World Championship 2018 – Day 4 – Happy Ding, marvellous Lisowski, battling Walden, Neil Robertson in danger


Those are yesterday’s results. Two more seeds left the scene: Luca Brecel and Stuart Bingham. That makes it four former world champions beaten in round one already and there could be more.

Ding looked relaxed and was  smiling at the table, and in his postmatch chat on BBC. He played extremely well but wasn’t pressured at all by Xiao. Ding, who is to become a dad in August, simply looked happy and feeling good within himself which makes him very dangerous. He revealed that he bought a house in Sheffield s, clearly, he’s here to stay!

Ricky Walden who had a terrible two last years health wise, battled his way in the second round. He wobbled a bit towards the end of the match; I guess that his confidence wasn’t exactly sky-high coming into the match. But he managed to get over the line and I’m happy for him. Luca Brecel simply wasn’t good enough, even if there were patches of brilliance. For whatever reason he’s not doing his huge talent justice.

Mark Williams largely dominated his match against Jimmy Robertson. Jimmy is a very talented player but has struggled to show it on the big occasions until now. He had occasions in nearly every frame and the score could easily have been 5-4 either way. But Mark Williams experience, and shrewdness,  certainly made the difference.

Jack Lisowski was magnificent in beating Stuart Bingham in a very entertaining, quality match. Jack’s talent is immense but he’s not really achieved accordingly until now. However, in this match, it was obvious that he has matured a lot. It showed in his shot selection and in his more composed attitude and pace around the table.  The match was interrupted at the start of the evening session because the lighting above the table failed (well one in four sections of it) and the technical crew had to provide an emergency solution…

Neil Robertson trails Robert Milkins by 6-3 as they are due to resume today. Crucially Neil won the last frame of the evening. The 6-3 deficit is by no way impossible to overcome: Ronnie and Ali Carter did it earlier this week. But Robert did beat Neil at this same stage in 2013 and this surely will be in both players mind ahead of the final session of their match.

Morning Session (Worldsnooker report)

Ding Junhui fired a century and seven more breaks over 50 as he stormed to a 10-3 win over Xiao Guodong in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Ding’s ultimate ambition is to become the first Chinese player to lift snooker’s most famous trophy, and he has come close in recent years, reaching the final in 2016 and the semis in 2017. On the evidence of his tremendous display against Xiao, the 31-year-old is well set for another crack at the title. World number three Ding returns to the Crucible baize on Sunday to face Anthony McGill or Ryan Day in the last 16.

From 2-0 down in the first session on Monday, Ding won six of the next seven frames with top runs of 68, 124, 57 and 72. And he needed just 51 minutes today to add the four frames he needed, making breaks of 61, 51, 78 and 98.

“I played well in the end,” said Ding, who won his 13th ranking title earlier this season at the Yushan World Open. “I just went for my shots and made some breaks. I didn’t play a lot of safety, I just went for the shots without caring, it surprised me.

“Xiao is always looking to beat me. You could see in the first session he played quite well at the start to lead 2-0. He’s a good player, but he doesn’t have that much experience of beating the top 16. He needs more experience to improve.

“I’m confident in my form but I try not to worry about form too much, I’m just looking forward to another chance. It’s good to smile out there, it takes the pressure away if I play some bad shots.

“Everyone is under pressure here, but Mark Selby had the most pressure because he was the defending champion. It surprised me that he lost in the first round. I’d like to play Ronnie O’Sullivan later in the tournament because I want to improve myself and I want to play the hardest ones to beat, to test myself.”

On the other table, Jack Lisowski finished 5-4 ahead of Stuart Bingham in a match which concludes tonight.

Lisowski, whose only previous match at the Crucible was his 2013 debut when he lost to Barry Hawkins, took a 5-2 lead with top breaks of 105, 54 and 128.

Bingham, the 2015 champion, pulled one back with a run of 60, then in the last frame of the session he potted 11 reds with blacks before missing the 12th red on 88.

Afternoon Session (Worldsnooker report)

Ricky Walden prevailed in his clash with Belgium’s Luca Brecel 10-6 to clinch a place in the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

Walden’s Crucible run comes after a difficult couple of years for the Chester potter. He had suffered  a dip in form after struggling with a back injury. However, this season he has had an upturn in fitness after receiving an epidural steroid injection last summer. Following a solid 2017/18 campaign, former World Championship semi-finalist Walden is once again showing the extent of his talent on the sport’s biggest stage.

For the second year in a row it is a disappointing first round defeat for Brecel, who is yet to win a match at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams since making his debut in 2012 and becoming the youngest ever player to grace the Crucible aged 17. Last season he surrendered a 7-1 advantage in an agonising 10-9 defeat against Marco Fu.

Walden emerged from the first session with a healthy 6-3 advantage. He looked to be in fine touch in the break building department and fired in five contributions over 50 with a top run of 105.

He started off this afternoon’s play with the same fluidity to his game. The 35-year-old delighted the Crucible crowd with a superb 122 break to move further ahead at 7-3. However, from there the game became less open as nerves crept into play.

