In two days, on Saturday, the reigning World Champion, Mark Selby, will come down the steps at the Crucible theatre and will launch the championship, and his defence… but who will he face? We will know very soon as the draw will be made, live on Facebook, at 10 am this morning…
Here are the results of the qualifying rounds in the EIS, in Sheffield:
In that “bag” of qualifiers we find names we did expect to be there, the ones who have been flirting with the top 16 all season: Maguire, Day, Perry. Then we have top players who have had a bad spell but are returning to form: Dott, Stevens, Walden. We have players who have been there before, who we know are very capable and will be wanting to prove themselves: Milkins, Carrington, Jamie Jones, Jimmy Robertson and Xiao Guodong. And finally we have four debutants: Chris Wakelin, Thepchaya Un-Nooh, Liam Highfield and Lyu HaoTian. They come to the Crucible with £18000 guaranteed – money and ranking points – and with three matches played and won. Most of them had fairly comfortable wins in the last round. All of them are dangerous. The seeds come here cold, and, should they lose, will go home empty-handed. Make no mistake they will be under pressure. I do expect a few “upsets” next week.
Here are yesterday’s reports on Worldsnooker
Chris Wakelin will walk out at the Crucible Theatre for the first time in his career after completing a 10-1 demolition of Tian Pengfei at Betfred World Championship Qualifying.
The 26-year-old had already secured comfortable 10-4 victories earlier this week against Xu Si and Kurt Maflin, before his devastating final round win. Wakelin’s Crucible bow will see him earn the biggest payday of his career, having now secured a minimum of £18,000.
Prior to earning his place on the World Snooker Tour in 2013, he worked as a delivery driver in Warwickshire to fund his bid to become a professional sportsman. The world number 55 admits the journey he has been on to reach the Crucible puts today’s achievement into perspective.
“It just shows that with hard work anyone can do well in sport if they really put their mind to it,” said Wakelin. “I never got ahead of myself. I wanted to make sure I was over the line and in the draw before I started thinking about who was going to be coming along to watch and what it will be like walking down the famous stairs. It is a dream for all of the players, so I am just thrilled to finally get there.”
Matthew Stevens secured an emphatic 10-2 defeat of Ken Doherty to qualify after three years away from the Theatre of Dreams.
Today’s clash saw two Crucible legends meet. However, the 1997 World Champion Doherty was some way off the pace set by two-time finalist Stevens.
The Welshman secured a 7-2 lead during yesterday’s morning session and he hammered home his advantage today, sweeping up the three frames he required for victory without reply.
2006 World Champion Graeme Dott once again showed his prowess for the longer format. His 10-7 victory over Mike Dunn was a 12th consecutive win at the World Championship qualifiers and has seen him secure his place at the event for a fourth year in a row.
The 40-year-old will now head to the Crucible full of confidence after a season where he has reached two ranking finals at the German Masters and the Shoot Out.
“I just think longer matches suit the style of play that I have,” said the two-time ranking event winner. “I’ve had a good season. It would have been very disappointing not to finish off the at the Crucible, but no matter what happens I have had a good season.”
Ricky Walden will finish his campaign at the sport’s showpiece event, after a difficult season which has been plagued by back problems.
The three-time ranking event winner came through his Judgement Day match against Andrew Higginson thanks to a hard fought 10-6 win.
Walden said: “It means everything to qualify. It’s been a horrible year trying to recover from injury and I’ve had loads of support from my family and friends trying to get back on track. Without them, there is no way I would be playing.”
World number 22 Joe Perry held off a Mark Davis fightback to record a 10-7 victory.
The former Players Champion had led 7-2 after the first session, but consecutive century runs from Davis of 136 and 120 at the start of the session saw him burst back into contention. In the end Perry got himself over the line and ensured his qualification for a 15th time.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh will make his Crucible debut after battling past Alfie Burden 10-8. The quick-fire Thai is sure to produce fireworks on snooker’s biggest stage, he has been the second fastest player on tour this season with an average shot time of just 17.12 seconds.
Robert Milkins will make his eighth appearance at the final stages of the World Championship after easing to a 10-2 defeat of Michael Holt. While Stuart Carrington has come through the qualifiers for a second consecutive season, defeating Zhang Anda 10-8.
Jamie Jones has produced an incredible 10-0 demolition of 2016 English Open champion Liang Wenbo to storm to a Crucible place at Betfred World Championship Qualifying in Sheffield.
In the previous round the Welshman held another substantial advantage at 9-1 against Yu Delu. However, he almost let that lead slip when Yu pulled within just two frames, before Jones edged through 10-7. On this occasion Jones showed no signs of nerves at the finish line as he relentlessly surged to victory.
The dramatic gulf between the players came as a big shock, with Liang arguably playing the best snooker of the event in the lead up to Judgement Day. The Firecracker made a 147 in his opening match against Rod Lawler and amazingly missed the final black for a second maximum in the last frame.
Following today’s win Jones was full of confidence and ambitiously admitted that he was hoping to get five-time Crucible king Ronnie O’Sullivan in tomorrow morning’s draw.
“I wouldn’t mind playing Ronnie. It is a bit of a strange one, but I have never faced him. I’m playing well,” said Jones. “I don’t think I have ever played better than I did in the first session. I just put him under so much pressure and I knew at 9-0 up that I could just fall over the line really.”
Jack Lisowski put on a superb display to clinch his place at snooker’s biggest event, thrashing 1994 Masters champion Alan McManus 10-3.
The 26-year-old is enjoying a fine season, having gained a new level of consistency. He reached his maiden ranking event semi-final at the Shanghai Masters and has also embarked on runs to the last eight stage at the English Open and the China Open.
His first and only appearance at the Crucible to date came in 2013, when he suffered a disappointing 10-3 defeat against Barry Hawkins. Lisowski is hoping that experience will stand him in good stead when he steps out amid the unique atmosphere of the Theatre of Dreams for the second time.
Lisowski said: “It was a good experience the first time out. Playing at the Crucible is something that you have to go through to get used to. This time I know what to expect, but until you have won a match there you can never really be that confident.
“My all-round game has come on a lot. I’m not as patchy as I was and I am a lot more consistent. Hopefully this time round I can handle it better.”
Ryan Day will finish off the best season of his career so far by competing on the sport’s grandest stage after defeating 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon 10-6.
The world number 17 was pipped to the final automatic qualifying spot by Mark Allen, despite winning three events this season – including his maiden ranking title at the season opening Riga Masters. However, he has now come through and will perform at the Crucible for a 13th time.
“It has without doubt been my best season in every aspect. I have been playing with a lot of confidence,” said the 38-year-old. “I’m just relieved to have got through this week of qualifying as if I hadn’t it would have been a bit of a sad way to end with the season I have had.”
Stephen Maguire negotiated a tough battle with Iran’s Hossein Vafaei, emerging a 10-7 winner. The Scot will now appear in the final stages of the World Championship for the 15th consecutive year.
Lyu Haotian secured his place at the Crucible for the first time, thrashing Rory McLeod 10-2 to qualify. Xiao Guodong proved to be too strong for Sheffield’s Adam Duffy, easing to a 10-1 victory.
Liam Highfield ensured there will be four Crucible debutants this year, after securing a 10-4 defeat of Welshman Daniel Wells. While Jimmy Robertson will be looking to win his first match in the final stages. Robertson will make his fourth appearance after qualifying thanks to a 10-7 win over Welshman Michael White.
“Missing out” players I expected to be there are Gould, Gilbert, Gary Wilson.
Lyu HaoTian is the only player under 25 in that bunch… at 25, Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie all had won the World Championship. Why? And should we worry for the future?
And it was nice to meet Lewis…