The 2022 UK Championship – the Quarter-finals

Today will see Ding Junhui take on Tom Ford and Mark Allen face Jack Lisowski in the semi-finals of the 2022 UK Championship in York.

This is how we got there:

You fill find the account about Ding’s excellent performance and Ronnie’s disastrous day in office here.

That same afternoon, Tom Ford got the better of Joe Perry (report by WST)

Leicester’s Ford is through to the semi-finals of this event for the second time – the first came in 2018 when he lost 6-1 to O’Sullivan. The 39-year-old has never won a full ranking title so victory this week would be a remarkable time to make that breakthrough. He is into the semi-finals of a ranking event for the seventh time in his 21-year career and first time since the 2021 German Masters.

World number 32 Ford admits that a fragile mentality has held him back in the past, but in recent season he has worked with a sports psychologist and his self belief is clearly more robust. He proved the stronger player in the closing stages today and is now guaranteed a minimum of £50,000.

Ford started strongly with breaks of 103 and 62 for 2-0, then Perry pulled one back with a run of 70. In frame four, Perry led 51-23 when he rattled the penultimate red in the jaws of a baulk corner, and Ford punished him with a 41 clearance to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Back came Perry with 101 and 66 for 3-3, before Ford regained the lead with an 86. Cambridgeshire’s Perry had a scoring chance in frame eight but ran out of position on 25, and Ford took control with a run of 49. Perry later got the snooker he needed on the green, but then missed it to a centre pocket and Ford went 5-3 ahead.

He might have wrapped up the result in frame nine but left the last red in the jaws of a top corner when he led 66-40. Perry cleared for 5-4, but Ford’s 52 helped him dominate frame ten.

At 3-3 I potted a long red and then something just clicked and I felt really good,” said Ford. “Every time I got in, I just felt like I was going to clear up in one visit. It’s a very strange feeling to have but I felt great, even towards the end. I knew I was going to get over the line as long as I got a chance.

I’ve been working with (psychologist) Sabrina Francis, she’s been great. In the past, I could miss something and my head would go down but now if I miss something, I’ll forget about it quickly. I’m still going to have lapses where my head can be in the car park, but at the minute my head’s strong and I feel good.

Ding’s an absolute class act, he always has been. His game has dipped a little bit in the last few years but it looks like he’s back again. It’s going to be a tough match.

Perry said: “When I won the frame to go 5-4, in days gone by that might have really affected Tom. But he’s a different player these days. He’s matured, he’s worked on the mental side of his game, and he played a great last frame. Jack Lisowski aside, he’s the best player who hasn’t won a tournament yet. He’s been knocking on the door for a long time and I’ve seen a big difference in him mentally. I’ve played some really good stuff in this tournament and it took an inspired Tom Ford to beat me today.”

And this is WST account on the evening session

Four-Ton Lisowski Thumps Murphy

Jack Lisowski made a record-equalling four consecutive centuries as he reached the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event for the first time with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Shaun Murphy.

Lisowski joined an elite group of just seven other players who have made four tons in a row in a professional tournament. More importantly for the 31-year-old, he is through to the last four and just two wins away from winning his first title. On Saturday evening in York he’ll face Mark Allen, who came from 4-2 down to beat Sam Craigie 6-4.

Players to make four consecutive centuries in professional competition

Neil Robertson (has done so on two occasions)
Jack Lisowski
John Higgins
Gary Wilson
Mark Allen
Shaun Murphy
Stephen Maguire
Lu Ning

Lisowski is at the top of his game, thanks in part to the help of mentor Peter Ebdon. Playing with a clear mind and handling the pressure of competing for a maiden title, Lisowski’s vast natural talent is allowed to flourish. The Gloucestershire cueman has lost just four frames in his three matches in York so far.

The opening frame tonight was a rarity as it featured two breaks of 67, one from each player. Lisowski missed the blue to a centre pocket on that number, and Murphy made a tremendous clearance, taking the last five reds with blacks. That meant a respotted black, and a safety error from Murphy handed Lisowski the chance to convert a mid-range pot to a top corner.

Murphy had the chance of an immediate response but missed a tricky red on 28 in frame two and Lisowski capitalised with a fluent 105 clearance. That sparked his run of four consecutive tons as further breaks of 127, 123 and 100 made it 5-0. He had a chance to become the first player ever to make five in a row, but missed a tricky yellow on 20, and Murphy responded with 111, bowing to the crowd as he registered on the scoreboard.

Former World Champion Murphy had the chance to pull another one back but when he led 54-20 in frame seven, he played a push shot and instantly called a foul on himself. Lisowski cleared with 38 to settle the tie.

That’s how I’d love to always play snooker, everything was going into the middle of the pockets,” said world number 12 Lisowski, who is through to his tenth ranking semi-final. “When it’s like that, the game feels quite easy.

After the match, Shaun said some nice things, he’s a great ambassador and a lovely guy. He was very sporting when he called a foul on himself, credit to him.

I’ve got to focus again, stay positive, bring my A game again tomorrow and not worry about the other guy. Yesterday I got a bit excited after beating Hossein Vafaei and I only got about five hours sleep. Tonight I feel much calmer, I’m just thinking about tomorrow’s game and being sharp for it. I don’t want to just get to a semi-final, I want to win this thing.”

Murphy said: “Every time I made a small mistake, I had to sit down and admire the wondrous talent pouring out of this young man that we have seen coming for for a long time. Maybe this could be his week. It’s not easy winning, but if he can sustain that for another 16 frames he’ll be UK champion.”

World number nine Allen is in a marvellous run of form having reached the final of the Cazoo British Open and won the Northern Ireland Open within the past eight weeks. He is into his 32nd ranking event semi-final and fifth in the UK Championship.

Craigie was playing one of the biggest matches of his career, but settled quickly with a break of 74 to take the opening frame. Allen got the better of a scrappy second frame then made a 105 to lead 2-1. In the fourth, Allen missed the blue off the last red when he had the chance to clear, allowing Craigie to go 18 points ahead on the pink. Allen got the snooker he needed, only for Craigie to pot a long pink for 2-2.

