Managers of snooker players have to keep themselves amused somehow during tournaments, and Django Fung, who looks after Neil Robertson and Judd Trump among others from the Grove Academy, turned to his beloved table tennis in Beijing.

Fung is an accomplished player who now turns out for Essex veterans (over-40s) as well as league teams back home, and while Trump was catching up on sleep in the mornings until his exit on Thursday night, his manager was early to rise and escaping down to Beijing’s 3300 International Club.

There he received some expert tuition and training from Wang Gang, a former China international player and coach for some seven years in Italy.


Chinese artist Li Yan Sheng was at the snooker on last-16 night on Thursday, keeping a close eye on the two matches in the brutal top quarter – home hero Ding Junhui v Mark Williams, and Judd Trump v John Higgins.

The Beijing-born 61-year-old studied and now lives in Japan, and also a talented musician – Li plays the Chinese ‘guqin’ as well as the violin and flute – his reputation as an artist has been built on calligraphy, and still very popular paintings featuring traditional Chinese characters.

Having made the sensible decision he would rather see the snooker than watch paint dry, Li took his seat and enjoyed an entertaining evening’s play.


There were practice tables at both the Sheraton Hotel and the University Gymnasium venue in Beijing, and in the early part of the week those players who made the 15-minute taxi ride from the accommodation found it far easier to get on and prepare properly for a decent amount of time.

As the field was whittled down the pressure eased everywhere but Dechawat Poomjaeng was in at the venue a good hour and a half before his last-16 match against Gary Wilson, a match-up that offered both a great chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

Huge windows meant anyone walking past the tournament office and into the media centre could see straight into the practice area at the venue. Generally players tried to block out the distraction and focused on the job in hand.

But on seeing WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson walk by, Poomjaeng immediately broke off and offered the traditional Thai ‘wai’ greeting of respect, clasping his hands together in front of his face and bowing low – a gesture immediately returned.

Perhaps more surprisingly Poomjaeng also offered the same mark of respect to a journalist walking by at the same time. Hacks could be thrown by this sort of unexpected curve-ball, but the individual in question just about held it together to respond in kind.


As the players arrived for the China Open Beijing as a sporting city was still on tenterhooks after the departure of the International Olympic Committee Evaluation team, who had just left following a five-day visit assessing the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

A decision will be announced on July 31 as to whether the three-centre bid from Beijing, Zhangjiakou and Yanqing that gets the nod or whether it will be Almaty in Kazakhstan who is celebrating.

Several of the media present at the Beijing Students’ Gymnasium for the snooker had attended press conferences held during the IOC team’s visit.


It was a rare case of ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ for Judd Trump on Wednesday night at the China Open after his 5-1 win over Peter Ebdon.

The 25-year-old Trump, also the title favourite and tour man in form, is usually mobbed in Beijing along with other Chinese cities, and the subject of the most intense media scrutiny and interest.

But three of the last-32 games finished at roughly the same time, and there was a prolonged circus while home hero Ding Junhui not only addressed a packed and frenzied media centre with standing room only, but was presented with a birthday cake having beaten Mark Davis 5-1 on the day he turned 28.

John Higgins, who hasn’t exactly been begging to speak to the written press of late anyway, was spared those duties after a 5-2 win over Graeme Dott, being interviewed only by a CCTV crew.

And Trump emerged into the room with the cake still being cleared away and virtually the entire room of journalists disappearing back to their desks to get filing Ding copy before deadlines.

With the few remaining hacks though, Trump did a professional job of assessing his victory over Ebdon and last-16 clash with Higgins before leaving the Chinese media to get back to lauding their hero.


Rob Milkins admitted he had apologised for a bad attitude in the arena to Zak Surety during a 5-4 victory achieved from 4-1 down in the last 32 at the China Open in Beijing.

Milkins is not a total stranger to accusations of poor behaviour and frustrations getting the better of him during a match by opponents.

At least he was honest enough to admit it on this occasion, and make the apology to a devastated Surety. And Milkins’ unease was almost certainly as he later claimed exacerbated by the uncertainty over his World Championship participation – not that that is an excuse.

Milkins arrived in China as one of those likely to be facing three qualifiers – but still with a glimmer of hope of gatecrashing the party with an automatic spot.

He said: “My attitude in the match was terrible, my head was not very good and I did apologise to Zak at the interval because my attitude just wasn’t good.

“I managed to do something about it after the interval, even at 4-1 down it was better. But I have got that in me to have my head not right and be the worst player in the world, it was the same in Thailand for the Players Championship.

“I had to really calm myself down. I don’t know why, maybe it is just having that one eye on the World Championship even though this is a big tournament. Everyone wants to be at the Crucible and some of us are not guaranteed.”


In more Irish news snooker’s ‘Running Man’ Fergal O’Brien claimed a couple of victims in Beijing.

The 43-year-old Dubliner, whose finest hour in the game came 16 years ago now when he won the British Open, is often seen pounding the streets around the hotel on overseas trips to keep fit and fill time between matches and practice.

And in Beijing, Matt Selt and Jimmy Robertson asked to join up with the world No26 for a run around the Sheraton hotel complex.

