World Championship 2018 – Day 5 – Class of 92 stays on course but Neil Robertson goes out.


So after day 5  at the Crucible, we lost another seed and former World Champion in Neil Robertson, but, with John Higgins and Mark Williams winning, the “Class of 92” is in the last 16.

Judd Trump was very composed during the first session of his match against Chris Wakelin, who, himself was  very good overall, especially considering that he’s a debutant. Interestingly Judd’s approach to this year championship has been devoid of any bold claims and in this article he explains how and why he’s been away from social media. Probably the right decision.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Morning session:

Mark Williams completed an impressive 10-5 defeat of Jimmy Robertson to reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

Williams, Crucible king in 2000 and 2003, missed out on reaching the final stages last year after a 10-7 defeat to Stuart Carrington in qualifying.

This season the Welshman has transformed his fortunes, claiming a first ranking title since 2011 at the Northern Ireland Open and adding further silverware at the German Masters. In total he has now won 20 ranking events. Williams’ resurgence has seen him fly up the world rankings and he is now in 7th position.

World number 34 Robertson has appeared at the Crucible four times, but is yet to win his first match at the Theatre of Dreams. However, he can take solace from a season which has seen him reach a ranking quarter-final for the first time at the German Masters.

Williams dominated the opening session of this encounter, establishing a 7-2 advantage. It looked unlikely that Robertson would be able to overturn the extensive deficit. However, he started strongly this morning by taking the opening two frames.

Williams then snuffed out any thoughts of a comeback with a typically emphatic response, firing in the highest break of the tournament so far – a sublime run of 140. He backed that up with a break of 100 in the following frame to move one from victory and eventually emerged a 10-5 victor. He’ll now face either Neil Robertson or Robert Milkins in the second round.

“The damage was done in the first session really. It’s first to ten but the first frame was massive, and I beat him on the black and that put him under pressure. He should have won the first two frames really,” said the 43-year-old. “I’m coming into this tournament playing the best I’ve played for many years. I’ve got as good as chance as anyone left in the tournament.

“Neil Robertson is one of the best players in the world, but I don’t play the player, I never have. I just play the balls. Whoever it is I’m looking forward to it. I beat Robert Milkins 10-1 here in 2005, but you don’t beat people like that here anymore. I’d love to have another 147 against him just to see his face.”

Robertson said: “Mark played really well. Over the two sessions he was the better player. I missed a couple of good chances, but it’s tough because he doesn’t give you many, you’re glued to the baulk rail and in trouble all the time. He never really let me get going. It’s gutting to come here and lose again, but I’ll try hard to get back again next season.

“I love playing at the Crucible now. The first time I was here I was dreading it and was really nervous. This time I felt pretty good out there. It didn’t look like that maybe but that’s because he made it really tough for me. I enjoy playing here now, so I can’t wait to get back here.”

Meanwhile, four-time Crucible king John Higgins took a 6-3 lead over Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

Scotland’s Higgins, who has won two ranking titles this season, took a 4-1 lead with top breaks of 62 and 51, then Crucible debutant Un-Nooh pulled two frames back.

In the eighth, Higgins potted 13 reds with blacks and looked on course for his first Crucible 147 until he missed a difficult penultimate red to a top corner on 104. He went on to win the last frame of the session to lead by three. They resume tonight at 7pm.

Afternoon session:

Neil Robertson became the sixth seeded player to be knocked out of the Betfred World Championship in the first round as he went down 10-5 against Robert Milkins.

Robertson joins Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, Shaun Murphy, Marco Fu and Luca Brecel as the top 16-ranked players to exit the tournament within the first five days. It’s the second time he has lost to world number 37 Milkins at the Crucible, having done so in 2013.

World number ten Robertson has won two titles this season – the Scottish Open and Hong Kong Masters – but has failed to make an impact on the Triple Crown events, losing in the last 32 of the World and UK Championship and not even qualifying for the Masters.

Gloucester’s Milkins is through to the last 16 in Sheffield for the third time and will now face Mark Williams.

Robertson, the 2010 World Champion, trailed 6-3 overnight but took a 48-minute opening frame today by potting pink and black then won the next to close to 6-5. The Australian had first chance in frame 12 but could only make 8 and his opponent compiled runs of 48 and 36 to go 7-5 ahead.

