t anywhere his best, and, at 4-2 in front, was actually behind his opponent on all match stats – pot success, long pot success, safety success – except the only one that counts eventually, the score. Overall the match was very close.

UKC2019ROSL32Scores

This is the report by Owen Philips for BBC Sports

UK Championship: Ronnie O’Sullivan goes through to last 16

Indeed the only department where Ronnie was clearly the better player was his positional game and it proved crucial because Noppon, who was first in more often than not, failed to kill off frames because he lost position and allowed Ronnie to capitalize on his mistakes, which he duly did most of the time.

Here is (an excerpt) of his postmatch with Rob Walker

And the report by Worldsnooker (excerpt)

Ronnie O’Sullivan admits his game is affected by a long-term foot injury, but that hasn’t stopped his pursuit of an eighth Betway UK Championship title as he beat Noppon Saengkham 6-2 to reach the last 16.

O’Sullivan now faces a blockbuster clash with Ding Junhui in York on Thursday afternoon. Ding beat Ali Carter 6-4 which virtually guarantees his top 16 place in the Race to the Masters.

UK2019ROSL32-6

World number two O’Sullivan has won this event in each of the last two years. If he lifts the trophy on Sunday night he’ll become the first player to capture any of the Triple Crown events on eight occasions. Today’s victory over Thailand’s Saengkham was the 90th match he has won in the tournament, one ahead of Steve Davis who had previously held the record with 89.

He was not at his best against Saengkham but breaks of 76, 97 and 65 helped him into round four. However, 43-year-old O’Sullivan is concerned about an injury to his right foot which has troubled him for several months.

“It’s a really bad bruise, it’s quite a common running injury,” he said. “I didn’t run for four months because I wanted to rest it but I started running again four or five weeks ago and it’s just really sore again. I’m due to see someone in January but until then I just have to take painkillers. If it gets any worse as it effects my back.

“I’m not prepared to stop running because I love it. I just have to manage it and hopefully it gets better. I’ll just not run on the days I play and hopefully it will be a bit better by Thursday. I don’t want to pull out.”

Looking ahead to his next match, O’Sullivan added: “Ding is playing well, he looks like he’s cueing well. I’m looking forward to playing him and there will be a few watching in China I reckon! I have a really good following in China, a lot of support out there and I love my time there, I’m like their adopted son. It will be the real son against the adopted son  – it should be good fun.”

Ronnie will play Ding Junhui next on Thursday … some way to celebrate his birthday!

Here is the match:

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for some great pictures

By Owen Philips for BBC Sports, there was also this interview; it was published today, but obviously done after Ronnie’s previous match.

UK Championship: Ronnie O’Sullivan says limiting practice key in title defence

York Barbican – Day 6 at the 2019 UK Championship

The first day of the last 32 round at the Barbican produced one of the biggest upsets ever at the UK Championship as Nigel Bond, 54 years old and a pro for 30 years beat the World Champion and World n°1, Judd Trump by 6-3 from 3-1 down.

This is the report by Worldsnooker on the afternoon session

Judd Trump’s hopes of winning all three Triple Crown events in 2019 were dashed as he suffered a surprise 6-3 defeat against veteran Nigel Bond in the last 32 of the Betway UK Championship.

Trump won the Masters and World Championship earlier this year and had hoped to become the only player other than Stephen Hendry to complete snooker’s Holy Trinity  in the same year. But in the biggest shock of the season so far, he was beaten by a 54-year-old who had not previously reached the last 16 of a ranking event since February 2018.

Chesterfield’s Bond, who won the British Open back in 1996, goes through to face Joe Perry or Gary Wilson in the fourth round in York.

World number one Trump, who has won seven tournaments within the past 13 months, started strongly as breaks of 52, 114 and 90 gave him a 3-1 lead. But the momentum turned after the interval as world number 98 Bond took four frames in a row with top breaks of 114 and 85 to lead 5-3.

Frame nine lasted 45 minutes and came down to a safety battle on the pink. Bond missed several tough long pots but eventually slotted the pink into a top corner to seal victory.

“It’s my biggest win for a while,” said Bond, who reached the World Championship final in 1995. “I’m over the moon to have shown people that I can still play at 54. Even at 3-1 down I felt good. Judd wasn’t on top of his game and missed a few balls which helped me.