After the interval, Craigie compiled runs of 84 and 104 to lead 4-2, only for Allen to storm back with 50, 108 and 92 to edge 5-4 ahead. And Northern Ireland’s Allen scrapped his way through the tenth frame to stay on track for an eighth career ranking title.

I played good stuff from 4-2,” said the Pistol, who was runner-up at this event in 2011 and 2018. “I wasn’t timing the ball well tonight but I hung in there, I was really good mentally, thinking good thoughts. At 4-2 I was hoping Sam would see the winning line. He played a few shots that were different to the way he played in the early part of the match, especially the break in frame nine when he rolled into the pack. I was surprised because that was negativity. I fed off that and kept him under pressure.

I’m happy with where I am, I have won a lot of matches and wining breeds winning. If Jack plays like he did tonight I have to try to be ready for that. I haven’t had my best stuff this week but I’m still here.

Today we have Ding Junhui v Tom Ford and Mark Allen , Jack Lisowski.

It’s an unexpected but very interesting line-up.

Ding yesterday looked very dangerous, back to his best. He has won this title three times already, he is more than capable to make it four. With younger Chinese players now winning titles, the pressure is a bit off him and he can play with more freedom. I have to make him favourite to win his SF today.

Tom Ford has always been a very capable and high scoring player. It’s the mental side of the sport that has been a problem. He is clearly much better at managing that nowadays, but will it be enough? I’m not sure.

Mark Allen looks happier, healthier … and is currently on top of the one year list. He’s been the best and most consistent player so far this season. I don’t expect his level to drop today.

Jack Lisowski though has been excellent all week. There weren’t many silly mistakes. He played a very attacking game but was never reckless. For years he’s been the cause of a lot of frustration for me and I’m sure for others too. But now he looks settled, much more mature. I rate Jack as the most talented player on the tour. Maybe it will finally convert into a big title tomorrow. I believe that it’s possible. I’d love that.

2022 UK Championship – Ding whitewashes Ronnie in the Quarter-finals

It was an afternoon to forget for Ronnie as he went out to Ding Junhui, beaten by 6-0.

Here are the scores:

It’s the first time ever that Ronnie fails to win a single frame in a Triple Crown event match.

Ding played extremely well, and Ronnie was as bad and out-of-sorts as I ever can remember. He had opportunities in the first two frames and couldn’t take any. He didn’t pot a single long ball, he missed a simple black off the spot in frame one, he misjudged his safeties, he miscued spectacularly in frame 2, he didn’t get a single “rest shot” right…

Of course Ding took confidence from this and from frame 3 on, it was just one way traffic. He served the fans a master class and remembered everyone how good a player he is. I just hope that he now goes on and wins the tournament. He’s won it three times already…

Ronnie was very gracious in defeat

… and praised his opponent afterwards.

Here is the report by WST:

Ding Hits Rocket For Six

Ronnie O’Sullivan was whitewashed in a Triple Crown event for the first time in his 30-year career as he lost 6-0 to Ding Junhui in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.

Rarely in O’Sullivan’s glittering career has he been so severely beaten. He failed to make a break over 50, and scored just four points in the last four frames as Ding ran away with the contest.

As World Champion and world number one, winner of two titles already this season and with seven UK Championship crowns to his name, O’Sullivan was hot favourite for the £250,000 top prize in York, but was completely outplayed today. He made several errors over the first two frames, which allowed Ding to build confidence, and from 2-0 the Chinese ace was unstoppable, making four breaks over 80.

The 35-year-old goes through to Saturday afternoon’s semi-final where he will meet Tom Ford or Joe Perry; all three of those players are ranked outside the top 16 and had to come through the qualifying rounds to make it to the Barbican. Ding has slipped to 38th in the world rankings but there is no doubting his exceptional talent. He won this tournament in 2005, 2009 and 2019, and is looking to become the only player other than O’Sullivan (seven titles), Steve Davis (six) and Stephen Hendry (five) to lift the trophy on four or more occasions. If Ding, Ford or Perry win the title on Sunday, that would also come with a top 16 place and a spot in the Cazoo Masters in January.

The opening frame came down to a safety battle on the green, and Ding played a superb shot to swerve around the blue and pot the green to a baulk corner, setting up a clearance. In frame two, O’Sullivan trailed 50-56 when he missed a tricky pot on the last red to a centre pocket, and his opponent punished him for 2-0. A break of 88 saw Ding extend his lead.

Early in frame four, O’Sullivan had a scoring chance but made just 4 before mis-cueing on a short range red. Ding enjoyed a massive fluke on a red to a centre pocket and capitalised with 94. The 14-time ranking event winner picked up where he left off after the interval with a run of 87 for 5-0, and saved his best until last as he rounded off the contest with a 131.

I played well, I got my chances and had a bit of luck,” said Sheffield-based Ding. “It’s difficult to play Ronnie, I know when I’m in front he can come back very quickly. But today he didn’t look like he could do it. In the first two frames he missed a lot, and that released a bit of pressure. After the interval I had to keep my focus.

I want to win but it’s a big thing to say that. I’m just going to get ready for tomorrow’s match. It’s only the semi-finals. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow and all I can do is keep playing well and see what happens

I’ve got a lot of fans now, a lot of luck. The Chinese students in York support me, and some of our academy players come to watch my game. I’m very happy that they’re here.”

O’Sullivan, who turns 47 next month, said: “It’s great to see Ding play well. He’s a class act. Afterwards I just said to him ‘you played great, go and win it, get the job done.’ I think we’re all Ding fans. Some days you play and it goes great and some days it doesn’t. It was just one of those days, what can you do? Thirty years I’ve been at this game, I’ve taken a few knocks along the way.

2022 UK Championship – The last 16

As we reach the quarter-finals in York, only one member of the top 8 remains in the draw: Ronnie. Three more seeds are still in the competition: Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy and Jack Lisowski.

You can read about Ronnie’s win over Zhou here

Here are the reports by WST, covering the last 16 round:

Wednesday afternoon (minus Ronnie’s match)

On the other table, Tom Ford beat Luca Brecel 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of this event for the second time. Ford’s previous appearance in the last eight in York came in 2018 when he beat Joe Perry before losing to O’Sullivan in the semis. This time he could face Perry again, or Stuart Bingham.

