The defending champion Yan Bingtao was knocked out by Mark Williams on the opening day of snooker’s new Masters series, while Neil Robertson made an emphatic start to his title defense.
|Alexandra Palace in London is the location for this event. The dates are 9-16 January.|
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In a dramatic first-round Masters match at Alexandra Palace, Mark Williams delivered a classic performance to defeat reigning champion Yan Bingtao 6-4.
Yan, 21, got off to a strong start, breaking 64, 71, and 57 to grab a 3-1 lead.
After Yan kept his hopes alive with a 122, Williams, 46, answered with four half centuries and a century, and clinched his victory with an 85-run innings.
Neil Robertson progressed as well, defeating Anthony McGill 6-3 in a game littered with errors.
Williams will now play either John Higgins or Zhao Xintong in the quarter-finals on Thursday, while Robertson will face either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Jack Lisowski in the last eight.
Robertson stumbles his way to victory.
After been knocked out of the competition at the first hurdle the past two years, 2012 champion Robertson will be happy simply to get the tournament started with a victory against Scotland’s McGill.
Robertson was unconvincing, and he benefited much from McGill’s repeated inability to capitalize on some shoddy potting and shoddy safety.
After being outplayed for most of the first half of the match, the 39-year-old Australian made a 75-point break to tie the game at 2-2 at the mid-session intermission, and then went 3-2 up with a 94-point run after being outplayed for much of the first half.
However, he dominated the next few frames, hitting breaks of 57 and 62 to seal his victory.
“It was difficult,” Robertson said in an interview with Sport.
“I probably took too much time off during the holidays. I felt pretty rusty in a few frames, and Anthony made it incredibly difficult for me. He made it very clear that he didn’t want me to see any long balls or produce anything dangerous.”
Williams, a seasoned pro, takes center stage.
Yan’s win at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes a year ago was played out behind closed doors, but today was his first time playing in front of a crowded arena at the tournament’s more established venue.
But the Chinese player showed no signs of anxiety or pressure as he took a comfortable lead into the break, with Williams looking like he was about to continue his poor form at the Masters, having lost five of his previous six first-round matches.
Two wayward pots to the middle pockets and a missing black off its location lost Williams three frames in which he seemed poised to making significant breaks.
Williams’ fightback was sparked by a sprinkle of brilliance and good fortune in the fifth set, which finally propelled him to victory against a player who had not yet been born when he won the first of his two Masters championships in 1998.
The three-time world champion, who is still suffering from the affects of Covid, landed safely after dramatically missing a pot to the left corner, then went on to pot the yellow with a classic underarm stroke before sealing the frame with a one-handed escape from a snooker.
“I practice with them all the time, and I don’t miss many underarm strokes in games,” Williams told Sport.
“There are certain snookers I’d rather play one-handed – it’s not that I’m mocking my opponent; it’s simply that I’m more comfortable with it, and if I can get the majority of them, why not?”
“It’s a good thing I have an afternoon match.” If I played a night match, you can bet I’d be chatting to my wife in the home and fast asleep in 10 seconds. It’s simply strange. It seems like you’re always carrying five sacks of coal on your shoulder.
“I’m a lot better than I was a month ago, but I’m still not there.”
After leveling with a break of 62, Williams went on to win the following two frames with breaks of 67, 64, and 104, all without Yan potting a ball.
While the Chinese star came back with a fantastic 122, Williams was able to win the match thanks to a fluke at the start of the 10th session.
John Parrott, a former world champion, on Two
“Mark Williams hasn’t lost his touch. It’s incredible to be delivering that level of snooker at the age of 46.
“He is one of the greats of all time.” He’s different from everyone else; his strokes are intelligent, and despite a handful of flukes, he was consistently hitting the ball well. He was playing some fantastic stuff with the long pots he was knocking in.
“When he was losing, I would have given big money to have a disposition like his and to be as cool, calm, and collected as he was. He was down 3-1 in the match, but apart from his skill, it has always been his trump card.”
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