Day One of the Wembley Masters and today sees UK Champion Ding Junhui take on Mark Selby in the first match, while the matches between Marco Fu and Peter Ebdon, and Mark King and Jimmy White will follow later in the day. Click below for my observations as the day unfolds.
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Mark Selby 6-1 Ding Junhui
So far, so good for Mark Selby as he looks like going into a 3-0 lead against Ding Junhui early on. Ding has certainly had his chances but he has not taken them and Mark has punished him fully so far. A pot success rate of 81% from Ding sums up the match so far.
The most amusing moment so far came early in the third frame when some interference over the tannoy distracted Mark when he was about to take his shot and he went over and sat with Ding on his chair. Ronnie O’Sullivan was talking recently about snooker players needing to show off their personalities more in the arena under Barry Hearn and Mark is one who will need no encouragement I am sure.
A poor safety from Ding has given Mark another good chance at the start of frame four…a scrappy break ends on 42 however as he snookers himself behind the blue and Ding is able to get back to the table. Almost a must-win frame for him I think.
Interesting to see Ding refusing a number of half-chances at the moment, he is obviously not full of confidence right now. As much as I do think that his tactical game is improving however, he will have a tough job beating Mark in that department.
Eventually Ding has been forced into attempting a red from distance and having left it, 4-0 now looks a certainty. 96% pot success for Mark, 79% for Ding.
The players are back out after the break and a brilliant safety shot from Ding followed by a failed attempt from distance from Selby has given the UK Champion a clear chance which he has to take. His highest break of the match up until now has been 42, I expect that to be topped here.
Or not! It is just not happening for him today as he screws back into the left-centre pocket on just 26 and now the chance falls to Selby following an excellent long pot. And that is 5-0, who would have predicted that this morning?
A nice long red from Ding gives him the first chance in frame six but he has broken down on 22, missing the blue and going in-off with the cue ball for good measure. Just not his day.
Mark all set to win but leading 58-22 with just two reds remaining, he has broken down and Ding has one last chance to keep himself in the match – can he take it? Oh he can, an excellent break of 38 completed by an outstanding cut on the black. He couldn’t…could he?
A good start to frame seven from Mark but a poor shot on 49 has given Ding an opportunity to get back into it. Unfortunately for him however he could not pot the initial red and we are into a safety battle once more…and Ding has another chance, though with reds safe it would be unrealistic to expect him to win it in one-visit here I think…
He has got right back into the frame but unfortunately for him has given Selby a chance to wrap it up.
Incidentally Dave Hendon tells me on Twitter that Peter Ebdon will be coming out to ‘Can you feel the force’ while Marco has gone for the Black Eyes Peas! Disappointed that Ebdon will not be opting for “I am a Clown” as sung by himself back when he had hair! Apparently if the player’s could not think of a song, they were given three to choose from.
Joking aside, Mark Selby has duly completed a comfortable 6-1 win and moves into the last eight. He played quite well but it is hard to read too much into the win I suspect as Ding essentially handed him all of the frames on a plate. Still, he scored solidly and did what he had to do.
Marco Fu 2-6 Peter Ebdon
The players are on, Peter looking rather bemused as the music played out. Must admit that it doesn’t seem to quite work here like it does in the darts, primarily because the walk-on itself is about 10 steps! Far too short.
Still, we have a match on and Peter gets off to a poor start by sending the white in-off from the break! First chance therefore falls to Marco Fu. It should be an interesting match this, both have played poorly for some time in my view but Marco did look a little better in the Championship League last week and I think starts as a narrow favourite as a result…
Only 31 from Marco as the frame becomes a more tactical affair. Expect to see a fair bit of safety this afternoon! With the help of a few penalty points Marco has extended his lead to 63-0 with seven reds remaining. You would have to make him a strong favourite where the balls are…and he adds another 18 points to seal it.
