The 2021 Gibraltar Open – Day 1

The Gibraltar OPen is not the most lucrative tournament in the calendar, but because he’s one of the very last before the World Championship qualifiers, it is mightily important for many players, the lowest ranked ones in particular.

Here is WST report on what happened yesterday:

Trump In Control Of Series

Defending champion Judd Trump recorded a comfortable 4-1 win over Robbie Williams on day one of the BetVictor Gibraltar Open.

Trump lifted the title in 2020, with a 4-3 win over Kyren Wilson in the final. By winning the event 12 months ago, he secured last year’s BetVictor European Series bonus, which is awarded to the player who accumulates the most prize money across all of the eligible tournaments.

World number one Trump is in pole position to scoop this year’s bumper £150,000 payout, having already won the BetVictor German Masters. Only BetVictor European Masters winner Mark Selby and BetVictor Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown can catch him in this week’s concluding event.

The Ace in the Pack fired in breaks of 74, 54 and 80 on his way to this evening’s victory. He’ll face either Sunny Akani or Haydon Pinhey in round two.

Trump said: “There have been a wide spread of winners in the series this year. There are three people that can still win it, so I had no choice but to enter.

“I saw that myself and Mark Selby are in the same half of the draw. It puts it in my hands if I can get that far. It would be nice if we could get through and meet each other in the semis.

“You can’t pick what tournaments you are going to win, so you have to be super consistent and keep winning throughout the season. I won the German Masters again this year and it is the biggest prize money of the series. I was decent in the other events and put myself in control. I think Mark will be a little bit disappointed not to be in the driving seat.”

Shaun Murphy secured his place in the second round after battling back to beat Ashley Hugill 4-2.

Triple Crown winner Murphy had trailed world number 117 Hugill 2-0. However, breaks of 56, 60 and 140 helped him to reel off four frames on the bounce and emerge the 4-2 victor.

Chinese teenager Si Jiahui stunned compatriot and Asian number one Ding Junhui 4-2, making contributions of 99, 63 and 58 in an impressive display.

Welshman Jamie Clarke booked his place in round two with a fine 4-1 win over Masters champion Yan Bingtao, while Joe Perry defeated Mark Davis 4-2.

What happens to Judd Trump, and who will take the bonus, will be the last thing on the mind of those players who are fighting for their Tour survival.

In that respect there were some important results yesterday.

Alexander Ursenbacher beat Yuan Sijun. Yuan Sijun is currently ranked 63rd but losing yesterday means that he will be down to 65th after this tournament. Strangely, the beneficiary of this is Mei Xiwen who is now provisionally ranked 64th, despite not playing at all this season. That won’t last though.

Zhou Yuelong beat Xu Si. Xu Si is currently second in that group of eight “out of the top 64, but redeemed via the one year list”. He’s 5000 points ahead of Jackson Page who is 8th in that list. However all other players in that list are still in this tournament, and most of them are still in the WST Pro Series. Xu Si is out of both.

Si Jiahui has a lot to do, but beating Ding yesterday was an important first step in the context of his tour survival. Si played really well at the start of the match, despite being involved in an incident with the referee. Indeed, Si arrived in the arena without a bow tie and looked quite nonplusssed when told that he needed one. The referee sent him backstage – after the first frame – to get one, with some “strong words”, but, thankfully, didn’t dock him a frame. This still caused some disruption of course. When Ding started to come back at him, it was obvious that Si was under a lot of pressure and very anxious. He managed to get over the line though. Well done to him.

Jamie Clarke is in the first year of a two years tour card, so no danger for him, but he played some excellent stuff in beating Yan Bingtao.

 

The 2021 Gibraltar Open – Ronnie and John Higgins withdraw

Higgins-Ronnie-Meeting

I haven’t seen a WST statement yet, but going by the draw on their site, Ronnie and John Higgins have withdrawn and are replaced by John Astley and Hamim Hussain respectively.

It’s understandable, and both are safe for the 2021 Tour Championship.

John would probably find it difficult to be up for this best-of-seven from start to finish tournament, and Ronnie, I think, was showing signs of stress and fatigue. As Clive Everton often stated it does nothing good for him to “overplay”, and after yesterday’s defeat, he probably needs to step back and regroup.

The 2021 Players Championship – John Higgins is the Champion

John Higgins won the 31st title of his carrer yesterday beating Ronnie by 10-3 in the Final. It has been an extraordinary week for John, who only lost four frames over the whole tournament, three of them to Ronnie yesterday. To his own assessment he has played the best snooker of his entire career to win this tournament.

Congratulations John Higgins!

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Here are the scores:

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That’s simply pretty impressive.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon Session

Higgins In Charge Of Final

Higgins-Ronnie-PlayersChamps2021FinalHandshakeJohn Higgins built a 6-2 lead over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first session of the Cazoo Players Championship final, and needs just four more frames to win his first ranking title in three years.

