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Sunday, 7 December 2014

UK Championship Final Ronnie wins a thriller.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is the winner of the 2014 UK Championship,but only after surviving a late rally from Judd Trump which forced this all the way to a deciding frame for a breathtaking finish to the tournment

In a match that struggled early on to reach the heights standardwise we saw from these two in the final in Coventry last month,it was Ronnie who was proving to be the more clinical in taking his chances as he established an early 5-1 lead.Trump however managed to keep in touch,taking the last two of the afternoon session to make it 5-3.

Into the evening then and there was little sign of the drama that was to come as Ronnie took three of the first four frames to lead 8-4 and when that became 9-4 it looked only a matter of minutes until our champion was crowned.

That seemed to be what Judd was feeling as well,as he missed chance after chance in a scrappy 14th frame,on each occasion looking more resigned to his fate every time he returned to his seat.

Win the frame though he did and then something extraordinary happened.Judd started to find a fluency that had been lacking in his game and the breaks started to flow.Firstly a 120 break made it 9-6,and that was quickly followed by a 127 to make it 9-7 and an 86 to make it 9-8.

Ronnie had now failed to pot a ball for three frames and it must have made strange viewing for him to sit and watch someone doing to him what he has done to so many in the past.

By now he was just desperate for a chance and it was to come in the next,but with the match at his mercy,Ronnie failed to get position on a red & Judd cleared with a marvelous 67 to take us to a decider.

The match was now anybodies and after both had half decent scoring chances,the decisive moment came when Ronnie laid a tough snooker behind the green and Judd's escape presented him with the chance to fall over the line. He duly took it to win a memorable final 10-9.

This was Ronnies fifth UK title in a glittering career ,but rarely has he been put under the pressure he was here and when the dust settles he will look back with great satisfaction at how he held himself together to see it out.

As for Judd he will feel bitterly disappointed that after coming back so well, he could not finish the job.What we have seen though,over the last month particularly,is a Judd that is maturing and after a couple of seasons where his career had appeared to stall,he now seems to be going the right way again.If he keeps on this path the big titles are certain to follow.

As for Ronnie though,what more can we say? This fifth UK title,completed the set to stand alongside his five World & Masters titles. The fact that he has achieved it with a broken ankle that nearly forced him to withdraw last weekend is even more remarkable. These are special times to be a snooker fan and lets hope we have many more years left of watching this sporting genius ply his trade.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

UK Championship Semi Final round up.

Ronnie O'Sullivan will face off against Judd Trump for the 2014 UK Championship title tomorrow after both came through dramatic semi finals at the Barbican Centre in York today.

In York last year Stuart Bingham brought Ronnies hopes of lifting a fifth UK title to an end at the quarter final stage and for long periods today it looked as if history was going to repeat itself as Bingham put O'Sullivan under the most severe pressure.

It has been a feature of the week that Ronnie has not been getting off the the fast starts we are accustomed to and it was the case again here as Bingham quickly established a 2-0 lead,That really should have become 3-0 ,but Ronnie managed to clinch it to get off the mark.

Any disappointment Bingham may have felt though quickly evaporated as he took the next two with runs of 73 & 137 to lead 4-1.From here Ronnie needed something to start happening quickly and with a bit of help from Stuart perhaps seeing the finish line too early, he managed to eventually win frame six to make it 4-2.

This was not the "cueball on a string"Ronnie we are used to seeing,which only go to make the breaks of 68 & 67 he made to level the match up at 4-4 all the impressive.He also had the first chance in the next,but he pushed the boat out a little too far in going for a difficult shot to nothing and Bingham edged ahead again at 5-4.

Cometh the hour though cometh the man and Ronnie produced his best snooker of the match to knock in breaks of 117 & 94 and seal his place in the final with a hard fought 6-5 win.

In the other semi final it seemed as though Judd Trumps serene progress through the tournament was set to continue ,but boy was he made to sweat by Stephen Maguire,before falling over the line 6-4.

