UK Championship 2018 starts on TUESDAY as Ronnie O’Sullivan hunts record seventh title

The 43rd UK Championship begins on Tuesday with the opening round draw producing somewhat of an FA Cup theme.

The prestigious ranking event – the second biggest of the season calendar to be held in the UK – is up for grabs yet again with 128 players competing to win the trophy and a cheque for a massive £170,000.

Only the World Championship and a couple of events in China have a bigger jackpot prize on offer in terms of ranking events throughout the whole season.

First round matches begin on Tuesday with the TV stages officially starting from the second round which kicks off on Saturday (December 1). However, subscribers to Eurosport Player will be able to catch some of the first round action between Tuesday and Thursday.

Last year’s winner Ronnie O’Sullivan is bidding to become the UK Championship’s most successful player of all time as he is one title away from becoming the new outright record holder of UK Championship titles – beating Steve Davis’s record.

His victory over Shaun Murphy in last year’s final put him level on Steve Davis’ six titles.

O’Sullivan is in great form after winning the Champion of Champions and then reaching the final of the Northern Ireland Open just a week ago. There’s no doubt he will be the bookies’ favourite to record history yet again in the coming weeks at York’s Barbican Theatre. 

But the draw has thrown up a rather David and Goliath tie for O’Sullivan. He will begin the defence of his crown against the relatively unknown Luke Simmonds – an amateur player who earns his money by working in a factory.

The match will be played on Thursday afternoon and should Simmonds do the unthinkable and beat O’Sullivan it will be considered as one of snooker’s biggest ever giant killing victories of all time. 

In football terms it would be the equivalent a minnow knocking out Manchester City. But as the FA Cup has shown on many glorious occasions over history  – shocks can and do happen.

Ronnie O’Sullivan. Picture courtesy of Monique Limbos

Simmonds has earned the opportunity after winning enough matches at Q School this year to earn a place in certain ranking events.

But even he has admitted he is not happy game about the state of his game ahead of the biggest match of his life. 

In an interview with World Snooker the 38-year-old said: “I admire Ronnie because, along with John Higgins and Mark Williams, they are able to play snooker in an optimum state of mind. They are totally at ease with themselves, enjoying the game with no concerns about prize money or expenses.

“I would love to be able to do the same but the hardest thing is to get to that point. I don’t feel good about my game at the moment because I am very self-critical of my own performances.”

The draw has also produced another FA Cup giant killing tie as reigning world champion Mark Williams will also face a player not currently on the professional tour.

Mark Williams. Picture by Monique Limbos

Former professional Adam Duffy was relegated from the main tour last season but thanks to some wins at Q School he will get to play in a big competition once again – playing against Williams who won his third World Championship title in May – after a break of 15 years since winning his last world title.

Other fascinating first round matches see former world champion Stuart Bingham take on Thailand legend potter James Wattana and John Higgins meets Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng – and as you see in the below video – is known to be one of snooker’s most funny and uncanny of characters.

Video: 
snookerthailandvideo

The draw in full can be seen here.

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