Both players showed signs of frustration, but it was Brecel who clawed his way back into the match when he pulled back within three at 8-5. The Belgian then took the 14th frame on the final black to make it 8-6 and turn up the heat on his opponent.

Crucially Walden then won a marathon 47-minute frame to edge one from victory and a break of 60 then saw him get over the line a 10-6 victor.

Walden said: “I played well for most of the game, just losing my way in the last few frames, but overall I’m very pleased. Once you’ve come through qualifying you’ve won three games and you’re match sharp. It’s a horrible situation to have to qualify but once you do come through it is a benefit.

“I scrapped it out in a different way today which you need to do at the Crucible because it gets a bit tough out there sometimes. There’s Crucible pressure, it’s like no other and your mind sometimes goes elsewhere so it’s a different kind of pressure and I’m pleased I scrapped it out.”

“I’m just going to work hard now. A year ago I would’ve said I’d take four weeks off but I’m not going to do that this year. I’m so in love with the game that I just want to work hard and come back stronger,” said Brecel. “It’s always exciting to play here, it’s just a pity that I couldn’t play my game. I was feeling confident in practice but it means nothing when you don’t do it on the match table.”

Mark Williams dominated the opening session of his first round match with Jimmy Robertson and requires just three more frames for the win at 7-2.

The two-time Crucible king missed out on a place at the final stages of the World Championship in 2017, but has come into this year’s event with renewed confidence. He won his first ranking title in six years at the 2017 Northern Ireland Open and backed that up with victory at the German Masters.

Williams top scored with a break of 102 today and the pair will return to play the match to a conclusion tomorrow morning at 10am.

Evening Session (Worldsnooker report)

Jack Lisowski put on a stunning display to defeat 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham 10-7 at the Betfred World Championship.

26-year-old Lisowski hadn’t appeared at the Crucible since his debut in 2013. On that occasion he succumbed to a 10-3 defeat against Barry Hawkins. However, Lisowski arrived at the World Championship this year off the back of a season where he’s finally started reaching the levels of consistency which match his considerable talent.

He reached the semi-final stage of a ranking event for the first time at the Shanghai Masters, as well as making a further two quarter-finals and appearing in the last 16 five times. Jackpot has achieved this without abandoning his fast-paced aggressive brand of snooker. He’s the third fastest player on tour, averaging just 17.94 seconds per shot this season.

The qualifiers have been running riot at the Crucible this year, adding credence to the argument that the arduous qualification process adds match sharpness for those who come through it to reach the final stages. Bingham has become the fifth seed to be knocked out at in this year’s tournament.

Lisowski led 5-4 after a first session packed with big breaks, top scoring with a sublime 128. However, Bingham did claim the final two frames of the morning to set up a dramatic finale.

The world number 30 settled straight away this evening. He compiled a break of 60 to take the initiative in the opening frame and move 6-4 in front. The pair then traded frames before Bingham claimed a dramatic 13th. He made 56 after fluking a blue early on in the break. The 41-year-old then clinched the frame with a tremendous cut on the final black to make it 7-6.

That had no bearing on Lisowski’s approach. He hit immediately back with a break of 98 to move two from the win at 8-6. Again they traded frames as Lisowski found himself 9-7 up. He then came from behind to take his crucial tenth frame of the match on the final black to secure a momentous first win at the Crucible.

Lisowski said: “I had a century in the first frame and the noise was crazy, it’s nice to get a clap. Stuart and I are similar players who play fast and attacking snooker, none of the frames were scrappy or took too long. We both scored quite heavily, it’s our style to make breaks. I think we suit each other’s games, and the match didn’t get bogged down. It was good fun—a good game played in good spirits.

“It was a great win for me. Stuart’s won this tournament before and is one of the best players in the world, so to come here and win after five years ago being so disappointing, it shows that my game has improved. I felt I didn’t compete against Barry Hawkins in 2013. Today I was just looking to get comfortable in the game. It’s such a tough setup to play in if you’re not used to it, but five years have passed and I was able to cope with it a lot better this time.”

Bingham remarked: “He’s riding a wave. He’s either got Thepchaiya Un-Nooh or John Higgins next. If John gets through, he won’t give him as many chances as I did today. If he goes for his shots and they all go in he’s going to be hard to stop, but I don’t think he can keep potting them. Obviously he did today.

“It was an entertaining game. The first session had three tons and a 50 in the first four frames. I had a half-chance for a maximum, every year I try and get one here but it wasn’t meant to be. It was a free-flowing game, but I’ve come out second best.

Another seed is in danger of an early exit as Neil Robertson fell 6-3 behind against Robert Milkins. It’s a repeat of their first round clash in 2013 which Milkins won 10-8, arguably the best result of his career.

Breaks of 54 and 72 helped world number 37 Milkins go 2-0 up, then the next two were shared. Tenth seed Robertson won frame five and he led 52-0 in the sixth, only for his opponent to steal it with a 73 clearance to go 4-2 ahead.

Gloucester’s Milkins made a 91 in frame seven and took the next as well to lead 6-2. Australia’s Robertson, the 2010 Crucible king, won the last of the session by clearing the colours, but he still needs seven of the last ten frames when they return on Wednesday afternoon.