That proved the turning point as 42-year-old Milkins dominated the next three frames, knocking in breaks of 69, 55 and 54.

“I played really well, I put a lot of pressure on Neil,” said Milkins. “It was looking at bit dodgy when he got it back to 6-5, but I nicked a frame and got spurred on, I saw the match out well.

“The qualifiers have all had match practice and we’re sharp. I’ve got better every match I’ve played. It puts me in good stead for taking on Mark Williams. We are used to playing these seeded players more now because there are more tournaments. I’ve played Neil loads of times and I’ve beaten him already this year, so there’s no fear.

“I can only speak for myself, but I fear Ronnie! The first thing I looked at was which side of the draw he was in. Everyone knows they can beat Ronnie, I know I can but can I do it out there? To do it over that amount of frames it’s going to be very tough for anybody to beat him. If I do play him I want to play him in the quarter-finals not in the first round.”

Robertson said: “I had bad problems with my cue tip heading into the match, that was pretty evident last night. Rob played so well that he never allowed me to recover from that.

“I put on a new tip this morning and had an hour with it and it was alright, but going out there is completely different. But I’ve got to give Rob credit for how well he played, he was relentless throughout. I had a slight sniff at 6-5 but he rattled off the last four frames amazingly well.

“Long gone are the days where there are shocks in the first round. If I was a qualifier, unless I drew Ronnie O’Sullivan, I’d be quite happy to play anybody knowing I’ve won three matches in a week, against someone coming in cold. Rob came here with nothing to lose. He walks out to the cider drinker song and the crowd goes nuts. He has approached it the right way.

“Ten years ago there would probably be only two or three banana skins in the draw, now there are a lot more. It’s good for the game to have more players coming through, and not to have them crumble.

“For me to come away with two big trophies after a tough season away from the table, I’m pretty happy with that. I’m just disappointed not to have had a good run here as well.”

On the other table, world number four Judd Trump built a 6-3 lead over Chris Wakelin.

The highlight of the session was a superb 141 total clearance from Crucible debutant Wakelin in the fifth frame, the new front-runner for the £10,000 high break prize. He also compiled runs of 95 and 69 in a high quality session, while Trump knocked in 58, 64, 72 and 51.

They play to a finish on Thursday from 7pm.

Evening session:

John Higgins held off a spirited performance from Thepchaiya Un-Nooh to win 10-7 and reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

The four-time World Champion Higgins went on a run to the final last year and had looked set for fifth Crucible crown when he led Mark Selby 10-4. However, Selby charged back to inflict a heartbreaking 18-15 defeat on the Scot.

There has been no let-up from Higgins this season, he’s seen his ranking title tally rise to 30 with victories at the Indian Open and the Welsh Open and he will be a strong contender for the £425,000 top prize this week.

Crucible debutant Un-Nooh made himself the fifth player from Thailand to compete in the final stages of the World Championship by qualifying. The charismatic potter from Bangkok is one of the most exciting players to watch on the World Snooker Tour. He plays at breakneck speed with an average shot-time of 17.22 seconds, only Ronnie O’Sullivan plays quicker.

The match provided the fireworks that many predicted it would. Both players threatened to fire in the first maximum break at the Crucible since Stephen Hendry’s 147 in 2012. Higgins was first to attempt the magic break, potting 13 reds with 13 blacks before breaking down on 104. That came in an opening session which saw the Scot establish a 6-3 advantage.

When they returned the pair came storming out of the blocks, Un-Nooh composed a quick-fire break of 121 to reduce his deficit and Higgins responded with a contribution of 81 to make it 7-4. It was then the Thai’s turn to have a go at snooker’s perfect run.

Un-Nooh famously missed final blacks for 147 breaks on two occasions in the 2015/16 season, at the UK Championship and World Championship qualifying. Today he potted 14 reds and 14 blacks before missing the final red to the top left corner with his score at 112.

The Thai continued to impose himself on the match, closing the gap to 7-6 and then spurning an opportunity to restore parity. Higgins punished him with a break of 77 to move 8-6 ahead and eventually emerged a 10-7 victor.

