UK Snooker Championship 2021: Mark Selby and Mark Williams ‘agree’ with Shaun Murphy

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Venue: York Barbican Dates: 23 November-5 December Coverage: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and app
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Former world champions Mark Selby and Mark Williams agree with and “stand by” Shaun Murphy’s criticism of amateurs playing in professional events.

Murphy’s comments came after his shock 6-5 UK Championship loss to China’s Si Jiahui, who was competing as an amateur top-up in the 128-man field in York.

The Englishman was criticised on social media for his opinions.

However, four-time world champion Selby told BBC Sport: “I think a lot of players agree with him.”

The world number one added: “Because he [Shaun Murphy] said it after he lost, people probably think it is sour grapes and he wouldn’t have said it if he had won – but I totally stand by everything he said.

“There’s a reason there is a Q School to try to get on [the professional tour], and if you don’t get on, you should have to wait another year and play in the amateur events.”

Selby progressed safely through the UK Championship first round with a 6-2 victory against Ross Muir that included breaks of 67, 93 and 95.

Williams, 46, who has won three world titles in a glittering career since turning professional in 1992, echoed those comments and suggested the current system – which was robustly defended in a statement by the World Snooker Tour – was not fit for purpose.

“I have been saying it for years,” Williams added after making two century breaks as he defeated China’s Lei Peifan 6-3.

“It is a 128 [man] tour and we never get 128 entries. I think it should be smaller, definitely. I think if you make it on to the main tour, you should be guaranteed a living. The only way you can do that is by cutting it down.

“Where is the development? There are not many UK youngsters coming along because they are playing Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Judd Trump in the first round of tournaments. How are you going to progress with a draw like that?

“I texted [Jason] Ferguson [World Snooker chairman] the other day saying, ‘if you are going to have top-ups then stop the top-ups having every tournament’. How is that fair? There is no pressure and they are free rolling.”

This season, there are only 122 professional players on the World Snooker Tour, mainly because a number of the amateur tournaments which offer tour cards as prizes were not played as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

This means the best amateurs, ranked by virtue of their performances at Q School – in which Si finished fifth – are effectively guaranteed a place in 128-strong tournaments.

Wilson makes maximum and O’Sullivan advances

World number 21 Gary Wilson made the fourth maximum break of his career as he swept to a 6-2 win over Ian Burns.

Wilson, who has never gone beyond the last 16 at the UK Championship, will collect £15,000 for the highest break if his 147 is not equalled during the tournament.

Ronnie O’Sullivan made a superb 139-clearance to take the opening frame against amateur Michael White.

However, he was made to work for his victory by the Welshman, who pegged him back to 3-3 before the seven-time champion reeled off three consecutive frames to clinch the match.

Meanwhile, China’s Ding Junhui, who has won the trophy on three occasions, made a break of 129 on the way to a routine 6-2 win over his compatriot Anda Zhang.

Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh made five century breaks on the way to a comprehensive 6-1 win against seven-time former world champion Stephen Hendry.

Un-Nooh became only the fourth man in history to compile five centuries in a best-of-11 match, after Fergal O’Brien, Judd Trump and Matthew Selt.

“I just sat and admired him,” Hendry said. “He played beautifully, it was a clinic in break building.”

David Gilbert made a break of 131 in a convincing 6-1 win against Alfie Burden and Barry Hawkins comfortably progressed 6-1 against women’s world champion Reanne Evans.

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