Snooker: Big-hitters exit in round one in York

27 November 2021 22:33:24 GMTPlus11
Neil Robertson was an early casualty

The first round of the UK Championship was far more eventful than many had anticipated, with defending champion Neil Robertson making the earliest possible exit.

Shaun Murphy was the first top cueman to exit the competition when he was beaten 6-5 by amateur Si Jiahui.

The Magician had been trailing 5-1 in that opening contest and although he was able to rally and force a decider, his Chinese opponent was able to hold him off.

The drama didn't finish there. John Astley caused an almighty shock when beating Robertson and it was a comfortable victory for Gateshead cueman.

Astley established a 4-1 lead and breaks of 79, 83 and 119 kept the Aussie off the table - the Gateshead potter is 13/8 to beat Mark Joyce in round two, while Si is a 6/5 chance against the experienced Dominic Dale.

Rocket white-hot

Ronnie O'Sullivan was another top player to face an amateur in his opening match, but to call Michael White a non-professional doesn't do his talent justice.

The Welshman is a former junior champion, a two-time ranking event winner and a World Championship quarter-finalist.

The 30-year-old showed that he still has plenty to offer when knocking in breaks of 71 and 102 in the first-round against O'Sullivan and the Rocket needed to turn on the afterburners to see off White.

O'Sullivan came through 6-3 with runs of 72, 131 and 139 and he is a 1/9 shot to get past Robbie Williams in the second round.

The Rocket hasn't won a title since he lifted the 2020 World Championship in Sheffield and he will no doubt be keen to add another trophy to his collection.

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Trump starts with a thumping victory

Judd Trump lifted the Champion of Champions crown in Leicester last week and he began his crack at a second UK Championship title with a thumping 6-1 victory over David Lilley.

The Ace rattled in breaks of 51, 58, 100 and 132 in a comfortable win and he looks to be in excellent nick.

Trump's record in York isn't as strong as in other ranking events, but there are few players capable of matching an on-song Bristol potter and Chris Wakelin has the unenviable task of trying to stop him in round two.

Thepchaiya off to a flyer

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh produced the performance of the first round when beating Stephen Hendry 6-1 - the Scot is a former five-time UK Championship winner, and he has recently returned to the main tour.

Of course, Hendry isn't the force of old, but the scoreline wasn’t the impressive part of Un-Nooh's performance. In seven frames the Thai made breaks of 52, 59, 100, 106, 107, 129 and 136 in a truly amazing run of scoring.

The Bangkok potter is a superb talent and he is certainly worth keeping an eye on for the rest of the tournament. Un-Nooh is 8/11 to beat Zhao Xintong in the next round.

Second-round predictions

There are 32 second-round matches to take a look at and there could be a good option in the clash between Luca Brecel and Tom Ford.

Model T is a talented break-builder and he is capable of deep runs in major events. Ford has made four ranking semi-finals in the last three and a bit seasons and the Leicester potter is capable of matching anyone in the scoring department.

Of course, Ford isn't the most consistent performer on Tour, but he takes on another in-and-out performer in Brecel and the Englishman is 11/10 to win the match.

Brecel has been highly-rated since he burst on to the scene as a youngster, but he hasn't really lived up to his big billing.

A run to the quarter-final of the English Open earlier this month is the best effort the Bullet has managed in a ranking event since he reached the last eight of this competition in 2016.

That's a rather extended barren run and Brecel's style of play is likely to play into the hands of Ford.

It's unlikely that this contest will develop into a tactical affair and if you open the game up there are few better players in the balls than Ford.

For those looking to get with a player at a big price it could be worth considering Ben Woollaston at 7/2.

Woollaston takes on Yan Bingtao in the second round on Sunday, and while it will be a difficult task, it may not be quite as tough as the prices suggest.

The Leicester potter is a talented operator and it's worth remembering that Woollaston made the final of the Welsh Open in 2015.

Things haven't gone quite as you would have expected since, but the 34-year-old did reach the final of last year's Championship League and perhaps results may be about to turn in his favour.

Bingtao realised his potential when winning the Masters last year and there's no doubting the Tiger's talent.

However, there have been plenty of early ranking event disappointments since that Alexandra Palace triumph for Bingtao and he takes on a player capable of capitalising, if the Tiger fails to find his feet.

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