As I said,that scoreline looked highly unlikely as Trump took the first four frames to give him a 4-0 interval lead.Maguire got off the mark in the next ,but when Trump knocked in a 100 break in frame six he stood one away from a place in the final at 5-1.

Maguire won the next with a 67 and from here the tension really started to ratchet up. Trump started to miss a few of the balls and Maguire dug in to take the next two and close within one at 5-4.The tenth frame was one of those frames that gets people shouting at the screen as we eventually got to a battle on the green with the score tied at 45-45.The decisive moment came when Trump successfully  snookered Maguire on the green and in the failed attempt the white went in off.

From here Trump potted the balls he needed to book his place in his second UK final.

So what can we expect in the final? Well there is no doubt that purely on form during the tournament Judd would be the favourite,but such things go out the window when its Ronnie you are playing.It is often said too that if you are to have a chance of beating Ronnie you need to get off to a good start,but as we've seen this week that in itself is not enough,you also need to outbattle him.It will be fascinating to see how this one plays out in the opening session.

Of course these two met in the final of the Champion of Champions event last month with Ronnie coming out on top in one of the best finals we've seen in a long long time. If tomorrows clash proves to be as good we are in for a treat!

Friday, 5 December 2014

UK Championship Quarter Finals Round up.

It is often the case with a big tournament like this that you get  either close dramatic matches but not high quality snooker or super snooker snooker & little drama. This years UK Championship has proven to be an exception to these rules as it has had both drama and quality in droves.

The odds on favourite for the title here is still Ronnie O'Sullivan,but boy was he made to work today by the rising star of Scottish snooker Anthony McGill. 

For all the talk of his ankle injury and of course the brilliant maximum to finish the match last night,one thing that seems to have gone unnoticed is the fact that Ronnie has not been as quick out the gates here this week as he normally is and that was again the case here as McGill took the opening two frames to lead 2-0. That lead could really have been 3-0 but Ronnie dug in to make it 2-1 and produced a lovely break of 98 to make it 2-2 at the interval.A 125 from Ronnie when they resumed put him ahead for the first time at 3-2,but McGill won the next to level things again at 3-

The  next two frames were quite extraordinary with both going to the colours and both looking to be heading to McGill only for him to be stopped in his tracks by inexplicable misses on the yellow & green respectively,allowing Ronnie to pinch both and go within one of victory at 5-3.

It is then to his immense credit that McGill managed to produce his highest break of the match in the next,a 103 to close within one again at 5-4. Any thoughts though of this going to a decider were quenched in the next when Ronnie potted a remarkable red to the middle with the white tight on the black cushion and he knocked in a break of 97 to clinch his place in the semi final.

There he will face the man who beat him here in the quarter final last year Stuart Bingham after he completed a stunning comeback to beat Graeme Dott 6-5.This really was a match of two halves,with Dott,as he did against Robertson, flying out of the blocks to lead 4-1.

A close sixth went to Bingham to reduce his arrears to 4-2 and he followed that with a run of 108 to make it 4-3.Dott opened his two frame lead again to go 5-3,but from here Bingham produced his best snooker of the match to level at 5-5,before clinching the decider with another century,this time a run of 103.

Into the evening session and after his slog against Rod Lawler yesterday Judd Trump was in no mood to hang around,beating \Mark Davis 6-1 in around 90 minutes. This one could have been a lot closer had Davis made the most of some early chances but he didn't and Trump will be delighted with his nights work despite letting a good chance for a maximum slip in the last frame.

Trump has hardly had to break sweat this week to reach this stage,but you would be surprised if that was the case in his semi final clash with Stephen Maguire after the Scot finally saw off the challenge of Marco Fu to reach this stage.

Maguire started the better in this one enjoying a  3-1 lead to the interval,He extended that to 4-1 taking the next,but Fu has always been a dogged competitor and started to claw his way back,taking the next close within one at 4-3. Things were now getting tense,but Maguire did enough to take it to go 5-3.He had a chance to win the next,but the fluency he had shown earlier was starting to desert him now and Fu closed to 5-4.

This was by now turning into a real slog,but Maguire held his nerve to pot the balls he needed to go through 6-4. 