Leicester’s Ford had a slow start to the season, losing in the first round of four ranking events, but has now found his game, winning two qualifying matches to make it to the Barbican then seeing off John Higgins and Brecel.

Ford went 2-0 up with a top break of 70 and he led 54-0 in the next but Brecel hit back to take it with an excellent 61 clearance. In frame four, Ford was up 54-8 with three reds left when he ran out of position, and again Brecel cleared to go to the interval at 2-2. Leicester’s Ford regained the lead with a run of 79.

Frame six came down to a safety battle on the green, resolved when Brecel clipped in a long pot and cleared the table to square the tie at 3-3. Once again it was Ford who edged ahead thanks to a run of 100, and he got the better of a safety tussle on the last red in frame eight, clearing to lead 5-3. The 39-year-old dominated frame nine to reach the 15th ranking quarter-final of his career.

I played well in patches,” said Ford. “Just to get over the line and get to the next round it was a big win for me because that puts me into the World Grand Prix I think. I’m feeling better as the matches go on.

It would mean a lot to get to the semis, it would give me a big confidence boost. Before this event I’d hardly won a game this season, so getting into the quarters of the UK is a great achievement.”

I can’t comment on this one, as I didn’t watch it at all.

Wednesday evening

Craigie To Meet Allen In Quarters

Sam Craigie kept his fantastic run going at the Cazoo UK Championship, beating Ryan Day 6-4 to reach the second ranking event quarter-final of his career.

After winning two matches to qualify for the Barbican, Craigie knocked out defending champion Zhao Xintong, and has now beaten in-form Day who won the Cazoo British Open last month. His next opponent on Friday is Mark Allen, who scored a 6-3 success against Kyren Wilson.

Craigie’s only previous run to the last eight of a ranking event came at the China Open in 2019, when Neil Robertson ended his progress. Victory over Allen would mean his deepest run since turning pro in 2011, as well as his biggest pay day. The 29-year-old from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is enjoying the most consistent year of his career as he also reached the last 16 of the German Masters and Turkish Masters early in 2022, and is set to break into the top 40 of the world rankings.

He made three centuries tonight – 103, 130 and 103 – helping him to a 4-2 lead. Day made 52 and 112 as he fought back to 4-4, but Craigie took frame nine with runs of 41 and 36 then clinched the result in frame ten with a 77.

I know I had some good breaks but I didn’t feel I was going to score today and I lost the white a few times,” said Craigie, who won the World Under-21 Championship back in 2010, beating his brother Stephen 7-6 in the semi-finals and Li Hang 9-8 in the final. “Ryan put me under pressure at 4-4 so I was pleased to come through that. If I can score heavily, someone will have to play well to beat me.

I had friends in the crowd tonight plus my fair share of support from the neutrals so I really appreciate that. I’m looking forward to playing Mark Allen because I really get on with him, and hopefully it will be a good game for the fans.”

Northern Ireland’s Allen is arguably the player of the season so far having won the Northern Ireland Open and reached the final of the Cazoo British Open. He is now through to the UK Championship quarter-finals for the sixth time and has his sights set on the trophy, having finished runner-up in 2011 and 2018.

Wilson took the first two frames tonight with a top break of 67, but Allen took control as the contest progressed. The world number nine won six of the next seven frames with top breaks of 60, 70, 96, 84, 80 and 70. Defeat for Wilson means that Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump are the only members of the top eight left in the field.

Allen said: “I had a slow start and gifted the first two frames to Kyren. At 2-2 I felt very relaxed because I felt I had broken the back of the match. After the interval my safety was good and I potted a few long ones. I have never been one to look at draws or think about who’s still in it. Sam Craigie might be a bit further down the rankings but he thoroughly deserves to be here because he has had two cracking wins. It will be a big match for both of us on Friday.”

Even at 2-0 down, the feeling was that Mark Allen was in better shape and more confident than Kyren Wilson. Mark’s long potting was excellent. I totally get what he said about going into the interval relaxed. You could sense it: he had the upper hand and memories about their Masters final crept in my mind … probably in Kyren’s mind too. In fact, Kyren has not beaten Mark since the 2018 Champion of Champion, four years ago.

Thursday afternoon

Magician Proves A Pain In The Neck For Trump

Suffering from the effects of a chronic neck injury, Shaun Murphy played “95 percent of shots in complete agony” as he came from 5-3 down to beat Judd Trump 6-5 and reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.

Murphy rose to the occasion at the business end as breaks of 110, 104 and 53 gave him the last three frames, earning a meeting with Hossein Vafaei or Jack Lisowski on Friday evening.

World number 13 Murphy has struggled with neck pain for eight years, and after a flare-up a few days ago, he tweeted this morning to say: “In terrible pain today with my neck / shoulder. Going to try everything to be ready to play at 1pm but right now it’s not looking good.

But a combination of massage and stretching enabled him to compete, and it turned out to be one of Murphy’s best victories of recent years as he knocked out a player ranked ten places higher and reached his first quarter-final in this event for five years. The result means that Ronnie O’Sullivan is the only player ranked inside the world’s top eight left in the line-up in York.

In fact Murphy was immediately into his stride with a break of 100, then Trump made it 1-1 with an 89. In frame three, Trump led 66-30 when he missed a tricky pot on the yellow with two reds left, and Murphy punished him with a 43 clearance. Frame four was dominated by Trump and in the fifth he got the better of a tactical exchange on the green, capitalising on a safety error from Murphy to go 3-2 up. Trump’s run of 62 helped him double his lead.

Frame seven came down to a long battle on the colours, and a tremendous long pot on the brown from Murphy set him up to close the gap to 4-3. Trump got the better of an exchange on the last red in frame eight, as he went 5-3 ahead. After a 110 in the ninth, Murphy was on for a 147 in frame ten until he failed to gain position on the penultimate red, but the 104 was enough for 5-5.

First chance in the decider went Murphy’s way and he made 44 before playing safe. Trump had a chance to counter, but left a difficult red to a top corner in the jaws of the pocket and that proved his last shot as Murphy added 53.

As the dust settles and I think about where that features in my best wins, it will probably be up there,” said 40-year-old Murphy. “I’ve never let my head drop and I knew at 5-3 every frame is my last. I was just lucky that I got a chance in all three of them and the hours of practice that I have been putting in came out.