Another scrappy start to frame two but in all sorts of trouble, Peter has resorted to what Willie Thorne accurately described as an ‘Ebdon Special’ and gave the balls a good whack. Unfortunately it could not have turned out much worse and it could well be 2-0 Fu at the end of this break…not quite, but a useful lead of 59-0 makes him favourite again. Peter so far as not got going…
An error from Fu however has given Peter his first real opportunity to score…only 12 however, and Marco secures a 2-0 lead. Worrying times for Peter already.
Incidentally Willie Thorne has just said that Ding had only been back in the UK practising for four days before this match which explains a lot about his performance earlier.
Meanwhile Peter Ebdon is faring just as bad at the moment, a miss on a near straight blue handing Marco another opportunity in frame three and leaving his pot success percentage at a meagre 56%. He will need to improve quickly if he is to stand any chance of getting back into this.
This third frame has seen some twists and turns already, Marco initially looking favourite before Peter had an opportunity himself to clear. Some very poor cueing on the final yellow caused him to miss it however and we have a potentially pivotal safety exchange on our hands…
Which has been won by a very relieved Peter Ebdon who despite his poor form so far today, is right back into the match.
A similar pattern so far in frame four as Marco has gained an early lead before a slip has given Peter a chance to snatch it. If Peter can get out of this first mini-session 2-2 then he will be delighted! And he does exactly that…
Amazingly Peter now leads the match 3-2, Marco is really struggling for any sort of rhythm and Peter while not looking great himself, must be gaining confidence from his opponent’s errors…and that is being demonstrated now as he looks to be moving into a 4-2 lead. During the last frame or two he has looked much better and has to be the favourite now.
Can we see another turnaround or will he sprint away? Early in frame seven it looked like the latter but Peter has broken down on 25 and Marco has got in with a nice opening red. The way he is playing at the moment, you get the feeling that almost anything is missable but as his opponent has shown, he still has time to turn things around…
But it’s not happening at the moment, he has missed on 29 and Peter, despite a slack positional shot mid-break that was brilliantly recovered, has stormed into a 5-2 lead. This has been very good from him after a shocking start, while Marco looks lost.
And now Peter has finished it in one visit with another excellent break, he really improved during the second half of that match and fed off of Marco’s misses. It has been a tough 12 months for Marco and is perhaps something that I will comment on in a separate article….
Mark King 6-2 Jimmy White
After all the build-up we are underway, Mark King having danced into the arena and White having strolled on to a predictably boistrous reception. First chance falls to the Whirlwind…but he cannot take it and after a scrappy frame, Mark King emerges with a 1-0 lead.
White has levelled the match however, despite a missed black looking like it might cost him at the climax of the frame.
Mark King has regained the lead thanks largely to a break of 64 but the fourth frame in in the balance as having fallen behind early on following a miss on a simple red, Jimmy has got himself right back into it with just three colours remaining…
Both had their chance on the blue but in the end it is a relieved Mark King who knocks it in and secures a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.
Perfect response from Jimmy after the break, his best frame of the match so far to pull himself back to 2-3 and has the first chance in frame six following a good opening red. Unfortunately for him however a missed blue off the spot has cost him has let Mark back in and he now is now establishing a significant lead in the frame…
White had a chance to get back into it but at 42 behind with 43 remaining managed to leave himself tight on the black which was located near the left-centre pocket. Though he pulled off a terrific shot to pot it into a corner pocket, unfortunately for the 1984 champion he also managed to send the cue ball into the left-centre and he immediately conceded the frame as a result.
An 83% pot success rate from Jimmy is unfortunately for him just not good enough at this level, though Mark’s 88% could also be improved. White just played a terrific red to the left-centre to set up a great chance in frame seven but a missed black off the spot on the very next shot was rather telling as Mark is now back in again…and he has punished Jimmy with an excellent 85. White has it all to do now and Mark is in first in frame eight following an overhit safety…
Tense frame this, Jimmy struggling but King also not finding it easy to get over the line. Mark now 25 ahead with 25 on…and a terrific long pot on the green has sealed a 6-2 victory over an opponent who just never got going.
Not the best opening day to a tournament we have ever seen with three one-sided matches but tomorrow should be better and is highlighted by the afternoon tie between Shaun Murphy and Stephen Hendry…