Two fascinating semi final encounters in store tomorrow then O'Sullivan v Bingham first up in the afternoon and Trump v Maguire tomorrow night. Lets hope for more drama & quaitiy.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

UK Championship Last 16 Round up.

A dramatic two days at the Barbican,which have seen the exit of the defending champion,the crowning of a new world number one,a possible changing of the guard in Scottish snooker & no shortage of exciting finishes,have  finally left us with eight men still in the running for this famous title.

The obvious place to start is with the dramatic defeat of our champion Neil Robertson at the hands of  Graeme Dott. Following the early defeat of Mark Selby & the exit of Ding the previous evening a win in this one would have meant a return to the top of the world rankings for Robertson,but any thoughts that this was going to be straight forward  for the Aussie were quickly put to bed as Dott flew out of the traps to take a 2-0 lead without Neil potting a ball.

He did manage to at least score in the next but it still went to Dott along with the next two to give the Scot an unbelievable 5-0 lead.We have already seen this week though how much having even a slightly longer format can change the narrative of a match and we saw it here again as Robertson started to fight back.Breaks of 72,100,59,106 & 79 amazingly saw him level things up at 5-5 taking us into a decider.Dott must have been wondering at this stage how it had come to this so it is to his credit that after Robertson had been a bit unlucky in not getting ideal position on a colour ,that Graeme held himself together enough to get over the line to win 6-5.

Next up for Dott is a clash with Stuart Bingham who had an unexpectedly easy afternoon against the recent International Championship winner Ricky Walden,with the Chesterman never getting out of the blocks allowing Stuart clinch a 6-0 win

In the battle of the Scots it was Anthony McGill who came through against his childhood hero John Higgins. Coming into this tournament the season had been one long struggle for Higgins,but here he had started to show some form and was quite impressive  in his victory over Matthew Stevens in the previous round.Sadly for him that was proving to be beyond him as McGill opened a 4-1 lead.

Higgins though as we know has deep reserves of determination and fought his way back,firstly to 4-3 and then to 5-5.A scrappy decider where both had their chances was eventually decided on the last red when Higgins overcut an attempted  pot to the yellow pocket and McGill knocked it in to clear for a famous victory.

McGills reward,if you can cal it that,is a last 8 clash with Ronnie O'Sullivan who lifted the roof off the Barbican with a magnificent 147 in the final frame of his 6-0 demolition of Matthew Selt.It has to be said that as has been the case in his previous matches Ronnie started slowly in this and a 4-0 interval lead probably flattered him,but boy did he turn it on when play resumed.

A maximum attempt in frame five ended with a mixed black on 89,but there was to be no mistake in the next as to the delight of  both the crowd and a fist pumping Ronnie he cleared the 15 red 15 blacks and the colours to record his 13th professional 147. To think this day last week he was nearly withdrawing because of his ankle injury,I think we can safely say now he is warming to the task.

In the other half of the draw another man who will be starting to fancy his chances of collecting a second UK title is Judd Trump.The Australian Open winner continued his progress here today with a  6-3 win over Rod Lawler.

The one thing anyone drawn against Rod knows is that they are going to be in for a long battle and perhaps it says a lot for Trumps growing maturity that he managed to keep his discipline when Rod got within one at 4-3 and closed out the match when the opportunities came.

He will now face Mark Davis,who brought the run of young James Cahill to an end with a solid 6-2 win.There was always a danger here for Cahill,after his heroics against Ding the night before,that this may be a case of "after the Lord Mayors show"and so it proved.but the 18 yr old has had a week to remember and no doubt we will be seeing plenty more of him on the games biggest stages.

The most recent tournament  winner at the start of the championship was Shaun Murphy after his PTC win in Germany.and he will be wondering tonight just how he's not still here with a chance of back to back titles after an extraordinary match with Marco Fu this afternoon.that finished with a dramatic deciding frame

In a match where Murphy was by far the heavier scorer,he looked set for victory when he took the eighth frame to lead 5-3. Fu though got the better of a marathon 58 minute ninth frame to make it 5-4 and then produced his highest break of the match a 67 to level it up at 5-5.

