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UK Championship 2012 - 1st round discussion

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  • UK Championship 2012 - 1st round discussion

    So, another snooker week is approaching... A big one, as snooker finally returns to the UK, after four major events in the Far East. We've had an interesting month since the International Championship, with three players in particular playing well in the minor events of November. Is it going to be one of them that wins the UK Championship?

    Let's see what the draw looks like...

    Quarter 1:

    Judd Trump v. Mark Joyce
    Allister Carter v. Steve Davis
    Stuart Bingham v. Jack Lisowski
    Stephen Maguire v. Fergal O'Brien

    A very interesting top quarter. I guess Judd Trump starts this event as the favourite, having won the similar best-of-11 International Championship a month ago, and of course having reached the top of the rankings. He has established himself as the man to beat at this point in time, having appeared in three minor finals in the build-up to this tournament. An in-form Robertson or Ding will always do well, but most players of that generation seem to have just as many bad tournaments as good ones. They don't seem to have prolonged periods of good play where they repeatedly reach the business end of tournaments. Trump has been playing well for a while now, so I guess this is the moment of truth for him... Can he play strongly in this event and then the Masters? I think he could, but he could just as easily put his foot off the gas a bit and lose early. In any case, he has the firepower to overwhelm most players, so it should take a good player to beat him over a best-of-11. Possible re-match with Carter in the 2nd round? Well, I would certainly love to see that. It should be a bit of a grudge match, after the drama of their encounter at the Crucible and the words spoken afterwards. Carter's season hasn't exactly been brilliant so far, and we haven't seen any of the cautious, methodical approach that saw him reach the World final. He is traditionally strong in this kind of format, but it will be tough for him to get past Trump without his best form here. Steve Davis could potentially take advantage, having beaten Carter in their best-of-7 match at the Welsh Open last season, but I wouldn't give him much chance of reaching the quarter-finals here. It should really be Trump.

    If Trump is the tournament favourite, Stuart Bingham probably finds himself in the group of strong contenders for the first time in his career. He has played Trump a lot over the last couple of seasons, but it's mostly been in the early rounds after they had been drawn right next to each other. They could play each other in the QF here, which would be a lot less "random", and quite appropriate for two players playing as strongly as they have been over the last couple of months. Bingham had a very good start to last season, but then lost his way somewhat in this part of the season, with the two big tournaments of December and January. He hasn't won a major ranking event this season, but he is the only player to win two PTCs, and of course the Premier League as well. Although that didn't help Shaun Murphy in 2009, as shot-clock snooker is probably not ideal preparation for this type of event. Possible obstacles for Bingham? Jack Lisowski maybe, after an impressive performance in qualifying, but some of the stuff he has played on TV in the past has been very poor, so I think it's a long shot. Stephen Maguire is more realistic, after all he is the highest-ranked player in this part of the draw, but he has shown very little form in major events this season. He usually plays well in either the UK or the Masters, often reaching the business end without anyone really noticing him. At his best, Maguire is a stronger player than Bingham, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the quarters.


    Quarter 2:

    Mark Williams v. Mark King
    Ricky Walden v. Luca Brecel
    Graeme Dott v. Martin Gould
    Shaun Murphy v. Robert Milkins

    The second quarter looks quite open at first glance... Mark Williams has been playing alright this season, but it's been a while since he has seriously challenged for any title. Mark King could be a tricky opponent for him, having beaten him convincingly, 5-1, in the 1st round of the World Open last season. Walden could also be a strong contender to reach the QF from this part of the draw, already a ranking title to his name this season, and a good performance in this event last season when he reached the semi-finals, beating Mark Williams on his way. Williams and Walden seem to be drawn in the same part of the draw quite a lot, with some success for each player, but I would fancy Williams to prevail here. Luca Brecel's appearance will also be interesting to see after his quite successful debut on the big stage at the Crucible last season.

    Shaun Murphy should be the favourite for the other spot. He reached the semi-finals of the last two ranking events, so he is playing well enough to get through the early rounds, but he just can't get his hands on a major title. The 2008 UK Championship is his last really big win, so I'm sure he will be motivated to do well here. Robert Milkins could be a danger in the 1st round, a quick and strong scorer on his day, but not really one of those players who do well no matter how they play. So if he is not at his best, he is unlikely to beat Murphy. The 2nd round? Murphy against Dott is not really a common pairing, but once again they are two players who often find themselves close to each other in the draw, it's just that one of them always seems to go out early. Dott hasn't been playing that well over the past year or so, so he would do well to get past a consistently strong player such as Murphy. On top of that, Martin Gould is probably a qualifier no one really wanted to draw here, having spent a good season in the top16. He returns to his more successful role here, a dangerous underdog capable of knocking anyone out. But with his poor record against Murphy, it will be tough to reach the quarter-finals.


