King Banishes Williams, Brecel Beams

Mark King beat Mark Williams 6-3 to cause the fourth big shock of the week as the first round of the UK Championship came to a conclusion in York.

With a surprisingly strong record over the Welshman – six wins from their previous twelve encounters – King was always going to fancy his chances of challenging a player he hasn’t lost to since 2004.

Aiding his cause was the fact that Williams has endured a frustrating season so far in which he has failed to get out of second gear, and played distinctly average again tonight.

Despite losing the opening frame, Essex’s King won the next five on the spin to establish complete control over proceedings, enjoying a top knock of 103 along the way.

And even though Williams quickly got two back, it was only to make the score look more respectable as his determined opponent rounded off the impressive victory in the ninth frame.

King has been an all-round solid professional for the guts of two decades now, a charismatic guy who isn’t afraid to both voice his opinions and have a bit of fun in the meantime.

Having been in and out of the top 16 in the world rankings a couple of times, he is well-adjusted to matches against the top players but has struggled for any form in the last two years.

The 38 year-old started this campaign with a trio of deciding frame defeats but has slowly turned things around and followed up qualifying for York with ensuring he’ll be making two trips to Germany early next year – for the Munich Open and German Masters.

It is unlikely he’ll go all the way this week – he has previously only reached two ranking event finals, the last coming eight years ago at the Irish Masters – but he’ll be an opponent that most will be happy to avoid.

That next person will be teenager Luca Brecel, who becomes the first Belgian player into the last 16 of a ranking event since compatriot Bjorn Haneveer achieved likewise at the 2003 European Open.

The match, without question, was one of the worst in recent memory quality-wise but was forever captivating and the constant unpredictability of who was going to miss what next supplied an unusual enthralment until its dramatic conclusion.

The result will be very damaging to Wuxi Classic champion Walden, who led 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4 but had enough chances in the contest to prevail 6-0.

For Brecel, though, it is a watershed moment in the new star’s career as he claims his maiden major scalp at a big tournament.

Earlier in the day, Neil Robertson and Matthew Stevens enjoyed contrasting 6-1 triumphs over Tom Ford and Dominic Dale respectively.

Where other favourites have struggled, Australia’s Robertson showed absolutely no signs of nerves as he launches an attempt to add the UK trophy to a résumé that already includes the other two BBC majors, the Worlds and Masters.

Robbo produced a near faultless display, compiling a scintillating four century breaks en route and at one stage near the end boasting a remarkable 98% pot success rate.

In doing so, the 30 year-old easily takes on the mantle as the favourite for this year’s crown, although the likes of Scotsmen Higgins and Maguire will inevitably have something to say about that.

Meanwhile, in the battle of Wales Stevens easily overcame countryman Dale, but was fortunate to be faced with severely ill opposition.

Dale had complained of a fever yesterday at the venue but looked doubly worse today with the rash on his face mimicking a scattered table of reds.

2003 champion Stevens didn’t play well but he didn’t need to, and had more than enough in reserve to ensure his progress into the second round.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here

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