The “main” 2023 WSF Championship is currently underway in Mount Pritchard, Australia, and has reached the knock-out stage. You will find the knockout draw here. Such event can be a bit difficult to follow during the group stages with so many players involved, and so many matches over four days. Now however it becomes more interesting,
A number of names in this draw caught my eye, for various reasons
Wang Yuchen. I met Wang in 2012 in Yixing. He was part of a group of promising juniors that also comprised Lyu Haotian, Zhou Yuelong and Zhao Xintong. Lyu was the centre of all attentions at the time. Wang was different from the other boys. He was the only one who spoke English fluently and was willing to engage with me. He came across as a very intelligent and mature young teenager. He told me that his family originated from Hong Kong – I see he’s now playing under Hong Kong flag indeed – and that his father insisted that he should get a good education. Therefore he couldn’t put as much efforts in his snooker as the other boys.
Liam Davies from Wales. He’s been tipped as one for the future for a long time. A very solid player and a hard worker, he has to be one of the favourites here.
Iulian Boiko. Iulian qualified for the professional tour in 2020 by reaching the final in this very event. He was only 14, far too young to be a professional IMO. He wasn’t helped by the disruptions caused by the covid crisis, being away from home as such a young age and, certainly having to continue his formal mandatory education. He’s Ukrainian. The terrible situation in his country surely is a major worry … it might also be an inspiration.
Nattanapong Chaikul from Thailand. Inspired by James Wattana, snooker remains strong in Thailand. The Thai girls dominated the 2023 WWS Asia-Pacific Championship. Noppon Saengkham impresses on the main tour this season. Nattanapong Chaikul is only 17, he reached the QFs in the junior event played last week. Can he do better this week?
Sean Maddocks is another former pro, he’s 20. To be honest I don’t rate him at all. His results on the main tour were dire. This season, on the Q-Tour, his best result was a last 16, in Sweden. In the UK events, where the opposition was stronger he didn’t go past the last 64… He has won his first match in the knock-out phase though and will face Fergal Quinn, a 22 years old from Northern Ireland, who is also often cited as a “great prospect” but whose best result in the Q-Tour this season was only a “last 64”, again in Sweden.
We have two players from Latvia in the draw: Rodion Judins and Filips Kalnins. Rodion is now 25, was once seen as “one for the future” but didn’t achieve much, Filips on the other hand is only 17 and reached the semi-finals of the WSF Junior event played last week. They might play each other in the last 32 this time. Rodion is already through his first match. Filips is playing
Stan Moody (16 years old) already earned his Tour Card by winning the WSF Junior event last week. In the last 32, he could face Zac Cosker, 17 years old from Wales, who reached the quarter-finals in that same event. He was beaten by Filips Kalnins at that stage. Liam Pullen, who Stan beat in the final, is also competing in this event.
We have a very – pleasantly – surprising match in the last 64 round currently underway: Peter Geronimo is currently playing Daniel Womersley. Daniel is 31 and has been a constant presence in the PTC events in their time, his presence at this stage of the WSF event is no surprise. Peter’s achievement however is another story: indeed Peter, aged 33, is a regular on the World Disability Snooker tour where he competes in the “Group 6B” category, a group that encompasses persons with a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. autism spectrum disorder) or neurological conditions (e.g. acquired brain injury), with IQ over 75.
Robby Foldvari is a blast from the past. He’s 62, he’s Australian and was a Main Tour pro from 1984 to 1997. He also was World Billiards Champion twice in 1997 and 1998. He plays nine-ball pool as well. If he could go deep here it would be quite the story!
Gao Yang is only 18, but is a former pro. He played on the main tour in 2020-2022. He had qualified by winning the WSF Junior event in January 2020. Gao lives in the UK and practices at Ding’s academy. Interestingly, as a junior in China, his coach is/was Ju Reti. Ju Reti was – on paper – a professional in 2014-2016 but never competed outside China during those two seasons. The reasons for this are unclear … maybe he couldn’t afford it or maybe he wasn’t allowed to. He’s an Uyghur , an ethnic group that strongly keeps their traditions and beliefs (Islam) and therefore is oppressed by the Chinese authorities.
Also still competing is Christian Richter from Germany. I must admit that I know nothing about Christian which is maybe not that surprising … he’s only 14!
Finally, we also have Alfie Lee in this draw. Alfie is Stephen Lee’s son. He’s 19, he has played in all Q-Tour events this season but has not been past the last 32.
Jimmy White thrashed Peng Yisong 5-1 to make the last 16 of the BetVictor German Masters in Berlin and set up a mouth-watering clash with Jack Lisowski.
London’s legendary 10-time ranking event winner White is enjoying a strong season, having come through four rounds of qualifying to make the final stages of the UK Championship before Christmas. He’s also already earned a spot in the final stages of the upcoming BetVictor Welsh Open.
Victory sees 60-year old White become the first player of his age to reach the last 16 of a ranking event since Eddie Charlton at the 1992 British Open, an event which White won.