“My game is still good but I haven’t been scoring heavily and you can’t win matches with 30 breaks. It was great to score well today. I was nervous at the end but Judd probably felt the same. Snooker is just one man against another out there. If you play well and put pressure on your opponent, he will feel it, whether he’s number one or number 128.”

Trump said: “Nigel played well. It was one of those games where I can’t really put my finger on why I lost. On another day the balls would have landed for me in the last frame and I’d have come back and won. You can see Nigel works hard and I hope I can still play that well at that age.

“If I’d have gone out and missed loads of balls then I would have been disappointed, but I’ve practised hard and put the work in, I’m bound to lose matches. I’ve done well so far this season so I won’t let this get me down. It will just inspire me to go away and work harder.”

Robertson Topples King

Neil Robertson remained in the hunt for a third UK title since 2013 as he came through a tough battle against Mark King by a 6-4 scoreline.

Robertson led 4-2 with top breaks of 54, 105, 72 and 52 but King showed trademark determination as he won two of the next three to trail 5-4. King led 54-0 in frame ten before Robertson replied with a run of 63. That set up a safety battle on the blue and Robertson trapped his opponent in a tough snooker, and from the chance that followed he wrapped up the match.

“It was difficult to keep my focus towards the end because the crowd were into the game with Judd and Nigel,” said Robertson. “I’m pleased for Nigel to have a moment like that at his age. And it’s nice of Judd to let someone else win a trophy! It doesn’t affect me that much because I’m in the other half of the draw.

“I played well and there’s more to come. I’m making minor improvements in each round. If I can get on a roll then I can steam-roller people.”

Former World Champion Stuart Bingham saw off Zhao Xintong 6-1 with a top break of 127. China’s Li Hang beat Marco Fu 6-4 in a high quality match which featured breaks of 75, 131, 131 and 87 from Li and 104, 110 and 74 from Fu.

The truth is that after the MSI, Nigel was just the better player out there. His long potting and his safety game were better than Judd’s and he scored well too. Judd’s quotes “It was one of those games where I can’t really put my finger on why I lost. On another day the balls would have landed for me in the last frame and I’d have come back and won.”  are totally unecessary. He was beaten fair and square by the better player on the day, it wasn’t about the run of the balls. Also his apparent confidence in the fact that he would win the one year triple crown this year and the many quotes on social media that went with it, didn’t help him at all. He had put himself under unecessary pressure. To be fair to him though, the media and Worldsnooker had contributed to it as well.  Judd looked terribly anxious, and stressed in his chair, almost sick at times.  He had said on twitter – about Ronnie – that he only plays well if you allow him to. Well that applies to everyone, himself included, and every player, being human has lesser days. Yesterday, Nigel dictated the pace, and disrupted Judd’s rhythm. Judd himself wasn’t at his best – as it happens to every player – and that’s all there was to it.

This is the ES review of the session

It’s also interesting what Nigel said in the interview embedded in Worldsnooker article about the importance for older players to have other things in their life, and his reference to Ronnie. It’s those “distractions” that allow them to go on for longer.

The evening session was less dramatic, and here is Worldsnooker’s report:

John Higgins and Mark Allen both scored resounding 6-1 wins at the Betway UK Championship to book places in the fourth round.

Three-time UK Champion Higgins saw off Ian Burns to set up a meeting with Stuart Bingham.

The first three frames tonight took nearly two hours in total and world number five Higgins won each of them on the final black. The Wizard of Wishaw then found a break-building groove to take three of the last four frames with runs of  96, 124 and 88.

“Ian will be gutted by the way he played. I couldn’t believe I was 4-0 up at the interval,” admitted 44-year-old Higgins, who is seeking his first ranking title since the 2018 Welsh Open. “It’s hard for the lower ranked players to come on to the main stage, he struggled with his game and I picked up the pieces.

“I saw Judd Trump losing earlier today and that was a reminder to me that I needed to be on my toes tonight and stay focused. I take my hat off to Nigel Bond because he was brilliant. As you get older it gets harder to control your emotions and nerves but he managed to do that.

“I will give it my all against Stuart Bingham, it’s a 50/50 game. He has had some good wins this week so he’ll be confident.”

Pistol – Titles Are The Bottom Line

Allen got the better of Ben Woollaston with top breaks of 60, 64, 75 and 69. The Northern Irishman was runner-up at this event in 2011 and 2018 and hopes he can go one better this year.

