An inspired Zhou Yuelong produced a magnificent display of snooker to beat Neil Robertson 6-2 in the first round of the UK Championship at York’s Barbican Centre.
The Australian has been out of form this season and could do little to stop Zhou, who made seven 50-plus breaks, which included two centuries.
The standard of the match could hardly have been higher during the first mini-session. There were a couple of misses apiece, but both men were cueing well as they shared the first four frames.
Zhou compiled a break of 80 to take the opener after Robertson had the first chance, and that pattern looked set to repeat itself in the second when Zhou nailed a long red after Robertson broke down on 29.
The Chinese player raced to 50, but missed a red along the top rail to hand Robertson a lifeline, which the Aussie took to level at 1-1.
A wild miss in the third frame from Robertson left Zhou among the balls in the third, and his total clearance of 134 re-established his one-frame advantage.
But Robertson responded in style with a stunning 135 to make it 2-2 at the break.
The Australian has struggled for form of late, but there was little he could do when the players emerged.
Breaks of 67 and 99 gave Zhou a 4-2 lead before he notched his second century of the match (136) to get within one of victory.
It was a near-flawless display of snooker that Eurosport’s Alan McManus described as “mesmerising” in commentary, as Robertson was limited to scoring just 19 points in three frames.
But could he engineer a route back into the contest?
After a re-rack, Robertson landed a trademark long red to get in, but he missed the simplest of pots into the corner on 29 that drew an ironic smile.
And Zhou once again made the Australian pay, showing no signs of nerves to cross the winning line with a brilliantly compiled 74.
Watch O’Sullivan stride out wearing trainers for UK Championship match
On the other table, Robert Milkins produced a superb comeback to beat Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and advance to the last 16.
‘The Milkman’ had never beaten the Thai player but broke that unwanted record in stunning fashion, winning the last three frames to prevail 6-5.
Breaks of 93 and 127 put Un-Nook 2-0 up and meant Milkins was playing catch-up, but he fought back with a break of 99 and two centuries of his own before winning an edgy decider to set up a clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan in the next round.
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