Jimmy White’s biggest occasion on the World Snooker Tour for 12 years ended in a 6-2 defeat against Ryan Day at the Cazoo UK Championship, but the Whirlwind still described it as a “magical” experience which he will never forget.
All-time legend White showed vintage form in the qualifying rounds, winning four matches including a tremendous victory over Stephen Maguire. The 60-year-old couldn’t replicate that performance in the first round proper in York, but the reception he received from the crowd will live long in the memory. The fans rose to their feet for a standing ovation as White was introduced into the arena.
“That’s why I still play snooker, for their support on nights like this,” said the 1992 UK Champion, whose last occasion of this magnitude was at the 2010 Masters. “It was magical, mind-blowing. I will never forget it.”
Day won the Cazoo British Open last month and the Welshman was too strong for White as he booked a last 16 clash with Sam Craigie, who knocked out defending champion Zhao Xintong earlier in the day.
White should have won the opening frame, but in potting the final brown he lost position on the blue and then missed a difficult pot to a top corner, allowing Day to snatch it. Londoner White also failed to take chances in the second frame, though he did make a 55 in the third to trail 2-1. World number 16 Day then pulled away with runs of 127 and 105 as he went 5-1 ahead.
Breaks of 49 and 44 helped White pull one back, but there would be no fairytale ending as Day made a 63 in frame eight and clinched the result.
“In the first frame I had two or three chances, I could have taken one and settled down,” admitted White. “In the second I got frustrated and made some mistakes with my shot selection. You can’t keep letting a player like Ryan off and he got stronger.”
Day said: “Jimmy was my favourite player when I was growing up, my hero. To share that occasion with him was a privilege. When he walked into the arena the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. I was full of adrenaline and nerves for the first few frames but after that I managed to calm myself down and play well.”
On the other table, eighth seed Kyren Wilson survived a late rally from Matthew Selt to win 6-3 and earn a second round meeting with Mark Allen. Kettering’s Wilson has already won the European Masters this season while Allen has won the Northern Ireland Open so that match will bring together two form players. Wilson reached the semi-finals at the Barbican a year ago, notably knocking out Ronnie O’Sullivan before losing to Luca Brecel, and is in the hunt again for a first Triple Crown title.
He looked sharp tonight as he cruised into a 5-0 lead with top breaks of 103 and 101. Back came Selt to 5-3 with 65, 71 and 55 and the Essex cueman had an early chance in frame nine but was unlucky to snooker himself in potting the first red. Wilson got the better of a safety exchange and made 74 to end the resistance.
“He made it tough for me from 5-0, every credit to him,” said 30-year-old Wilson. “It was nice to end the match with a big break. This is a huge event and it feels bigger this year because of the set up. The arena and the CueZone and FanZone areas are fantastic and the event feels very classy now, the UK Championship deserves this. My game feels in very good shape and I’ll have to play well to have a chance against Mark Allen. We will both want to go for the jugular.
“I knew it would be a special atmosphere tonight, being in the same arena as Jimmy. He deserved every moment of that. Jimmy is the Godfather of snooker, he has had an amazing career.”
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