United Kingdom

Wilson wins thriller against O’Sullivan

Venue: York Barbican Dates: 23 November – 5 December Coverage: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and app
BBC coverage times, schedule and results

Kyren Wilson reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship for the first time with a thrilling 6-5 victory over seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Wilson, 29, made three half-century breaks and two centuries in a high-quality contest between the two highest ranked players left in the tournament.

A repeat of the 2020 World Championship final had seen O’Sullivan fight back from 2-0 and 5-3 down to level at 5-5.

World number five Wilson will face Luca Brecel on Saturday.

‘The Belgian Bullet’ continued where he left off in his comprehensive victories over Stephen Maguire and Anthony Hamilton to reach the last four with a 6-2 win over Scotland’s world number 16, Anthony McGill.

And there are signs the 26-year-old is beginning to realise the potential he exhibited both as a junior and in becoming the first player from mainland Europe to win a ranking event in 2017.

Brecel raced into a 3-0 lead and rarely looked like relinquishing control of the match – making four half-centuries on his way to victory.

Meanwhile, China’s world number 26 Zhao Xintong recovered from losing the opening two frames to triumph 6-2 against England’s Jack Lisowski.

Lisowski, 30, who sits nine places above his opponent in the world rankings made breaks of 79 and 63. But he was punished for several loose pots and some lax safety as Zhao knocked in four century breaks before rounding off his win with a break of 83.

Zhao will take on Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals after the world number 14 thrashed Andy Hicks 6-1 in an all-English encounter.

Hawkins, 42, made three half-century breaks and had established a commanding 4-0 lead before Hicks, 48, made a break of 50 en route to winning the fifth frame. It ensured he would not suffer a whitewash on his first appearance at this stage of the UK Championship since 1995.

Wilson holds his nerve

Wilson – who is yet to win one of snooker’s Triple Crown events, having previously been a runner-up at both the Masters (2018) and to O’Sullivan at the Crucible – will go into his match against Brecel as clear favourite.

“Luca is a fantastic young talent. He won big in China a few years ago and we all probably expected him to kick on. I look forward to that game,” Wilson told BBC Sport.

Wilson showcased his prolific break-building skills early on against O’Sullivan, winning both of the first two frames at one visit, with runs of 92 and 117.

O’Sullivan responded in style, taking the next frame and then levelling the match at 2-2 with a sublime break of 115.

The players then traded frames – Wilson going back in front with a break of 66, and O’Sullivan responding with a 76 to level. But Wilson regained control with a composed break of 71, and then took the eighth frame as well to go two clear.

However, the tension increased, amid several stoppages in play as fans came in and out of the auditorium, plus an O’Sullivan complaint over background movement from a photographer.

“I said to the referee, we’re in no rush. I’m here to play snooker and there’s no time limit on how long the match takes,” O’Sullivan said.

“It doesn’t bother me. I play in good venues and bad venues. It is what it is – just keep eating the smoked salmon and cream cheese.”

That disruption appeared to work in the six-time world champion’s favour as he made breaks of 64 and 83 to set up a final-frame decider.

But Wilson, who had twice had an unfortunate run of the balls after splitting the reds at 5-3 and 5-4, reacted impeccably to register a composed break of 102 and record only his third win over O’Sullivan.

“It was one of those [matches] where you feel the snooker gods don’t forgive you and I probably should have won 6-3. Then things started to turn and I thought I had missed the boat,” Wilson added.

“I backed myself under pressure. I have let a couple slip with Ronnie so it was nice to get that under my belt.”

The next Chinese superstar?

Zhao Xintong shot to prominence with a win over former world champion Ken Doherty in the International Championship in 2012

Earlier in the week, Zhao was compared to tennis great Roger Federer by O’Sullivan, with the caveat he now needs to turn his natural talent into tournament success after failing to progress beyond a quarter-final during the previous two seasons.

The 24-year-old has been considered one of the most promising players in the game for nearly a decade after impressing as a 15-year-old in events held in Asia.

The manner in which he defeated four-time world champion John Higgins in the third round and clinically capitalised on Lisowski’s errors suggests he may be capable of making a breakthrough on the big stage in York.

“It is a big tournament for me. It can give me more confidence. I want to try and I think I can [win the tournament]. I just need to control myself,” Zhao said.

“I don’t want to think about it (the semi-final) too much and add pressure onto myself.”

Analysis

Six-time world champion Steve Davis on BBC Two:

“Kyren Wilson was delighted with himself. He withstood the pressure and the disappointments of going into the pack and not being on a red. He is able to win major events and is slowly going up the ladder.

“If he wins the World Championship, the UK Championship or the Masters, I don’t think anyone would be surprised.”

Shaun Murphy, 2005 world champion:

“Both of the players put in stellar performances. But I think I have got that as one the best performances in Kyren Wilson’s career. He has won multiple events and has established himself as a contender every time he brings his cue to the table.

“What he did today and the way he did it – standing up to the barrage that Ronnie O’Sullivan gave him at the end there – is one of the best we have seen.”

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