“There are a few things I need to sharpen up on, but all in all I’m very happy to be in the next round,” said world number seven Allen. “So far this season I have been steady but not spectacular. I am consistently winning a lot of matches but I haven’t won a tournament yet and that’s the bottom line.

“I was really under the weather earlier in the week and finding it hard to focus with a head cold. I’ve had a couple of days on Lemsips and I’m much better so there are no excuses. There will only be 16 players left by the end of tomorrow and I believe I’ve got a good chance of winning.”

Matthew Stevens, champion here in 2003, reached the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time in 2019 by beating Anthony Hamilton 6-2 with a top break of 97. Kurt Maflin top scored with 71 in a 6-2 defeat of Alan McManus.

The only thing I watched in the evening was the first frame of Higgins v Burns. It lasted nearly an hour and it was just terrible, awful standard. Ian Burns should have won it – Higgins needed snookers at a point – but somehow managed to lose it. Ian of course is not really used to the main table, and to be on television. Maybe he struggled with that, I don’t know. An hour of it was enough for me to switch off … I could have switched to the Allen v Woollaston match, but, on the moment, it had drained me of every bit of interest for snooker, especially coming after the afternoon thrill!

 

 

York Barbican – Day 5 at the 2019 UK Championship

The last 64 round at the 2019 UK Championship concluded yesterday, with the World n°3, Mark Williams the biggest casualty.

Watching Mark play yesterday, it was hard to believe that this man was World Champion only a year and a half ago, and made it to the final of a big ranking event at the start of this season. He was simply awful. It was embarrassing. His opponent, Michael White, played better than he had for a very long time, but his lack of confidence and anxiety were plain for all to see when it came to the latter stages of the match. Against a ruthless top player he would have been there for the taking. But Michael won rather comfortabbly eventually, and hopefully, this is the start of a return to form for the very gifted young Welsh. Snooker needs young talents to succeed. Michael appeared psychologically fragile and I hope that he gets the support he needs to finally play to his full potential. As for Mark, it’s always sad to see a great player decline but it seems that it’s a conscious choice from Mark to let his career go slowly after achieving something in 2018 he had never thought he would: a maginificent third World title.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session

Judd Trump paid tribute to his parents after breezing into the last 32 of the Betway UK Championship with a 6-1 victory over Mei Xiwen.

Trump has been snooker’s dominant force over the past 13 months, winning seven tournaments including the Masters and World Championship. Victory in York next Sunday would make him the first player to hold all three Triple Crown trophies since Mark Williams in 2003.

The 30-year-old from Bristol was watched today by dad Steve, a lorry driver, and mum Georgina – both of whom have helped him throughout his junior and professional career. His humble background helps him put his recent success into perspective.

“I just want to go out there and be honest because my family brought me up to appreciate everything,” said the world number one. “I try my absolute best for my family. They are all massive snooker fans so to make my dad or mum proud is what I try to do.”

He wasted little energy against today’s opponent as breaks of 68, 86 and 105 helped him build a 4-0 lead. China’s Mei pulled one back with a 127 before Trump took the last two frames with runs of 51 and 93.

Trump added: “It’s amazing to give myself the chance to win all three Triple Crowns in the same year, it may never happen again. Ronnie (O’Sullivan) has never done it so it shows how tough it is. At these big BBC events you have to be playing at your absolute best, you always get tough matches from the start.

“Records matter for everyone and you saw that with Ronnie’s reaction to winning the UK last year – I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone celebrate like that. It means more to him than the other players but he doesn’t like to let that on.”

Trump will now meet 54-year-old Nigel Bond, who edged out Louis Heathcote 6-5 in a match which came down to the last few balls. Bond was hauled back from 5-2 to 5-5 but eventually took the decider by potting blue and pink.

Carter And Ding In Masters Face-Off

Ali Carter will play Ding Junhui in the third round in what will be a crucial match in the Race to the Masters. The winner will be well placed to finish the tournament among the world’s top 16 and earn a place at Alexandra Palace next month, while the loser may need to rely on other results.

Carter saw off Robert Milkins 6-2 with a top break of 139. “The matches are all so big here, this tournament has got a very special feel about it like no other,” said Carter. “We love the BBC events and that puts the added pressure on as well.

