World number one Mark Selby and three-time Crucible king Mark Williams joined the big-name casualties to be knocked out of the Cazoo UK Championship in York before the second week has started.
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Selby lost 6-2 to Iran’s Hossein Vafaei in the second round while Anthony Hamilton scored a 6-5 victory over Williams, who admitted that he fell asleep midway through the match. Welshman Williams has suffered from gout and Covid-19 in recent weeks, leaving him with severe fatigue.
Selby and Williams follow Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui and Yan Bingtao out of the exit door in York within the first two rounds.
Leicester’s Selby won his fourth Crucible crown in May but has made a poor start to the current season – he is yet to go beyond the last 16 of a ranking event this term. Vafaei can celebrate once of the best wins of his career so far and look forward to a last 32 match with Xiao Guodong.
Breaks of 109, 69, 55 and 56 helped put world number 63 Vafaei 5-0 ahead. Selby fought back to take the next two frames with a top run of 80, and would have added another had he not missed a tough final pink to a top corner when leading by 13 points. The frame went to a respotted black, and after a long tactical exchange, Vafaei fluked the black to a centre pocket from a tight angle when playing safe.
“I want to make my people proud of me,” said Iran’s top player. “I want to make snooker bigger in my country and I am doing that with wins like this.”
Hamilton has been 3-0 down in each of his first two matches but came through both and now faces Ricky Walden
Williams led 4-2 with top breaks of 66 and 71 before Hamilton won three in a row with 64, 88 and 65. Two-time UK Champion Williams won frame ten then had first chance in the decider but made just 21 before running out of position. Former German Masters champion Hamilton made an excellent match-winning 70, albeit helped midway through the break by a massive fluke on a red which dropped into a baulk corner after he had missed it to a centre pocket.
Williams said: “After 30 years as a pro, that’s the first time I have fallen asleep during a match. The score was 3-2 and I was sitting in my chair then I was out like a light. My head dropped down which woke me up and for about five seconds I had no idea where I was. It’s been a few weeks since I had Covid and I am feeling better but I still get very tired. It was a good match though, we both made some good breaks. He had a fluke in the decider but I have had plenty of those over the years.”
Nottingham’s Hamilton, ranked 56, said: “I was twitching all over the gaff at the end. That’s why I want to stay on the tour because you only get that thrill from sky-diving and playing snooker. I won’t get that when I retire, these emotions are hard to come by so I want to stay on tour for another couple of years and get as many of them as possible. I love being under pressure, it’s great, you feel alive.”
Zhou Yuelong saw off Ashley Hugill 6-2 to boost his status in the Race to the Cazoo Masters while 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott kept up the chase by beating Jimmy Robertson by the same scoreline.
Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown thrashed Farakh Ajaib 6-1 while Belgium’s Luca Brecel came from 5-4 down to edge out Tom Ford 6-5. Stuart Bingham was a 6-2 winner over Stuart Carrington while Anthony McGill top scored with 130 in a 6-4 defeat of David Grace.