Players Championship 2019 – Wins for Ronnie and Mark Allen on day 1.

Yesterday evening saw the start of the Players Championship in Preston. The number one seed, Mark Allen and the Defending Champion, Ronnie, were in action and both came out the winners.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Ronnie O’Sullivan battled to a 6-4 win over Barry Hawkins in the first round of the Coral Players Championship in Preston.

Defending champion O’Sullivan is through to the quarter-finals at the Guild Hall and will face Mark Selby or John Higgins on Friday afternoon (tickets still available – click here for details).

O’Sullivan may have been on top on the table, but he went Down Under for a post match interview, putting on his best Australian accent. “It was a very tough match and he made me work hard for it,” he said. “I’m just so pleased to get through in the end. It was a tough match against a tough opponent.”

World number three O’Sullivan started superbly with a break of 106, the 995th century of his career. Runs of 80 and 51 put him 3-0 ahead before Hawkins pulled one back with a 104.

After the interval, O’Sullivan made a 74 to go 4-1 up then shared the next two to lead 5-2. Hawkins battled back strongly with 65 and 110 to close to 5-4. But O’Sullivan, chasing his fourth title of the season, closed out victory in frame ten with a run of 64.

Mark Allen, the number one seed for this tournament as he tops the one-year rankings, eased into the quarter-finals with a 6-2 win over Stephen Maguire.

Breaks of 67 and 61 helped put Allen 5-0 ahead. Maguire pulled two back with 63 and 77 before Northern Irishman Allen settled the result with a 66 in frame eight.

“Playing Stephen is not very nice because he’s one of my best mates,” said Allen, winner of two ranking titles this season. “It’s good to get the win and move on. I was patchy, I made breaks at crucial times. There are plenty of positives to take though Stephen wasn’t at his best.

“I’m not quite where I want to be with my game. I didn’t play in India or the Shoot Out and I’m not going to play in Gibraltar so I’ve got time to prepare for the big tournaments. Something I have struggled with in recent years is finding the balance in terms of which tournaments to play in. Last year I was struggling to stay in the top 16 so I had to play in everything. Now I can pick and choose more but that brings its own pressure because you’re missing tournaments that others are playing in.”

Allen now meets Stuart Bingham or David Gilbert on Thursday evening. He added: “They are two of the in form players who have got to finals this season. They are both probably playing snooker than I am but I have belief in my ability.”

Here is the coverage of Ronnie’s match:

And Ronnie’s Ozzie interview with the sponsor … who, going by their reaction on twitter found it hilarious! The vowed that Ronnie would never change!

It wasn’t an easy match for Ronnie who got a bit frustrated as splits wouldn’t work and balls ran awkward. There was also a lengthy replacement of the balls after he failed to escape from a snooker. The referee was Terry Camilleri and it’s not the first time that Ronnie isn’t happy with Terry’s relative slow going when replacing balls.

Overall it was a good match though. There were nine breaks over 50 in the ten frames they played. Ronnie had one century, Barry had two and still lost. Ronnie isn’t really match sharp just yet, but he’s through and with the opportunity to improve and go further.

I can’t comment on the other match as I didn’t see anything of it.

This is what we have today

Players Championship 2019 - Day 2 schedule

Judd Trump has possibly the easiest first round match of the whole lot. I expect him to win easily. Neil Robertson should go through as well. Mark Williams v Ali Carter is harder to call. Willo hasn’t played great and Ali will be motivated as he needs the points if he wants to avoid to have to qualify for the Crucible. Kyren Wilson seems to have a dip in form and Jack Lisowski is unpredictable. So no predictions from me on that one!

Matthew Selt wins his maiden title in India

Congratulations to Matthew Selt the 2019 Indian Open Champion.

Matthew Selt beat Lyu Haotian by 5-3, to win his first ranking title, after 17 years of professional career in snooker. Both were competing in their first full ranking final, although Matthew had been finalist at the 2015 Lisbon Open, a minor ranking event.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Matthew Selt won the first ranking title of his career, 17 years after turning professional, by beating Lyu Haotian 5-3 in the final of the Indian Open in Kochi.

Romford’s 33-year-old Selt had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event. But he won seven matches this time, notably knocking out defending champion John Higgins in the semis, before coming from 3-2 down in the final to take the last three frames against China’s Lyu. The £50,000 prize is by far the biggest pay-day of Selt’s career.

