Joe Swail scored his best result in recent years with a 6-5 defeat of Neil Robertson at the International Championship in Chengdu.
Former World Championship semi-finalist Swail was relegated from snooker’s main tour in 2012, but bounced back after a year’s absence and is now producing vintage form. The 45-year-old from Belfast has won ten matches in four ranking events so far this season, culminating in a superb victory over world number two Robertson.
Wuxi Classic winner Robertson looked to be cruising early on as breaks of 101 and 62 helped him go 3-0 up. Swail made 81 and 75 in taking the next two frames, before Robertson pulled away to 5-3, making a 106 in frame eight. But Swail won two tight frames for 5-5, then took the decider 78-15 with a crucial run of 46. It’s the second consecutive ranking event in which Robertson has squandered a 3-0 lead, having lost 5-4 to Michael White at the Shanghai Masters.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Swail, nicknamed the Outlaw. “Neil had a few chances to get over the line, but it’s not easy out there under pressure. I managed to take mine in the end. I haven’t been involved much at the big events in recent years so to come here and beat one of the top players is very good.
“After I fell off the tour, I decided to give snooker one more go, but with no expectations because my level of play had dropped. That took pressure off me. I don’t care whether I play the world number one or the world number 551 because two years ago I was in a very low place. I’m just glad to be here and competing with the best.”
Robert Milkins scored a surprise 6-1 win over Shaun Murphy. Bulgarian Open winner Murphy headed to China full of confidence, but was no match for world number 18 Milkins.
Breaks of 57, 47 and 72 helped Gloucester’s Milkins go 3-0 ahead, and though Murphy nicked the fourth frame by clearing from brown to black, he couldn’t turn the match around after the interval. A 37 clearance put Milkins 4-1 ahead and in frame six he made 57 before taking it on the colours. Milkins then dominated the next to secure his last 16 place.
“It’s a massive win for me,” said Milkins. “I got off to a good start, which was the key because I usually start matches slowly. Shaun let me off a couple of times and I kept him under pressure, then I nicked a couple of frames towards the end.”
World number five Barry Hawkins is also out as he lost 6-2 to two-time World Champion Mark Williams, whose top break was 59.
Sam Baird came from 3-0 and 5-3 down to beat Mark Davis 6-5. Devon’s Baird made a 121 in the fourth frame, and 98 in the tenth and took the decider 72-37.
“I can’t believe I won,” said world number 77 Baird, who has never been past the last 16 of a full ranking event. “I haven’t done that well in the major events so it’s nice to be in the last 16 of a huge tournament with a chance to go further. Money-wise this is the third biggest event of the season and the biggest in China.
“I won a lot of matches last season but mainly in the European Tour events. I just need the confidence that I can beat anyone and the belief that if you play well, it doesn’t matter who your opponent is.”
Shanghai Masters and Haining Open champion Stuart Bingham kept his hot streak going with a 6-3 defeat of Ryan Day, knocking in breaks of 78, 135, 52, 54, 64 and 70.
Rod Lawler top scored with 104 in a 6-1 win over Fergal O’Brien while Peter Ebdon saw off Joe Perry 6-1 with a top run of 70.