    Quarter 3:

    John Higgins v. Michael Holt
    Mark Davis v. Cao Yupeng
    Matthew Stevens v. Dominic Dale
    Mark Allen v. Marco Fu

    Another interesting quarter with a couple of players capable of a good run here. Starting with John Higgins, who seems to be back to form this season. He took a longer summer break, but then came back strongly to win the Shanghai Masters with some superb snooker. He was victim of the "winner of the previous event" curse at the International Championship, but once again came back strongly in the minor events of November. He is now at an age where he just won't be able to play well all of the time, no one really does in their late 30s, but even decent form makes him very hard to beat, especially for the lower-ranked players. I remember his match against Michael Holt at the 2009 WC, an interesting tactical battle, but Higgins was always going to win it, and he is a big favourite here as well. Could the other two players cause him more trouble? Well, Mark Davis finally appears here as a seeded player, and his 1st round match against Cao should be an interesting one. It will be interesting to see if he handles the pressure of being a seed better than Martin Gould for example. I think he just might, as he has been showing consistently good and confident performances for a while now, with two ranking semi-finals to his name already this season. He did lose 5-1 to Higgins in Germany last season though. As for Cao, well, he beat Higgins 6-3 in Chengdu, so he doesn't really have any mental barriers to overcome, but if they should meet in the 2nd round here, I'm sure Higgins will be up for some payback.

    Mark Allen has some pretty high obstacles to overcome if he is to reach the business end of this tournament. First his old rival Marco Fu, with whom he had two great battles in 2011, in both the Masters and the UK Championship. They won one each, so you could say they are well matched when on top form, but of course Allen is a lot more likely to play well these days. Fu certainly can't be ruled out though, as he has already reached a ranking semi-final and a quarter-final this season. This is probably the best prospect of the 1st round. Then we have the Welsh battle, Stevens against Dale, neither player reaching the business end of any major tournament so far this season. I think Stevens is more likely to do it here, as he was quite good in the longer format in his prime. Well, it's only best-of-11 here, but it's still longer than usual. Can he get past Allen also? He could, but I have a feeling he won't. It took a good Judd Trump to knock Allen out of the last two ranking events, and Allen has a habit of going far in the really big ones. On top of that, he had that crushing victory over Stevens in the decider at the Crucible in 2011.


    Quarter 4:

    Neil Robertson v. Tom Ford
    Barry Hawkins v. Liang Wenbo
    Ding Junhui v. Ryan Day
    Mark Selby v. Michael White

    The fourth quarter is probably one of the strongest we've seen in recent times, with three really strong contenders and another recent winner as well. If there is a favourite, it surely has to be Neil Robertson. Robertson's season has been the usual so far, a couple of early exits and decent performances, and a really strong tournament in Chengdu, where he only just missed out on a major title. He doesn't really have strong periods where he plays a number of good tournaments in a row, but I have a feeling he just might get himself up for this part of the season where there is a lot of money at stake and some prestigious titles to be won. His 1st round opponent is not too tricky, but the other two players here could cause problems. Barry Hawkins is of course the reigning Australian Open champion, so you can't really rule him out here. He hasn't done much after his win, but to be fair, he drew Trump in the opening round of the following event. I think we will probably see the bigger names come through now that the circuit has returned to the UK, because no one will be playing on the back of a "lazy summer" anymore, and you won't get players missing events as much, as was the case in Australia for example. Liang Wenbo? Well, he has kind of returned to top32 level now after a very poor period, but can he regain his 2009 form and do some damage here? Possibly, although Robertson remains a strong favourite for me. In any case, Liang against Hawkins should be a good one, and I think it has 6-5 written all over it.

