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Sunday, 6 December 2015

UK Championship Final.Robertson the Champ.

Neil Robertson is the 2015 UK Champion after he completed a fine 10-5 victory over Liang Wenbo tonight in York.

Robertson has been in superb form all week and started today as an overwhelming favourite to claim a second UK title.Liang for his part was hoping that,with his Masters place now secure after his torturous semi final win,he could relax more into his natural game that had seen him reach the latter stages.

This afternoon then it was the Aussie who got off to the better start to lead 3-1 at the interval.Liang pulled one back to make it 3-2,before Robertson produced the moment of  the championship when he rolled in a flawless 147 break to send the Barbican into a frenzy.Robertson had been the opponent earlier in the week when Un-Nooh missed the final black,but he made no mistake as he rolled his in to secure the £44,000 bonus.Liang to his credit managed to stay in touch and finished the afternoon just the two behind at 5-3.

Into the night then and as so often the case when the winning line is within sight,both players started to make a few mistakes.The difference was Robertson could afford to,as try as Liang might,he just couldn't get that crucial frame to draw level. The session interval came with Robertson maintaining his two frame lead at 7-5.

On resumption things got even more nervy with Liang pulling off amazing shots only to miss far simpler ones and allowing Robertson,who was also now missing a few to eventually stretch away and claim to title 10-5.

This was Robertsons second time to claim the UK title and was a well deserved success for a player who in truth has looked like the winner in waiting since the last 16.

As for Liang ,the man who the phrase "heart on his sleeve" could have been invented,he has won a lot of friends here this week and maybe this run might just give him the confidence to finally move out of Dings shadow to become a regular feature in the latter stages of events.

For Neil Robertson this win,along with his success in the Champion of Champions will give him massive confidence going into the second half of the campaign.This really was more like the Robertson of a few years ago,before he started to get a bit bogged down around the table to the detriment of his natural game.Hopefully for him he can now keep it going.

 As for the championship itself.Well with the greatest respect to those who got to the latter stages I don't think this is a tournament that will live very long in the memory.Many will point to the openness of the competition here as evidence that the format changes of recent years are working,but I think it may point to an inconvenient truth that I will blog about about later in the week.

For now thoguh lets congratulate our champion Neil Robertson who will no doubt be looking forward trying to make it a hat trick of tv events in The Masters in January where the field will include the returning Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

UK Championship Semi Final Round up

Neil Robertson & Liang Wenbo  will battle it out tomorrow for the UK Championship title and the top prize of "150,000 after a day of contrasting semi final action.

First up this afternoon we had the most improbable semi final pairing we have perhaps ever seen as Liang Wenbo took on David Grace in the biggest match of both their careers.Unfortunately this seemed to wear heavily on their shoulders as they both struggled to settle.

Frame after frame went by in an error strewn session with Grace getting the better of the early exchanges to lead 3-1 a the interval.The next two were shared to make it 4-2 ,but,from here it was .Liang who found that bit extra to,firstly draw level at 4-4 and then to take the lead at 5-4. Vicrory was within touching distance for Liang in the next,but Grace has shown tremendous fighting spirit this week and dragged his way back into it.A decider was now very much on the cards,but in one final twist Grace missed the pink to the middle and his fairytale run came to an end when Liang potted the black to seal the 6-4 win.

This victory secured Liang a place in the Masters and you would hope that having now reached the final,he will feel a weight lifted allowing him to play his natural attacking game,because if it doesn't he will really struggle against a Neil Robertson who has been in superb form this week.

Robertson reached another UK final with a surprising 6-0 victory over Mark Selby.This was not Robertsons best performance of the week and indeed the scoreline could well have been a lot closer had Selby not committed some uncharacteristic errors at vital moments.

So into the final itself and to be honest,well and all as Liang has played at times this week,I don't see anything here other than a Robertson victory & a comfortable one at that.
Score prediction 10-4

Friday, 4 December 2015

UK Championship Quarter Finals Round up.

After the most thrilling day of the championship so far four men remain in the hunt to be the 2015 UK champion.

Arguably the best two performers this week have been Neil Robertson & John Higgins,so it was in many ways a pity that they had to meet at the last 8 stage,but this did however leave us with the possibility of a classic Friday afternoon encounter and for once we were not to be disappointed.

The scene was set for this one straight from the off as Higgins flew out of the block with a run of 119 to take the opening frame.This was deja vu for Robertson,who also lost the opening frame of his previous match to a century only to find his scoring boots and pull away.It looked as though the same thing was going to happen here as he took the next three to the interval with some more stylish break building.

