The latest snooker action has centred on the UK Championship at the Barbican Centre, so let’s recap some of the news from York.
The 2019 edition of the UK Championship is at the quarter-final stage with eight players left with a shot of glory and the £200,000 top prize.
An intriguing line-up includes four former champions, but with a few unexpected inclusions among them.
Ding Junhui looked to be rediscovering his best after inflicting a first defeat in the competition for Ronnie O’Sullivan since 2016 on Thursday.
Matthew Stevens, meanwhile, edged Mark Selby in a gruelling battle that lasted the distance and concluded after midnight.
Two-time champion Ding faces fellow Chinese Liang Wenbo in the last eight while 2003 champion Stevens encounters Stephen Maguire, who emerged with the trophy a year after the Welshman’s success.
John Higgins is the highest ranked competitor in contention with the world number five up against 19 year-old Yan Bingtao.
Yan wasn’t even born when Higgins won the first of his three UK titles way back in 1998.
If that makes Higgins reflect on his tenure on the tour, imagine how Nigel Bond must feel.
The 54 year-old is the oldest player through to the quarter-finals since Fred Davis 39 years ago, and Bond will face two-time runner-up Mark Allen for an unlikely last four berth.
The primary focus has obviously been on the challenge for the game’s second biggest ranking event but one eye has also been on the latest snooker line-up for the upcoming Masters.
As usual, the prestigious invitational will take place in early January and feature the world’s top 16 at the Alexandra Palace.
Before the outset of the tournament, every player in the rankings all the way down to Fergal O’Brien in 67th had a chance of forging their way into the elite bracket.
As it stands, there are just three cueists who can upset the order and enter the fray in London.
Bond is too far back to make a move on the top 16 but Yan, Liang, and Stevens could all still break into the top 16.
Ding’s victory over O’Sullivan in the fourth round has guaranteed his safe return, while the 32 year-old’s previous defeat of Ali Carter consigned the “Captain” to the agonising 17th spot in the provisional rankings.
Maguire stands in 15th place and on the cusp of qualification, with Joe Perry the man in the most dangerous position.
Currently in 16th provisionally, a run to the final for Yan, or a tournament triumph for Liang or Stevens, would see Perry miss out.
A very specific conclusion of Stevens beating Yan in the UK Championship final would also relegate Maguire from the coveted spots.
A simply awesome comeback by Gary Wilson this evening, 4-0 down and he responds with a run of breaks including four straight tons to finish! 😳🔥 pic.twitter.com/f71mrpG85T
— Matt (@ProSnookerBlog) December 1, 2019
Wilson’s Fantastic Four
Gary Wilson was also in the running for a place at the Masters but a late collapse when 5-2 in front of Bond in the last 16 meant that he just falls short.
However, the World Championship semi-finalist did have a memorable week in North Yorkshire.
Wilson made a small bit of history during his second round 6-4 victory over Chris Wakelin.
Trailing by four frames at the mid-session interval, the 34 year-old immediately responded with runs of 67 and 97 to get back into the game.
However, nobody expected a flurry of four successive century breaks to finish, compiling breaks of 134, 114, 100, and 124 to complete the amazing turnaround.
It marks only the fourth time that a player has constructed four tons in a row – joining illustrious names John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, and Neil Robertson.
As detailed, all the latest snooker has been in York and the action will continue over the weekend until this year’s champion is crowned on Sunday.
On Monday, the players will then head north into Glasgow for the Scottish Open, the third Home Nations tournament of the campaign.
In Zibo, Shandong province, a Chinese pro event concluded with Chen Ruifu beating Peng Yisong in the final – two surprise finalists. The event was important in the Chinese rankings, which will provide two places on the World Tour in 2020. Pang Junxu’s semi-final leaves him in a good position, alongside Zhao Jianbo. The other defeated semi-finalist was 14-year old Jiang Jun, who continues to progress after winning the World U18 title.
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