Yesterday saw the conclusion of the qualifying rounds and a few results that, once again, show that those who “know better” on social media are not always right.
Here is the Crucible draw:
Mark Selby v Fergal O’Brien
Ryan Day v Xiao Guodong
Neil Robertson v Noppon Saengkham
Marco Fu v Luca Brecel
Shaun Murphy v Yan Bingtao
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Gary Wilson
Liang Wenbo v Stuart Carrington
Ding Junhui v Zhou Yuelong
Stuart Bingham v Peter Ebdon
Kyren Wilson v David Grace
Mark Allen v Jimmy Robertson
John Higgins v Martin Gould
Barry Hawkins v Tom Ford
Ali Carter v Graeme Dott
Anthony McGill v Stephen Maguire
Judd Trump v Rory McLeod
You will be able to follow results, and see the matches schedules on snooker.org
Now a few thoughts about the last round of qualifiers yesterday in Ponds Forge.
First, Mark Williams, who should have been at the Crucible by right, in my opinion, will not be there at all. He failed to qualify. Yesterday, against Stuart Carrington, he didn’t play well and his opponent was very solid. None of “Willo’s” matches were easy and, already in round 1, he admitted he was still feeling tiredness from his efforts in China. It is a crying shame. That said Stuart Carrigton deserved the win and I’m wishing him good luck next week.
Next, make no mistake, all those who qualified are playing well and none of the seeds should take them for granted. The pressure is on the seeds now. Ranking wise it’s £25000 or nothing, that’s huge and they come there cold.
Now about the ones “who know better” … there was much talk about the danger-men, the ones the seeds would want to avoid at all cost: David Gilbert, Michael White, Mark Williams, Michael Holt. Well the seeds can relax, they won’t face them, they didn’t qualify. This is by no way a dig at the players I just listed, it’s a dig at those who systematically underestimate some of the less-known players or the ones they don’t fancy for some reason.
I already wrote about Mark Williams above.
Michael White was completely outplayed by Gary Wilson and I wasn’t surprised one bit, I had seen Gary play before. Gary played very well, nothing flashy but solid and efficient. Ronnie will need to be on his game to beat him. Gary though is making his debut at the Crucible. It can be intimidating.
Michael Holt played well too, but Peter managed to stay close and as I expected if that were the case, as pressure piled, Michael sometimes pushed the boat out and Peter duly punished him. It went to a decider and tense doesn’t even start to describe it. Before the match, I wondered on twitter why nobody fancied Peter to win. “Too tough a draw” was the answer. “Too tough a player to be ignored” is the lesson off this one.
David Gilbert was in front for most of his match against Fergal O’Brien and looked very dangerous indeed. But discard Fergal at your peril … he grinded his win out. The decider lasted for over two hours, the longest ever frame in history by far (the previous record was “only” 93 minutes). Fergal was warned for unnecessary slow play during this frame, a rule the referees rarely apply and all credits to the referee in charge for doing it under the circumstances. But Fergal won eventually and the rest is history…
Elsewhere Yan Bingtao convincingly beat Alexander Ursenbacher in the tie of the youth. If there is one to watch among the younger generation it’s this boy. At only 17, he broke in the top 64 in his first season and qualified for the Crucible. He’s incredibly mature for his young years.
Zhou Yuelong also won, beating Ben Wollaston in a deciding frame. It wasn’t pretty at times, but the temperament Zhou showed during the decider was quite remarkable. He was way behind and looked dead and buried, but found a way to win. Tough on Ben, it has to be said.
Graeme Dott found himself 4-0 down against Jamie Jones who was flying. But Dotty’s grit is legendary and the “snooker terrier” did it again. He bit back and eventually won. Another one nobody should ever write off in a long format, even on the back of a bad season!
Hossein Vafaei fell short against Tom Ford. Tom played well, scored well and eventually his experience prevailed against the young Iranian; he won by 10-8. But Hossein did enough to secure his last 64 spot, he’s currently provisionally 58th, and that in itself is an achievement after all the visa woes he’s had to face.
David Grace beat Akani Songsermsawad, and I like both of them. Akani will stay on the tour via the one year list. David, one of the nicest person you could possibly meet, will be a popular debutant. David does a lot for the amateur game, really a lot, and he’s always smiling too … oh, and, he’s a talented painter.