This continued on their resumption as he extended his lead to 4-1. Things were now looking ominous for Higgins,but he hasn't done all he's done in the game by rolling over and back he came with runs of 69 & 134 to close to 4-3.Robertson claimed the next to move within one of victory,but back cam Higgins again,this time with breaks of 134 & 66 to force the decider this one deserved.

Into that decider then & it was a strange frame with Robertson missing more than he has in two days,but only ever leaving Higgins half chances.By the time Higgins knocked in a great long red Robertson had built a 55 point lead & when Higgins got a suspected kick on a green to the centre pocket it left it open for Robertson to seal the 6-5 win,which he duly did.

Robertson will now face Mark Selby in tomorrows semi final,after the world no.1 booked his place there with the minimum of fuss,beating Matt Selt. This was not Selby at his absolute best,but in truth it never needed to he ran out a comfortable 6-1 winner.

In the top half of the draw and one of the stories of recent times in the sport continues to build as David Graces fairytale run has now carried him into a first ranking semi final.

That looked long odds against for much of this evening as Martin Gould played some beautiful snooker to build a 5-1 lead,but then the unbelievable happened,Grace started to drag his way back into it and as we have seen at times over the years Goulds suspect chin began to give way.So back to 5-5 this one was to go to give us the most dramatic of deciders.

Grace got in first to build a 61 point lead,but a missed match ball red allowed Gould to counter.The pivotal moment was to come on the last red though when having had seven misses called the ref deemed Graces eighth attempt to be have been close enough to not warrant the ball been replaced. This was a big call from the ref and to Goulds credit he didn't question it.

Gould did get one more chance,but failed to chip the black into the centre pocket & Grace got the balls he needed to pull of the most extraordinary comeback.

In the semi finals he will play Liang Wenbo,brushed aside the controversial comments made by his opponent last night to reach the last four with a 6-5 win over his good friend Marco Fu.

In what can only be put down to the sourest of grapes Tom Ford was scathing in his criticism of Liang after last nights encounter & his branding of the Chinese player as "boring" was well and truly shown up for what it was as Liang flew out the traps today,taking a 3-0 lead with breaks of 106,132 & 138.This was a phenomenal standard and although Fu stopped the rot,he could do no better than share the next four to leave it 5-2.

Liang was now just one frame from a place in the semi final ,but having shown himself to be the king of the comeback this week,today he had to experience that from the other chair as Fu fought back to level at 5-5.

Another decider then and both players had their chances,but it was Liang who held his nerve the better to claim a 6-5 victory.

So what a day of action and it continues tomorrow with first up in the afternoon David Grace v Liang Wenbo & in the evening those two modern men of granite Neil Robertson & Mark Selby all battling it out for a place in Sundays final.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

UK Championship Q/F preview with round up of last 16 action

The 2015 UK Championship reaches the last 8 stage tomorrow and I think its fair to say if anyone predicted this line up at the start of the tournament then they possibly be burned for been a witch!

Here is a look forward to the Q/F's & also a look back at the last 16.

 David Grace v Martin Gould
Well what a fairytale week it has been for David Grace,the world no.81 has been making a name for himself recently for his work on the canvas with his fine portraits of his fellow professionals,but this week has stretched his artistry to the table.He reached his first major quarter final here with a hard fought 6-2 win over Peter Ebdon.It must be said Ebdons performance here was a shadow of the display he produced in beating Bingham in th last round,but even still he fought for every ball and Graces victory was well earned.

He will now play Martin Gould who just had too much for Joe Swail,getting the better of the Northern Irish man 6-3 in a match played in the best of spirits.

Well and all as Grace has done this week I think this one may be a match too far for him and expect Gould to reach the semi final without much bother.
Score prediction Gould 6-3

Liang Wenbo v Marco Fu
Marco Fu reached another UK quarter final beating Shaun Murphy 6-4 in a high quality match. These two have always been difficult to separate and so it proved here with the first six frames been shared for 3-3.Fu looked to have made the decisive move when he took the next two to lead 5-3.Murphy pulled back the next to make it 5-4 ,but Fu regained his composure to seasl the win in the next 6-4.

Perhaps some of the pressure Marco was feeling towards the end of that one was something to do with the fact that with the way the top half of the draw has opened up,he has a right chance to reach of making a final,but first he'll have to get past someone who is gaining a reputation as a comeback king here this week,Liang Wenbo.

It was perhaps lost in all the talk of Trumps collapse the other night just how well Liang played in getting back into it from 4-1 behind,but it certainly couldn't be ignored today as he played his best stuff of the match to come from 5-3 down to beat Tom Ford 6-5.

