|Dates: 23 November-5 December Venue: York Barbican Coverage: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and mobile app.|
|Follow the UK Championship on the BBC|
Shaun Murphy said “amateurs should not be allowed in professional tournaments” after suffering a shock first-round exit from the UK Championship, losing 6-5 to China’s Si Jiahui in York.
Murphy, who was the UK champion in 2008, forced a deciding frame after falling 5-1 behind, but 19-year-old amateur Si kept his cool to win.
“I am going to sound like a grumpy old man but that young man shouldn’t be in the tournament,” said Murphy.
“It is not fair, it is not right.”
The World Snooker Tour responded: “We respect Shaun’s opinions but in this case we strongly disagree with his comments.”
It added that, while Si has amateur status, “he deserves his place in our events based on his results”.
Si fell off the main tour at the end of last season and entered the 128-man tournament in York as an amateur top-up in the field.
He looked as if he had blown his chance, having surged in front only to miss the final blue in the seventh frame.
Murphy, beaten in the World Championship final by Mark Selby earlier this year, hit back by winning four frames in a row – but a missed blue of his own from the penultimate red cost him the match, which finished close to midnight.
An angry Murphy vented his fury afterwards by telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “I feel extremely hard done by that I have lost to someone who shouldn’t even be in the building.
“I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments. This is our livelihood. This is our living. We are self-employed individuals and not contracted sportsmen. We don’t play for a team.
“The other 127 runners and riders in the tournament, it is their livelihood too. It is wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who is not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am.
“He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world. It is not fair, it is not right.
“I am not picking on him as a young man, he deserved his victory. Amateurs should not be allowed in professional tournaments, the end.
“This is our livelihood. This is how I put food on the table. This is how I earn money. Since turning professional at 15, I have earned the right to call myself a professional snooker player. He hasn’t done that. He shouldn’t be on the table.”
In a statement on Wednesday the World Snooker Tour said: “Many elite amateur players like Si Jiahui train and compete full time in the hope of earning a guaranteed tour place, therefore they are competing under significant pressure with no guarantees.
“Providing opportunities for the best amateur players is important for our growth as a sport and that is something that Shaun benefitted from during his early days as a player.”
‘I see where Murphy is coming from’
Australia’s Neil Robertson, who faces amateur John Astley on Thursday, told BBC Radio 5 Live that he had sympathy with Murphy.
“I totally get where Shaun’s coming from,” said the defending champion.
“When you’re playing one of the Chinese boys, some of them are amateurs, but some are as good as anybody in the top 50 in the world.
“Amateurs are under a completely different pressure where there’s actually no pressure, because they’re not competing for ranking points.
“They’re basically on a free hit at a pro, so I completely agree with what Shaun’s saying there, because it is very dangerous.
“You want to give people fair opportunity. What they do a lot of the time, if there’s 128 players on the professional circuit and a couple drop out, they replace those spots with top-up places, from best-performing players.
“That’s probably what would have happened on this occasion.
“Because Shaun’s so highly ranked, he would have been playing a quite low-ranked pro, where he certainly wouldn’t have lost.
“But on this occasion he’s played someone very good.”
Wins for Higgins and Wilson
Three-time champion John Higgins completed an emphatic 6-1 victory over Cypriot amateur Michael Georgiou.
Scotland’s Higgins was in sublime scoring form, making two centuries and further breaks of 60 and 55 to advance – a strong response from a player who came into the tournament on the back of a 10-4 hammering by Judd Trump last Sunday in the Champion of Champions final in Bolton.
Higgins said: “Michael is a ranking tournament winner and knows what it takes.
“The draw could have been easier but he did not play anywhere near to his standard and struggled a bit, which was helpful for me.”
World number five Kyren Wilson made breaks of 71 and 56 to take early command of his match but he was pegged back to 3-2 by Iran’s Soheil Vahedi before further runs of 110 and 86 helped send him through 6-2.
It was a significant victory for Wilson as he bounced back from being whitewashed 6-0 by Trump in the Champion of Champions event.
Wilson said: “I didn’t really play for a couple of days after Bolton. I was in an eight-ball pool event in Yarmouth instead so that was a bit of fun.
“It released a few shackles. I had a few beers and enjoyed myself with some good friends.”
Grace back to ‘scrubbing tables’ after win
Meanwhile, world number 40 David Grace defeated Peter Devlin 6-2 to end a five-match losing streak and earn £6,500, his first prize money on tour since August.
But he was ready to return to cleaning practice tables at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds on Wednesday.
“I will be back scrubbing the tables at 7:30am. I am looking forward to my alarm going off at 6:20am,” he said.
“I never saw any reason to pack it in. It suits my routine, gets me out of bed on a morning and it is good for the club that there are professionals keeping the tables to a high standard. It is a bit of money too, so I am grateful for that.”
Scotland’s Stephen Maguire, the champion in 2004, earned a comfortable 6-3 win over amateur Sanderson Lam, compatriot Anthony McGill thrashed Ukrainian teenager Iulian Boiko 6-0 and China’s Zhou Yuelong, who reached the semi-finals last year, advanced with a 6-1 win over compatriot Chen Zifan.