Higgins will now face another quickfire opponent in the next round when he meets world number 30 Jack Lisowski.

Higgins said: “Thepchaiya maybe goes for one shot too many, but he’s brilliant to watch and I’m delighted to win 10-7. I knew he would hit me with maybe three frames where I wouldn’t get a shot. Tonight at 7-6, he took his eye off a red when he had me in all sorts of bother. I let him in but he missed the red when all the balls were there. I managed to get a two frame advantage again and that settled me down.

“I was disappointed not to make the 147. It’s difficult out there to make a maximum break, the pressure is pretty intense. I would love to do one here at the Crucible, it would be an amazing feeling. That’s something I’ll try and do before my career finishes.

“It’s as if I’m playing an upgrade on Thepchaiya in the next round. A few years ago Jack Lisowski was maybe going for a shot too many, but he’s cut that out now. I believe he practices a lot with Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan, so if you don’t round your game to compete with those guys on the practice table, all you’ll be doing is picking balls out of pockets. He’s obviously learning off those guys, and he’s a totally different player now. He beat me over in China recently where he played great, and he’s another one who makes the game look ridiculously easy. But I’ll enjoy the game and look forward to it.”

Afterwards Un-Nooh was disappointed to once again miss out on a maximum break prize, with potentially £50,000 up for grabs for a maximum break.

“I was thinking about the big prize money! I wanted to show my supporters that I could do it, but I missed the last red. It was really hard to get back for the black and I missed it,” said Un-Nooh. “It annoyed me, it got on my mind. The last blacks from two years ago still haunt me. The thoughts of those two black balls came into my mind, so I missed the red.”

Ryan Day established a 6-3 lead against world number 14 Anthony McGill in the opening session of their first round meeting.

Welshman Day narrowly missed out on automatic qualification for the Crucible, finishing the China Open ranked 17th. After dropping only nine frames at qualifying he appears to have carried that form over to the Theatre of Dreams.

He moved 2-0 ahead with a sublime break of 141. However, McGill showed great character to hit back with breaks of 65 and 75 and draw level at the mid-session.

When they returned Day moved 4-3 in front and crucially won an enthralling eighth frame. McGill required a snooker on the pink, which he got, before hammering home a superb long pot which left tricky position on the final black. He jawed it and left the final ball at Day’s mercy to go 5-3 up.

He hammered home his advantage in style with a tournament high break of 145 to make it 6-3. Amazingly that run saw Day become the first player in Crucible history to make two breaks of 140 or more in a single session.

They will play to a conclusion tomorrow at 1pm.




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.

World Championship 2018 – Day 3 – Shaun Murphy departs, Barry Hawkins and Mark Allen into last 16.


These were yesterday’s results.

Mark Allen played well to beat Liam Highfield, who was impressive in patches, his long game in particular was deadly. However Mark’s experience and maturity were too much for his debutant opponent. After the match, Liam was interviewed, as all players are, and this is what he had to say (BBC)

World Snooker Championship 2018: Liam Highfield grateful for Crucible debut after almost quitting

Snooker player Liam Highfield
Liam Highfield made his Crucible debut, bowing out to world number 16 Mark Allen

Liam Highfield said rounding off his season by making his World Championship debut capped a remarkable 12 months which saw him nearly quit snooker because of Crohn’s disease.

The 27-year-old went out in the first round to world number 16 Mark Allen, who said the match was closer than the 10-5 scoreline suggested.

Highfield described his Crucible bow as a “great feeling” despite the loss.

“This time last year I was in hospital,” the world number 64 added.

“To be honest I didn’t think I would ever be competing again.”

The Stoke-on-Trent potter has the same auto-immune disorder as world number 15 Ali Carter.

Chron’s disease affects the digestive system with symptoms including abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue.

Highfield’s most serious flare-up came last year when he had to have three blood transfusions and spent a month in hospital.

“I went from 12 and-a-half stone to 9st 12lbs in three weeks,” he said.

“They thought they would have to take my bowel out and have a bag. It’s nice to just play snooker.

“I didn’t play for nine weeks and went four months without a competition. I thought maybe it was time to chuck it in because so much was against me.”