He will again prove a handful for Fu tomorrow,but you just feel Fu's greater experience will tell to see him through
score prediction Fu 6-4

Neil Robertson v John Higgins
Neil Robertson produced the performance of the championship so far with a simply awesome display of scoring,which included three centuries,in beating Stephen Maguire 6-1.This had looked on paper like it could be a real cracker and when Maguire opened with a 118 we looked set for a thrilling afternoon,but that was as good as it got for the Scot as Robertson steamrollered his way into the last eight.

There he will face John Higgins who came through a mid match slump to eventually see off Jamie Burnett 6-4.Higgins has been in fine form this season and looked to be heading comfortably for the quarters when he lead 4-1.From here though the wheels started to slightly come off as Burnett fought his way back to 4-4.Higgins was now starting to rock a bit,but showing once again just how close he is to his best form,he produced two trademark Higgins clearances to clinch the match.

This has the potential to be the match of the tournament and if both play to their best it undoubtedly will be.My feelings are,despite how well Robertson played today,that Higgins might just edge this one,I base this on nothing but a hunch but they can be right sometimes too!
Score prediction Higgins 6-4

Matt Selt v Mark Selby
Its funny how often we see someone who has just scraped through in their previous match suddenly, with the air of a reprieved man,find some formThats what seemed to happen yesterday as Mark Selby put his struggles against Jamie Jones behind him to produce some of his very best snooker to ease past Dechawat Poomjaeng 6-1.That said,its har not to have a little sympathy for Poomjaeng who only completed his extraordinary comeback from 5-0 down against Joyce around midnight & had to come in the afternoon session to play this one.That said though he would still have had to produce his very best to hold Selby here and exactly what Matt Selt will have to do if he is to live with the world no.1 tomorrow.

Selt had found himself trailing Luca Brecel 3-1 at their interval,but managed to take control of things from there,to frustrate the young Belgian,reeling off four in a row to lead 5-3. A superb clearance from the brown pulled one back for Luca to make it 5-4& he nearly stole an exciting tenth frame as well only for adrenalin to rob him prime position on the yellow.Forced to play with the rest,he missed it by miles to allow Selt the chance to seal the 6-4 victory.

To be honest I can't see anything here other than a comfortable Selby victory
Score prediction Selby 6-2

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

UK Championship Last 32 round up.

Two days of last 32 action in York have produced a mixed bag of one sided matches and close finishes and have thrown up some potentially intriguing last 16 encounters.

Here are the headlines,
  •  World champion Stuart Binghams woes this season continued as he crashed out 6-3 to the 2006 UK  champ Peter Ebdon,,Next up for Ebdon is Davis Grace who dug in to beat Jack Lisowski 6-4.
  • Mark Selby is still in with a chance of adding another UK crown to his cv,but he,like the rest of us,will be wondering after an extraordinary late night finish against Jamie Jones.This was a game Selby never looked like winning,but somehow managed to battle his way to 5-5 before bossing the decider to go through.He'll now play Dechawat Poomjaeng who incredibly fought back from 5-0 down to beat Mark Joyce 6-5. 
  • Neil Robertson kept his hopes of back to back titles alive with a comprehensive 6-2 win over Thepchaiya U-Nooh,but this one will be remembered for a heartbreaking moment for Uh-Nooh who,with all the hard work done, missed the final black for a 147.
  • In what looks like the stand out tie of the round Robertson will next face Stephen Maguire who dug deep to see off Mark Davis 6-4.
  • Many peoples fancy for this title,John Higgins moved safely into the last 16 with a comfortable 6-2 win over Ali Carter.He will now play his fellow Scot Jamie Burnett who beat Li Hang 6-3
  • Shaun Murphy continued his serene progress here dispatching Ben Woollaston 6-2 & will now play Marco Fu who got the better of David Gilbert 6-3.
  • Martin Gould produced a great all round display to see off Mark Allen 6-4 & will now face a rejuvenated Joe Swail who swept past Michael Holt 6-1.
  • Luca Brecel once again showed what a real talent he is when it all comes together,producing a stunning display of scoring to beat Robin Hull 6-2 & will now face Matt Selt who beat Robbie Williams 6-2
  • Liang Wenbo produced an amazing comeback to beat Judd Trump 6-4.This was helped in no small part by Trump,who flew out of the blocks to lead 3-0 only for his game to implode as the night went on.Liang will now face Tom Ford who produced a shock of his own in beating Kyren Wilson 6-1.
Last 16 Draw
Peter Ebdon v David Grace
Martin Gould v Joe Swail
Liang Wenbo v Tom Ford
Marco Fu v Shaun Murphy
Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire
Jamie Burnett v John Higgins
Luca Brecel v Matt Selt
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Mark Selby