ALI CARTER says the fear of joining the growing list of high-profile casualties spurred him to victory yesterday and a quarter-final spot at the williamhill.com UK Championship.
The world No 15 had already seen last year’s York Barbican finalists Judd Trump and Mark Allen join former world champion Mark Williams and two-time UK champion Ding Junhui bow out at the first hurdle as they chased a £125,000 top prize.
And with legend Stephen Hendry having retired, while current world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is in self-imposed exile due to personal problems, York is in desperate need of some of the game’s seeded stars to rise to the challenge of being box office draws.
So when qualifier Mark Joyce yesterday returned from the mid-session interval to cut Carter’s 4-0 lead to 4-2, there were fears of another shock comeback to rival the world No 50’s victory over Trump on Sunday. There he trailed 5-2, but stunned world No 1 Trump by grinding out four successive frames to cause a huge Barbican shock.
But Carter – nicknamed ‘Captain’ as he is a qualified pilot – stepped up a gear, edging the seventh frame before a 73 break secured his fourth quarter-final spot in the UK finals. He will play Stuart Bingham tomorrow.
“Obviously 4-0 was a dream start for me but we’ve all seen what happened with Judd Trump in the first round and I was determined that I wouldn’t let that happen to me,” said Carter.
“I haven’t played that well (against Joyce), I’m the first to admit that but it’s not about how well you play, it’s about winning and I’m in the quarter-finals now and hopefully there’s some more in the tank for me.”
At 33, and a former world No 2, Carter has lost in two Crucible finals – to O’Sullivan on both occasions – but with the competition wide open this year, he has a good chance of finally clinching a major prize to add to his Welsh Open and Shanghai Masters titles.
He opened up against Joyce yesterday and cruised into a 4-0 lead, built on breaks of 58, 57 and 73, as the Walsall potter struggled to repeat his stunning performance against Trump of two days earlier.
But the 29-year-old returned after the interval to have Carter’s nerves jangling as breaks of 50 and 76 halved the deficit, before the Essex cueman pulled away to complete a 6-2 win.
“Ali played well, I left myself three or four tricky balls and I missed them all which seemed to be the difference, Ali seemed to punish every mistake, so fair play to him,” said Joyce.
“The last 16 of a major tournament is a good result for me and I take a lot of confidence from that.”
Like Joyce, Marco Fu was unable to follow-up his shock win over Northern Ireland’s Allen as he lost out yesterday to Welshman Matthew Stevens 6-4.
“It wasn’t the best match in the world – I missed a few and Marco missed a few – sometimes matches go like that,” admitted Stevens, who faces the winner of today’s meeting between John Higgins and Mark Davis in the quarter-finals.
“I’ll have to play a lot better than that to go any further, but I’m still in it so I guess I can still win it.”
In the battle of two former world champions, former Rotherham potter Shaun Murphy impressed last night to rattle off a 6-2 win over Graeme Dott. The world No 4 was always in control of the contest, picking up a 130 clearance along the way, and Murphy now awaits the winner of Mark King or teenager Luca Brecel.
Murphy said: “I didn’t feel that match was vintage but I’ve had a change in my approach to snooker in the last few months and but for a bit of bad luck I’ve been playing pretty well so onward and upwards.”
Dott was dismayed by his own performance, with the 35-year-old Scot saying: “I just don’t think I’m the same player I was. I don’t think there’s anyone else in the top 16 that can play as badly as I can play. It’s not good enough.”
Dott, world champion in 2006, added: “Hopefully it’s not just because of my age. “I’d don’t know if I’ve had it. Maybe I’m finished.”
On the other table, Bingham beat Stephen Maguire 6-4.
UK Championship sponsor williamhill.com will donate £250 to Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice for every century break made during this week’s tournament.
Every time a player hits the 100 mark, World Snooker’s official charity Bluebell Wood, based in Sheffield, will receive a cash boost.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said: “This is a wonderful gesture from William Hill and hopefully it will add a huge amount to the money we are raising for Bluebell Wood this year. I want to see all the players going for big breaks and piling in the centuries.”