But he has returned to the top of the sport and has managed to have a “pretty good season”, reaching the fourth round at the Welsh and Northern Ireland Opens and also making the quarter-finals of the Indian Open.

He lost to eventual winner John Higgins in Visakhapatnam, but it was Highfield’s best ranking performance to date.

And making his Crucible debut has left him eager to return again soon.

“I really enjoyed it out there and felt comfortable,” Highfield added.

“I was maybe a bit surprised how comfortable I felt. In the first session I expected not to be able to pot a ball.

“I have watched loads of other players come out here and hoped I could be there. Now that it is ticked off the list and hopefully I can really go far in it one day.”

It sure puts things into perspective. The match was indeed closer than the score suggests and Liam can be proud of his achievements this season. I hope that his health improves and that he can achieve his dreams in the sport he loves.

Jamie Jones v Shaun Murphy was an entertaining match to watch and brought back memories of 2012. Jones is a bit of a mystery: he’s more than capable but disappears for long periods then suddenly produces some brilliant stuff. He did yesterday.

I didn’t see a ball from the Ding v Xiao match but the score as it stands is about what I was expecting. Playing a national hero is never easy for the Chinese players, who, BTW, always seems to draw each others…

Ricky Walden 6-3 advantage over Luca Brecel had as much to do with Luca playing badly (as he has done for most of the season since the China Championship) than Ricky returning gradually to form. I’m pleased for Ricky because he loves his snooker and because I never enjoy seeing a player’s career marred or ended by health issues.

Barry Hawkins v Stuart Carrington was … painful. Both players were struggling, and, full credits to them, both battled to the bitter end. But it wasn’t pretty. As himself said afterwards, it was a case of doing a job for Barry and he did it.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker

World number 51 Jamie Jones recorded a thrilling 10-9 victory against 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy at the Betfred World Championship.

The Welshman couldn’t have qualified for the event in a more emphatic fashion. He destroyed 2016 English Open Champion Liang Wenbo 10-0 in the final round of qualifying to ensure his place here. However, he was forced to call upon all of his fighting abilities in this clash – coming from 4-1 and 8-5 down.

It was a case of déjà vu for world number eight Murphy. He lost out to Jones 10-8 in the first round in 2012 when the Welshman made his Crucible debut. The Magician has now dropped out at the first-round stage in two of the last three years following his run to the final in 2015.

Jones took the opening frame of the session, but it was Murphy who made the most significant charge towards the finish early on. He fired in consecutive breaks of 59, 102 and 101 to establish an 8-5 advantage.

Former Crucible quarter-finalist Jones re-grouped at the interval and came out firing with three frames on the bounce to level at 8-8. Murphy took the next to move one from victory, but his opponent showed his steel with a sublime run of 124 to make it 9-9. Jones made 41 early in the decider before running out of position. He then got the better of a safety exchange and added 30 to seal victory.

“I think this is my best victory,” said Neath’s 30-year-old Jones. “I’ve never faced pressure like I felt today. I’ve played plenty of deciders, but there’s pressure at the Crucible in frame one, never mind the decider. So to come through having held myself together is very pleasing. It’s all about momentum. If the interval hadn’t come today at 8-5, I think Shaun might have pulled away. It’s difficult to deal with those stops and starts with the intervals, but you’ve just got to play every frame as it comes and just try your best.

“Maybe it was meant to be. I always enjoy playing Shaun, he plays the game in the right way. He’s very entertaining and goes for his shots. It’s nice as a player to see him going for shots all the time because he won’t pot them all the time. He looks devastating when they’re going in, but if they don’t you tend to get a couple of chances, and I capitalised on them today.”

Murphy said: “I must give Jamie full credit, because when he sets foot into the Yorkshire borders there seems to be this weird change in him. That’s not me being critical, but if I was in his team I’d be trying to work out what happens to make him play far better here than he generally does elsewhere. If he can play like here then he should be higher up the rankings than he is.

“I’m just pleased I won this tournament in 2005 when I didn’t know what I was doing and had no battle scars and didn’t understand fear. I’m a bit older now and a bit more frightened.”

Asia’s top star Ding Junhui established a 6-3 advantage against compatriot Xiao Guodong.