A battle between two of snooker’s all-time greats has been dominated so far by Higgins, who has lost just three of the 27 frames he has played so far this week in Milton Keynes. However, in the last frame of the session, O’Sullivan showed a glimpse of his genius with the highest break of the tournament so far, to raise his hopes of a fight back in the concluding chapter which starts at 7pm. First to ten frames will take the £125,000 top prize.

Higgins is aiming for his 31st ranking title and first since the 2018 Welsh Open. The 45-year-old Scot, competing in his 51st ranking final, has played some of the best snooker of his career this week, notably in a 6-0 defeat of Mark Selby in the quarter-finals.

O’Sullivan is playing his 57th ranking final, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record. The 45-year-old from Essex is seeking his first title since becoming World Champion for a sixth time last August. He has lost three ranking finals already this season, including a shock 9-8 reverse against Jordan Brown in the BetVictor Welsh Open a week ago.

PlayersChamps2021ROSFinal-1O’Sullivan won this title in 2018 and 2019

These two legends both turned pro in 1992 and have met on 64 previous occasions, O’Sullivan winning 35 of those. The Englishman has won ten of their previous 17 finals, though they have not met in the final of a ranking event since the 2005 Grand Prix, when Higgins came out on top 9-2.

O’Sullivan will be second in the world rankings regardless of the result, while Higgins will move up from sixth to fifth if he lands the title.

Four-time World Champion Higgins got the better of a fragmented opening frame today, then won the second with a break of 92. A missed long red from O’Sullivan in frame three let Higgins in for a run of 68 for 3-0.

It was spell-binding stuff from the Wizard of Wishaw in the the next two frames as total clearances of 142 and 138 put him 5-0 ahead and brought his tally of centuries for the week to seven. He had a scoring chance in frame six but made just 26 before running out of position, and this time O’Sullivan punished him as a long red set up a break of 82 to get one on the board.

Frame seven lasted 35 minutes and came down to the colours. O’Sullivan went for a risky double on the yellow to a baulk corner and was fortunate to leave it safe. He later potted the yellow but then attempted a do-or-die thin cut on the green to the same pocket and this time left it hanging over the jaws. Higgins cleared to the pink for 6-1.

In the last of the session, a long red set O’Sullivan up for a marvellous 144, eclipsing Barry Hawkins’ target of 143 for the £10,000 high break prize. The Rocket might need more of the same if he is to take eight of the last 11 frames tonight.

WST shared Ronnie’s 144 on their youtube channel

Evening Session

Wonderful Higgins Thrashes O’Sullivan

Playing the best snooker of his 29-year career, John Higgins hammered Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-3 in the final of the Cazoo Players Championship to win his first ranking title in three years.

Remarkably, Higgins won the tournament for the loss of just four frames, having beaten Jordan Brown 6-0, Mark Selby 6-0 and Kyren Wilson 6-1 in his first three matches in Milton Keynes.

The final between two giants of the baize, who have clashed on the table 65 times in a rivalry spanning three decades, turned out to be a one-sided affair as Higgins made three centuries and five more breaks over 50 as he romped to the £125,000 top prize and captured his 31st ranking title.

A change to his technique, moving the cue tip closer to the white ball at address, has worked wonders for Higgins in recent weeks. The Scot was runner-up to Yan Bingtao at the Masters and has gone one better this week to land his first ranking crown since the 2018 Welsh Open. At the age of 45 and having been a pro since 1992, he insists he has never struck the ball more cleanly and with such control and confidence.

The result lifts him one place to fifth in the world rankings, and crucially boosts him from tenth to fourth on the one-year list and guarantees his place at the Cazoo Tour Championship at the end of March. He also earns a spot at the Champion of Champions later in the year. No doubt Higgins will already have one eye on the Crucible in the Spring; in this week’s form he will be a mighty force.

PlayersChamps2021ROSFinal-2O’Sullivan made breaks of 82, 144 and 110 in the three frames he won

O’Sullivan misses out on a 38th ranking title and third Players Championship crown. He has now lost four finals since conquering the Crucible for a sixth time last August. He was beaten by Judd Trump at the Northern Ireland Open, Mark Selby at the Scottish Open, Jordan Brown at the BetVictor Welsh Open and now Higgins. In truth, no opponent could have lived with Higgins this week, so strong was he in every department.

Leading 6-2 after the first session, Higgins took the first frame tonight with a break 51, initiated by a tricky thin cut on a red to a baulk corner. O’Sullivan hit back with a break of 110, the fourth century of the match, but didn’t score a point in the next two frames as Higgins made 70 and 77 to lead 9-3 at the interval.

