Iulian Boiko scored an impressive 5-4 win over Simon Blackwell in the first round of the Nirvana Turkish Masters and admitted that he is spurred on by his pride in representing Ukraine on the World Snooker Tour.
Match schedule / Tickets
During last week’s BetVictor Welsh Open Boiko spoke to a wide range of media including GMTV and described his emotions. His parents and brothers have successfully escaped Ukraine and are now in Poland, but he still has members of his team and many friends in his home city of Kyiv as the conflict with Russia continues.
After today’s victory, 16-year-old Boiko said: “The Ukrainian nation motivates me to play better and to fight because of what people are going through. I hope I make them a little bit happier by winning. I am doing it for them, they are my inspiration. I am really motivated and really proud to be Ukrainian. I hope we will get through these difficult times.
“You can’t just ignore the news but then it’s hard to focus on snooker. It’s really terrible, I can’t put it aside when people are dying. Civilians and people I know are in danger. I wish it would stop. I wish I could help and the only thing that keeps me playing is to play my game and represent Ukraine with pride.”
Boiko arrived in Turkey last weekend and has been comforted by the many kind words and messages he has from others on the tour. He added: “All of the players, the staff, the referees – everyone is really supportive and understanding and I really appreciate that. I love the snooker family, everyone is great.”
Despite making just one break over 50 today, Boiko edged his way through to the last 64 and a match with Andrew Higginson. He said: The match today was scrappy with lots of mistakes but I’m very happy to get the win. I really enjoyed the match and the chance to be part of this tournament, it’s a nice atmosphere. I hope in the next round I will improve my game. My game is only about 30 to 40 per cent of what I can show but I am gaining more experience.”
Ding Junhui, who has slipped to 32nd in the world rankings, earned a much-needed win by coming from 4-1 down to beat Robert Milkins 5-4. China’s Ding knocked in breaks of 131, 105, 81 and 55 in the last four frames as he set up a match with Kyren Wilson, who beat Tian Pengfei 5-1 with a top break of 98.
Iran’s Hossein Vafaei scored a 5-0 victory over Turkish wild card Enes Bakirci with a top run of 75. “I would love to see Turkish players on the main tour,” said BetVictor Shoot Out champion Vafaei. “There are so many fans in Turkey and it’s great to see our sport getting bigger here. There are lots of Iranians in Turkey who have come from Istanbul to watch me play here.
“Winning the Shoot Out has not changed me. Life goes on, you have to stay humble and try to be a people’s champion. Even if I win 100 tournaments I will be the same with the fans.”
Yan Bingtao top scored with 80 in a 5-2 win over Joe O’Connor. Vafaei and Yan are among those battling for a place in the top eight of the one-year ranking list and a place in the Cazoo Tour Championship, and this is the penultimate counting event so every result is crucial.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh came from 3-0 down to beat Stephen Maguire 5-4, winning a tense deciding frame by laying a snooker on the last red and clearing from the chance that followed.
Luca Brecel, celebrating his 27th birthday today, beat Stuart Carrington 5-1 with a top break of 79, while Zhou Yuelong came from 4-2 down to edge out BetVictor European Masters champion Fan Zhengyi 5-4. Oliver Lines recovered a 50-0 deficit in the decider against Xiao Guodong to clinch victory with a superb 69 clearance.