The 2016 Crucible finalist holds an impressive record against Xiao, having won four of their five professional meetings.

Ding trailed 2-0 early on but hit back to win six of the next seven frames as he fired in contributions of 68, 124, 57 and 72. They resume on Tuesday at 10am.

Barry Hawkins came through a marathon seven-hour battle against Stuart Carrington, winning 10-7 to reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

Hawkins turned 39 today though he had just 18 minutes to celebrate his birthday after finishing a late night clash at 11.42pm. But the world number six was relieved to reach the last 16, where he will face Lyu Haotian.

Londoner Hawkins has been one of the Crucible’s most consistent performers in recent years, reaching the final in 2013 and three other semi-finals. He has also shown impressive form in the past two months having got to the final of the Welsh Open and China Open, and while he wasn’t at his best against world number 56 Carrington, the result will add to his momentum.

Hawkins led 5-3 after the first session and soon extended his advantage to 7-3 tonight with breaks of 66 and 82. Carrington hit back with three frames in a row, compiling runs of 79 and 74, before Hawkins won an epic 56-minute 14th frame on the colours to lead 8-6.

Carrington took frame 15 and had first chance in the 16th, but could only make 27 and his opponent countered with 79 to go 9-7 up. Hawkins made 35 early in the next, and when Carrington missed a black off its spot, he added 38 to seal the victory.

“I’m knackered, but at least I’ve got a few days off now,” said three-time ranking event winner Hawkins. “To be honest, I don’t care how I play as long as I win. Plenty of people in the past have played really badly in the first couple of rounds and gone on to do really well and won it. For me it was just about getting through that first game.

“It’s a decent birthday present, and I’m still in the tournament. It was a battle, Stuart’s a tough player, he makes it hard for you. I was struggling with my game but I was pleased with my attitude. I stayed calm and having a bit more experience than him here definitely made a difference.

“I could see he wasn’t going to give up. I know he can score heavy when he gets going, he’s done it to a few players in the past. Luckily for me he kept missing a few and I managed to hold myself together at the end.”

Carrington said: “I was just trying to grind it out in the end because I was struggling that much. I made a bit of a match of it but I think that was down to Barry under-performing.  At 7-6 it was anybody’s game, but I made mistakes in the end.”

Meanwhile, Ricky Walden took a 6-3 lead over 13th seed Luca Brecel in a match which plays to a finish on Tuesday afternoon.

Walden, a Crucible semi-finalist in 2013, went 2-0 up with a top break of 68. Frame three came down to a respotted black and Brecel fluked it to a centre pocket to halve his deficit.

Three-time ranking event winner Walden then knocked in runs of 105, 90, 74 and 76 to take four of the next five frames and go 6-2 ahead. Belgium’s Brecel took the last of the session with an 89 to trail by three overnight.


World Championship 2018 – Day 2 – Ronnie and Ali fight back, Kyren coasts through and Lyu shows his talent

On Sunday morning, the possibility that the tournament could lose three more seeds, after the Defending Champion exit, looked very real and Worldsnooker had published this article, quoting Joe Perry, explaining why having to qualify my be a blessing in disguise.

The qualifying format for the Betfred World Championship was changed in 2015, with all 128 players needing to win three matches to make it to the Crucible.

The prevailing school of thought at the time was that this new format would leave the players who made it through three best-of-19 matches too drained to go deep in the final stages. Peter Ebdon’s view was that it would be “virtually impossible” for any player coming through the qualifiers to go on to the latter stages at Sheffield’s Theatre of Dreams.

The following year, Ding Junhui disproved that theory when, having dropped out of the top 16, he blitzed through the qualifiers and went all the way to the final before losing 18-14 to Mark Selby. In the semi-finals, Ding had beaten another unseeded player: 45-year-old Alan McManus who reached the last four at the Crucible for the first time since 1993.

To balance the argument, in 2015 only three of the top 16 seeds lost in the first round, and only one of the qualifiers (Anthony McGill) made the quarter-finals. Similarly in 2017, four of the qualifiers made it to round two, and only one of those (Stephen Maguire) went on to the last eight.

But on the first day of this year’s Championship, it was plain to see that those making the short journey from the English Institute of Sport, where the final qualifying round finished on Wednesday, to the Crucible were sharp, confident and eager to keep their winning streaks going.