Ranked 51st in the world, he is the second player from outside the top 50 to win a ranking title within a week. Thepchaiya Un-Nooh was 53rd when he captured the Shoot Out crown last Sunday. Selt’s victory sees him leap 16 places to 35th and he may have earned a spot in the Champion of Champions event in November.

The Essex cueman first turned pro in 2002 and was tipped for the top by mentor Robbo Brazier, a member of Steve Davis’s inner circle during the 1980s. He was relegated in 2005 before returning to the tour in 2007. Selt admits himself that his dedication to snooker has fluctuated over the years as he struggled to fulfil his talent.

In recent seasons he has shown more consistency with the help of coaches Chris Henry and Steve Feeney as well as friend Stephen Hendry. Becoming a father for the first time last year may have matured him on and off the table.  Still, this week’s success comes out of the blue for a player who has reached the last 16 of just one other ranking event this season; the Yushan World Open in August.

Lyu, age 21, had hoped to become the only Chinese player to land a ranking title other than Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo. Since winning the Asian Under-21 title in 2017 he has climbed the rankings rapidly and the £25,000 runner-up prize brings him to 32nd in the world. The gifted cueman will surely be lifting a trophy before long.

Selt won a tight opening frame by clearing from yellow to pink then went 2-0 up with a break of 84. Lyu fought back to 2-2 with runs of 115 and 56. After the interval, Lyu took the lead with a break of 66 then Selt restored parity with a superb 102.

Both players had chances in the seventh frame but Selt crucially took it with another yellow to pink clearance to edge 4-3 ahead. And a run of 72 in the next proved enough for the title.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Selt. “I still feel quite calm and relaxed but I’m really proud of what I have achieved. I went to bed last night thinking I could be going home with the trophy, and now it’s a dream come true to win such a prestigious event. I felt calm all week and I don’t know why.

“Going into the final, neither of us had been in that situation before, so it could have been a nervy, scrappy match. But I don’t feel I can play much better than that. In the balls I was clinical, and in the last frame I had a chance to win it and took it. It was a really enjoyable final.”

Asked about Hendry’s influence, Selt said: “It’s nice to have him there. No one was more used to winning than him. I haven’t spoken to him that much this week but little words here and there help me out. I’m known for being quite loud and outgoing but I feel very humble now because deep down I wasn’t sure I’d ever win a title. I can’t wait to get back and see what he says to me.

“I got to number 19 in the world a few years ago and then went down to 64th. It has been frustrating to see other players do what I wanted to do. There’s always a reason why it’s not happening. I made some drastic changes, I moved back to Essex (from Nuneaton) so I could be around better players. Working with both Chris Henry and Steve Feeney has been a big help. And a few weeks ago I spoke to (fellow pro) Peter Lines who always gives me good advice.  I changed something drastically in my technique which is helping me under pressure.

“I would love to win my next title with my son Parker in the crowd. At least I can go home now, give him the trophy and pay his nursery fees!”

Earlier in the semi-finals, Selt beat Higgins 4-2 with top breaks of 103 and 84, while Lyu came from 2-0 down to beat Anthony Hamilton 4-2 with a top run of 86.

The tournament was played over five days. John Higgins was the defending champion; he reached the semi finals. You will find all the detailed results on snooker.org.

I can’t comment on matches as I saw next to nothing of the action.

The tournament didn’t attract many top players and two of them, Neil Robertson and Mark Allen withdrew. Hamza Akbar from Pakistan was denied a visa and was a “no show”.  Of course that was to be expected given the difficult political situation between India and Pakistan but it’s a shame because as a sportsperson all Akbar wanted was to play, which he does for a living, and he’s unlikely to be involved in any way in such political conflict.

Zhou Yuelong made a 147 in his first round match against Lyu Haotian, but lost the match by 4-3. Unfortunately it happened on table 4, and until now, no footage of that maximum has emerged.

David Gilbert lost in round 1 whilst Stuart Bingham reached round 3. This means that Stuart is now ranked 8 in the one year list whilst David is now n°9. So, as it stands, Stuart is now “in” the mix for Llandudno and David is “out” of it. BUT the difference in points is small, only 1000 points. They play each other in the first round of the Players Championship, and should David win that match, he would immediately regain his “top 8 spot” at the expense of Stuart.