White composed breaks of 55, 82, 63, 50 and 70 on his way to victory and is relishing tomorrow evening’s meeting with Lisowski.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I love Jack’s style of play. He is fantastic to watch. This is the perfect arena for me to face a young gun like Jack,” said world number 88 White.
“I’ve got my son working with me full time now. He is enthusiastic like me, so the table is brushed and ironed and I make sure I’m doing my two to four hours of practice. I’m practising different parts of the game, including safety play. I didn’t previously do too much of that. I’m really enjoying playing and I’m really enjoying competing.”
World number 12 Lisowski wasted little time in securing his last 16 berth, after storming to a 5-0 whitewash win over China’s Zhang Anda.
Lisowski, 31, is still searching for his maiden major silverware, but has been pushing hard for the breakthrough this season. The six-time ranking event finalist made the semis at the UK Championship and the Masters, but was beaten by Mark Allen and Mark Williams respectively. He also narrowly lost out to Allen 5-4 in the quarters at the recent World Grand Prix.
The Englishman composed breaks of 61, 117 and 87 this afternoon on his way to a quickfire victory, which lasted just one hour and 19 minutes.
Lisowski said: “Jimmy is one of the biggest legends of the game. It is so good to see him doing well. There are a lot of people who watch him that don’t even like snooker, they are just Jimmy White fans. He is great for the game and it will be a special occasion to play him out there.”
Kyren Wilson kept his hopes of moving to the top of the BetVictor Series rankings alive, with a 5-2 win over Sam Craigie.
Whoever earns the most prize money across the qualifying events will pick up a bumper £150,000 bonus and there is just this week and the BetVictor Welsh Open left to play. Wilson is currently in third place behind Mark Selby and Mark Allen, who didn’t qualify for Berlin.
The Warrior top scored with 82 in today’s win and now faces Jimmy Robertson for a place in the quarter-finals.
Elliot Slessor defeated Joe O’Connor 5-2 to earn his last 16 spot, his next opponent is Xiao Guodong who defeated Fan Zhengyi 5-4.
It would be easy to downplay Jimmy White’s win over Peng Ysong, who is a 21 years old rookie, but that would be unfair to both. Peng started the season slowly: his first win came at the 2022 UK Championship but since he has won 6 of the 9 matches he has played, and he was the one who denied Mark Selby as he beat him by 5-4 in the first round of qualifiers for the 2023 German Masters. The truth is that Jimmy played really well in this match.
Neil Robertson battled from 3-1 down to beat close friend Joe Perry 5-3 and keep his hopes of lifting the Brandon Parker Trophy for the first time alive at the BetVictor German Masters in Berlin.
It’s the third time this season that Australia’s Robertson has faced his Cambridge based practice partner Perry. He fell short at the UK Championship in a surprise 6-2 reverse. However, the 23-time ranking event winner had his revenge at the Scottish Open, when he won 4-1.
Robertson made the final here at the Tempodrom back in 2020, where he was up against Judd Trump. The pair contested a fiercely fought clash, but it was Trump who prevailed by a 9-6 scoreline. Robertson is yet to go all the way and capture the title.
The Thunder from Down Under also has work to do if he is to earn a place to defend his title at the upcoming Players Championship. Robertson came into this week in 18th spot on the one-year list, but must move into the top 16 to qualify for the elite event. He now faces qualification rival Chris Wakelin in the last 16. Wakelin won the BetVictor Shoot Out on Saturday and defeated Si Jiahui 5-4 earlier today.
It was BetVictor Welsh Open champion Perry who made the early running this afternoon. Breaks of 67, 54 and 65 helped him into a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.
Robertson took the first two when play resumed to restore parity and then embarked on a 147 attempt in the seventh. His run ended on 96 but it moved him a frame from victory at 4-3. The Melbourne cueman charged over the line with a fine break of 118.
Robertson said: “You’d think it would give you a good advantage playing against a friend, but in the first frame I left him a long red he never normally goes for. He absolutely nailed it and I thought he never usually goes for for that! In seriousness, you are generally competing against top players all the time anyway and the secrets aren’t there like they used to be 20 years ago when we didn’t play in many events. It was a really good match.
“It is an event I’ve not won and the motivation is always high when I’m here. It is hard to qualify for this, coming through two games straight after the UK Championship. It is tough to get here, but once you are it is a brilliant venue and amazing to play in. Hopefully I can have a good run and give myself a chance of winning.”
World number 12 Jack Lisowski came through a tense encounter with boyhood hero Jimmy White 5-2.
At 60-years old , White has become the first player of his age to appear in the last 16 of a ranking event since 1992. However, 31-year-old Lisowski wasn’t in a sentimental mood this evening.The six-time ranking event finalist is hunting down maiden professional silverware and now faces Xiao Guodong in the quarters.
