Hossein Vafaei
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Hossein Vafaei – ‘If I go all the way, it’s good for the game’

Hossein Vafaei believes his first high-profile victory could open the door to snooker expanding its reach and entering new territories.

The Iranian reached the quarter-finals of the UK Championship on Thursday with an excellent display of power scoring to beat Matthew Selt.

Vafaei compiled breaks of 133, 132, 121, 94, and 56 to comprehensively overcome his fellow qualifier with a 6-1 scoreline.

Depending on how other results go, Vafaei could return to the top 16 in the world rankings list and secure a Masters berth if he were to continue his run into the semi-finals this week in York.

But the 29 year-old has even loftier ambitions, believing he can challenge for the sport’s most prestigious titles.

“I played fantastic, it couldn’t be any better than that – I started like a dream,” Hossein Vafaei told the World Snooker Tour.

“Everyone dreams of starting a match like that. I felt really well, and playing like that in front of big fans at the York Barbican is such an amazing feeling.”

“It’s so enjoyable. You can’t explain that, you can’t teach that. It’s too much adrenaline, too much everything – I enjoyed it a lot tonight.

“As you saw, I scored really heavily. As a player, everyone is dreaming to play like that in such a big event like the UK Championship. I’m so happy.

“I’ve always been ready (to challenge for big titles), but it’s just a matter of time.

“We are from different countries, we need to learn lots of different things to compete with our legends, so it’s tough to get to that level but I’m getting there.

“It’s going to be amazing. If I go all the way, it’s good for the game. It’s good for snooker all over the Middle East.

“It’s good for all the players and the snooker market, because something will happen after I win.

“You’ll probably have a Dubai Open, a Saudi Open, a Qatar Open, or an Iran Open – something like that is going to happen soon, I’m sure.

“I’m proud of myself that I’m holding the pressure, I’m controlling it really well. To be honest, it’s really tough.

“Everyone is expecting you to win and everyone wants you to win, but no-one helps me to win.

“That makes it harder, but it is what it is. I’m always trying my best to make my fans, my family, and my country proud.”

Next up for the former Snooker Shoot Out champion is the in-form Zhang Anda, who produced another fine performance to oust world champion Luca Brecel in the last 16.

Zhang captured his maiden ranking title at the International Championship earlier in November and, except for Judd Trump, has represented the star of the 2023/24 season so far.

The other quarter-final tie in the bottom half of the draw sees Ronnie O’Sullivan entertain Zhou Yuelong.

O’Sullivan, who is bidding for a record-extending eighth UK crown, emerged from a topsy-turvy affair with Robert Milkins in a decider, while Zhou beat John Higgins.

The top half of the draw, meanwhile, is loaded with former UK champions – the quartet boasting eight titles between them.

Three-time winner Ding Junhui will face Mark Williams in another match with significant implications in terms of the upcoming Masters.

Ding is provisionally in the top 16 as things stand, but with so much prize money on offer this week, the order is still set to change.

Elsewhere, pre-tournament favourite Judd Trump and fellow Englishman Mark Selby will meet in another blockbuster battle between two of the game’s most prolific champions.

All four UK Championship quarter-finals take place on Friday.


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

2 Comments

  1. O’Sullivan has won both of his previous UK meetings with Zhou 6-0. O’Sullivan appearing in a 20th UK Championship quarter-final.

    Trump leads Selby 9-6 in meetings of more than best of 5. What is striking about this record is that Trump has 9-2 lead when the matches are played at the quarter-final stage and beyond in a tournament. They’ve only met in one final – the 2011 China Open final. The pair have never clashed at the Crucible.

    A first triple crown quarter-final for Zhang Anda. Only a second for Vafaei and Zhou.

  2. Amir Jalali

    Why does Sullivan play like this? When you follow his game, do you notice that he sometimes makes his playing conditions difficult or leads to a decider? What is your opinion? While he can win more easily.

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