“I’ve got pedigree and on my day I can beat anyone. I’ve got a few tournaments under my belt so It’s about time I lifted a big one.

“Ding is a national hero in China so financially he’s not under pressure like some of us are. He’s probably enjoyed a bit of time out since becoming a father so his results were bound to suffer. He’s still class player.”

Ding, who hasn’t won a ranking title for over two years,  top scored with 100 in a 6-2 defeat of Michael Georgiou.

Jack Lisowski top scored with 86 in a 6-2 win over Peter Ebdon while Riga Masters champion Yan Bingtao made 135 and 106 in a 6-2 defeat of Stuart Carrington.

Evening session

Michael White had won just one match this season before the Betway UK Championship, but he’s now into the last 32 having beaten Mark Williams 6-2.

White, nicknamed Lightning, was considered the hottest young prospect in the sport when he won the Shoot Out and Indian Open in 2015, and he also landed the Paul Hunter Classic in 2017. Since then he has suffered a brutal loss of confidence and form, dropping to 62nd in the world.

The 28-year-old had lost six of his seven matches this season before heading to York, but after beating Fergal O’Brien in the first round, he knocked out two-time UK Champion Williams in a Welsh derby. Breaks of 65, 75, 52, 81 and 64 helped White set up a third round match with Mark Davis.

“It was a brilliant performance. I’m excited, chuffed, and relieved,” said White. “I’m getting back to where I want to be. The first round was a bigger match for me in a way because of all the early exits I’ve had. I’ve slipped down the rankings and I need the points now.

“I’ve doubted myself and wondered whether the good days are behind me. When you do poorly in tournaments you start to worry about that. I can’t remember the last time I got to a third round – that’s how bad it’s been. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards from here.  I can enjoy it a bit more, I love playing in the main arena and it was really good fun tonight.”

Wilson Joins Small Group With Century Barrage

Gary Wilson became the fourth player to make four consecutive century breaks in a professional match as he beat Chris Wakelin 6-4. Only John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson have previously achieved that feat. Crucible semi-finalist Wilson trailed 4-0 but hit back with 67, 97, 134, 114, 100 and 124 to win six frames in a row.

Brave Liang Beats Grace

Just a few days after the death of his mother, Liang Wenbo showed remarkable courage to not only compete in the tournament but to beat David Grace 6-3. His mother died on Tuesday at the age of 56. Liang flew to China for the funeral and then returned to York in time for the match against Grace, in which he made breaks of 64, 88, 61 and 90.

Higgins Closes In On Hendry Mark

John Higgins had a smooth passage into the third round as he beat Lu Ning 6-1. The highlight for Higgins was a break of 103 in the third frame; his 772nd career century which leaves him just three short of Stephen Hendry’s 775.

“I’m just happy to win,” said Higgins, who won this title in 1998, 2000 and 2010. “Lu started off well but after that he missed a few and I was able to capitalise. I feel as if I am hitting the ball ok. I have put a fair bit of work in for this one.”

Martin O’Donnell top scored with 130 as he beat Ricky Walden 6-2 while Stephen Maguire made a 108 in a 6-2 defeat of Jordan Brown. Joe Perry earned a 6-3 success over Sunny Akani. The Race to the Masters is heating up with Maguire, Perry, Ding Junhui and Ali Carter all into the third round.

Judd Trump had a very easy passage to the third round. Himself played very well and Mei Xiwen got off to a bad start which nobody can afford against Judd nowadays. Judd’s tribute to his parents is a truer reflection of the Judd Trump I have met away from snooker than some of the brazen attitude we have seen at times. He knows how many sacrifices his parents have made to support his career and he wants to pay them back. This is absolutely genuine and it’s not the first time he’s thanked them after a win either.

Another player who seems to get back to some sort of form is Graeme Dott. Graeme never got the recognition he deserves. He got a “slow, boring, negative” tag only because the World Final in 2006 against Peter Ebdon. Both players were exhausted out there. Graeme in his normal state is positive, attacking and playing at a totally decent pace. He’s good to watch and a terrific fighter.

Liang Wenbo came back from his mother’s funeral and managed to win. Liang’s mum was only 56 and far too young to go. My thoughts are with Liang and his family. And, maybe, Liang’s mother’s health has been a concern for some time and it would explain his recent loss of form.