I played 95 percent of my shots in complete agony. I was very close to pulling out. I always have one of those massage guns that you can treat yourself with, I was looking for it last night and realised I hadn’t brought it to York. This morning my friend Robbie and I dashed to the shops looking for one. We finally found one, got a taxi back to the hotel, and had 40 minutes with the massage gun in the dressing room. It’s very painful, but it’s either quit or try. And I chose to try.”

Trump said: “I didn’t get much of a chance from 5-3. By the last frame, I’d been frozen out for 30 minutes. When I had a chance at the red, I just tried to drop it in dead weight knowing that if I missed it was game over. They’re the ones that you have to pot if you want to win tournaments. The way Shaun played in the last three frames, he deserved to win.

Asked about Murphy’s pre-match tweet, Trump replied: “The way he started off with a century in the first frame just put all doubt to bed. He certainly played like he wasn’t injured. Everyone exaggerates to try and ease the pressure – people handle it in different ways. As soon as I saw him practising I knew that it was going to be a battle today.”

On the other table, three-time champion Ding Junhui hammered Jamie Clarke 6-1 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final clash with O’Sullivan on Friday at 1pm.  China’s Ding, winner of 14 ranking events, has slipped to number 38 in the world, but this week’s run will boost him back up the list as he is now guaranteed £25,000.

Ding took the opening frame with a break of 99. The second came down to the colours and Clarke went in-off when playing safe on the green, gifting his opponent a 2-0 lead. Breaks of 87 and 118 extended Ding’s advantage to 4-0 at the interval.

In frame five, Ding was on 55 when an attempted red to centre hit the far jaw, and Clarke made an impressive 55 clearance to pulled one back. He also had a scoring chance early in the sixth but made just 18 before missing a red to a corner pocket. Ding fluked a red to set a break of 67 to go 5-1 ahead. And 35-year-old Ding compiled another run of 67 in the next frame to wrap up the result.

I know I can score well,” said Ding. “Sometimes I play a bad positional shot and that’s careless. So maybe I need to think more and keep the break going. I don’t want my top form for just one day, I’d rather be at 80 percent the whole week, that would be much better.

It’s going to be a great match to play Ronnie. I’ll just try my best, see what happens. He’s the best player, what can I say? I want to play him more, as much as I can. Every shot I will just try to learn more and try some different things.

There are always Chinese students in York who come and watch my games. They will be excited for tomorrow’s game so I’ll be concentrating harder.

Judd Trump came just short of accusing his opponent of faking injury. I can understand why he was disappointed but the basic truth is that he was nowhere near his best and has not been on form for a long time. Shaun player really well in the last three frames. Maybe seeing the winning line allowed him to “forget” the pain to an extend.

Ding played well too but Jamie Clarke was completely unable to put him under pressure. Ronnie and Ding like and respect each other. Their matches are almost always entertaining and high quality.

Thursday evening

Lisowski And Perry Complete Quarter-Final Line-Up

Jack Lisowski reached the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship for the third consecutive year with an impressive 6-2 victory over Hossein Vafaei in York.

Friday’s quarter-finals

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui
Joe Perry v Tom Ford

Mark Allen v Sam Craigie
Shaun Murphy v Jack Lisowski

World number 12 Lisowski clearly enjoys this event and hopes he can reach his first semi-final this time, having lost to Zhao Xintong in the last eight a year ago, and to Zhou Yuelong in 2020. This time he meets Shaun Murphy on Friday at 7pm, in an intriguing match between two of snooker’s most attacking players.

Lisowski eased into a 3-0 lead tonight with a top break of 95. Vafaei scored just 14 points in those three frames, but hit back in the fourth with a run of 111. The next two were shared, then Lisowski made a 101 to lead 5-2. Iran’s Vafaei could have pulled one back, but he missed a straightforward yellow in frame eight when he trailed 40-55, throwing his cue to the floor in frustration before Lisowski took the chance to seal the result.

My long potting and positional play were good,” said 31-year-old Lisowski. “I really enjoyed the game. I was hitting the ball great, which is a nice feeling. I put Hossein under pressure all night, I could see he was worried about his safety, because my long game was good. He had just beaten Mark Selby which was a big scalp.

When I play Shaun, hopefully we will both be going for everything and there will be no safety. He is a former champion and a great player. I didn’t watch him play Judd today, I just concentrate on my own game.”

Joe Perry enjoyed a 6-3 success against Stuart Bingham and has now reached the quarter-finals of this event on eight occasions since 2004. Welsh Open champion Perry won two qualifying matches to make it to York before knocking out Neil Robertson and Bingham. The world number 30 now faces another qualifier, Tom Ford.

Perry made a break of 93 in the opening frame tonight, then Bingham battled back to 2-2 with runs of 78 and 103. After the interval, Perry pulled away with 82, 82 and 75 to lead 5-2. Bingham pulled one back with 102, but Perry finished the job in frame nine, helped by a run of 64.

It’s a big win because it’s always tough against Stuart,” said 48-year-old Perry. “I love it here in York. When the Barbican is buzzing, it brings out the best in me, it’s a wonderful atmosphere.”

Jack Lisowski played really well. He didn’t go for outlandish shots, he scored well and he kept his concentration. I used to both love and hate watching him. I love his flair but he also frustrated me a lot because, too often, a few silly shots were ruining his chances. No such things yesterday. Now I believe – again – that he will win a bid title soon.

The 2022 UK Championship – Ronnie beats Zhou Yuelong in the last 16 round

Ronnie made short work of his last 16 match as he beat Zhou Yuelong by 6-0 in less than a hour and a half. Here are the scores:

I was hoping for a good match but, unfortunately, Zhou looked completely overawed by the occasion and didn’t give Ronnie any sort of challenge. Ronnie himself, after the match, said that he’s better than that. But he also said that the ability to thrive on big occasions is something you have or you don’t and it can’t be learned, at least not easily.

This win is important because it propelled Ronnie well inside the top 32 in the one year list, probably securing his spot in the World Grand Prix.

Here is the report by WST:

‘Bad’ O’Sullivan Beats Zhou In 83 Minutes

Ronnie O’Sullivan suggested that his current winning streak is down to “my bad being better than everyone else’s bad” after whitewashing Zhou Yuelong 6-0 in just 83 minutes to reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.