    And the final spot? Surely another round of the Selby-Ding rivalry... They are starting to remind me of Murphy and Maguire a bit. Not in the sense of them not getting along, but rather the way their matches go... It seems to come down to who wants it more, and it's often the player who had been playing the worse of the two that prevails. It's hard to say who is playing the worse at this point, because both players have done very little this season, at least in the major events. Could they be in trouble in the 1st round? Ding probably could be, facing an experienced qualifier in Ryan Day, a player who can outplay you with strong scoring on his day. But in a scoring game, Ding is a master, so it should really come down to how well he plays himself. I think Selby should come through really, even though we are starting to see more and more of Michael White, but I think it would be too much to expect him to knock Selby out of a major event. I think this final QF spot is really the hardest one to call, but if I try really hard to find something in favour of either player, I guess Ding's previous record in the UK Championship is the better one, as he is a former two-time champion. So I guess Ding it is...


    Possible QF lineup:

    Judd Trump v. Stephen Maguire
    Mark Williams v. Shaun Murphy
    John Higgins v. Mark Allen
    Neil Robertson v. Ding Junhui


    I think this promises to be a really great snooker week, with possibly a very strong lineup at the business end of the tournament. Probably the most excited I've been this season so far, just one more night...

  • #2
    While I wasn't around, this analysis posts of yours was the one thing I missed the post (=

    I haven't been close enough to snooker to post such a detailed one, but if I had to say something, I would emphasize the importance of returning to UK as you did. It will awaken some big names who haven't been spectacular so far, if we judge by results.
    My three picks will be Maguire, Williams and Ding. One of these three can get to the next gear and play some solid snooker in this major tournament.
    And although all three have been paired with strong opponents, I will keep an eye on the trio of Lisowski-Brecel-White, as well. There is a good chance that in the following years, they will be amongst strong contenders for any tournament on the tour.

    You haven't picked up any upsets in your possible QF lineup, but I'd do the same, since this is a tournament of the highest importance, all favorites will be up to the task and probably, we will see few upsets early on.

    Looking forward to it (=
    All the way Mark J!!

    I understand nothing from snooker. - Dedicated to jrc750!

    Winner of the German Masters 2011 Lucky Dip

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks Odrl for a great startpost to this year's UK Championship.

      I have been looking forward to watching the snooker on BBC again for a while after having make do with Eurosport and it's commentators. I can't complain too much though, it's great being able to watch so much snooker on TV nowadays. So my hat goes off to Eurosport for this at least. Too bad BBC isn't airing anything on it's HD channel...or so it seems.

      Anyway...can't wait for the snooker to start tomorrow afternoon. Good times ahead
      Last edited by daffie; 30 November 2012, 08:15 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        First session:

        John Higgins against Michael Holt. An interesting pairing, but I doubt Holt can handle what Higgins throws at him, especially Higgins looking in a fairly dangerous form early in the season. Holt will need to get his scoring on the table early on or else Higgins may well run away with this one.

        Barry Hawkins against Liang Wenbo. One of the more balanced match-ups of the first round. Hawkins has been a more solid player compared to Wenbo in the last couple of seasons, who looked lost after his initial breakout. Although he has managed to stop the downfall, I don't think he has reached the level of Hawkins in a grinder type player, so, I expect Hawkins to prevail with a 6-4ish scoreline.

        Second session:

        Stephen Maguire against Fergal O'Brien. As I pointed out in my post above, I expect Maguire to be one of those that turn it on in a major event and he can overwhelm O'Brien here in the first round. I don't think O'Brien will be a threat, unless Maguire plays an out-of-sorts game, which usually becomes his opponents' forte, as he is a player capable of reaching the utmost level.

        Ding Junhui against Ryan Day. Day can come out, play with 95% potting and whitewash a quality opponent. He is that good when he is.. good. But the thing is he hasn't brought along that side of his game for a good amount of time. Lack of consistency most likely caused a degeneration of his strength, as well. Ding should be poised for something big in this tournament and he has a good record here in UK. He'll try to play his top game from day one, so that he can get into a little early rhythm. I can see him winning convincingly.

        Third session:

        Graeme Dott against Martin Gould. This is one of those pairings where the qualifier cannot be really called to have caused an upset in case he defeats the seeded player. Gould is a dangerous opponent, although Dott's methodical gameplay may disturb him a bit. Nevertheless, I have a feeling that Gould will be in a better mood tonight and get a narrow win.