Finally, there were, once again, suggestions that an Asian player was not competing honestly. This time is was Zhang Yong from China. Those suggestions pop up regularly on twitter usually from the same group of people who are involved in betting. Zhang was playing Craig Steadman, and based on former results and experience, Steadman would be expected to win, and he did, by 4-3. Nevertheless it was suggested that Zhang somehow lost on purpose. This time however the club where Zhang practices, the Q House in Darlington, reacted firmly and demanded that apologies were presented to Zhang, on social media AND in a letter directly addressed to him. WPBSA Chairman, Jason Ferguson, also took on twitter to state that the match had been competed with perfect honesty by both players who had given it their best. Apologies were duly presented. I’m glad that this finally happened. The Q House is the practice base for several professionals: Mike Dunn, who is the head coach, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Xiao Guodong, Yun Sijun, Zhang Yong and Eden Sharav.

 

 

Race to Llandudno – how things stand

Worldsnooker has today published this:

The field for the Coral Players Championship is now set, with the top 16 on the one-year ranking list going through to the Guild Hall in Preston next week (March 4 to 10). Click here for the draw and match schedule.

The final event of the 2019 Coral Series is the new Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno (March 19 to 24) with a line up of only eight players in North Wales. There are three counting events still to go before the cut off falls: this week’s Indian Open, next week’s Coral Players Championship and then the Gibraltar Open (March 15-17).

No one outside the top 16 of the one-year list can make it to Llandudno; even if 17th-placed Martin O’Donnell won the top prizes in India (£50,000) and Gibraltar (£25,000) that would still not be enough to put him into the top eight. However those currently ninth to 16th who have made it to Preston can still qualify for Llandudno, with a top prize of £125,000 up for grabs at the Guild Hall.

David Gilbert is clinging on to eighth place with £170,000  but Stuart Bingham continued to gain ground with a run to the quarter-finals of last week’s BetVictor Shoot Out and he’s now just £3,000 behind. Both players are in India this week looking for a deep run to improve their position. Then Bingham and Gilbert go head to head in Preston next Wednesday, and that match could be an important moment in the race to Llandudno.

There are three players – Ali Carter, Joe Perry and Jimmy Robertson – who are inside the top 16 of the one-year list and outside the top 16 of the official two-year list. Gilbert is the only player inside the top eight of the one-year list and outside the top eight of the two year list. John Higgins is officially fourth in the world but lies 13th on the one-year list, £59,000 behind Gilbert.

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh win his first ranking title at the BetVictor Shoot Out, and his £32,000 pay day sees him jump 12 places on the two-year list to 41st. Michael Holt was runner-up and climbs from 46th to 40th. Tour rookie Jamie Clarke reached the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time and he’s up nine spots to 116th.

There are five counting events to go in the Race to the Crucible and 16th-placed Gilbert now has a buffer of £23,000 over 17th-placed Ryan Day.

With £50000 for the winner in India, and only £25000 in Gibraltar, it’s obvious that the results in the Players Championship will be key to the qualification for the Tour Championship. Except for Jack Lisowski and Stuart Bingham, all the others need to win the title unless they can have a deep run in India and/or Gilbraltar.

Ali Carter, Barry Hawkins and Stephen Maguire are not in India. Mathematically Ali and Barry could still qualify for Llandudno by being runner-up in both Gilbraltar and Preston, but only if David Gilbert, Jack Lisowski and Stuart Bingham have a relatively poor run in all India and Preston and Gibraltar. Otherwise they will need the title in Preston. Maguire didn’t enter Gibraltar so he needs the title in Preston to stand any chance.

Worldsnooker has just published the draw for Gibraltar. 

Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Ronnie, John Higgins, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire all giving it a miss.

Players Championship 2019 line-up confirmed.

Worldsnooker have published this today:

The field of 16 top snooker stars has now been confirmed for the Coral Players Championship in Preston, which runs from March 4 to 10.

Only the leading 16 players from the one-year ranking listhave qualified for the £380,000 world ranking event at the iconic Guild Hall. The ITV-televised tournament is the second of three events in the 2019 Coral Snooker Series.

Top stars in action in Preston will include Coral World Grand Prix champion Judd Trump, five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, world number one Mark Selby, World Champion Mark Williams, four-time Crucible king John Higgins, Mark Allen, Neil Robertson and many more.