World number one O’Sullivan already has two titles under his belt this season having won the Hong Kong Masters and Cazoo Champion of Champions and will be tough to beat in York this week as he aims to become the first player to win any ranking event on eight occasions.

He is through to the quarter-finals of this event for the 19th time and will now face either Ding Junhui or Jamie Clarke on Friday at 1pm. O’Sullivan first won the UK title in 1993 at the age of 17 and went on to lift the trophy in 1997, 2001, 2007, 2014, 2017 and 2018.

Zhou beat Yan Bingtao 6-5 in the perhaps the best match of the opening round, but could not reproduce that form today and has now lost all four of his career meetings with O’Sullivan; the frame aggregate in those four matches is 20-2.

China’s Zhou potted just two reds in the first four frames as his opponent went 4-0 up with a top break of 137. In frame five, Zhou had a chance to pulled one back but missed a red to a centre pocket on 63, and O’Sullivan cleared with 82. And the Rocket brought another cheer from the Barbican crowd as he sealed the match with a run of 103.

O’Sullivan told BBC Sport: “I know he didn’t perform but at the moment that’s what everyone is doing against me, and I think my bad is better than everyone else’s bad. I have to take that for now and I’m never far away from playing well.

You see some kids and they are different. We all knew about Stephen Hendry when he was 15. Steve Davis was different, Tiger Woods. You just look in their eyes and they have a different intensity. They love the challenge and the competition, they thrive on it.

It takes enjoyment out of it sometimes because anything other than a win is no good. Last year I was happy with the quarter-finals, this time I’m thinking that if I don’t win it it’s a disaster. Your perception changes. But I feel very comfortable out there, even if I get hammered. I have proved myself enough for it not to matter as much – when I was a kid it would hurt me. If I play well then I want to stay out there forever, but snooker is not easy. It’s part of the deal, you have to accept you are not always brilliant, but it’s about how good your bad stuff is.”

Here are some videos shared by Eurosport on their YouTube Channel:

The 137, at the time of writing, the tournament HB
Finishing with a century

And some images taken and shared yesterday on social media:

The images not featuring Ronnie were taken in the cue zone, where Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski entertained the fans. All credit to them for giving some of their time to promote the game whilst in the middle of the second most important tournament of the season. I doubt that Ronnie would do that or that Stephen Hendry or Steve Davis in their pomp would have done that.

WST also shared this video

Ronnie likes to keep himself to himself during tournaments. He has often struggled with filling the time between matches. Apparently his friend Damian Hirst suggested some ideas to help … and Ronnie took the advice.

The 2022 UK Championship – Day 4

Yesterday was the last day of the first round proper at the 2022 UK championship.

Here is what happened as reported by WST:

Afternoon session

Relieved Trump Comes Good To Beat Xiao

Judd Trump made an excellent break of 88 in the deciding frame to beat Xiao Guodong 6-5 in a fierce four hour battle at the Cazoo UK Championship.

Trump was far from his best in York and made several unforced errors, but at the crucial moment he took his chance to book a last 16 meeting with Shaun Murphy or David Gilbert. The world number three’s record in this event is inconsistent – he won it in 2011 and was runner-up in 2014 and 2020, but otherwise has never got past the last 16. This time the 33-year-old will hope to book a quarter-final spot when he returns to the baize on Thursday.

The past eight months has been a barren spell for Trump as his last title came at the Turkish Masters in March, though he was runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the recent Cazoo Champion of Champions and made a 147 in the final.

Xiao took the opening frame today thanks to a fluke on the final brown. Trump responded with a 97 then Xiao regained the lead with a break of 118. In frame four, Trump laid a clever snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed he made it 2-2. The fifth again came down to safety tussle on the brown, Xiao winning it to edge ahead for the third time.

Trump’s run of 66 helped him level at 3-3 and he added the seventh to go ahead for the first time. The Bristol cueman had a clear chance to go 5-3 ahead, but ran out of position on the colours then missed a difficult brown. Xiao thumped in the brown from distance and cleared for 4-4. Trump made a break of 60 as he went 5-4 ahead and he had a match-winning chance in frame ten but missed the pink with the rest to a top corner at 24-2. Xiao punished him with 60 for 5-5.

Early in the decider, Xiao’s attempt at a risky plant when wrong and he left a red over a top corner. He spent the rest of the match in his chair as Trump rose to the occasion.

It was a battle out there,” said 2019 World Champion Trump. “The conditions were tough so I’m just happy to get through. I saved my best until last, it was a good break, it was just about holding myself together.

My record here is so bad that it’s important just to get through those kinds of games. They’re the ones that I have been losing to some of the lower ranked players. I know that I’m going to have to improve but I’m glad to have another chance and anything can happen in the next game. I just don’t ever play well here and I don’t know why it is. The only time recently that I have done well in this event was in Milton Keynes (in 2020).

Trump has often had opinions about how snooker can appeal to a wider audience and is impressed with the new format and set-up at the Barbican. He added: “It definitely feels a lot more like the Crucible. After walking down from the top of the stairs you can feel the crowd a bit more on top of you. It was an amazing crowd in for me today as well which I was surprised about – it seemed to be rammed out there.”

Jack Lisowski swept into the second round, beating Xu Si 6-1 with top breaks of 73, 83 and 66. World number 12 Lisowski reached the quarter-finals of this event for the first time in 2020, and got to the same stage last year. It will be three runs to the last eight in a row if he can beat Mark Selby or Hossein Vafaei on Thursday.

Gloucestershire’s Lisowski enjoyed perhaps the best win of his career at the end of last season when he beat Neil Robertson 13-12 at the Crucible to reach the World Championship quarter-finals. After a quiet start to the current campaign, he hopes he can bring his best again to the major stage.

I was patient, played the right shots,” said the 31-year-old. “There were no fireworks, but it was nice to win comfortably. I made a few good clearances and I think that made the difference. Lots of the seeds are out already, it’s very tough to beat these qualifiers sometimes. They’re coming in with a lot of momentum.”