Lisowski said: “I can’t really celebrate beating him. I think he put me under a lot of pressure at the start. He could have gone 3-1 up at the interval, but getting out at 2-2 kept me in the game and I was lucky to survive that fourth frame.”
Louis Heathcote came from 3-0 down to score a huge 5-4 win over Cao Yupeng. World number 84 Heathcote is battling for his tour survival and made breaks of 51, 83, 114, 71, 57 and 53 en route to the victory. He plays Ali Carter in the last 16 tomorrow.
Kyren Wilson strengthened his position in the BetVictor Series with a 5-2 win over Jimmy Robertson. Wilson is taking advantage of Mark Allen and Mark Selby’s failure to qualify. There is just the BetVictor Welsh Open to play after this week, with the player who accumulates the most prize money over the qualifying events scooping a bumper £150,000 bonus.
Wilson plays Tom Ford in the last eight, after the Leicester cueman defeated Tian Pengfei 5-3.
Jack probably can’t celebrate because he knows how remarkable the recent achievements of his 60 years old opponent are. Towards the end of the match, Jimmy lost his concentration a bit and looked tired. Despite the defeat, the Tempodrom crowd gave him a warm ovation as he was leaving the arena.
2023 Asia-Pacific Women Snooker Championship
“Ploy” won an all Thai final to seal her first WSS title yesterday in Sidney.Congratulations!
The 20-year-old Thai player enjoyed her breakthrough weekend at the tournament as she improved upon three previous semi-final appearances to become the latest first-time champion on the World Women’s Snooker (WWS) Tour.
The victory will see Laokiatphong equal her career-best world ranking of number seven and she also becomes the first player ever to win both a main ranking tournament and the Under-21 tournament at the same ranking event, after she claimed her latest junior title later in the day.
She was presented with the trophy by The Hon. Dai Le, Federal MP for Fowler who was visiting the final of the tournament, and Frank Dewens of the Asia-Pacific Snooker and Billiards Federation.
Competing in Australia for the first time, Laokiatphong came through her group in second place following a narrow defeat to Man Yan So of Hong Kong, before she recorded a 3-0 success against India’s Natasha Chethan to reach the last eight stage.
There she would face reigning world champion and incoming world number one Mink Nutcharut and it was Laokiatphong who pot a tricky pink to middle pocket to emerge from a dramatic deciding-frame to secure a career-best match win. Victory against 14-year-old Australian prodigy Lilly Meldrum – who herself had scored a notable success against compatriot Jessica Woods in the previous round – would take Laokiatphong into her maiden ranking event final.
Awaiting her would be fellow Thai player Siripaporn Nuanthakhamjan – also known as Baipat – who had similarly enjoyed a standout victory against three-time world champion Ng On Yee in the quarter-finals, before she defeated a spirited Ho Yee Ki in the last four to also reach her first final.
It would be Laokiatphong who would make the stronger start as she dominated the opening frame, before adding the second on the black to move halfway to victory. The following two frames were shared as Nuanthakhamjan briefly threatened to fight back, only for Laokiatphong to control frame five and secure glory in Australia.
The victory represents a defining victory for a player who made her WWS Tour debut at the 2018 UK Championship, where she showcased her potential to the world as a 16-year-old with victory against world number four Rebecca Kenna. She has since established herself as the dominant Under-21 player on the circuit, winning eight junior tournaments including two Under-21 titles and has now added her name to an illustrious list of active players to lift ranking titles on the Tour.
The highest break of the tournament was a run of 114 compiled by Mink Nutcharut during the round robin group stage against Australia’s Linda Larrea.
It was a double success for the 20-year-old after she defeated Indian debutant Natasha Chethan and Australian starlet Lilly Meldrum to win her latest Under-21 title in Australia. Set to turn 21 this summer, the Under-21 number one has just two more tournaments remaining as she bids to end her title as a junior on an unbeaten run since the start of 2022.
There was, however, success for Chethan in the Challenge Cup competition for players who did not qualify for the quarter-finals, after the 14-year-old defeated Yee Ting Cheung of Hong Kong 2-1 to claim silverware on her first Tour outing.
As always, World Women’s Snooker would like to thank everyone who has supported the tournament, including our host venue Mounties and the Asia-Pacific Snooker and Billiards Federation, who have successfully hosted another major event in Australia.
Mink and On Yee were the two “top”players in the draw but had traveled “last minute” from the the UK and I guess jet-lag tiredness “caught” them eventually.
Two 14 years old girls merit a special mention: in addition to competing in the main WSS event, and in the WSS Junior event, Natasha Chethan (India) and Lilly Meldrum (Australian) also competed in the 2023 WSF Junior Championship and both of them reached the knock-out stage in that event.
There is no doubt that Women Snooker is growing, it’s attracting more girls to the sport and the level is improving with every event.
2023 WSF Junior Championship
The event was won by Stan Moody who beat Liam Pullen by 5-1 in the final. Congratulations Stan Moody!
16-year-old Stan Moody has booked his place on the World Snooker Tour for the next two seasons after winning the WSF Junior Championship in Sydney.
Moody beat fellow Yorkshire teenager Liam Pullen 5-1 in the final in Australia, claiming the trophy and the coveted spot on the professional circuit, which he will join next season.
It was a pretty comfortable win in the final thanks to a fine performance from Moody, after he had been pushed hard in the semi-finals.
The English youngster came through a deciding frame to beat Ukrainian star Iulian Boiko 4-3, thanks to a break of 68 in the final frame.
Boiko, still only 17, has already spent two years on the professional circuit and is pushing for a return.
Pullen enjoyed a great run to the final, beating something of a surprise package in Latvia’s Filips Kalnins in the semi-finals, but couldn’t find his best stuff against Moody.
There were also runs to the quarters for bright prospects Liam Davies, Nattanapong Chaikul, Jake Crofts and Zac Cosker.
In the open event, there was encouragingly also two girls in the last 16, with 14-year-olds Natasha Chethan and Lilly Meldrum impressing to reach that stage
But it was Moody who triumphed and will get a crack at the professional circuit from next season, and most likely a shot at World Championship qualifying at the end of the current campaign.
While the amateur picks for World Championship qualifying have not been announced yet, the four semi-finalists in the WSF Junior Championship last year got a shot at the big one in Sheffield, so it would be a surprise not to see at least Moody and Pullen there this time around.
Liam Davies made it to Sheffield thanks to a semi-final run last year and then became the youngest player ever to win a match in the World Championship, beating Aaron Hill, then following that up by downing Fergal O’Brien before narrowly losing to Jordan Brown.
Moody has already won a match on the professional circuit as well, memorably beating Lu Ning on his debut in the Shoot Out last year and we will see plenty more of him in the months to come.
The youngster has already been garnering plenty of help from professionals, with former world champion Shaun Murphy helping to mentor him, while he practices with pros at Levels in Huddersfield, including former Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown.
A repeat of the 2022 World Championship final, the match would have the same outcome as Mink recovered from the loss of the opening frame to prevail following an exciting three days of snooker in Belgium.
The victory sealed back-to-back titles on the World Women’s Snooker Tour for the 23-year-old for the second time (2022 British Open-World Championship), and her fifth career ranking event title in all.
Her performance in Belgium also sees the Thai star climb to a new career-high ranking of number two following the tournament, ending the nine-year duopoly of Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee, with Ng dropping to third.
Mink impressed throughout the tournament as she whitewashed Nikolya Broyak, Emma Parker and most notably 12-time world champion Reanne Evans in the semi-finals to progress to the title match.
Awaiting her would be Belgian number one Wendy Jans who having progressed from the group stages without the loss of a frame, emerged from a tricky last 16 tie against England’s Tessa Davidson, before adding the scalps of Mary Talbot-Deegan and most notably Rebecca Kenna, following a tense deciding frame, to reach the final. Kenna herself had already come through a dramatic quarter-final against Ng On Yee, defeating the three-time world champion for the first time in 13 attempts on Tour.
It was Jans who dominated the opener as she restricted her opponent to just five points, but from there it was Mink who imposed herself upon the match, ultimately sealing a 4-1 victory with a break of 53 in what would prove to be the final frame.
The highest break of the tournament was also constructed by Mink as she compiled a run of 94 during her last 16 match, having missed the pink for what would have been a century break.
England’s Tessa Davidson defeated compatriot Mary Talbot-Deegan 2-0 to win the Seniors competition in Belgium and further consolidate her position as the number one ranked player in the over-40s category.
Davidson defeated Belinda Focquaert of Belgium, before avenging her defeat to Diana Schuler at last year’s Scottish Open to reach the title match. Talbot-Deegan had herself seen off Michelle Cohen and Sarah Dunn on her way to the final, but it was Davidson who would claim her seventh Seniors crown from eight tournaments contested during the past 12 months.
The Challenge Cup tournament for players who did not reach the quarter-finals of the main tournament, was won by Belgium’s Emilie Demeester, who was competing in her first WWS event. She defeated Emma Powers-Richardson, Sarah Dunn, Jasmine Bolsover and in the final Nikola Broyak to take home the title on her debut.
As always, World Women’s Snooker would like to thank everyone who has supported the tournament, including our host venue The Trickshot, owned by Olivier Vandebohede, who was presented with a commemorative plaque by WWS President Mandy Fisher after the tournament.
The WWS Tour returns in just over a week’s time with the Asia-Pacific Women’s Snooker Championship, to be held at the Mounties Club from 31 January – 3 February 2023.
A few words about Wendy Jans… she’s 39 years old now. She lives in Neerpelt, in Belgium, where she runs an excellent snooker club, “De Maxx”.
Between 2003 and 2022, she has competed in 13 IBSF Women World Championship Finals, winning 8 of them. She did beat Mink for the title in 2022.
Between 1999 and 2021, she has competed in no less than 20 EBSA Women Championship finals, winning 13 of them.
Wendy has also competed in 19 Belgium National Finals, winning the title a staggering 17 times.
That’s quite the CV and it could have been even bigger if Wendy had got more support/sponsors. There have been international titles that she was unable to defend because she didn’t have the financial means to attend the tournaments.
Wendy is a very, very good player and, if she was based in the UK, she would probably be on the main tour currently.
It was another Belgian , Emilie Demeester, who won the Challenge cup. Belgium, a small country, has three players on the main tour, all young: Luca Brecel, Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq. There IS a huge potential for snooker in mainland Europe but the strong UK centric nature of the main tour, as well as the fact that all European Q-Schools and most of the Q-Tour events are played in the UK are not helping to develop it.
Stephen Hendry fined for pulling out of tournaments to appear on ‘The Masked Singer’
Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry says he was fined for pulling out of snooker tournaments in order to appear on ‘The Masked Singer’.
Hendry, 54, was unveiled as ‘Rubbish’ on the ITV celebrity singing show on Saturday night.
The Scotsman was fined by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) for pulling out of events that clashed with filming.
“You’re dying to tell people what you’re doing but you can’t,” he said.
WPBSA rules state if a player pulls out of a tournament after the draw has been made there is a standard fine.
“I do have wildcards to play in some events and I actually pulled out of a couple and got fined by the WPBSA,” said Hendry.
“And I couldn’t tell them why because this recording was going on and I couldn’t obviously say why I pulled out. I just said ‘Look, I can’t play the tournament’. So, yeah, it was, very, very, very strange.”
‘The Masked Singer’ sees celebrities wear elaborate costumes and face masks to hide their identities. They then anonymously perform a selection of songs live in front of a studio audience and panel of celebrity judges, who vote on which celebrity to unmask.
“I have been asked to do the other reality shows, but the thing that appealed to me about this one obviously was the fact that you are in a costume. Nobody can see you,” added Hendry.
“And obviously (there is no) stress – this is not a singing competition, it’s just a show that you just go in this costume and have fun.
“My son texted me and said ‘I’ve watched the show every week. I love it. I can’t believe you’ve done that‘.
“He didn’t even have a clue so the feedback and the reaction was incredible.”
Frankly WST, this is rubbish! Be good sports … put that money (back) in the bin!
Seven Dials has landed Unbreakable, the “raw, fascinating, and uncompromising” memoir from snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Vicky Eribo, executive publisher, acquired world all-language rights from Jonny Geller of the Curtis Brown Group. It will be published in hardback, export trade paperback, audiobook and e-book on 11th May.
In a career spanning more than three decades, O’Sullivan’s journey to becoming the greatest snooker player of all time has been filled with extremes, the publisher’s synopsis begins. A teenage snooker prodigy, he turned professional with the highest of expectations.
“Together with a challenging personal life, [this pressure] catapulted him into a life of excess and addiction,” it continues. He was winning titles—his first within a year of turning professional—but losing himself and his game as he tried to block out mental pain and misery. While O’Sullivan appeared to be at the top of his game to spectators, these were the moments when he felt at his lowest. In the year 2000 he started rehab and began the journey to get his life back.
The publisher said that Unbreakable takes the reader inside the mind of one of Britain’s most-loved sporting icons, with the book framed around the lessons he has learned from his extraordinary career.
“With this book he takes us beyond the success and record-breaking achievements to share the reality—and brutality—of what it takes to rise to the very top. With these stories and techniques, he hopes to help readers navigate their own personal challenges and obstacles and in turn reach their maximum potential.
“This is Ronnie O’Sullivan as you’ve never seen him before: unflinchingly honest, often vulnerable and always inspiring,” the synopsis concludes.
Eribo said: “If you think you know Ronnie O’Sullivan’s story, read this book and think again. Providing an extraordinary insight into the mind of one of the most fascinating sporting greats of all time, Unbreakable is a sports memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read before. It’s an intoxicating, compelling and incredibly immersive read and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be welcoming Ronnie back to Orion for what we are confident will be one of the biggest autobiographies of 2023.”
O’Sullivan said: “A lot has happened in the 10 years since I last told my story. Unbreakable is both an account of this journey and an honest insight into what it has taught me. I hope that reading stories of the lessons and techniques I’ve learned on and off the table will help readers find their own path to being the best versions of themselves.”
O’Sullivan’s first memoir Ronnie sold 72,762 copies via Nielsen BookScan TCM across all editions, and his second 2013 memoir Running has sold 55,017 copies.
Shaun Murphy believes that success at the highest level is “just around the corner” and his 6-4 victory over Neil Robertson at the Cazoo Masters suggested that the Magician is getting back to his best.
Robertson’s title defence failed to go beyond the opening match at Alexandra Palace, though he was barely able to prepare for the contest having suffered from the effects of a bout of flu over the Christmas break. After falling 5-1 behind he rallied to 5-4, but eventually Murphy crossed the winning line to set up a quarter-final with Kyren Wilson or Stuart Bingham.
Murphy has struggled with neck pain and a loss of form over the past two years and hasn’t reached a final since the 2021 World Championship. Last summer he had gastric sleeve surgery to lose weight, and in recent weeks he has shown more regular glimpses of the game which won him the 2005 World Championship and 2015 Masters. He was a quarter-finalist at the Cazoo UK Championship and came within a few balls of beating Mark Selby in the last 16 of the English Open.
“I haven’t forgotten how to do it, I’m just not as used to doing that as some of the top guys,” said 40-year-old Murphy. “If I can get on a run, as Mark Allen has done this season, I could take some stopping. Something good is coming for me, my game is trending the right way. I have been practising very hard and something is around the corner.”
Robertson started brightly as a 73 clearance gave him the opening frame, but Murphy responded with breaks of 98 and 53 to go ahead, and he also got the better of a scrappy fourth frame to lead 3-1. In the fifth, Murphy missed a straight-forward green when he led 61-42, and Robertson had a chance to clear, but his attempt to roll the final pink into a top corner stayed in the jaws. Murphy potted the pink to snatch it, then compiled a run of 100 in the next to lead 5-1.
The Englishman might have settled the tie in frame seven, but again missed the green to a baulk corner, trailing 39-60. Robertson took advantage to close to 5-2, and that sparked his fight back. A run of 84 gave him frame eight, and in the next he potted 13 reds with blacks before missing a tough long red on 104.
And Robertson had first clear chance in frame ten, but overcut the blue to a centre pocket at 35-0. Murphy replied with 54 before missing the penultimate red, but he was let off the hook as Robertson potted the red then failed on the blue. This time world number 11 Murphy took the chance to finish the tie.
“I’m delighted,” he added. “It looked like we are going to a decider. The break I made in the last frame, I’m very proud of that to be able to stand up under pressure. It’s up there with my best wins in the last couple of seasons. To beat the defending champion, centre stage, in the first match of the tournament, is very pleasing.
“You have to enjoy the performance element. I love walking out there in front of a live crowd and the fans are unbelievable here. It was a privilege to play for them. The World Championship will always be top dog but this is a very close second.”
Robertson, who beat Barry Hawkins in the final last year, said: “I was proud of myself to get four frames. I made a real push to try to make a 147 at 5-3, that would have been amazing. I was physically absolutely exhausted, destroyed. I was ill over the Christmas and New Year period and haven’t recovered. It’s really disappointing because at the UK Championship I had a really bad cold, so that’s two big events which have been heavily impacted. There’s nothing I can do about it because my daughter brings home viruses from nursery. I was only able to practise for 45 minutes for a couple of days before today.”
It was obvious from the start that Neil Robertson wasn’t well. He wasn’t well during the 2022 UK Championship either. His explanation is that his daughter brings viruses back from the nursery. I have been there, it’s true that kids do bring viruses home but is it explanation enough for him to be affected that badly? I’m not sure. It seems to me that his immune system isn’t responding as strongly as it should. This is one of the adverse effects of unduly long periods of lockdown IMO. Our bodies only build immunity by being exposed to “the enemy”. Lockdowns and masks were needed at the start of the pandemics to “contain” a very dangerous virus until it was better “understood” and treatments and vaccines became available, but not after that stage was reached.
Hossein Vafaei’s Cazoo Masters debut turned out to be one of the best nights of his career as he scored two centuries in a tremendous 6-2 victory over Mark Selby.
A week ago, Vafaei was not expecting to play in snooker’s biggest invitation event, but when Zhao Xintong was suspended he was next in line, and got the call up to join the field at Alexandra Palace. The first Iranian to play in the tournament, he grasped the opportunity with a superb performance to comfortably beat one of the all-time greats.
The past year has seen world number 19 Vafaei make giant leaps forward in his career; he won the Shoot Out in January, made his Crucible debut in April and has now won a match in front of nearly 2,000 fans at this famous venue. Next, the 28-year-old will face either John Higgins or Jack Lisowski in the quarter-finals on Thursday evening.
Selby won the English Open before Christmas but this is a blow to his return to form and a result which extends his poor recent record at the Masters – the three-time champion has not reached the semi-finals since 2014. The world number two has lost his last his three meetings against Vafaei, including defeats at the UK Championship in 2021 and 2022.
The opening four frames tonight were shared, Vafaei making the bigger breaks with 52 and 107. In frame five, Vafaei came to a tough table with seven of the 12 reds close to cushions, but fashioned a magnificent 99, one of the best breaks of the season so far.
The sixth came down to the last two reds and Vafaei, leading 58-31, got the better of a tactical exchange and added the points he needed to lead 4-2. Selby looked set to pulled one back until he ran out of position at 48-8 in the seventh, and he then made a safety error which handed Vafaei the chance to make an excellent 65 clearance.
A missed long red from Selby early in frame eight proved his last opportunity as Vafaei closed out the contest with a 104.
“When I got to Alexandra Palace yesterday I was buzzing,” said Vafaei. “I had dreamed about playing here many times. There is so much history behind this event and if you want to be a good player you have to show yourself in front of the London fans. It was amazing, when I play at a venue like this, my best comes out. If you get involved with the fans, they will love you. I was sitting in my chair and people were asking me in between frames to take a picture with me! I got lots of positive energy from them so I had to give something back.
“If I didn’t believe I could win this tournament, I wouldn’t be here. I think I belong here, the way I played and I felt comfortable. I don’t want the tournament to finish in the next round, I want to stay as long as I can.
“I tried my best to make my people proud. This is what I can do for them, I just want to be with my people.”
Selby said: “Up until 2-2 I felt I was the better player. At 3-2 down I missed a red, and after that little things went against me. A couple of times I went into the pack and didn’t land on anything. When Hossein got his chances he took them well.”
This didn’t come as a surprise to me at all. In my preview, I had mentioned that Hossein had beaten Mark the last two times they had played, both times in big events – the 2021 and 2022 UK Championships – and both times in “best of eleven” matches. Make that three now. Hossein is clearly a “big occasion player” and Mark is not back to his best either.
WPBSA Chairman, Jason Ferguson, was interviewed by the ES team, ahead of the event. Of course it was about the “elephant in the room”, the match fixing ongoing investigation. ES shared the interview on their YouTube channel:
Obviously, Jason can’t reveal too much until the inquiry is over. Maybe the most interesting part of this interview is his statement about the “timing”: we should know much more by the end of this month.
Yesterday also saw the conclusion of the sixth and last Q-Tour event of the season. Martin O’Donnell beat Ross Muir in the final yesterday evening, and, as a result, earned the 2 years tour card, starting next season.
Martin O’Donnell has defeated Ross Muir 5-1 to win the sixth and final event of the 2022/23 WPBSA Q Tour. The victory means that O’Donnell will finish top of this season’s Q Tour Rankings and will return to the World Snooker Tour from the start of next season.
A professional from 2012-2014 and 2015-2022, O’Donnell has enjoyed an impressive campaign on the WPBSA Q Tour, highlighted by victory at Event 2 in Brighton which helped him to sixth position in the rankings prior to the final event.
In the final he faced Scotland’s Ross Muir – top of the rankings since his victory at the very first event back in September – who was also competing in his second final this term and was looking to regain his professional status for the first time since 2019.
It was O’Donnell who made the perfect start with a total clearance of 142, followed by breaks of 54 and 50 on his way to a 4-0 lead at the mid-session interval. Muir claimed the first upon the resumption of play to keep his hopes alive, but it was ultimately England’s O’Donnell who would claim a tense sixth following a safety battle on the final red to ensure that his absence from the main tour would be limited to only a single season.
“It is really nice,” said O’Donnell shortly after the final. “It has been a lot of hard work since I dropped off the tour and it’s nice that it has paid off so quickly and I have finished at the top of the Q Tour this season.
“The standard [on Q Tour] is really high, that surprised me actually. I dropped off and I came to these and there are a lot of good players. A lot of good players that I hadn’t seen before and it’s hard. With the best of fives, it’s granite on the Saturday and you can lose at any moment, so you can’t get carried away.
“I took a bit of time out after I dropped off and wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. I didn’t want to give up. I ended up changing my cue which has given me a new lease of life and I have also got my head down and tried to think a lot more positively and not really worry about consequences – which I did when I was on tour.
“I got caught up and worried about stuff, but you drop off tour and life goes on. You don’t realise it sometimes when you are on tour, I’ve got two kids, beautiful fiancé, good people around me and they pick you up and reassure you that you can do it. We all believe that I should be playing snooker and luckily now I have got my tour card back and hopefully I can kick on.
“I need to improve myself every day, keep a good routine and keep doing the right things and just enjoy it. When you do all the right things you go to tournaments and you do enjoy it because you know that you are so prepared so it takes away a lot of the anxiety.”
The manner of O’Donnell’s triumph was all the more impressive as the former Shoot Out semi-finalist had previously missed out on competing in the penultimate event of the season due to illness, which saw him lose ground to some of the players around him. He revealed after the final, however, that this gave him added motivation heading into the decisive competition in Leeds this weekend.
“I missed the last one through sickness,” added the 36-year-old. ” It was the first competition that I have ever missed through being sick, but once I got better and then I checked what happened in that event, to be honest I was quite delighted that it was still in my own hands. I knew that if I could meet Ross [Muir] in the final and beat him, that I could still qualify, so I just thought ‘get my head down, come here and give every ball 200%’ and see where it would take me.
“I am super proud with the way that I have dealt with my emotions this week. In the past, missing that last tournament from being in a good position would have affected me. But I used it this time to motivate me and just say ‘it’s in my hands, go there and leave it all on the table and if it doesn’t happen there is still the playoff’ and thankfully it has paid dividends.”
O’Donnell was one of 13 players who came into the final event in contention to claim the automatic tour card, but there were just three remaining on the final day with Billy Castle also still in range of top spot.
The trio each won their quarter-finals to progress to the last four, but it would be Muir who would account for Castle following a dramatic deciding-frame in their semi-final, while O’Donnell edged fellow former professional Steve Hallworth 4-2 to reach the title match.
The highest ranked 16 players who did not qualify, will at least have the consolation of having earned a place at the Q Tour Playoffs later this season, with a chance to earn the second World Snooker Tour card available through the Q Tour. Simon Bedford entered the final day needing to win the tournament to oust 17th placed Peter Devlin, but he too would fall to O’Donnell at the quarter-final stage.
The 2023 WPBSA Q Tour Playoffs will be held from 4-5 March 2023 at the Q House Snooker Academy in Darlington and the draw will be published in due course.
Congratulations Martin O’Donnell
Commiserations to Ross Muir who had been the best over the series.
The 2023 Masters starts tomorrow, but there is plenty of snooker played today also …
The sixth and last of the 2022/23 Q-Tour is well underway. There is no streaming but you can follow the scores here and on snooker.org. The player on top of the Q-Tour order of merit at the end of this event will get a 2 years tour card starting next season.
The qualifiers for the 2023 6-reds World Championship are also underway. There have been a lot of withdrawals and the draw has been updated accordingly.
Six Red World Championship Qualifiers – Updated Draw
The following players have withdrawn from the upcoming Six Red World Championship qualifiers and their respective opponents have received byes:
David Gilbert * Lewis Ullah Chen Zifan Zhang Jiankang Stephen Hendry Alfie Burden Andy Hicks Brian Ochoiski
As a result of a withdrawal from the 16 players already invited to the final stages in Thailand, Ricky Walden* as now earned an invite due to his ranking at the end of last season’s World Championship. Walden has been withdrawn from the qualifying event.
Former Scottish Open semi-finalist Wells has enjoyed three previous spells on the main tour, having most recently fallen off in 2021 and has enjoyed a strong first half of the current campaign as he bids to regain his professional status next season.
Victory for the Welshman takes him up to third place in the latest provisional Q Tour Rankings with just one final event to be played in Leeds in January. He had previously reached the quarter-finals of both events two and three, before going all the way in Landywood.
Having entered the tournament at the last 64 stage, Wells defeated Brian Ochoiski (3-1), Mark Lloyd (3-0) and George Pragnell (3-0) to qualify for the final Sunday. He recovered from losing the opening frame in the quarter-finals to defeat Haydon Pinhey 4-1, before coming through a dramatic semi-final against Michael Georgiou from which he came back from 0-3 down to come through a 4-3 winner.
Awaiting him in the title match was England’s Sydney Wilson, who was previously without a win on the Q Tour this season, having spent the past six months recovering from a serious shoulder injury sustained in a car accident in June.
Wilson survived an opening-round decider against Joe Fenton, before overcoming Alex Taubman, Josh Thomond, Peter Devlin and Liam Davies – who made the event high break of 134 against Stan Moody on Saturday – to book his place in the final.
With the title and the crucial 2,500 ranking points on the line, it was Wells who made the faster start with breaks of 105, 83 and 72 carrying the 34-year-old to a 3-1 lead, with a second frame contribution of 59 by Wilson enough to get him on the scoreboard.
The following two frames were shared as Wells moved to within one of glory and he would make no mistake as a final frame run of 98 sealed a maiden Q Tour title. Victory takes him to within just 75 points of leader Ross Muir in the race to finish top of the Q Tour Rankings and end his two-year exile from the World Snooker Tour.
For beaten finalist Wilson, he also climbs up the list to 16th position and into contention for a place at the Q Tour playoff in March, where a second professional tour card will be contested by 16 players.
The crucial final event of the regular Q Tour season will take place at the Northern Snooker Centre from 6-8 January 2023.
The Belgian snooker community is in mourning. Patrick Delsemme, one of Belgium’s leading players, was found dead this morning in Casablanca, Morocco. Patrick had travelled to Casablanca to participate in an amateur tournament. Yesterday evening, he had been unwell, suffering from an asthma attack but seemed to have recovered from it.
It was Stephane Ochoiski (father of Brian) who found him dead this morning. He was only 48.
Patrick was well loved and respected in the Belgian snooker community. He will be sadly missed by all.
He was an extremely talented player. In 1991, he was runner-up to Ronnie at the IBSF under-21 Amateur Snooker World Championship. The next year he was runner-up again, this time losing to Robin Hull. Patrick was a professional snooker player for seven years in the 90th early noughties.
My heart goes out to his family and friends in these difficult moments
Fly high Patrick … and teach those angels how the beautiful game of snooker is played 💔