The first round matches are below (seedings in brackets):

The first round matches are below (seedings in brackets):

Mark Allen (1) v  Stephen Maguire (16): Monday March 4 at 7pm
David Gilbert (8) v Stuart Bingham (9): Wednesday March 6 at 1pm
Ronnie O’Sullivan (5) v Barry Hawkins (12): Monday March 4 at 7pm
Mark Selby (4) v John Higgins (13): Wednesday March 6 at 1pm
Neil Robertson (3) v Joe Perry (14): Tuesday March 5 at 1pm
Mark Williams (6) v Ali Carter (11): Tuesday March 5 at 1pm
Kyren Wilson (7) v Jack Lisowski (10): Tuesday March 5 at 7pm
Judd Trump (2) v Jimmy Robertson (15): Tuesday March 5 at 7pm

Quarter-finals
QF1 Allen / Maguire v Gilbert / Bingham: Thursday March 7 at 7pm
QF2 O’Sullivan / Hawkins v Selby / Higgins: Friday March 8 at 1pm
QF3 Robertson / Perry v Williams / Carter: Thursday March 7 at 1pm
QF4 Wilson / Lisowski v Trump / Robertson: Wednesday March 6 at 7pm

Semi-finals
SF1: Saturday March 9 at 7pm
SF2: Friday March 8 at 7pm

The tournament starts at 7pm on Monday March 4, and concludes with the showpiece final on Sunday March 10.

A spokesman for World Snooker said: “It’s an incredibly strong field with the great names of modern snooker in the draw. And some of the first round matches would grace the final of any tournament, in fact Mark Selby and John Higgins met in the World Championship final two years ago!

“We are delighted to be heading back to the Preston Guild Hall, where major snooker tournaments have been staged since 1978. We know how much the fans in Lancashire love our sport, and the players know it is one of the best arenas on the circuit.

“This is an extremely prestigious event with an elite field. As well as battling for the title and top prize of £125,000, players are also competing to secure a place in the top eight on the one year ranking list and qualify for the third and final event in the Coral Snooker Series, the Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno (March 19-24).

“Judd Trump could be the man to beat having won the Coral World Grand Prix, if he can win the next two events he’ll complete the ‘Coral Slam’ and earn a massive £500,000. It is going to be a week of snooker of the highest quality in Preston, and we strongly urge fans to get tickets booked quickly because certain sessions will sell out.”

Ronnie’s draw is not particularly easy! But he looked happy and balanced in Watford. Barry Hawkins is never easy to beat, especially during the last part of the season, and it will be eiter Mark SElby or John Higgins next should Ronnie win. Fingers crossed.

Shoot Out 2019 – Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is your Champion

“Theppy” won his first ranking event  yesterday evening, playing exceptionally well at the Colosseum in Watford. As much as I disagree with the ranking status of the Shoot Out, I can’t help to feel happy for Thepchaiya. It’s never easy for the Asian players, who have to live away from their families, in an alien culture. He was overwhelmed with joy and emotion when receiving his first trophy, and he deserved it, he had been the best over the four days, but especially yesterday. The record-breaking 139 he made in the semi final is an extraordinary break. In the final, his opponent, Michael Holt didn’t have a telling shot. Theppy played a good safety, forced a mistake, and about 5 minutes later it was over! Michael Holt took it philosophically.

Here is the report on Worldsnnoker:

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, snooker’s fastest player, won his first ranking title by beating Michael Holt in the final of the BetVictor Shoot Out.

All results 

Bangkok’s 33-year-old Un-Nooh became the only Thai player other than James Wattana to win a ranking title with a stunning display of natural talent at Watford Colosseum. The world number 53 made the highest break in the eight-year history of the Shoot Out, 139, in the semi-finals to beat Jamie Clarke, then scored a quick-fire 74 in the final to earn the £32,000 top prize.

The tournament has a unique format with all matches lasting a maximum of ten minutes, with a shot clock of 15 seconds for the first five minutes and ten seconds for the last five. That suited Un-Nooh’s game as his average shot time of under 17 seconds is the fastest on the tour. He had never previously been beyond the last 16 of the event, but this time his game clicked.

Un-Nooh turned pro in 2009 and had never previously played in a ranking final. He won the invitational Six Red World Championship in 2015 in his native Thailand, but to join the circle of players to have won a ranking title is surely his proudest moment. He climbs 12 places to 41st in the world.

Holt, age 40 from Nottingham, was also seeking his first ranking title, having played in one final before. He made an excellent break of 56 to beat Michael White from 21-0 down in the semi-finals. But a loose safety shot early in the final gave his opponent a chance, and a few minutes later the match was over. World number 46 Holt earns £16,000.

Un-Nooh said: “I am so proud of myself. I have worked hard and have been looking to win this tournament. I told myself I could win this event many years ago. I haven’t been close before, but this format is perfect for me. I can easily play with ten or 15 seconds. That is normal for me.

“It has been a long time since James Wattana was the last player from Thailand to win a ranking title. I hope that this helps to make snooker more popular in Thailand. It would be good if this helps the Thai association to encourage more young players in the future.

“The 139 break was fantastic and very important in terms of my career. It was my best ever break. To do it in only six minutes was brilliant. I won’t be able to sleep tonight.”

Ronnie was in the studio most of the day …

Great coverage by Eurosport.

Ronnie really enjoyed the event as a pundit. He went on twitter saying this event is tha way forward and would definitely play next time. Hum… He did play in it years ago, made it to the SF in 2011, and didn’t really enjoy it that much. But then he wasn’t in a good place mentally at the time.

Shoot Out 2019 – Watford Day 2

Here is the report on Worldsnooker about yesterday in Watford

Ryan Davies, a talented 16-year-old wild card, grabbed his chance in the spotlight at the BetVictor Shoot Out by beating experienced pro Robbie Williams.

All results

Oldham potter Davies, the English under-18 champion , is through to the last 64 of the world ranking event in Watford, which has a unique format with all matches lasting a maximum of ten minutes.

A break of 21 gave him control, though Williams then had a chance to snatch victory in the last few seconds, but missed a tricky red when trailing 24-18.

Irish under-21 champion Stephen Bateman was another of the eight wild cards to book a second round place as he knocked out Mark Davis.

But former women’s world under-21 champion Emma Parker went out in the opening round, losing to India’s Laxman Rawat who made a break of 48.

Dominic Dale, who won this event in 2014, got the better of Yuan Sijun while Michael Holt made a break of 61 to beat Zhou Yuelong.

Former World Champion Stuart Bingham compiled a run of 55 to get the better of Matthew Stevens, while another former Crucible king also progressed as Graeme Dott knocked out Martin O’Donnell. That ended O’Donnell’s hopes of qualifying for the Players Championship – read more on that story here.

Shaun Murphy got the better of Mark King while Luca Brecel made a superb break of 74 to beat Farakh Ajaib. Martin Gould, Shoot Out king in 2013, made an even 100 as he beat Liam Highfield.

Tour rookie Kishani Hirani knocked out Yan Bingtao, with a scoreline of 55-54. Yan had a chance for victory in the closing seconds but missed a tough double on the yellow.

Amateur Peter Devlin beat Ross Muir 35-16, sparking a jubilant celebration from the charismatic Londoner and his small army of fans in the crowd. Barry Pinches was another amateur to make it to round two as he beat 2017 Shoot Out winner Anthony McGill.

Ronnie was behind the counter in the evening

Martin O’Donnell and Noppon Saengkham are now out of the race to the Players Championship. Zhao Xintong and Xiao Guodong still have a chance but must win the event.

I was recording the scores for snooker.org yesterday evening and I had to watch it. I must say that the crowd really got on my nerves. Maybe it’s because my hearing is so bad and that makes noise very tiring for me, but it was painful. I’m not sure if or how it would be possible to get the crowd involved without the whole thing turning into a drunken circus.

China Open 2019 Qualifiers

The qualifying round for the 2019 China Open were played over the last three days. Mark Selby is the defending Champion, as such he has his last 128 match held-over as do the World Champion Mark Williams, and China n°1, Ding Junhui.

Ronnie didn’t enter, and he’s the only top player who opted out. But it’s no real surprise.

Most of the top seeds will make the trip to Beijing. The only top 16 player who lost his first round match is Shaun Murphy, beaten 6-4 by Adam Stefanow. Shaun is really going through a very bad spell. Other surprising results include a whitewash of Martin Gould by Rod Lawler of all players, as well as defeats for Jimmy Robertson, Tom Ford, Matthew Stevens and Michael White. The latter is also having a nightmare season.

Those were the two most remarkable moments of these three days:

a serious candidate for “fluke of the year”

Hossein Vafaei 146

All results are on snooker.org

Today, the Shoot-out starts and although Ronnie isn’t playing, he will be there, with Andy Goldstein,  This is what he tweeted:

Don’t miss out on this weeks shoot out, I’ll be there chatting you through the whole shabang

It’s the first time this event is on Eurosport, and of course it’s part of Ronnie’s job to to promote it.

Ronnie was in Sheffield practising last week. I’m not sure if those videos were recorded then but here he is practising with Igor Figueiredo (published yesterday by Igor on youtube)

He also practised with Adam Stefanow … not sure Shaun Murphy is thrilled!