UK Championship 2011: Trump and Ding Edge Thrillers, O’Sullivan Reflective

Day four from York and it has been another thriller as both the tournament favourite and the defending champion have both been sent home at the last 16 stage. Click below for a round-up of all of the day’s events…

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Judd Trump 6-5 Ronnie O’Sullivan

Having come through a deciding frame to defeat Ronnie O’Sullivan at the recent PTC9 event in Antwerp, Judd Trump repeated the feat today with a 6-5 victory to move into the quarter-finals of the UK Championship for the first time in his career.

The match predictably proved to be an even, high-quality affair with nine breaks over 50 during the contest and from the outset looked like it would take an 11th and deciding frame to separate the two. So it proved as having moved 5-4 ahead with runs of 83 and 69, O’Sullivan could only make 47 in the next before Judd knocked in the final blue and pink to draw level.

For a while it looked like the match might have to be decided on a re-spotted black as from 67 behind with 67 remaining, O’Sullivan had a chance to clear only to miss a cut-back black having suffered a kick on the previous red.

For Judd it is another good result and judging by his post-match press conference he was pleased to have come through without having been at his best against an opponent who he has an increasingly good record against at the moment. The win further boosts Judd’s fast-rising ranking and more importantly, keeps him in the hunt for a first major title on British soil.

As for Ronnie, the day was perhaps more interesting for his post-match comments in the press conference which can be viewed in full over at World Snooker, however the most notable extract is as follows:-

“I feel in a very good place but I really can’t see me having much longer playing. I am in a good frame of mind. I don’t want to feel how I do when I play. My game’s not up to scratch, where it used to be. It’s not even playing, it’s how I feel in between games, in between tournaments. I’m feeling quite nervy and anxious a lot of time. I’ve had enough of the anxious times in between games and tournaments. Having those emotions going round, in general I find quite difficult. Even though I’m managing it in possibly the best way I’ve ever done.”

“I’m not saying this from an angry or hurt place, but sometimes the truth needs to be told. I’ve given it a really good go but I just want to enjoy my life. I’m 36 and would like to meet somebody, to share my time with somebody. Sometimes when I feel how I do in between tournaments, I find it very difficult for this to happen. This dominates my life a lot and there’s more to life. I’d like to meet someone and settle down, maybe do some other things and not have the anxious thoughts that have plagued me. Though it has got better, it still isn’t quite cutting it for me, but I’ll try to tough it out for a bit.”

“I will talk to (psychiatrist) Steve Peters, and for my own peace of mind I think there is life beyond snooker. Sometimes I have to see it how it is. I still want to work, I don’t want to wake up with nothing to do. I don’t want to be living on my own, travelling round the world on my own being anxious and lonely and carrying these emotions.”

“Feeling how I feel, I’ve not been in the right place for that. It’s important for me that I give myself that opportunity. I’m not an easy person to get along with when I’m playing snooker because sometimes I go into my own little world and carry my emotions. It’s not fair to put someone you want to be with through that.”

“For me to be the real Ronnie I need to get away from what is causing the problem.”

Having seen Ronnie a couple of times at the venue this week and also judging from a couple of his recent tweets I am not too surprised to see him speaking like this today, indeed being present at his press conference following his victory against Steve Davis on Sunday he did not look to be in a great frame of mind. From the outside I get the feeling that perhaps having travelled from Antwerp to Grimsby, to Manchester, to Sheffield and so on within barely a fortnight, Ronnie is mentally running on empty at the moment and that his apparent decision not to enter either PTC11 or PTC12 is the best thing for him at the moment.

It is hard to speculate further as I would not want to judge how somebody feels, indeed how can you? In all likelihood he should remain ranked inside of the top 16 at the next cut-off (though this is not yet guaranteed, and hopefully we will see him in a better frame of mind at the Masters in January.

Ding Junhui 6-5 Matthew Stevens

Meanwhile, Ding Junhui maintained his excellent head to head record against fellow former UK Champion Matthew Stevens in the other last 16 match played this afternoon, but not without a scare as Matthew pushed him to a deciding frame.

For much of the match it was Ding who led, a top break of 133 helping him into a 5-3 lead before Matthew hit back to level at 5-5 with runs of 67 and 72. The Welshman was to have the first chance in frame eleven but a missed black off the spot would ultimately prove fatal as Ding took full advantage with a break of 62.

A two-time former winner of the event, Ding has shown this week that he has the bottle for the occasion with two deciding frame victories so far and there were signs today that having not played too often recently, he is now clicking into gear as the business end of the tournament approaches.

Defeat for Matthew meanwhile ensures that he will remain 13th in the latest projected seedings list as he makes the trip back to Wales.

Stephen Maguire 6-4 John Higgins

Defending champion John Higgins exited the tournament in the evening session as friend and practice partner Stephen Maguire recorded a 6-4 victory to gain some measure of revenge for defeat in the final of the Welsh Open earlier this year.

It was Maguire, a winner in York back in 2004, who came out of the traps stronger with a magnificent break of 144, the highest of the tournament so far, seeing him into a 2-0 lead, before the next two were shared as he went into the interval 3-1 ahead.

3-1 soon became 5-1 and with the match statistics showing Stephen with a pot success rate of 93% compared to just 85% for John, there looked to be only one winner. As Higgins has proven so often however, you can never rule him out and as Maguire began to miss, notably a missed red to the left-centre which was followed by a typical clearance of 95 from the defending champion to make it 4-5, the match looked to have turned.

As it would prove however, despite a couple of poor shots from Maguire early in the tenth frame, a missed black off the spot from Higgins which just caught the near-jaw was to prove his last shot in the match as Stephen stepped in to win it with a good break.

While I have nothing against John, I was pleased for Stephen who despite having not won a ranking title in over three years now, remains a dangerous player when at his best and one that I like to watch, indeed my first ever live snooker match was watching him at the Crucible interestingly enough. It has been a tough season for him so far but perhaps now with a win like this under his belt he will be able to find some confidence and perhaps push for a second crown here in York. If he is to do so however then he will have to come through against Judd Trump in the quarter-finals.

For John meanwhile, notwithstanding the comeback it was a disappointing performance which caps a disappointing start to the season for the defending champion. For me the PTC events were not the time to judge Higgins but having exited early here in York, more questions will be asked of the Scot ahead of the final two PTC events of the season and more importantly next month’s Masters tournament.

Neil Robertson 6-3 Graeme Dott

Many people’s tip for the title, Australia’s Neil Robertson kept his bid for a first UK Championship crown alive in York this evening with a hard-fought 6-3 victory against Graeme Dott in a repeat of their 2010 World Championship final.

Strangely enough, as was to be the case on that May evening in Sheffield, the standard was not to be the highest but there was certainly drama to be had, particularly during the last two frames of the match.

Leading 5-2 it appeared as though Robertson would wrap up a comprehensive victory in the next as he led 60-1 with just 59 remaining, but ever the competitor, Graeme fought back to force a re-spotted black which he would eventually take following a failed attempt at the red by the Australian.

For a while it looked as though Graeme would reduce his arrears further in the next frame as he opened with a break of 60, but in the end it was Neil who was to make amends for the events of the previous frame with an excellent clearance of 68, enough to see him through a 6-3 winner and into a second round tie with Ding Junhui.

One of the form players so far this season, Neil is demonstrating that he is not only back to his best, but that he has also lost none of the battling qualities that undoubtedly played a key part in his world title success a couple of seasons ago. Now just a win away from moving above John Higgins in the latest projected seedings, it will be interesting to see just how far he can go this week.