Ronnie O’Sullivan says he is “not surprised” by the number of shocks at this year’s UK Championship due to the return of the tiered system.
The first of snooker’s Triple Crown events returned to the format that was used prior to 2013 when the top 16 in the world automatically qualified for the last 32, whilst everyone else had to qualify to get to the main draw.
Immediately there were surprises as defending champion Zhao Xintong was beaten 6-2 by Sam Craigie, with Neil Robertson losing by the same scoreline to Joe Perry in the first round.
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Half of the quarter-finalists were qualifiers, and O’Sullivan was the only player from the top eight left in the tournament at that point, before he was whitewashed by Ding Junhui.
“I expected it to go like it did and I wasn’t really surprised,” O’Sullivan said in the Eurosport studio. “I think it benefitted some of the lower-ranked players.
“We had to have 16 lower-ranked players reach the last 32 whereas if it was a 128 draw it might have only been three or four.
“So in some ways it’s helped the bottom players get a foothold, get into the tournament and it’s better for them.”

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Ding was seeded 38th, so had to win two qualifying matches in the build-up to the first round, but has blitzed his way to the final where he will play Mark Allen or Jack Lisowski.
Unlike most other ranking events, the qualifiers take place and conclude just two days before the main draw begins.
O’Sullivan also thinks the best-of-11 format that’s used all the way through the competition up until, and including, the semi-finals is an advantage for the qualifiers.
“I think having the qualifiers before sharpens them up,” he continued. “I know they have the same format at the World Championship but the two sessions in Sheffield gives you more time to get into it.
“Because it’s only a one-session match here [in York] a lot of the unseeded players were getting off to good starts at 2-0, 3-0 up. It puts a lot of pressure on you and that’s why we have seen some of these shocks.”
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03/12/2022 AT 19:34