Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten at the Betway UK Championship for the first time since 2016 as he lost 6-4 in a high quality match against Ding Junhui in the last 16.
O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy seven times and was aiming for a third successive crown, but was second best today against an inspired Ding in York. The result means that the top four players in the world – O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson – have been knocked out before the quarter-finals.
Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, goes through to the last eight to face Liang Wenbo in a Chinese derby. World number 16 Ding has had a disappointing run of form having not win a ranking title for over two years, but on today’s evidence looks to have regained his scoring prowess.
Breaks of 82, 51 and 110 put Ding 3-0 ahead before O’Sullivan pulled one back with a run of 78. Ding won the fifth but didn’t pot a ball in the next three frames as O’Sullivan fired 77, 107 and 124 to level at 4-4.
In frame nine, Ding led 60-0 when he missed a red to a top corner, but O’Sullivan’s reply ended at 16 when he missed a red himself, allowing his opponent to regain the lead. Ding made 45 in the tenth before missing a red to centre, but he soon got back in and added 37 for victory.
“I played well, about 90% of my best,” said 32-year-old Ding. “Ronnie didn’t pot many long balls so he left me chances. I knew I had to start well because he can switch it on at any time, score heavily and win frames. I played good safety. Hopefully I can remember this feeling and play like this in every match.
“I didn’t play many tournaments earlier in the season so I needed ranking points and that’s when the pressure comes. Everyone is looking at me expecting me to win.”
Ding’s mother died in 2017 so he has deep sympathy with Liang, who suffered the same misfortune last week. “He’s got a tough time now,” said Ding. “He is very brave to keep playing and winning. We all love to see him playing well again.
“I know how he feels. (When it happened to me) my mind was here but my heart was back home. I think he’s the same. I’m sure he just wants to win matches for his mum.”
O’Sullivan, who turns 44 today, said: “I was happy to win four frames because that could have been a mauling. I had a couple of chances from 4-4 but I didn’t take them. I missed a few balls at vital times. Ding played a great match and deserved to win. He could win this but there are still so many good players.”
O’Sullivan will be back in action next week at the Scottish Open in Glasgow.
Bond – I’ll Die Another Day
Nigel Bond followed up his win over Judd Trump by coming from 5-2 down to beat Gary Wilson 6-5 – with the help of a monumental fluke in the deciding frame.
At the age of 54, when Bond meets Mark Allen on Friday he will become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist since Fred Davis who was 67 when he reached the last eight in 1980.
Wilson took the opening frame then Bond won a marathon 67-minute second before adding the third to lead 2-1. Breaks of 78 and 75 helped Wilson take the next four frames as he went 5-2 up.
World number 98 Bond won the eighth then made an 85 for 5-4. Wilson, a Crucible semi-finalist earlier this year, had a clear match-winning chance in the tenth but missed the black with one red remaining when he trailed by two points. Bond punished him to set up the decider.
The crucial moment came when Chesterfield’s Bond went for a long red to a top corner and missed his target, but the red hit another which drifted the diagonal length of the table and dropped into a baulk pocket. From that chance he made 66 which proved enough.
“When the fluke went in I thought it must be written in the stars,” said 1996 British Open champion Bond, whose last quarter-final appearance in this event came in 2003. “Gary went for a crazy plant at 5-2 and sometimes the balls don’t forgive you. It was frustrating not to play as well as I did against Judd. Once I was 5-2 down I found a better rhythm.
“I’m proud to have been a pro for 31 years, I have never dropped off the tour or needed a wild card. The money I have earned here (£24,500 guaranteed) will help me stay on for longer. Moments like this are more special now.”
A fuming Wilson said: “The whole match was a joke, I had no form at all. Not just the fluke in the last frame, but every time he missed the balls finished awkward. It was pathetic. Nigel was snatching at every shot. He’s a great bloke but he got away with murder today. I had my chances though so I only have myself to blame.”