Neil Robertson and Mark Selby both reached the third round of the Betway UK Championship, but only after being pushed hard by gritty opponents at the York Barbican on Saturday night.
Robertson, champion here in 2013 and 2015, beat Robbie Williams 6-4. The Australian led 3-1 at the interval with a top break of 101 but his opponent kept battling and had two chances in the tenth frame to make it 5-5, but amassed only 22 points and Robertson eventually won with a 63 clearance. He goes through to face Mark King.
“I was cruising at 3-1 but I allowed my focus to wander and never got it back,” said Robertson, who is 36th on the one-year ranking list so needs positive results to ensure his place in the Coral series events in the new year. “That’s not a good spot to be in because I made a lot if mistakes. It was a sloppy performance.
“I’ll get some practice tomorrow, hopefully get some fluency back and then play better as the tournament progresses. My game is in fantastic shape, but in the early rounds you don’t always see the best of the top players.”
Selby, champion in 2012 and 2016, saw off Liam Highfield 6-3. Stoke’s Highfield had a clear chance to go 2-0 up but missed the final pink off its spot. Selby then went 4-1 up with a top run of 129.
A run of 91 saw Highfield pull one back and he made a 46 clearance in the next for 4-3. He had chances in frame eight but couldn’t take them, allowing Selby to go 5-3 up. And the three-time World Champion sealed victory in the ninth with a break of 80.
“I felt really good out there, it was just a couple of issues with my concentration,” said Selby, who now meets Ricky Walden or Martin O’Donnell.
“Liam’s a dangerous opponent and I think he’s a lot better than his ranking suggests. I think the difference with the top-ranked players is that they take their chances more often than not. He looked like making a fantastic clearance in the second frame, then missed the pink off the spot. That was a key turning point.”
Hit The Road Jak
Mark Allen narrowly avoided a shock defeat against Jak Jones, winning 6-5. Seventh seed Allen made a 141 in building a 5-1 lead, before Jones battled back to 5-5 with a top run of 104.
Welshman Jones had first chance in the decider and made 25. Allen responded with 64, and although his opponent got the two snookers he needed on the blue, the Northern Irishman potted blue and pink to seal the result.
Eden Project Still In Progress
Eden Sharav, who scored the shock of the first round by knocking out Shaun Murphy, kept his momentum going in a 6-2 defeat of Daniel Wells. The Israeli knocked in breaks of 52, 78, 54, 94 and 69.
Alan McManus came from 4-1 down to beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 with a top run of 81 while Anthony Hamilton made a 104 in a 6-3 defeat of James Cahill.
China’s Zhao Xintong had a top break of 114 as he beat Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-4 in a match which had an average frame time of just 11 minutes.