As we are about to start round 2 today, it’s time to reflect on what happened in the four previous days. But before that I want to say that going to Ponds Forge to watch this event is something I would recommend to every snooker fan. Contrary to the main event, it’s totally affordable, you can watch plenty of snooker, excellent matches, filled with tension, you are not stuck to one seat, and your view isn’t obscured by the people in front of you even if you are not that tall. If you want a break, you won’t reflect that you’re maybe wasting a little fortune of a ticket doing just that. I totally enjoy it.
Now to the heart of the matter …
Obviously I didn’t watch every match (with 11 going on simultaneously that would be impossible anyway) and so I can only comment on a few. Here is my pick.
Reanne Evans beats Robin Hull by 10-8
This, no doubt, was the big surprise of day 1. Robin is a very, very good player and not many, not even Reanne’s biggest fans, really expected this although … as I wrote in my preview, she did run Ken Doherty very close two years ago. Robin of course had all the pressure and he was fighting for his professional status; indeed now he has to rely on other results to stay on the main tour via the one year list. Maybe that was a factor. But mainly, it was Reanne’s win, not Robin’s defeat. She stuck in there, stubbornly, she fought on every ball, she won the close frames. He highest break was “only” 69 and it came at a crucial moment, allowing her to steal frame 14 and make it 7-7.
here is what she had to say after her match:
Peter Lines beats Thepchaya Un-Nooh by 10-9
“Theppy” is one of the heaviest scorers in the game, he made 9 breaks over 50 in this match and he still lost! He lost to a very experienced and determined Peter Lines, fresh from his World Seniors title. Peter actually played his best snooker with his back against the wall: he was 9-7 down and he closed the match with breaks of 69 and 77. Up to that point he only had scored two breaks over 50, including a 133 it has to be said. Again this was a tale of grit, determination and experience speaking louder than heavy scoring.
Here is what Peter had to say after his win:
Jack Lisowski beats Jimmy White by 10-7
This was a tense match if there ever was one and yet both players stuck to their own game: attack. I was a great match to watch and one I would have totally enjoyed if I hadn’t known what was at stake. I do like Jack Lisowski a lot and he too needed the result, so I’m pleased for him and I wish to see him at the crucible next week but … but for Jimmy White this was a do or die match. This defeat means the end of a 37 years long career entertaining the fans. This was his 99th match at the World Championship and it could very well be the last ever he played as a professional. He played it with heart and with panache, as he did all his career. But when he paused for a minute, looking around the arena after packing his cue, then left, head down, whilst the crowd applauded him … I felt heartbroken. Jimmy loves snooker like no one else, it’s his life. How will he cope, I wonder. But he’s always been someone who bounces back. He will again.
There is talk everywhere on social media that surely he will get a wildcard, like Steve Davis and James Wattana were offered one. I’m not so sure: I believe that this was mainly offered by Barry Hearn so that Steve Davis, his close friend and business partner could continue to play. Steve has now moved on to a career as a DJ and his life revolves around his other passion: music… We’ll see.
Anyway, time will tell, and here is Jack interview after his win:
Mark Williams beats Zhao Xintong by 10-7
As I wrote in a previous post I really want to see mark Williams at the Crucible. He should be there by right. But, he isn’t and he has to win three matches to get there. His first opponent was Zhao Xintong, one of Ronnie’s young protégés. I would have wanted Zhao to win against (nearly) anybody else. This was a match where the momentum switched between the players several times. Here is the report on Worldsnooker with Mark’s quotes:
Saturday 8 Apr 2017 10:57PM
Mark Williams won five frames in a row to battle past talented Chinese 20-year-old Zhao Xintong 10-7 at Betfred World Championship Qualifying.
The Welshman came agonizingly close to pushing himself into the world’s top 16 and avoiding qualifying at Ponds Forge. He needed to win last week’s China Open to pip compatriot Ryan Day. Williams went all the way to the final, where he lost out a hard fought battle to the current World Champion Mark Selby.
This morning’s play saw Williams establish a 4-0 advantage, however Zhao fought back valiantly to trail by just one frame going into tonight at 5-4.
Zhao, who is already developing a reputation for his aggressive playing style, attacked from the off this evening. His bold approach was rewarded, as he claimed the opening three frames, making breaks of 58 and 78 along the way to lead 7-5.
It was at this point that Zhao’s aggressive shot choices started to go astray. Williams punished some errant shots, compiling runs of 60, 86 and 51 on his way to five in a row and a 10-7 win.
Williams remarked: “I haven’t really got over the China trip yet, but somehow I found something from 7-5 down and it is a really good win for me.
“I’m just over the moon that I managed to get through,” said the two-time World Champion. “He is the one that everybody wanted to avoid. I just had a feeling I was going to get him.
“I’ve been watching him a lot and if anything he has really frustrated me. He has the ability to win tournaments, he is that good. He just goes for the most outrageous shots that you shouldn’t be going for and that is the only reason that he hasn’t got to the latter stages of tournaments yet. If you could get him down to my club for 12 months I think I could make him a tournament winner.”
Mark’s assessment on Zhao pretty much matches what Ronnie said about him on multiple occasions. All the talent in the world but still raw.
Now just a few words on the other matches.
I also watched Yan Bingtao beat Sam Craigie by 10-8, in a very, very tactical battle of wits. I’m very happy that Yan won in the end. This is nothing against Sam, who is an excellent player in all departments, but I was upset at some of the comments on social media suggesting that Yan wasn’t “that good after all”, that he was made to look “ordinary”, etc. The lad is 17 folks, only 17! He’s in his first year as a pro and already broke into the top 64. Ordinary? Really? Would you say that if he was British? I’d bet my life on the fact that you wouldn’t. So yes, I’m very, very pleased that in the end Yan came from 8-4 down to beat Sam by 10-8 winning six frames on the trot.
And finally I want to say that this year at least the “invites” did work, well many of them did. Other than Reanne and Peter winning, we also had Adam Stefanow and Jackson Page running their pro opponents, very, very close. Some people suggested that they have no place in this, that they should go to te Q-School top-ups. Well they proved that they are better than those top-ups. Not to mention once again – yes a broken record I am and I persist – that the top-ups system is totally biased towards UK players because the Q-School is held in the UK only, as are the qualifiers, even for overseas events. They have more than their share of opportunities already. Good to see some different faces, and great that a few are doing really well.
Now back to Ponds Forge for round 2!