It was indeed a battle for Judd Trump. For most of it it was an extremely tactical match. A few years back he would have grown impatient and would have tried to force the issue by opening the balls wildly. He stayed patient and was rewarded eventually.

Judd felt happy with the setup and the general atmosphere at the event. I find it very funny because what this event reminds me of is how the snooker was presented in the 90th… we just need some flowers in the arena maybe 🤔 . Of course, I’m speaking about the setup and format here, obviously the broadcasting is quite different.

I saw nothing from the Lisowski v Xu match but going by the comments on social media Jack is taking on board Peter Ebdon’s advices and is a more complete player as a result.

Evening session

Selby Becomes Seventh Seed To Lose

Hossein Vafaei knocked Mark Selby out of the Cazoo UK Championship for the second consecutive year with a 6-4 victory, a result which means that seven of the top 16 seeds have lost in the first round in York.

Two-time champion Selby was handed a tough draw against Shoot Out champion Vafaei, and his hopes of adding to the titles he won in 2012 and 2016 came to an early end. Selby joins Zhao Xintong, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Barry Hawkins and Yan Bingtao as the seeded players to be knocked out in the opening round in York.

Leicester’s Selby has not lifted a trophy since capturing his fourth World Championship crown 18 months ago, though he has shown signs of a return to form this season, with runs of the semi-finals of the Cazoo Champion of Champions and the quarter-finals of two ranking events. But it’s now back to the drawing board for the 39-year-old as he seeks a return to the pinnacle of the sport.

Iran’s Vafaei is through to the last 16 of this event for the second consecutive year and will reach his first quarter-final if he can beat Jack Lisowski on Thursday. He also remains in the hunt for a place in the Cazoo Masters, needing a run to the semi-finals to stand a chance of a debut at Alexandra Palace.

Vafaei started strongly with a break of 80, then Selby levelled with a run of 100. In frame three, Selby missed a tricky pot on the final pink along the top cushion, and his opponent converted a clever double to a baulk corner to regain the lead. The next two were shared, then Vafaei’s 119 put him 4-2 ahead, before Selby responded with a 129 to close the gap.

In frame eight, Selby led 23-0, but Vafaei potted another shrewd double, on a red to centre, which set him up for a break of 88 to go 5-3 up. Selby dominated the ninth then had chances in the tenth to force a decider, but couldn’t take advantage. Trapped in a snooker on the final yellow, he handed Vafaei the chance to clear to the pink and seal the result.

I am so pleased because I respect Mark a lot and he is such a tough opponent,” said 28-year-old Vafaei, who beat Selby 6-2 in the same event last year. “I stuck with him on the safety side. I have to say sorry to his fans – and I am one of them!

World number four Selby said: “I don’t feel as if I played that badly. Hossein took his chances well. I seem to be playing well in matches and still losing. You need a bit of run of the ball at the right times. I’ll dig in and hopefully it will turn. I was confident coming here because I played well in the last few tournaments, so I’m gutted to go out in a big event like this. The biggest thing for me is that I am enjoying it. From where I was in January, it’s like night and day.”

On the other table, Shaun Murphy got the better of a thrilling tussle against David Gilbert, winning 6-5 to set up a match with Judd Trump – arguably the pick of the second round ties. World number 13 Murphy hasn’t reached the quarter-finals of a knockout ranking event since the Turkish Masters last March, so will end that sequence if he can beat Trump on on Thursday afternoon.

After sharing the first two frames, Murphy made a break of 94 to go 2-1 up. He had chances to extend his lead in frame four, notably missing the pink to centre with one red left when he led 54-24, and that proved costly as Gilbert cleared to level the tie. A run of 83 put Gilbert ahead and he looked set for 4-2 until he missed a red to centre on 67 in the sixth. Murphy cleared to force a repotted black, and when he potted it after a long tactical exchange, he punched the air in celebration.

Murphy continued his momentum by making a 63 clearance to snatch frame seven, but Gilbert showed resolve by levelling at 4-4 then making an 86 to take the lead. A superb 133 brought Murphy back to 5-5, and he had first chance in the decider, making 48 before missing a red to a top corner. Gilbert had a half-chance to counter but failed to pot a tough mid-range red, and his opponent added 46 for victory.

I never let my head drop, I kept believing,” said Murphy, who won this event in 2008. “I am so proud because at 5-4 down I could have folded, but that’s never been my way. I’m delighted. There are players on tour who talk about how little the game means to them. To me it means absolutely everything.”

I didn’t watch much at all of the evening session. From what I saw, I had the feeling that Mark was trying to play a more open, aggressive game. If he is indeed working at transforming his game, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t get many great results at the moment. Those things take time.

The 2022 UK Championship – Day 3

Day 3 at the 2022 UK Championship saw wins by Ronnie, Zhou Yuelong, Stuart Bingham and Jamie Clarke. Parity between seeded and unseeded winner was preserved, but that stat was probably helped by Willo’s woes.

You can read about Ronnie’s win here.

And here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session (minus Ronnie stuff)

Zhou’s 6-5 defeat of Yan in a Chinese derby was the match of the tournament so far, with a century and nine more breaks over 50 in the 11 frames. Runner-up to Mark Allen in the Northern Ireland Open, 24-year-old Zhou is playing some of the best snooker of his career and will relish the chance to take on the Rocket.

Breaks of 90 and 128 put Zhou 2-0 ahead before 2021 Masters champion Yan took five of the next six frames with top runs of 75, 62, 97, 62 and 81 to go 5-3 up. Zhou battled back to 5-5 and had first chance in the decider but missed the black to a top corner on 33. Yan replied with 35 before failing on a straight-forward red, and that proved the key moment as his opponent added 40 for victory.

We both played well,” said Zhou, who won the World Cup for China alongside Yan in 2015. “When I missed the black in last frame I thought I would lose, so I’m a lucky boy. I will enjoy playing Ronnie because he has always been my favourite player to watch.”

Evening session

Tummy Trouble Costs Sick Williams

Mark Williams had to play without underwear for most of his 6-3 defeat against Jamie Clarke at the Cazoo UK Championship as a bout of food poisoning left him making more toilet breaks than big breaks.