The pair kept up with O’Brien for a while with the pace at a leisurely jog, but when the time came for a sprint, Selt and Robertson were left gasping while O’Brien put his foot to the floor and sped off into the distance.


You don’t have to go far in snooker without running into someone with a tale to tell about the exemplary sportsmanship so often shown by Jimmy White in his career.

And in Beijing Ireland’s David Morris admitted one such instance had made a huge impression on him at the China Open the previous year, and had remained a benchmark for his own future conduct.

Morris said: “I played Jimmy here last year, and I knew going in he was desperate for the money to stay on the tour. You knew that meant a lot for him, his status is something he is very proud of.

“He went 2-0 up and I managed to get the next with a good break, I think there was a difficult brown I got to help clinch the frame. And from his chair he just said to me straight away ‘Great break Davy’.

“With everything on it for him – and he went on to win anyway – he could still find time to do that, and he is always tapping the table in appreciation of other players’ shots.

“It is something I have remembered ever since, and the standard we should all try to match.”



Marcus Campbell went out to home hero and defending champion Ding Junhui in Beijing – but there was time enough for the Scot to pay a moving tribute to friend Billy Peterkin, tragically hit and killed by a car on his stag do last year.

Peterkin was known to many in the snooker fraternity north of the border, and Dumbarton’s Campbell was asked by another friend present in Marbella at the time to wear one of the Union Jack ties distributed on the trip at the China Open, with the first anniversary of his death fast approaching.

“It is coming up to the first anniversary of the death of a friend known to a few players, Billy Peterkin, who was tragically killed on his stag do last year,” said Campbell.

“I wasn’t actually on the stag do but he had handed out bow ties to everyone there, and at a recent charity event one of those present when it happened asked me to wear it as a mark of respect which I was very happy to do.”


THE media moved ‘offices’ this year at the Beijing University Students Gymnasium, venue once again for the China Open. The former room, were post-match press conferences are also conducted, has recently been let out to sportswear and footwear brand Li-Ning, sponsors of the high-profile China Basketball Association league.

The assorted hacks and TV crews were shunted next-door into a slightly less salubrious and more cramped ante-room. But at least they could buy a cheap basketball top if they wanted one.



The opening ceremony on the Sunday before play got under way at the China Open took place in the grand surroundings of the Birds Nest, the iconic stadium for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Players all climbed aboard a coach for the short trip from the hotel, and many grabbed the chance for some pictures of the arena and track where Usain Bolt shot to prominence with an astonishing three gold medals and three world records seven years ago in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay with Jamaica.

Shaun Murphy and Jason Ferguson did their bit with some trackside interviews with Rob Walker, bigging up snooker’s bid to try and join the Olympics party at some point in the future (Murphy's Bolt impression could yet go viral), and the red carpet procession saw the 64 players (less one or two absentees) led through a hall containing a galaxy of silver statues on the arm of a Beijing belle before the formal speeches.

And defending champion Ding Junhui, pictured with leading Chinese woman player Shi Chun Xia in the parade, created the fashion waves in a natty three-piece check green suit.

Walker, a well-known figure on the snooker circuit with his presenting and MC work, also has many media commitments in his other passion of athletics, and took the opportunity to drop in at the Beijing event n for a couple of days on his way home from Guiyang and the World Cross Country Championships.

Photograph courtesy of top147


Chinese wild-card menace Zhao Xintong was at it again in Beijing, chalking up an eighth win in the four ranking events in China to date this season with a 5-0 whitewash of Alex Davies.

Zhao is still just 17, turning 18 this week on Friday, but he has won his wild-card match in Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Wuxi this term – following up on the previous three occasions with further victories.

The teenager also revealed a ruthless streak in his post-match press conference, admitting that he had heard Davies was suffering with an upset stomach and planned to make him feel even more uncomfortable from the first frame.

With this latest victory Zhao set up a first-round proper encounter with the in-form Mark Williams – who is no fan of the wild-card system and would happily see them all scrapped.


The MC in Mumbai Derek Sippy had by his own admission a terrible time of it calling in the players and officials for the second set of quarter-finals on Friday evening with a scheduled start time of around 9pm. A lengthy and emotional speech from honoured VIP guest and Indian national acting treasure Anil Kapoor, more of which elsewhere, had already delayed things before Sippy took the mike.

With the usual booming delivery he first of all introduced the referee on Table Two as Germany’s Marcel Eckardt. There was a long pause before Malta’s Terry Camilleri slowly walked out into the arena staring intently at Sippy, who reacted eventually: “I got that wrong – it’s Terry Camilleri!”

With Camilleri and Eckardt finally announced for their right tables the players were next. “On Table Two…The Gentleman, Joe Perry!” roared Sippy. The only slight problem being Perry was playing on Table One against Ricky Walden, with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Mark Davis due to be called out on Table Two. “It’s all going wrong tonight,” lamented Sippy, and no one – including Kapoor and tournament director Mike Ganley standing, or more accurately hopping alongside – was about to disagree.