Fittingly, Higgins wrapped up the match in frame 13 with another century, a superb 127.

It’s the best week of my snooker career,” said Higgins, who has now won 30 of his 65 matches with O’Sullivan, and triumphed in eight of their 18 finals. “I have won bigger tournaments, but in terms of the way I have played and felt the whole week, it’s my best ever. I’m delighted.

I was in the zone tonight, I would have loved to play more frames. I was enjoying it, especially against an opponent like Ronnie.  In the first session he went for a lot of balls, and that put me off a bit. He obviously fancied it, the way he was playing. To lead 6-2 was brilliant, and I played well again tonight.

It’s easy to get into bad habits in this game and I don’t have a coach. I am just glad I have rectified the technique issue I had, and I will stick with the change I have made. To win a big tournament like this guarantees me the chance to keep competing against the top players for at least the next couple of years.

“Before Christmas, people wouldn’t have seen me as one of the favourites for the World Championship. I’ve got a chance now.”

O’Sullivan said: “I knew I would have to play very well today against John but in the end I got peppered by him, just as everyone else has this week. It’s great to see him back playing well, it’s good for snooker and I’m happy for him. What he has done on the table this week, you don’t see that very often. Hopefully the next time I get to a final it will be my day.”

Now where do I start about this match?

Probably with this admission: I expected this to happen as those who did read yesterday’s post will know. I know that when John really plays at his very best, he will beat Ronnie more often than not – something Stephen Hendry said on twitter as well yesterday – and this week he had been playing the best snooker I have ever seen from him. I knew that Ronnie would be coming into this match without much confidence: he has played John often enough to know that he can’t compete with him in the tactical department when John is at his very best, and he had seen what John had done to Mark Selby, restricting hin to only 3 balls and 7 points over the whole match.

The commentators – Ken Doherty in particular – criticised Ronnie for lacking patience. I’m not sure that’s the correct assessment of what Ronnie did, to no avail, in the first part of the match. That why I have put that bit of John’s quotes in blue. Those two know each other inside out, and psychology is very important in snooker. There are almost always underlying mindgames in the course of a snooker match. I believe that Ronnie, knowing that he wouldn’t beat John in this form at his own game, tried to derail him a bit, hoping that, maybe, his concentration and focus would drop a notch. It did not work and he found himself 5-0 down, an almost hopeless position against such a formidable opponent.

That’s now four defeats in four finals for Ronnie. It’s bound to hurt, although Ronnie, speaking to Eurosport looks detrmined to stay positive and continue to try his best.

PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP 2021 – ‘YOU JUST WAIT FOR AN EARLY NIGHT’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON JOHN HIGGINS

Higgins called O’Sullivan “the best ever” during his victory speech at the Players Championship, while O’Sullivan admitted he had put pressure on himself after seeing the flawless Scot charge into the final with some exceptional displays. O’Sullivan, who has lost all four finals he has played in 2020-21, added that he “can’t be too disappointed” with his recent results.

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Ronnie O’Sullivan | Players Championship
Image credit: Eurosport

Ronnie O’Sullivan called John Higgins’ display in the Players Championship final a “masterclass” after being outplayed in Sunday’s showdown.
The Rocket was brilliant on his few extended visits at the table – including breaks of 144 and 110 – but came up against an inspired opponent as he went down 10-3.

John was strong. I knew I had to play well today and maybe I put a little bit of pressure on myself, thinking I had to play as well as I could to have a chance,” O’Sullivan told ITV.
Once you don’t punish John and he’s playing as well as he is, then you do a lot of sitting in your chair.
There’s not a lot you can do sometimes when someone is as good as John and he’s tying you up in knots and making 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s. You just have to sit it out and wait for an early night.

Higgins’ run to a first trophy in three years included a memorable quarter-final win over Mark Selby, where he restricted the three-time world champion to just seven points.
Meanwhile, O’Sullivan has tasted defeat in all four finals he has reached this season.
All you can do is do your best. If your best is just good enough to get you to finals then you have to accept that,” said O’Sullivan, who also finished runner-up at the Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open and Welsh Open.
Then hopefully one week I’ll get it right on the final day and hopefully get a trophy. But you can’t be too disappointed. There are 126 players that would probably swap positions with me at the moment so you’ve got to try and take some positives from it.
“John was unbelievable this week, fantastic, played brilliant snooker. A masterclass today.

And the bad news is that, as things stand, he’s bound to face John again in the first round of the Tour Championship next month. Not a happy propspect …

The 2021 Players Championship – Day 6

There was just one match yesterday: the semi-final between John Higgins and Kyren Wilson. John Higgins won it by 6-1. Here is the report by WST:

Magnificent Higgins Sets Up O’Sullivan Final

John Higgins kept his sensational form going at the Cazoo Players Championship as he beat Kyren Wilson 6-1 to set up a final with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Higgins came so close to becoming the first player ever to reach the final of a ranking event (other than the Shoot Out) without conceding a frame. Having whitewashed Jordan Brown and Mark Selby 6-0 in his first two matches this week, he led 5-0 tonight, only for Wilson to get one on the board. But missing out on that record will not bother Higgins as he looks ahead to a potentially epic clash with O’Sullivan, with both players at the top of their game.

First to ten frames on Sunday takes the trophy and £125,000 top prize. Scotland’s 45-year-old Higgins is chasing his 31st career ranking title and first since the 2018 Welsh Open. Not since he beat O’Sullivan 9-2 at the 2005 Grand Prix have the pair met in the final of a ranking event. However, including invitation events they have met in a total of 17 finals, O’Sullivan winning ten of those.

Higgins admits he is playing some of the best snooker of his 29-year career, having made a change to his technique, bringing the cue tip closerto the white ball at address. He was runner-up to Yan Bingtao at the Betfred Masters last month and will be determined to go one better this time.

A fragmented opening frame tonight went his way and he took the second with a break of 108. In frame three, Higgins had eyes on a 147 and potted 11 reds with blacks before missing a mid-range 12th red to a top corner on 88.

Wilson went for an ambitious long blue early in frame four, but missed his target and was punished again as world number six Higgins made 70 for 4-0. Kettering’s Wilson looked in control of frame five after a run of 65. But Higgins, 50 points down, converted a superb pot on a red to a centre pocket to set up a 51 clearance.

World number five Wilson at least had the consolation of becoming the first player this week to take a frame off Higgins thanks to his break of 102 in frame six. But his hopes were ended by a run of 74 from Higgins in the seventh.

“I won a massive frame to go 5-0, because if Kyren gets firing he can get on a roll,” said Higgins, who has made five centuries and ten more breaks over 50 this week. “He’s up there with the best players in the world so I’m over the moon to beat him 6-1.

I have moved my tip closer to the cue ball when I address it. One of my friends told me they had seen Ronnie and Stephen Hendry talking about it on Instagram, saying my tip was a long way from the cue ball. I looked back at recent footage and they were right, then I looked at footage of when I was younger, and I was a lot closer to the white. It must have crept into my game over the years like a bad habit. That has given me something to work on and now I have corrected it and I’m trying to repeat the same thing on every shot.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s final, Higgins added: “I have always said Ronnie is the best ever, in my eyes. I grew up playing him, and he’s still winning the big events, challenging Selby, Robertson and Trump. The likes of me and Mark Williams are in the tier below, trying to nick a title here and there.

I will be honest: I don’t entertain any hopes of a Ronnie win today. Asked who will win today, Stephen Hendry on twitter answered “Higgins” and added that he usually does when he is on top form. Unfortunately, I have to agree. Ronnie’s game suits Higgins, as he knows that he will get chances, not many of them if Ronnie plays well, but, when himself is at his best just one is usually enough. Higgins’ game doesn’t suit Ronnie as Higgins leaving a good chance only comes once in a blue moon. Therefore Ronnie will have to take risks and go for difficult pots. There is no way he can beat Higgins playing defensively. Mind you, Mark Selby, probably the strongest defender in the game, got restricted to 3 balls and seven points. I just hope that Ronnie can make a fight of it, that he isn’t destroyed the way Jordan Brown, Mark Selby and Kyren Wilson have been. That John Higgins has lost just one frame so far in this event is a scary thought! And here is more bad news: if Higgins wins tonight, the two are currently set to meet in the first round of the 2021 Tour Champinship. Aargh!

I have put Higgins’ quotes in bold. The first part is particularly interesting. John Higgins and Ronnie, at 45, are still constantly looking for ways to improve. After nearly 30 years as pros, they are still students of the game, they are still putting work into bettering their own technique, into finding new ways to improve their reliability at the table. This is admirable and something a lot of younger players could learn from.

Neil Robertson will certainly not disagree with this last sentence. He has been speaking to Phil Haigh about his views on the younger players:

Neil Robertson: I agree with Ronnie O’Sullivan, young players don’t work hard enough

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Neil Robertson feels Ronnie O’Sullivan was right to criticise young players (Picture: Getty Images)

Neil Robertson feels young players in snooker, specifically in the UK, need to work much harder at the game and has backed Ronnie O’Sullivan in trying to cajole them into action.

Robertson is referring to O’Sullivan’s comments from the World Championship last year when the Rocket said he would have to ‘lose an arm and a leg’ to fall out of the world’s top 50, so bad are the players emerging in the game.

Unsurprisingly these comments ruffled feathers but there have been positives to emerge from Ronnie’s scathing assessment of his competitors.

Jordan Brown came from nowhere to win the Welsh Open last week as a 750/1 shot, beating Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and then O’Sullivan in the final.

The Northern Irishman began that event ranked #81 in the world and said that O’Sullivan’s comments had riled him up and spurred him on to victory in Newport.

Ronnie, despite tasting defeat at Celtic Manor, was pleased that his words had made an impact on Brown and Robertson has echoed the sentiments of the world champion.

The Australian believes there is much more work to be done by the young players in the game and if the senior players need to deliver some home truths then so be it.

Ronnie made comments about not producing or not reaching the standard that they should be…and by the way Ronnie would be so happy for people like Jordan, Jordan said those comments fired him up to practice more and work harder, that will make Ronnie really happy,’ Robertson said at this week’s Players Championship.

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Ronnie O’Sullivan congratulated Jordan Brown after a 9-8 loss to the Northern Irishman (Picture: Zheng Zhai)

I’m in the same boat as Ronnie where I don’t think the players lower down the rankings are practicing hard enough, especially the younger ones from the UK.

A lot of tournaments they’re sort of partying, not putting in the hard work, all the time on Instagram checking their followers. You can’t be a top sportsman and do all that stuff, you have to put in the hard work.

‘Either that would have upset a lot of low-ranked players, they’d have gone into their shell and thought, “oh Ronnie’s saying all this” or they could go, “you know what, he’s right, I can work harder so I’m going to work harder.”

Ronnie wants to see all the lower-ranked players reach their potential as players, so what he did was good, I felt.

We wouldn’t have had the Jordan Brown story if Ronnie hadn’t said what he said, I’m almost convinced of that. Jordan was someone who maybe…I don’t like the tag, but a journeyman tag, I suppose, but he’s changed it.

‘He’s worked harder, got a coach, practiced with Mark Allen and what you’re going to get now is a lot more lower-ranked guys believing they can beat top players.

‘I’m really happy for Jordan, he’s so nice. Hopefully we can start seeing more of the younger players coming through from the UK.’

Robertson made a similar statement at the Masters in January when he was beaten by Yan Bingtao, who went on to win the event.

The Thunder from Down Under feels that the Chinese sensation, who turned 21 this month, is a perfect example for young UK players and how they should go about developing their careers.

‘Yan is 20 years old but seems to have the experience of someone who’s 40,’ Robertson said in January.

Yan Bingtao
Yan Bingtao claimed the Masters title in January (Picture WST)

‘I can’t praise him highly enough. He’s got all the attributes, the hunger, the determination to try to win these events and that’s really good to see from a young player.

You see a lot of them are on social media non-stop, they care more about how they look coming out of swimming pool than what they do on a snooker table. So you’ve got to credit the guys who want to make things happen in their career.’

Robertson added this week: ‘Yan Bingtao works harder than anyone at the game, absolutely 100% and there you go, he won the Masters.’

Ronnie and Neil know each other very well, they are friends. Neil wouldn’t say this if he wasn’t 100% convinced about it. He’s one of the nicest person you could want to meet; there is no nastiness in him or in what he says there. Both him and Ronnie care for the future of their sport. “Diplomacy” has never been Ronnie’s strong point. He says things as he sees them, and often in a colourful fashion as well. But, more often than not, there is truth in what he says. A lot of fans should think twice before getting up in arms about “being disrespectful”. Telling the truth is never disrespectful and accepting the truth is  usually useful as it’s the first step towards changing what needs changing.

 

 

 

The 2021 Players Championship – Day 5

None of the poster boys – the top three players in the one year list – are still in the tournament. Actually none of them reached the semi-finals. Indeed, yesterday afternoon, Mark Selby was beaten by John Higgins in one of the most extraordinary matches I’ve watched since I follow this sport, and that’ s about 16 years.

Just read the report by WST:

Higgins Hands Selby Record Defeat

John Higgins described his performance as the best of his career as he beat Mark Selby 6-0 in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo Players Championship.

Selby scored just seven points in the match – the lowest ever tally in a best-of-11 frame professional contest. The former world number one potted just three balls as he lost 6-0 for the first time since the 2015 UK Championship, and suffered his first ever whitewash against Higgins in a ranking event.

In fact Selby made no more than a handful of mistakes, but was demolished by one of snooker’s all-time greats at the peak of his powers. Higgins has been a pro for 29 years and won 30 ranking events including four world titles, but admits he has never been happier with his game.

The 45-year-old Scot is yet to conceded a frame in Milton Keynes this week, having beaten Jordan Brown 6-0 in first round. His next opponent is Kyren Wilson on Saturday evening.

Higgins hasn’t captured a ranking title since the 2018 Welsh Open but is now just two wins away from ending that drought and taking the £125,000 top prize. Today’s result is also crucial to his hopes of qualifying for next month’s Cazoo Tour Championship as he now moves into the top eight of the one-year ranking list.

Breaks of 60, 70 and 63 gave Higgins the first three frames today as his opponent failed to scored a point. Selby had a rare scoring chance in frame four but potted just a red and blue before running out of position, and Higgins took it for 4-0.

The interval changed nothing as Higgins compiled a run of 100 to extend his lead. Selby potted the first red of frame six but didn’t finish on a colour, and Higgins won it with breaks of 49 and 60. The Wizard of Wishaw finished the match with a  97% pot success rate and a points aggregate of 546-7 in his favour.

“It’s the best I have ever played or ever felt,” said Higgins. “Doing it against someone like Mark is incredible. I have felt good about my game since the turn of the year. I lost to Yan Bingtao in the Masters final, then I had Covid and missed the German Masters, but I played well at the Welsh Open so I came here in good spirits.

“It would mean a lot to win the event but it means more to me that I’m hitting the ball well and feeling confident. Over the last couple of years I have been scratching about at some tournaments, not sure where my next win was coming from. Now I’m putting myself in positions to win and hopefully it will open up for me.

“I’ve got the utmost respect for Kyren Wilson in terms of the way he plays the game and goes about his career. He reminds of me of Mark Selby because he gives everything to the game and wants to keep on learning. He’s going to be around for years winning titles. I wish I was young like that, it would be brilliant to be involved at that age with so many big events now. Obviously I’m at the end of my career just hanging on.”

Selby said: “I’ve never had a match where I I had so few chances. John froze me out from start to finish, he played an incredible match.”

That’s scary news for the rest of the tour…

Ronnie who was waiting to play his semi-final match in the evening, was watching and here is what he thought about it:

PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP 2021: ‘IT WAS EVIL, THE TOUGHEST EVER’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON JOHN HIGGINS WIN

Ronnie O’Sullivan hit back from trailing 3-0 to complete a 6-4 win over Barry Hawkins in the Players Championship semi-finals, but the six-times defending world champion was still reflecting on the “granite” display of John Higgins to whitewash Mark Selby 6-0 earlier. O’Sullivan believes Higgins produced the “toughest” snooker he has ever witnessed to secure a semi-final meeting with Kyren Wilson.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has heaped praise on John Higgins for his “incredible” 6-0 whitewash of Mark Selby in the Players Championship quarter-finals on Friday.

I watched it. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t watch it in the end. It was granite. It was evil, evil,” said O’Sullivan after completing a 6-4 win over Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals from 3-0 behind.

JOHN JUST SHOWED WHAT A CLASS PLAYER HE IS BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY SELBY IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS AT WINNING THOSE TYPES OF MATCHES.

But Higgins, you could see it was almost like he didn’t want it to end. It was ridiculous snooker really.

THAT’S PROBABLY THE TOUGHEST MATCH SNOOKER I’VE SEEN IN MY LIFE. IT WAS BORDERING ON OBSCENELY TOUGH.

Why would you want to be that tough? It was incredible snooker. It’s not easy to play. It’s okay playing defensive snooker, but you have to play it well.
“John and Selby play it better than anybody so if you can play it well, you play it.

For me, it’s a waste of time trying to play that stuff because I do a lot of hard work 80 percent of the time, but then mess it up with one shot. They are very astute around that stuff. It was a real purist’s game of snooker.

If he starts doing that to me, I’m going to be sitting in that chair quite a lot.

Needless to say, should he face John Higgins tomorrow, he will be hoping that his opponent level goes down a notch … or two. It’s entirely possible as, when players get older, it’s not so much their asbility that declines, it’s the consistency that goes. We have seen it with Ronnie and Mark Williams and even with John Higgins this season.

Ronnie had been sublime in beating Jack Lisoski in the quarter-finals, but he struggled badly en route to his win over Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals. All about that match here

The 2021 Players Championship – Ronnie beats Barry Hawkins to reach his 57th Final.

After his spellbinding performance against Jack Lisowski in the quarter-finals, Ronnie was always going to struggle to replicate the same standard. He was actually well below par at the start of the match, and, although he improved mid-match, he was never close to the perfection he had shown against Jack. What he DID show though was remarkable determination and will to win despite the struggles, the misses and the the frustration.

Here are the scores:

PlayersChamps2021ROSSF-Scores

Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Beats Hawkins To Equal Record

Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 3-0 down to beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 at the Cazoo Players Championship and reach a record-equalling 57th ranking event final.

Hawkins has now lost 18 of his 25 ranking event semi-finals

After the effortlessness of last night’s win over Jack Lisowski, this time O’Sullivan was given a much tougher examination, but came out on top to set up a clash on Sunday with John Higgins or Kyren Wilson. Only Stephen Hendry has appeared in as many ranking finals.

O’Sullivan has won 37 of his previous 56, but has lost three in a row this season. He was beaten by Judd Trump at the Northern Ireland Open, Mark Selby at the Scottish Open, and surprisingly by Jordan Brown at the BetVictor Welsh Open five days ago. The 45-year-old has bounced back quickly from that setback and has another opportunity to capture his first silverware since landing his sixth World Championship crown last August.

Both players missed chances in the opening frame tonight and Hawkins won it on the colours, then he made breaks of 109 and 87 to extend his lead. Frame four came down to a safety battle with two reds remaining, and O’Sullivan trapped his opponent in a tough snooker, then scored the points he needed from the chance that followed to gain a foothold in the match at 3-1.

After the interval, O’Sullivan found a scoring groove, winning four frames in 48 minutes with 83, 75, 90 and 79. Hawkins took frame nine with an 81 to draw within one at 5-4.

In frame ten, O’Sullivan led 32-24 when he missed a red to a top corner. Hawkins replied with 38 then was unlucky not to finish on a red when he cannoned a cluster of three near the baulk cushion. A tactical exchange ended with a botched safety from Hawkins, letting O’Sullivan in to clear with 42 for victory.

It was a tough match, I wasn’t at the races early on,” said world number two O’Sullivan, who won this event in 2018 and 2019. “I had to find a way of getting back into the match and after the interval I managed to play better.

“In the last frame I was getting tight, I knew I would miss something. Barry was looking good for 5-5, but he was unlucky when he cannoned the reds.

Earlier today O’Sullivan watched a masterclass from John Higgins, beating Mark Selby 6-0, and the Essex cueman knows it will be a formidable task if he faces Higgins in the final.

It was ridiculous, I couldn’t watch in the end. It was so granite, it was evil,” said O’Sullivan in admiration. “John showed what a class player he is because Selby is one of the best in the business at those type of matches. It was the toughest matchplay I’ve ever seen, it was bordering on the obscene.

“How can you be that tough? It’s not easy to play defensive snooker that well. John and Mark are better at it than anyone. It’s a waste of time for me to try because I can do it for 80% of the time, then mess up with one shot. But those guys are very astute, it was real purists’ stuff. If I play John in the final and he does that to me, I’ll be sitting in my chair a lot.

And here is the report by Eurosport:

PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP 2021: ‘IT WAS HORRENDOUS’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN BEATS ‘TWITCHES’ TO REACH FINAl </h2<

Ronnie O’Sullivan held his nerve amid the torment of the dreaded “twitches” to reach the Players Championship final with a 6-4 win over Barry Hawkins having trailed 3-0 in their semi-final in Milton Keynes. The world champion will face John Higgins or Kyren Wilson in the final on Sunday with a £125,000 top prize on the line as he chases his first ranking event victory of the campaign. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan overcame Barry Hawkins and a bout of the “twitches” to complete a 6-4 win in the Players Championship semi-finals at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

Less than 24 hours after he produced a majestic display in a 6-1 drubbing of Jack Lisowski in a quarter-final lasting only 78 minutes, O’Sullivan was forced to scrap his way to victory against Hawkins having looked all at sea in falling 3-0 behind to the man he defeated in the 2013 world final.

I was waiting around all day. It felt like forever and I thought I was going to play useless tonight,” said O’Sullivan, who will meet John Higgins or Kyren Wilson in Sunday’s final.

YOU HAVE ALL THOSE THOUGHTS GOING AROUND YOUR HEAD.

“If you start struggling, you feel like you have wasted a day. It was a struggle at the start.

“I had some chances. Barry played well, every credit to him, but I just had to hang in there.

EVEN TOWARDS THE END, I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO MISS SOMETHING. I WAS GETTING REALLY TIGHT IN THE END AND TWITCHING. IT WAS HORRENDOUS, THE TWITCHES.

It’d be great to win on Sunday. I’m pleased I’ve got a day off. I don’t know if the nine-mile run had an effect, but I’m not going to stop. It’s the best thing in my life at the moment,” he added.

I was twitching there at the end and Barry should have had me. I got lucky there.

Hawkins, who completed a 6-2 win over 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham in the last eight, edged an error-strewn opening frame before breaks of 109 and 87 saw him gallop 3-0 clear of the world number two.

O’Sullivan stemmed the tide by winning the fourth frame and further timely knocks of 83, 75, 90 and 79 saw him reel of four straight frames for a 5-3 advantage.

An 81 by Hawkins extended the match to a tenth and penultimate frame with the world number 18 narrowly failing to gain position on the final three reds in baulk.

It proved a pivotal error as a safety mistake moments later saw O’Sullivan return to the table to clear up and pinch the frame and final spot by only four points on the black.

Barry is a class act, and plays a great game. He’s a fantastic player. I just had to grind it out to stay in there,” said the 37-times ranking event winner, who lost 9-8 to Jordan Brown in the Welsh Open final last Sunday.
“The continuous tournament keeps going.”

O’Sullivan could face old rival Higgins for the first time in a ranking event final since the 2005 Grand Prix with the four-times world champion dismissing Mark Selby 6-0 in the final quarter-final on Friday.

Higgins faces Kyren Wilson in the second semi-final on Sunday evening.

I don’t want to be having wars and tough matches,” said O’Sullivan, who has equalled Stephen Hendry’s record of appearing in 57 ranking event finals.

I want to go out and play half decent. I was watching Selby and Higgins today, and I struggle to watch that because that’s not the way I want to play snooker.

I HAVEN’T GOT THE STAMINA OR THE ENERGY TO WANT TO TOUGH THEM GAMES OUT. IT FELT A LITTLE BIT LIKE THAT TONIGHT AND THIS IS WHAT MATCH SNOOKER IS. IT IS HARD. YOU WANT TO GO OUT AND ENJOY YOURSELF WITH THE RESULT BECOMING SECONDARY.

Why am I putting myself through the grind? I was feeling it. It’s tough.

Ronnie has never been the best at dealing with hanging around for hours waiting for his match to start. That won’t happen on Sunday. However, whoever he faces, it will be though.

He’s into his fourth final this season, but still waiting for a title. He has an opportunity to put that right tomorrow, but it will not be easy, no matter who wins tonight: both Kyren and John look in ominous form.

Here is the post-match with WST:

There also share this short video, showing Ronnie’s exemplary pack split

The 2021 Players Championship – Day 4

Two matches were played yesterday in Milton Keynes.

The afternoon match was the second of the quarter-finals. Kyren Wilson impressed in beating Neil Robertson by 6-2.

Here is the report by WST:

Wilson Makes Semi Breakthrough

After losing seven consecutive quarter-finals matches this season, Kyren Wilson broke that sequence in fine style with a 6-2 win over Neil Robertson at the Cazoo Players Championship.

Wilson already has one title to his name this season having won the BetVictor Championship League, but given his consistency he feels he could have landed more silverware. He has now broken that quarter-final stumbling block and will go into his next match with John Higgins or Mark Selby on Saturday night brimming with confidence, after a superb display against Robertson.

World number five Wilson made two centuries and three more breaks over 50 as he beat Robertson for the second time in four attempts.

Kettering’s Wilson took the opening frame with a break of 130, then Robertson had the chance to clear from 54-26 down in frame two, but wobbled the final black in the jaws of a top corner. Wilson clipped in the black for 2-0 and added the next in two scoring visits.

Wilson might have gone 4-0 ahead had he not missed a short-range green along the baulk cushion late in frame four. World number three Robertson got one on the board then appeared to have the momentum as he fired a 101 to close to 3-2. But Wilson proved the stronger player in the closing stages as he made 95 and 126 to stretch his lead to 5-2.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

In frame eight he potted ten reds with blacks, and though the 147 attempt ended when the 11th red stayed out of a centre pocket, he had done enough to book a semi-final spot.

“I was really strong today, my scoring was good, I was aggressive form the start and took the game to Neil,” said 29-year-old Wilson. “When he starts stomping around the table and gets his wonderful cue action working, he is hard to stop. I had to regroup at 3-2. I took on a risky red in the sixth frame, potted it and made 95, that was the key moment for me. I’m just a bit disappointed not to make the maximum in last frame.

“It’s hard to break runs like losing all those quarter-finals. I have played the top three or four players in the world in most of those matches and just come up short. I have just kept believing and doing the right things.

“I’m still motivated on the end goal which is to win the Players Championship. For the next two days I’ll be on the practice table. Everyone at this event is very sharp. Mark Selby or John Higgins will be a very tough opponent, I can see their game going 6-5 either way.”

Australia’s Robertson, who has won just one match since landing the Betway UK Championship title in December, said: “There were a few shots which rattled and stayed in the jaws like the black in the second frame, I hit it well but it stayed out. There were other long reds which rattled and didn’t go in. I felt just as good in the balls as I did in my first match. But Kyren played a brilliant match and if he carries on like that he can win the title. He’s got the belief and desire, he’s not scared of anyone.”

Kyren has often been criticised by pundits and commentators over his (lack of) cue ball control, considered to be the weakest aspect of his game. Yesterday, however, there were only praises as he was as good as anyone in this respect. This was a truly impressive win by Kyren yesterday and, if he can sustain that level, he will be a handful for anyone.

In the evening, Ronnie beat Jack Lisowski by 6-1 in the third quarter-final. It only lasted 79 minutes…