Not the world number two

The two-time UK Champion was clearly struggling from the beginning of his match against fellow Welshman Clarke, dashing out of the arena early in the first frame to find the nearest lavatory. And the world number six made too many mistakes on the baize as he joined Zhao Xintong, Neil Robertson and John Higgins as casualties within the first three days in York.

That was probably the worst I have ever felt, trying to play a snooker match,” said 47-year-old Williams. “If it wasn’t such a big tournament, I don’t think I would have come back out after the interval. I started the match with a pair of boxer shorts and by frame three I didn’t have them any more. If you see a pair in the bin, they’re mine.

I have been playing really well in practice, but I couldn’t play tonight. I was shaking, shivering, boiling hot one frame and freezing cold the next. I tried, but I knew I had no chance. I can’t even go home tonight because I’d need about 20 stops on the motorway. I’ll have to wait until the morning.”

Clarke had never previously won a match in York, but is now through to the last 16 to face Ding Junhui. The 28-year-old from Llanelli came through three rounds of qualifying and has now claimed one of the biggest scalps of his career so far.

The first six frames tonight were shared, then Clarke made a break of 56 as he edged 4-3 ahead. In frame eight, Williams trailed 32-48 when he missed a short range red to a top corner, and that proved costly as his opponent doubled his lead.

Three-time Crucible king Williams looked set to pull one back until he missed a red to centre on 57 in frame nine, and Clarke finished in style with a 64 clearance, his highest break of the match.

I could see Mark wasn’t well and I sympathised with him but it didn’t put me off,” said world number 49 Clarke. “In a strange way it helped me because it took the attention away from me. I’m just chuffed to get a good win against a top player in one of our biggest events. This is a great opportunity for me to go deep because I’m trying to get into the top 32.

Stuart Bingham had a smooth path into the second round as he beat Liam Highfield 6-2 in just 104 minutes with top breaks of 54, 61, 58 and 56. Victory in this event would complete all three legs of the Triple Crown for Bingham as he has already won the World Championship and the Masters.

The Basildon cueman has had a slow start to the current season; this will be his first appearance in the last 16 of a knockout ranking event. “I have actually felt good in most of the events this season, people have just played well against me,” said Bingham, who now meets Joe Perry. “There is still a lot of snooker to play before Christmas. I was getting annoyed with myself in the first few frames tonight, then at the interval I had a chat with my manager and I was more focussed after that.

I’m a big fan of the new format. I went to sit in the arena this morning when it was quiet – even when it was empty it looked great. I saw Jimmy White’s walk on the other night which was amazing – he’s a legend and the crowd was brilliant.”

The Zhou v Yan match was an outstanding one.

Both played very, very well for most of it and it was played in great spirit.

Zhou had been interviewed by Phil Haigh before the match, and was interviewed by Rob Walker after it.

Here is the pre-match interview:

Zhou Yuelong explains quiet last season but now feels ready to shine again

Phil Haigh Monday 14 Nov 2022 11:37 am

2019 World Open - Day 5
Zhou Yuelong is returning to his best form after a quiet year (Picture: Getty Images)

Zhou Yuelong had a very disappointing campaign last time around, but confident again, with a new cue and already some fine results this season, he is a threat once more.

The 24-year-old reached just one quarter-final over the entire 2021/22 season, but has already improved on that, making it to the Northern Ireland Open final last month, only losing out to home town hero Mark Allen.

The world number 21 has since come through qualifying to make it to the main stages of the UK Championship, with wins over Michael White and Jak Jones, and he feels confidence building again.

I got confidence from Northern Ireland and I keep this feeling till now, I’ve kept the confidence,’ Zhou said after beating Jones in his final UK qualifier.

On his run to the final in Belfast he said: ‘I’m not really proud, but it didn’t really hurt either, it’s just normal. If I won I’d definitely be happy, but if I don’t win I need to keep going at the next tournament

I’m not losing the confidence, he [Allen] played well, so I take the confidence here to Sheffield for the UK Championship and then I will take it to York.

On his impressive return to form of late, Zhou reckons a change of hardware has helped, saying: ‘Maybe the reason is because I have a new cue, there’s more belief in myself to pot important balls, also control the cue ball much better. Every shot I feel better and more comfortable.’

There was little wrong with Zhou’s game before, though, with his quiet season last time around a little confusing, although it makes sense when he explains it.

I think, I don’t want to make an excuse, but to be honest I think last season started well, British Open quarter-final, but then I got Covid,’ he said.

Quarantine for 14 days, I missed matches at the Scottish Open, English Open, so then I missed the Grand Prix.

Also last year I was close to the top 16, and it was only Xintong getting to the UK final that stopped me getting to the Masters.

I think I was unlucky, every chance I had was missed, it made me a little bit sad.

It was a little bit of problem for my game, because after that I was so hungry to win my matches to gain my points back that it put pressure on me. In the World Championship I didn’t play well and lost in qualifying.

It was a shame for Zhou’s progression because he is one of the best young players in the sport, but he appears to have put the disappointing year behind him and will hope for another good result in York when he takes on Yan Bingtao in the last 32.

Zhou does not play with Yan and Zhao Xintong in Sheffield, instead living in Darlington where he plays with the likes of Hossein Vafaei and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, but he regularly visits his best pal in South Yorkshire.

Xintong’s my best friend, we’re really close for 15 years,’ he said. ‘Last two years I moved to Darlington, but we still speak, every month I come to Sheffield to meet and have food.

Darlington is quiet, not a lot of shops or restaurants, but lots of good snooker.

Zhou takes on Yan at 1pm on Monday 14 November at the Barbican in York.

Thanks to Phil for yet a very good, honest and revealing interview. Hopefully such interview will help British fans to understand and warm to non UK/Irish players. Rob interviewing Zhou also marks a change in the BBC mentality. A few years back they barely ever paid attention to the Chinese players other than Ding, and interviews were always conducted with an interpreter.

Yan’s defeat leaves him “vulnerable” for the Masters. Hossein Vafaei and David Gilbert could gat past him but they would need to reach the semi-finals. Should they both win today, they could meet in the QF round. Hossein has also been speaking to Phil and he’s not in a good place at all with what is going on in his country. Snooker becomes less important when such things happen. Bizarrely though, sometimes, not caring so much about it can help to win. We shall see.

Anyone else not currently in the top 16 and still in the draw would need the title.