Earlier in the week the referees had enjoyed a joke at Sippy’s expense by telling that Olivier Marteel’s nickname was ‘The Belgian Truffle’ which he duly relayed to the audience, and the hapless MC , who seemed to be heavily reliant on Wikipedia for some of his background work, also introduced Jan Verhaas as ‘Belgian’ and player Yu Delu as ‘Noodles’.


The curse of the local promotional poster is a fairly well established phenomenon in snooker, even allowing for the fact that it is not easy to pick the winner of any tournament these days with a large clutch of possible victors. The Indian Open duly saw the four likely lads all eliminated before the quarter-finals even in a weakened field – Ding Junhui and Judd Trump, and less surprisingly home hopes Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani.


Back in the UK, a gymkhana generally means some kind of equestrian event in accepted use.         But the term is originally an Indian one meaning ‘place of assembly’, and if you want to get the cue out and have a game of snooker in Mumbai you might well end up at either the Bombay Gymkhana or the Hindu Gymkhana clubs, which also boast other sporting and leisure facilities. With these at the upmarket end of the spectrum and India battling to rid snooker of an elitist image in the country, there are also ‘snooker parlours’ in many of the larger cities operated more on a pay as you play basis, but those in the Mumbai region have been affected by problems with licences, something the BSFI is urgently addressing.


The effects of all the travel undertaken by the professional players, particularly the way it affects sleep and eating patterns, can be easy to overlook in the modern game. Even before the opening ceremony dinner former World Championship finalist Nigel Bond admitted he felt unwell having arrived in the small hours and not eaten or slept well, and was briefly taken ill during the evening. Happily a medical check-up revealed nothing seriously wrong, and the 49-year-old Bond from Darley Dale recovered well to get through his wild-card round match 4-2 against Faisal Khan the following day.


It is almost de rigeur for sports stars these days to make sure their family and young children get to share in their greatest moments and finals, and the BetVictor Welsh Open was no exception for Ben Woollaston, who was making his debut in a major showpiece.

Half an hour before the final against John Higgins Woollaston’s two-year-old son Edward was racing around the players’ lounge and adjacent media centre. In a great show of civic support fellow Leicester player (as well as the small matter of being world champion and world No1) Mark Selby gallantly offered to drive Edward and Ben’s  mum Joy to Cardiff from home, and so was there in person to support his friend. Ben’s wife Tatiana was of course already in town having been refereeing at the tournament.

What with Willie Thorne on duty for the BBC the East Midlands city certainly could not complain about being under-represented at the Motorpoint Arena on Sunday.


There were a few raised eyebrows at the lack of coverage from the Media Wales group in the early days of the BetVictor Welsh Open in Cardiff.

The publishing group, operating the Western Mail and South Wales Echo as well as Wales on Sunday newspapers, was actually the official media partner for World Snooker at the ranking event on its return to the Cardiff and the Motorpoint Arena following 10 years in Newport.

The Newport paper, the South Wales Argus, even after losing the event still had a representative on site more often than not with plenty of Welsh interest in the early rounds, and former winner Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens still standing by the last-16 stage. Williams was still there for the final weekend.

But during the first four days of the event there was practically no coverage at all in the Media Wales titles, including no mention of Carmarthen’s Stevens’ first win over defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan for 12 years - and no reporting presence in the media centre.

Glancing through the sports pages there was plenty of coverage of the ice hockey – and even skittles. World Snooker could be forgiven for banging their heads against the nearest brick wall. After years of seeing many good snooker stories dismissed out of hand, we know how they feel.


Kyren Wilson was still in a happy daze walking around Cardiff on Monday night, after a Sunday he won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

The 23-year-old from Northamptonshire saw son and first child Finley Kyren Wilson born at around 7am last Sunday – and then dashed north to Barnsley for a China Open qualifier, beating Matthew Day 5-3 to clinch a trip to Beijing.

World No59 Wilson, one of the sport’s rising stars, admitted: “I just don’t want to be away from him for a second and keep looking at his picture on my phone. Obviously I would have stayed with Sophie if he had been born later but when he arrived in the morning she told me to go to Barnsley and play the qualifier, so winning it topped off an amazing day.”


There was a cuesports first for Inside Snooker in Berlin, where the chance arose to have a go at Russian Pyramid (also known as Russian billiards or Russian pool), a game still found in the city owing to the historical links with the former Soviet Union.

Featuring 15 numbered white balls and a ‘cue’ ball, and played on varying table sizes (this one was the full 12ft by 6ft) the notable features compared to snooker on the same size surface area are the larger balls and much tighter pockets, with literally a couple of millimetres to spare for the ball to go in. The jaws of the centre pockets also make it very challenging to get anything down from much of an angle.

There were probably weren’t any better informed people to be playing with than official table fitter Pete Godwin, who may not have potted too many but was able to quote off the top of his head the size of the larger, heavier balls at 2 and 11/16 inches.

But the undoubted star of the show was snooker referee Luise Kraatz. The Nuremberg official put on a masterclass and while everyone else was struggling to have any success even from a couple of inches waltzed round the table potting them off the lampshades.