UK Championship 2012: Qualifying Wrap

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the final qualifiers for the last 32 of the 2012 UK Championship and with the likes of Luca Brecel and Steve Davis among those to make it through to York, there were some real stories to be told…

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Following his brilliant qualification for the World Championship from the first round earlier in 2012, Belgian prodigy Luca Brecel has repeated the feat at snooker’s second major by making it through to York yesterday.

Having defeated Scott Donaldson and Peter Lines in the early rounds, Luca then added the scalp of Chinese talent Liu Chuang to set up a fascinating tie with 2006 UK Champion Peter Ebdon. While observers could have been forgiven for expecting Ebdon to turn the screw upon the youngster however, it never looked like being the case, as Brecel raced into a 5-0 lead with top runs of 80 and 76, before sealing a 6-1 victory in the seventh frame.

Underlining the widely held belief that he is ‘the real deal’ so to speak, Luca now moves on to a last 32 clash with Ricky Walden, a player whom he has not yet met in professional competition.

A similar landmark was made by fellow youngster Jack Lisowski, who followed up his maiden maximum break in the previous round with an impressive 6-4 victory against Joe Perry to qualify for the venue stages of a’ major’ tournament for the first time in his career. More on this will follow in a separate article.

As a side-note, for Joe Perry the result leaves his top 16 (or 17, Stephen Lee permitting), now in the balance, with the likes of Mark Davis and Barry Hawkins able to overtake him with a single win in York.

Also continuing his steady progress up the ranking list is Welsh talent Michael White, who yesterday defeated former world champion Ken Doherty 6-3 to qualify for the final stages of this event for the first time. Having already qualified for the International Championship this season to move up into the world’s top 40 for the first time, White has now found the consistency to match what has always been a strong break-building game in particular.

Elsewhere at the opposite end of the scale, Steve Davis has qualified for his second venue of the season with a couple of terrific performances to defeat Pankaj Advani and Jamie Burnett this week. Trailing Advani 4-0 at the interval during their International Championship re-match, the situation did not look to be promising for Steve, but the six-times former winner of the event hit back with a tenth frame run of 136, to eventually turn the match on its head. A 6-2 victory against Jamie Burnett in the final qualifying round was to follow and as was the case a year ago when I actually interviewed Steve following his successful qualification for the 2011 event, he will now once again be in York as a player, not just with the BBC.

One player under pressure to perform was Mark Joyce, who as a quarter-finalist in 2010, faces the prospect of having to defend a significant amount of points from that event at the next cut-off. With victories against Andy Hicks and Jamie Cope however, he has done just that to secure a useful haul of points an book his place at the venue. Though he will not be favourite there against world number one Judd Trump, it is worth remembering that Mark did defeat Trump on his way to the quarters a couple of years ago.

Otherwise, Mark King, Fergal O’Brien, Martin Gould, Robert Milkins, Michael Holt, Dominic Dale and Ryan Day were all successful in defeating lower ranked opposition to progress to York, as was Marco Fu who as in 2011, was the last man to win his match, this time against Rod Lawler.

There were though impressive victories for Cao Yupeng and Liang Wenbo, the former qualifying for yet another venue in 2012 from the early rounds, while Liang looked to be playing as well as he has for some time during his whitewash of Andrew Higginson.

A full-tournament preview will follow later this week, but on paper there looks to be a fascinating line-up for the tournament in prospect…