There is still a lot of snooker to be played before the Masters, but BBC insists that the Masters’ draw should be made during the final of this event. This, in my view, isn’t right at all.

The Williams v Clarke match was hard to watch not because of the snooker but because it was so obvious that Willo was feeling very unwell and struggling badly. He deserves huge credit for showing up in the state he was and he still somehow managed to play and win three frames.

I hope he’s feeling better today. He will need a few days to recover probably.

I didn’t see anything from the Bingham v Highfield match. From the scores and comments on social media, it seems that “Ballrun” is in very good form. He’s more than capable to win this event.

The 2022 UK Championship – Ronnie beats Matthew Stevens in the last 32 Round

Ronnie beat Matthew Stevens by 6-2 yesterday afternoon to book his place in the last 16 round at the 2022 UK Championship. He will play Zhou Yuelong next. Ronnie wasn’t at his absolute best, but it was obvious that he has been practising as his long potting was excellent. Before the match, the ES pundits mentioned that he had spent long hours on the table the previous day.

Here are the scores:

And the report by WST:

‘Happy’ Rocket Strolls Into Second Round

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s bid for an eighth Cazoo UK Championship title started strongly as he made two centuries and three more breaks over 70 during a 6-2 victory over Matthew Stevens in the first round in York.

Zhao Xintong, Neil Robertson and John Higgins were all knocked out during the first weekend at the Barbican, suggesting that the seeds are vulnerable against the 16 players who came through the qualifying rounds. But world number one O’Sullivan never looked in danger as he strolled into the last 16 and a match against Zhou Yuelong, who edged out Yan Bingtao 6-5. That tie will take place on Wednesday at 1pm.

O’Sullivan, who has now won 19 of his 25 career matches against Stevens, has carried on his momentum this season having landed the World Championship last May. He beat Marco Fu in the final of the Hong Kong Masters last month, and collected more silverware nine days ago with victory over Judd Trump in the Cazoo Champion of Champions final.

The Rocket lifted the UK Championship trophy in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2007, 2014, 2017 and 2018. The £250,000 top prize this week would make him the first player to win a Triple Crown event on eight occasions.

The 46-year-old took the opening frame today with a break of 81 and might have added the second, but missed the penultimate red to a centre pocket when he trailed 35-37, allowing Stevens to level. Runs of 94 and 107 put O’Sullivan 3-1 ahead at the interval.

Frame five was a scrappy one and came down to a safety exchange with three reds left, resolved when O’Sullivan, down 53-15, failed to convert a long pot to a baulk corner. His opponent took advantage to halve the gap, but Stevens scored just two points in the last three frames as O’Sullivan compiled runs of 73 and 102, reaching the last 16 of this event for the 22nd time.

As long as the fans are happy, then we’re all good,” said O’Sullivan. “If I got beat 6-0, never potted a ball, they’d have still been happy. So, I’m not really concerned about it. I’m very happy with where I am, everything’s great. I come here, play, hit balls. If I get smashed first round like I did against Alex Ursenbacher or David Grace, it really doesn’t matter to me. It actually was a really pleasant surprise, I was able to get home a bit early, do a bit of Eurosport. If I want to be in the business of snooker, I’ve got to pot a few balls.

Welshman Stevens said: “If you miss one or two against Ronnie then the frames are over in six or seven minutes. He’s just relentless. He’s something else. I’m obviously disappointed when I lose but it would have taken something special to beat him. I had a new tip on a couple of weeks ago and it’s not a hundred percent, I played a couple of shots with side and missed them thick.”

The “happy” mentioned by WST isn’t exactly the mood that transpired through interviews ahead of the event. Here reported by The Guardian:

Ronnie O’Sullivan battles ‘impostor syndrome’ despite first-round win

The world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan eased into the last 16 of the UK Championship with a 6-2 win over Matthew Stevens but then admitted to feeling “impostor syndrome” and not wanting to play snooker at the moment.

The 46-year-old looked in good form at York Barbican and hit two century breaks to take a step towards claiming a record eighth title.

While O’Sullivan clinched a record-equalling seventh world crown in May and backed it up with victory at the Hong Kong Masters in front of 9,000 fans last month, he revealed his flatness after a routine round-one success on Monday.

I feel flat, I’ll be honest with you,” he told BBC Two. “I don’t really want to play snooker at the moment, I don’t play much snooker. I just listen to my body, listen to my mind and just go out there and treat it like a practice.

One thing I am doing is applying myself mentally. Whether I play good or bad, I don’t really care and I will always apply myself well while I am out there, but I don’t feel buzzed up at the moment. I suppose that is normal. I am just here enjoying York. I am going to be here for the duration, no matter what. I just like it here, you know.”

The world No 1 rejected suggestions in the summer he was the greatest in the sport’s history after his Crucible triumph. And he again raised questions about how long he will continue to play snooker following this win over Stevens, who after taking the fifth frame to reduce the deficit to 3-2 had no answer.

O’Sullivan added: “I shouldn’t even be playing at my age really, by rights. Look at [Stephen] Hendry, [Steve] Davis and those guys, so I don’t take it too seriously and just find it quite funny I am still here. I feel like I have a bit of impostor syndrome.

I felt happier when I lost them five finals because it felt right but when I’ve started to win a few tournaments, I don’t really feel like I deserve it or that I have played well enough. It feels like there has been a plot maybe to allow me to do it, so you feel like a bit of a fake.

“I feel a bit not good about it, so that is why when I won the worlds I was saying it wasn’t really a great thing for me because it put me in that place again of questioning myself and the game. I don’t get excited like I used to. I am here to do a job.”

I know that it feels strange to most that Ronnie, having won so much, isn’t the most confident person, but that’s the reality and that’s probably why he’s such a perfectionist, because he always feels that he should/could have done better.

Ronnie will now face Zhou Yuelong tomorrow afternoon.

Yesterday’s win puts Ronnie on 34th place in the “race to the World Grand Prix”, only 500 points behind Wu Yize who is 32d. A win over Zhou would secure his spot in the event. But it won’t be an easy match as Zhou is playing extremely well.

Here are some more images shared on social media by WST and Matt Huart.

And those two videos shared by WST on their YouTube channel: