'So upset' – Saengkham fights back from Covid-19 misery to stun Higgins

Noppon Saengkham is out to make up for lost time after testing positive for Covid-19 wrecked his World Championship hopes in April.

The Thai player had not played in a tournament since March after contracting the virus forced him to miss the Crucible, but returned in style as breaks of 108 and 114 helped him recover from 1-0 behind to complete a 3-1 win over four-times world champion John Higgins in their Championship League Group 9 decider.

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Both men had six points heading into their final encounter with Higgins completing two 3-0 wins over Soheil Vahedi and Igor Figueiredo respectively and Saengkham triumphant by two 3-1 scorelines over the same opponents at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

Higgins only needed a 2-2 draw to secure his progress, but was forced to settle for second best as the world number 44 Saengkham showed his class under pressure to complete his campaign undefeated on nine points, three clear of Higgins, who produced a magical 130 in his victory over Figueiredo.

“My last match in an event was in March, I practiced very hard, fifteen hours a day,” explained Saengkham, who takes his place in the last 32 of the season’s first ranking event.

“I felt very bad, just sleeping in my bed and seeing everybody playing in the World Championship. I was so upset because I worked very hard every day. I will try my very best this season. I’m very hungry.

The last season I didn’t play well, and I stayed here eleven months and I couldn’t go home. Just for a few months, I could go home for a couple of months. I practiced very hard, and I tried to enjoy it. I am so happy I don’t know why.

“In my last match, I didn’t think about the win. I just wanted to pot every ball. I played very good today and I am very happy.”

In the day’s other action, Cao Yupeng, back from his suspension for match-fixing in 2018, won Group 26 with 3-0 wins over Steven Hallworth and Gary Wilson respectively before overcoming James Cahill 3-1 to end his day unbeaten on nine points.
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Trump, O’Sullivan and Hendry commit to British Open

Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry are among a clutch of star names who have confirmed their entries for the British Open next month.

The snooker season kicked off this week with the first stage of the Championship League at the Mornington Arena.

It is an event to blow away the cobwebs, before the season steps up a notch with the British Open at the same venue in Leicester – kicking off on August 16.

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A total of 128 players will be battling for the £100,000 first prize – and there’s no shortage of talent.

World number one Trump spearheads the field, but six-time world champion O’Sullivan and returning star Hendry are other big names to keep an eye out for.

Current world champion Mark Selby will be in the field, as will the player he toppled in final at the Crucible – Shaun Murphy.

John Higgins will travel down from his Scottish home for the event, while women’s superstar Reanne Evans – who has been handed a two-year Tour card – will be in the field.

When the action gets underway on August 16, it will be a momentous occasion as it will signal the return of the British Open for the first time since 2004.

It will be the return of the tournament for the first time in 17 years, but there will be previous winners in the field.

The first of Hendry’s four wins in the event came in 1988, while O’Sullivan, Higgins and Mark Williams are past winners.

World Snooker have been praised for their innovative approach during the pandemic, and they have spiced things up for the British Open as it will be a random draw throughout.

Hold on to your seats for the prospect of Trump facing O’Sullivan in round one.

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'Are you having a laugh?' – O'Sullivan responds after being called for a push shot

Ronnie O’Sullivan had a lengthy debate with referee Rob Spencer during his return to action at the Championship League on Tuesday.

The six-time world champion was called for a push shot during the first frame of his clash with Saqib Nasir, at which point he said: “Are you having a laugh?”

World number 22 Tom Ford was on commentary, and he said: “I am not sure that was a push as if it was a push the white would have gone straight through, but he played it at an angle.”

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O’Sullivan questioned the decision to call a push shot on what was an amazing pot on the blue, as he said: “I am the most honest snooker player and I never try to cheat.”

Spencer was unmoved, saying he saw it as a push and called it as such.

It did not prove costly as O’Sullivan went on to knock in audacious pots on the blue and pink to seal the frame.

In backing up his win over Ian Burns in his opening match of Group 32, O’Sullivan moved on to six points from two games – setting up a showdown with Mark Joyce for qualification for the second stage.

It was a demonstration in attacking snooker from O’Sullivan as he refused to play any safety shots during the 3-0 win, while he adopted the Mark Williams breakoff.

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