Tom Ford
Main News, Ranking

Tom Ford – ‘I’m off to see Mark Allen and give him a slap’

Ding Junhui and Tom Ford emerged from deciding-frame thrillers as the 2023 UK Championship commenced with a bang on Saturday.

An incredible first day of action saw all but one of the allotted frames played across the first four fixtures in York.

Ding battled illness to fight back from 4-2 down against Mark Allen, eventually dispatching the reigning champion 6-5 in what was a repeat of the 2022 final.

Later, Ford orchestrated a more unlikely turnaround by clawing his way back from a 5-1 deficit to Noppon Saengkham.

It sets up a tantalising second-round clash between Ding and Ford, with a ticket to the prestigious Masters potentially on the line for the winner.

As has become customary in recent years, the cut-off point to seal a spot at the Alexandra Palace comes at the conclusion of the UK Championship.

Only the top 16 players from the official world rankings list will be invited to compete for snooker’s biggest invitational prize.

Ford leapfrogged his way into the top 16 at Ding’s expense by reaching the International Championship final earlier in November.

The 40 year-old Englishman has been a professional for 20 years but has never experienced the thrill and prestige of the Masters.

However, a victory for Ding in their last-16 showdown at the Barbican Centre would see the 2011 Masters champion provisionally return to the elite bracket – with Ford dropping out again.

“I’m off to go see Mark Allen and give him a slap,” Tom Ford joked in his post-match press conference.

“Obviously, if he’d beaten Ding, there was a good chance I’d get into the Masters.”

“But no, it’s in my hands. It’s a big match, and I think one of the lower-ranked players has got to win it.

“When I say lower-ranked, I don’t mean really low. It’s around the twenties I think, but they’d have to win it.

“(Either that) or it’s me or Ding. I think it’s between me and Ding for the Masters really.”

There are still a few permutations which could see the order change again, regardless of what the result is in the Ding-Ford clash.

But the others in the chasing pack would need to go deep into the business end of the tournament to force their way into contention.

Hossein Vafaei and Anthony McGill are the only players who don’t need the £250,000 champion’s cheque, with respective runs to the semi-final and final on their agendas as things stand.

Ding boasts a superior head-to-head record over Ford having won eight of their ten battles in all competitions.

Their most recent encounter in a ranking event was during last year’s UK Championship, when Ding beat Ford 6-3 in the semi-finals.

Elsewhere on Saturday in York, Kyren Wilson’s recent struggles continued as he also squandered a 5-1 advantage.

With a big lead in the seventh frame and seemingly coasting towards the winning line, the former World Championship runner-up broke down to offer his opponent a reprieve.

Clarke won two tight frames to hang on, and the Welshman then grew in confidence with breaks of 80, 104, and 76 ultimately taking him through.

Mark Williams will be Clarke’s next challenge, the two-time former UK champion edging Fan Zhengyi 6-4 in the only tie from the first day that didn’t last the distance.

On Sunday, the four matches in the bottom quarter of the draw will take place.

World champion Luca Brecel will attempt to kick start his sluggish season when he faces Yuan Sijun, while the in-form Zhang Anda meets Elliot Slessor.

In one of the matches of the first round, Shaun Murphy entertains Hossein Vafaei with Ali Carter also entering the fray against Matthew Selt.

2023 UK Championship draw and results

Last 32 (bo11)

Mark Allen (1) 5-6 Ding Junhui
Tom Ford (16) 6-5 Noppon Saengkham
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Fan Zhengyi
Kyren Wilson (8) 5-6 Jamie Clarke

Mark Selby (5) 6-0 Mark Joyce
Barry Hawkins (12) 6-4 Ben Woollaston
Jack Lisowski (13) 4-6 Jamie Jones
Judd Trump (4) 6-1 Pang Junxu

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Anthony McGill
Robert Milkins (14) 6-5 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
John Higgins (11) 6-3 Joe O’Connor
Neil Robertson (6) 2-6 Zhou Yuelong

Shaun Murphy (7) 4-6 Hossein Vafaei
Ali Carter (10) 3-6 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-5 Elliot Slessor
Luca Brecel (2) 6-4 Yuan Sijun

Last 16 (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-3 Tom Ford (16)
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Jamie Clarke
Mark Selby (5) 6-5 Barry Hawkins (12)
Jamie Jones 0-6 Judd Trump (4)

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Robert Milkins (14)
John Higgins (11) 3-6 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-1 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-4 Luca Brecel (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-5 Mark Williams (9)
Mark Selby (5) 3-6 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-4 Zhang Anda (15)

Semi-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-4 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Hossein Vafaei

Final (bo19)

Ding Junhui 7-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (3)

Featured photo credit: WST

One Comment

  1. Daniel White

    Murphy Vs Vafaei is a very attractive tie with two of last season’s stars going up against each other.
    Mark Allen made hard work of it against a visibly unwell Ding, and gradually succumbed to Ding, in what must be his favourite tournament by now!

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