        Mark Selby against Michael White. Realistically speaking, I cannot be objective here, with White being one of my favorite young players on tour. Then again, Selby is a tough match-up, one of the toughest for young players, as he keeps piling up the pressure for your side with his tactical maneuvers. It's down to how White responds to such kind of pressure, though. He can push Selby if he holds his nerves in check, but that won't be easy. Still, I don't expect him to get totally trashed. He will probably be able to show a bit of scoring when he gets an opportunity and that may win two or three frames. For more, he will need to play a tough matchplay snooker.

        That's how I view the first day (=
        All the way Mark J!!

        I understand nothing from snooker. - Dedicated to jrc750!

        Winner of the German Masters 2011 Lucky Dip

        Comment


        • #5
          Good to see the BBC finally putting a bit of effort into their red button service, showing the other table during the MSI is a vast improvement on the usual looped theme tune, better late than never I suppose. Shame they still can't decide which match they're going to show and stick with it though.

          -
          The fast and the furious,
          The slow and labourious,
          All of us, glorious parts of the whole!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by PatBlock View Post
            Good to see the BBC finally putting a bit of effort into their red button service, showing the other table during the MSI is a vast improvement on the usual looped theme tune, better late than never I suppose. Shame they still can't decide which match they're going to show and stick with it though.
            I can't decide either.

            Liang has just made a lovely century to take the lead against Hawkins. I still think it will go to a decider, as it so often does when Hawkins is involved.

            Comment


            • #7
              Holt is sticking to the tails of Higgins' coat as of now. I wonder if he can take the lead now.
              All the way Mark J!!

              I understand nothing from snooker. - Dedicated to jrc750!

              Winner of the German Masters 2011 Lucky Dip

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Odrl View Post
                I can't decide either.

                Liang has just made a lovely century to take the lead against Hawkins. I still think it will go to a decider, as it so often does when Hawkins is involved.
                Yes they're both good matches aren't they, 4 all and 3 all at the moment.

                -
                The fast and the furious,
                The slow and labourious,
                All of us, glorious parts of the whole!

                Comment


                • #9
                  A massive underhit on a blue costs Holt the frame.
                  Big chance missed.
                  All the way Mark J!!

                  I understand nothing from snooker. - Dedicated to jrc750!

                  Winner of the German Masters 2011 Lucky Dip

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by PatBlock View Post
                    Yes they're both good matches aren't they, 4 all and 3 all at the moment.

                    -
                    I was watching the Higgins match on Eurosport...good one indeed! So wtf is Eurosport doing atm showing Watts instead of live snooker?!?! Arghhhhhhhhh...unbelievable.
                    Last edited by daffie; 1 December 2012, 02:15 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yeah, he needed to take that chance really. You can't let John Higgins off the hook like that, because he inevitably takes command of the match...

                      Hawkins-Liang very close at the moment, but Hawkins has looked slightly stronger over the last frame and a half.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Odrl View Post
                        Hawkins-Liang very close at the moment, but Hawkins has looked slightly stronger over the last frame and a half.
                        He's ahead in all stats now apart from highest break, including the most important one, 5 - 4 to him.

                        -
                        The fast and the furious,
                        The slow and labourious,
                        All of us, glorious parts of the whole!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by montoya10 View Post
                          Barry Hawkins against Liang Wenbo. One of the more balanced match-ups of the first round. Hawkins has been a more solid player compared to Wenbo in the last couple of seasons, who looked lost after his initial breakout. Although he has managed to stop the downfall, I don't think he has reached the level of Hawkins in a grinder type player, so, I expect Hawkins to prevail with a 6-4ish scoreline.
                          I'm so proud of myself now!
                          All the way Mark J!!

                          I understand nothing from snooker. - Dedicated to jrc750!

                          Winner of the German Masters 2011 Lucky Dip

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by montoya10 View Post
                            I expect Hawkins to prevail with a 6-4ish scoreline.
                            Good call, Liang just made too many mistakes in the end. It should be an interesting match with Robertson in the next round, just a shame it's not a two-session match.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by PatBlock View Post
                              Good to see the BBC finally putting a bit of effort into their red button service, showing the other table during the MSI is a vast improvement on the usual looped theme tune, better late than never I suppose. Shame they still can't decide which match they're going to show and stick with it though.

                              -
                              On the 'shame though' theme, another is the beeb stream between frames still only seems to go to the studio during finals,I've no idea why :-|

                              Comment

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