Consistency is key to being successful at this game of ours and whilst it's good to get one over on one of the greats you have to follow it up against the rest. No player is easy, especially when matches are limited to the best of seven frames, blink and you've lost! Look at the number of top players that have fallen by the wayside in this event.
Against Craig Steadman Sam had one of those matches where potting seemed to be something he had forgotten how to do, we've all been there, some of us more often than others! Having said that Craig was the better play on the day, as is evidenced by his 4-1 victory.
Two really good steals from Sam to start his first round match against John Higgins saw Sam take a 2-0 lead. Sam was then gifted a trio of opportunities in frame three before he made it three steals in a row to lead 3-0.....Sam's key shot that started the final visit was a bravely played slow pot to the center pocket from a tight angle. At this point in the match Sam's pot success was an impressive 96%. Frame four saw a couple of early missed pots from both players before Higgins took the bull by the horns to peg one back to trail 3-1. In frame five Sam was presented with another early opportunity to fashion a decent break but after a couple of nervy shots he failed to take advantage. Higgins responded with a solid 83 break to make it 3-2 to Sam.
Getting over the line against players of Higgins pedigree is as tough as it gets. However, after a poor safety shot from Higgins Sam recovered his composure to make a 56 break. Sam left Higgins with five reds in the open and all colours available and you could see another frame going the way of the former champion. However, Sam was given one last chance and he took it well to win the match 4-2........follow the Baird!
Not a good start to the new year....Sam's first match was in the China Open qualifiers against Jimmy White. Sam got off to a good start by going 2-0 up with frame winning breaks. However, Jimmy came back to level at 2-2. Sam and Jimmy then swapped frames to go 3-3. Sam edged in front with another frame winning break and needed just one from the last two frames to win. It was at this point Sam seemed to loose concentration and let Jimmy in to take the last two frames to win the match 5-4. A disappointing result given the way the match went but Jimmy's good form of late continues. A few weeks to ponder over missed opportunities and get in the right frame of mind before the Shoot-Out 23rd February.
Sam wishes all his supporters
a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for 2017
'Living the Dream'
After early exits from the German and the Scottish Open's Sam is looking forward to some festive cheer and quality time spent with family and friends. In the German Open Sam came up against the young 16 year old rookie pro from China Yan Bingtao, after a disappointing match Sam lost 5-1. Sam fared no better in the Scottish Open, losing for the second time in just a few weeks to Mitchell Mann, this time 4-2....the break will give Sam time to relax, gather his thoughts and come back fresh for the China Open early in the new year.
The UK is a key tournament in the professional snooker calendar where players get to play a few more frames than is the norm these days and it also carries decent prize money. Sam was in a reasonably confident mood going into the tournament and in the first round he played well, posting back-to-back centuries to win 6-2 against Sean O'Sullivan. In the next round he faced Mitchell Mann and it was to be a different story.....Mitchell handled the indifferent conditions better and played solid snooker, finishing the match strongly to win 6-2. Sam was left disappointed but philosophical, down but not out!
Sam got off to a dodgy start in the first match after turning up late. There was an accident en-route which held up the traffic so Sam had to take to Shanks's Pony. Furthermore his phone was out of power, he had a 4 mile trek and he was not sure which way to go!.....Things were not looking good. He eventually got to the venue but was docked a frame for being late. He then went two nil down before he started to hit some form....three quick frames and he was three two up. He then lost the next before running out with a fine 106 in the last frame to win 4-3. Phew! Sam doesn't do exercise....
Against Marco Fu in the next match they shared the first four frames, Marco made a 118 to take the next frame before Sam dug in and crafted two frames to win 4-3. In the last frame he was forced to buld a break using the green as the big colours were tied-up.
Sam was to lose his next match against Gary Wilson 4-3 but he feels that he is playing well and is in a confident frame of mind.
Qualifying for the International Championship took Sam to Daqing, China where in round one he was pitched against Michael White. Sam raced into a 4-0 lead with three frame wining breaks before Michael responded with a fine 94 break to stop the rout. They then swapped frames before Sam ran out a 6-2 winner. In round two Sam again started well, reeling off the first three frames with decent breaks before Marco posted a 88 to stop him in his tracks. Marco then added a further three frames to lead Sam 4-3. Sam then got second wind and won the next three frames to win 6-4 and reach the last 16. At this stage in most tournaments the competition starts to become as tough as it gets and with Shaun Murphy as his opponent Sam was going to have to be at his break building best.
A superb 106 break to win the first frame looked ominous. However, players of Shaun's pedigree will often respond to any serious threat at an early stage in a match and this was the case. Shaun reeled off the next six frames with limited resistance to win 6-1 and create a bit of an anti-climax after promising earlier victories from Sam. Disappointed but philosophical Sam looked reflected the narrow victory to qualify for the main event and the prize money that won't do his ranking any harm...
An up and down run of form in the last three tournaments saw Sam fail to qualify for the European Masters, losing to Zhao Xintong. A better result in the International Championship qualifiers followed with a win a 6-3 win against Michael Georgiou. In the English Open Sam was clearly in-form when amongst the balls taking three frames with frame winning breaks. However, Elliot Slessor got the better of Sam in the other four tight frames to win the match 4-3.
After a bit of a break Sam traveled to India to play in the Indian Open. His first opponent was Jack Lisowski and after a tight tussle Sam took the decider with a nice 82 break. In the next round he came up against Nigel Bond who was in good form. Sam drew level to make it 2-2 with frame winning breaks of 95 and 60 before Nigel played solidly to win 4-2.
Sam's best run of the season thus far came in his next event, the Paul Hunter Classic. In the first round he beat Daniel Ward 4-2 and in round two Gary Wilson 4-1, both in workmanlike fashion. In round 3 he took the first frame against Liang Wenbo, Liang replied with an ominous 116 break to draw level and took the next to lead 2-1. Sam's response was to reel off the next three frames to win 4-2. Next up Mark Selby, could Sam put one over the World number one and current world champion this time? After giving away the first frame cheaply Sam drew level at one all. Mark then took the next two frames before Sam pulled one back to make the score 3-2 to Mark. Top players have a habit of winning deciding frames and this was no exception as Mark rattled in a nice 85 to win 4-2.....there's always next time.
In the next event, the Shanghai Masters, Sam started well by taking the first frame. However, his opponent from Thailand, Kristanut Lertsattayatthorn was in very good form and with solid break building, kept Sam way from the table to win 5-1.....bad day at the office.
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