Ronnie O’Sullivan saw his hopes of winning the Betway UK Championship for an eighth time ended by a shock 6-5 defeat against Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher in the second round.
World Champion O’Sullivan admitted he was “embarrassed” by his own performance as he made a host of errors and crashed out at the last 64 stage in Milton Keynes. World number 66 Ursenbacher will hope to build on the best result of his career when he faces Jamie Jones or Jordan Brown next.
O’Sullivan hasn’t won a title since his Crucible triumph in August and has now lost twice this season to players ranked outside the world’s top 64, having been beaten by rookie Aaron Hill at the European Masters. And he has now lost both of his career meetings against Ursenbacher, having suffered a 4-2 reverse at last year’s Welsh Open.
After losing the first two frames today, O’Sullivan won the third with a break of 68, which turned out to be his highest of the match. In the fourth he was 35 points ahead with one red left, but then a safety error sent the cue ball in-off and his opponent cleared to lead 3-1 at the interval.
The next two frames were shared, then O’Sullivan won three in a row to lead 5-4. He had a match-winning opportunity in frame ten, from 37-0 down, but made just 14 before missing a red to a top corner. Ursenbacher made 40 for 5-5.
A superb long red from Ursenbacher early in the decider began a run of 47. He ran out of position, but then got the better of a safety exchange and added 36 for victory.
“Alex played well and deserved his victory,” said O’Sullivan. “I made so many mistakes and if I had won that match it would have been robbery. Good luck to him, I hope he can win a few more matches. I just couldn’t pot any balls, I felt embarrassed. Every time I came to the table I just felt like I wouldn’t pot more than two balls. At 5-4 I thought I might steal it, but I didn’t deserve to win. There are no excuses. I haven’t got time to be disappointed because I’ll be back here for the Scottish Open next week.”
Ursenbacher, age 24, said: “That was a big test for me because I know I’m capable of beating the top players if I can play my game. When Ronnie plays well he is nearly unplayable. I beat him last year which gave me confirmation of what I can do. But I knew he would be really up for it today because it’s a big tournament. I told myself not to think about anything except the next shot.
“I think it’s my best career win because Ronnie is the best player to ever pick up a cue, plus this is a very big event and live on television. I haven’t really achieved anything yet in snooker, in my opinion. I am nowhere near where I want to be. I hope this will get some attention in the Swiss media.
“In a way there will be more pressure on my next match because no one expected me to win today. In the next round the expectation will come back and that’s the most pressure you can have.”
Lu Narrowly Misses New Record
Lu Ning became only the seventh player in snooker history to make four consecutive century breaks, joining Stephen Maguire, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, Gary Wilson and Mark Allen.
The Chinese cueman fired runs 105, 103, 133 and 134 as he beat Matthew Selt 6-0. Lu then had a chance to become the first player to make five consecutive tons but missed the final yellow on 81 in the sixth frame.
Mark Selby was a fine form in a 6-1 win over Liam Highfield, making breaks of 95, 75 and 69. “I started the match well and didn’t allow Liam to build confidence. I tried to play attacking snooker,” said Selby, who won this event in 2012 and 2016.
Joe O’Connor scored an impressive 6-3 win over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh with a top break of 69. That leaves Un-Nooh uncertain of a debut at the Masters – he currently lies in the 15th place in the Race to the Masters so must hope he doesn’t get overtaken by two players. One of those in pursuit, Graeme Dott, came from 3-1 down to beat Mark King 6-4 with a top break of 81.
Kurt Maflin compiled runs of 125, 136 and 141 as he edged out Jamie Clarke 6-5 while Masters champion Stuart Bingham saw off Andrew Higginson 6-1.