Into that decider then where Murphy was first in with 54,Fu countered before unluckily finding himself snookered on the final red by the black, A safety battle followed which was resolved when Fu double kissed the final red. Murphy just needed to clear to seal the win,but there was to be one final twist as he snookered himself on the yellow from the black & although he hit it,he left Fu on and he cleared to win the match on the black.

His opponent in the quarter final will be Stephen Maguire who brought the run of Irelands David Morris to an end with a solid 6-3 win.Maguire is another who has been struggling of late.but has shown some improvement  and took the early lead here going ahead 3-1.This was the biggest match of Morris's career to date and he battled back to level at 3-3. Maguire though wasn't for letting this slip and he won the next three to close out the match,

So there we have it.What a couple of days we've had Lets hope for more of same over the weekend though I'm not sure our hearts will stand it.

Heres the Quarter Final line up

1pm Graeme Dott v Stuart Bingham
1pm Anthony McGill v Ronnie o'Sullivan

7pm Judd Trump v Mark Davis
7pn Stephen Maguire v Marco Fu

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

UK Championship Last 32 round up.

A week into the UK Championship and we are now down to 16 men left in the running to become the 2014 champion.

Here again are the main talking points.

  • Only one place to start with this really and that is the defeat of Ding Junhui who went out to 18 year old James Cahill.Many had expected an easy passage through for Ding here.but despite starting with a century he never again looked comfortable in the match as he fell 5-1 behind. To is credit he battled back hard to get within one at 5-4. An extraordinary tenth frame looked to be going to Cahill when he left Ding needing three snookers with one red left,but The Chinese got one snooker and a free ball to get back in it and after a tense safety battle he eventually cleared from green to force the decider. .
  • Into the decider and it was Ding who got in first only to miss on 32. Cahill now had his chance and he duly took it with some amazing pots to complete a famous victory.6-5.
  • He'll next face Mark Davis who edged out Joe Perry 6-5.  
  • The defending champion Neil Robertson has struggled a bit of late,but there were signs here that the Aussie is starting to find some again as he beat Peter Ebdon 6-2.Robertson next faces Graeme Dott who knocked in three centuries on the way to a 6-0 win over an out of sorts Robert Milkins
  • There were also signs today that Ronnie O'Sullivan is finding his feet in this tournament,in more ways then one,as he showed flashes of form in beating Ben Woollaston 6-2. It would appear his ankle injury is responding well to the physio he has been receiving and he certainly looked more comfortable moving around the table today.Other be warned!
  • Ronnie now faces Matt Selt who eventually got by Rory Mcleod 6-4.
  • Stephen Maguire played his best snooker in quite some time in beating Mark Williams 6-2 and will next face David Morris,who proved his win over Mark Selby was no flash in the pan,beating Davis Gilbert 6-2 to advance to the the last 16.
  • Another man in the doldrums of late has been John Higgins,but he too has started to find some much needed confidence and went through here with a 6-2 victory over Matthew Stevens.He'll next face Anthony McGill who came through a decider to beat Nigel Bond 6-5
  • Stuart Bingham survived a real test against Joel Walker,eventually coming through 6-5 and will next face Ricky Walden who by contrast had a much easier time in beating Ken Doherty 6-1.
  • Shaun Murphy held off a spirited fight back from Jack Lisowski to take the frame he needed to beat the youngster 6-4.He'll now face Marco Fu,in a replay of the 2008 final.
  • Three centuries help Judd Trump beat Fraser Patrick 6-3 and he next plays Rod Lawler who shocked Mark Allen with a 6-4 victory

Last 16 Order of Play.
1pm Anthony McGill v John Higgins
1pm Stuart Bingham v Ricky Walden

7pm James Cahill v Mark Davis
7pm Neil Robertson v Graeme Dott

1pm Judd Trump v Rod Lawler
1pm Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu.

7pm Matthew Selt v Ronnie O'Sulivan
7pmStephen Maguire v David Morris