UK Championship TV

Players Set for UK Championship TV Stages

After the opening exchanges in York, 128 players have quickly become 64 as we welcome the UK Championship TV stages to our screens on Saturday.

UK Championship TV
O’Sullivan compiled his 980th century in beating Simmonds. Photo credit: World Snooker

The defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan safely made it through to the second round despite suffering from a virus, following a routine 6-1 victory over Luke Simmonds.

World champion Mark Williams and the in-form Judd Trump also advanced unscathed after inflicting heavy defeats on amateur opponents too.

However, former winner Mark Selby crashed out on Thursday following a shock 6-3 loss to James Cahill that leaves his long-held status as the sport’s world number one in doubt.

While the first round was aired on the Eurosport Player for those with a subscription, the UK Championship TV stages welcome Eurosport’s traditional service on the box and, of course, the BBC to the fold.

There is always a feeling of excitement when the first of the three BBC tournaments – better known as the Triple Crown – comes along and there is the additional sense that yes, Christmas is here.

Who will be enjoying the holiday season the most in late 2018 will be determined by what transpires in the next week at the Barbican Centre, host of the second biggest ranking event for the 14th time this year.

Funnily enough, the final of the inaugural York edition way back in 2001 featured O’Sullivan, recently crowned as a world champion for the first time in his career, and Ireland’s Ken Doherty.

The pair cross paths again as 40-something year-olds on Sunday and the Dubliner, who was denied three times in UK finals, will be hoping to muster more than the single frame he took off the “Rocket” in a 10-1 thrashing 17 years ago.

O’Sullivan is the heavy favourite to emulate his success from twelve months ago and land what would be a record seventh UK Championship crown.

Williams, bidding for a first UK title since 2003, meets countryman Daniel Wells while Trump entertains another Welshman in Dominic Dale.

Elsewhere, there are several intriguing second round ties to keep an eye on as the players attempt to manoeuvre their way into the business end of the competition.

Three-time champion John Higgins, who has openly expressed his struggles with motivation this season, only just scrambled past Dechawat Poomjaeng in a decider and his reward is a meeting with long-time friend and fellow Scot Alan McManus.

Australia’s Neil Robertson, champion for the second time three years ago when he memorably compiled a 147 break in the final en route to beating Liang Wenbo, is tasked with the challenge of facing the unpredictable enigma that is Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

Meanwhile, plenty of attention will additionally be reserved for the Race to the Masters, which concludes after the climax of this year’s UK Championship and the 16 invitations officially being granted for the prestigious invitational in London.

Stephen Maguire and Jack Lisowksi currently hold onto the final coveted spots and are set to encounter Scott Donaldson and Mei Xiwen in the second round.

Interestingly, the duo could run into rivals Ali Carter and Marco Fu respectively in the last 32 should they all reach that stage – with the latter pair leading the chasing pack in the provisional rankings at present.

The likes of David Gilbert, Joe Perry, Yan Bingtao, and Graeme Dott could all fight their way into the elite top 16 in time for the Masters in January but only a run to the final or better would do.

More likely contenders to claim the silverware are Kyren Wilson – who potentially appears to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Selby’s demise in the third quarter of the draw along with former world champion Stuart Bingham – Mark Allen, Barry Hawkins, and Ding Junhui.

Yet, whether Ding, who is in the same half of the draw as O’Sullivan, Trump, and Higgins, can launch a genuine challenge for what would be a hat-trick of UK titles is doubtful on current form.

Will one of the chasing pack spring a surprise and make a UK Championship TV appearance worth remembering this year?

Or will the event, as has tended to be the case throughout its history since 1977, provide another champion straight from the pantheon of snooker greats?

We eagerly await to find out.

Live UK Championship TV coverage is on the BBC and Eurosport from Saturday.

Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)

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