Joe Perry made a century and seven more breaks over 50 in a 10-4 win over defending champion Mark Selby. Maguire surged 6-3 ahead of Ronnie O’Sullivan, while Lyu Haotian and Graeme Dott built 6-3 leads over Marco Fu and Ali Carter respectively. Of the seeded players, only Kyren Wilson bucked the trend, going 7-2 up on Matthew Stevens.

After one of his best career wins, Perry said: “I don’t think fatigue is such a big thing in snooker. The fact that you’ve won three matches means you’re always high on confidence, and that overrides a little bit of fatigue. Maybe if you progress deep into the competition it might play a part. That’s a problem I’d love to have. It’s very tough to get through those three matches, but once you get here you have a better chance.”

Selby concurred: “If the qualifiers finished two weeks before the main event it would be different. But with only a two day gap, they are bringing that sharpness with them.”

The record for the most seeds losing in the first round is eight, set in 1980 and equalled in 1992 and 2012. As snooker’s strength in depth continues to grow, that record will surely be broken – possibly in the coming days.

As we enter day 3, the prospect of beating the record eight seeds losing looks less likely.

Indeed,in the morning, Ronnie fought back to beat Stephen Maguire by 10-7 

In the afternoon, Ali Carter did the same against Graeme Dott, coming out a 10-8 winner after an extremely hard-fought quality match.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Ali Carter recovered a 6-2 deficit to beat Graeme Dott 10-8 and reach the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship.

Carter showed trademark grit and determination as he won eight of the last ten frames, punching the air in celebration at the end of one of his best Crucible fight backs.

His reward is a showpiece clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round on Friday and Saturday; a repeat of the 2008 and 2012 finals, both won by O’Sullivan. World number 15 Carter has had a disappointing season by his standards, reaching just one ranking event semi-final, but he has the chance to finish on a high at his favourite venue.

Chelmsford’s Carter began today’s session 6-3 behind and took the first two frames with runs of 62 and 108, then got the better of a scrappy frame to make it 6-6. The next two were shared then 2006 World Champion Dott made a 75 to lead 8-7.

Back came Carter with runs of 69 and 56 to lead 9-8, and he looked to be cruising over the winning line in frame 18 until he ran out of position on 63. Dott had a chance to clear but missed a short range red on 22, and when the Scot failed to escape from a snooker his chance was gone.

“Yesterday Graeme thought the job was done, but it wasn’t done,” said 38-year-old Carter. “You can never think you’ve got a match in the bag and that will be a lesson for him. I just wanted to win. I want to be here. I saw what Stephen Maguire said today about feeling left behind a bit. I felt a bit the same and I knew I needed to do something about it.

“I have been through a lot in my life. I have been very ill and overcome it and I wouldn’t have got over that if I didn’t have that personality and fight in me. I used that today.

“It’s great to be involved in a match with Ronnie. I’m very much looking forward to it. He’s red hot favourite but I’m going to turn up and have a little go and see what happens.

“He knows how good I am because we practise with each other. He has a lot of respect for me as a person. He likes my style of play, the way I hit the ball and the way I go out and play snooker. I am a good match for him.”

Dott said: “I was rubbish all the way through the game to be honest. The only time I started to feel normal was at 6-6, when I changed a couple of things and I started being able to hit the white.

“I would rather lose here playing really badly than losing in the qualifiers. But I’m bitterly disappointed with the way I played. Lots of people will criticise me, but nobody will criticise me harder than myself. I only had one break over 50 and I managed to lose 10-8 which is testament to my match play and determination and all the other rubbish that everybody talks about.”

On the other table, 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy finished 5-4 ahead of Jamie Jones. From 1-0 down, Murphy took four frames in a row with top breaks of 75 and 137. Jones – who beat Murphy on his Crucible debut in 2012 – stopped the rot in frame six with a 27 clearance which included an excellent pot on the final black.

Murphy then made it 5-2 but it was Welshman Jones who finished the session strongly, firing runs of 94 and 114 to trail by just one overnight. They resume on Monday at 2.30pm.

When I wrote my predictions, I tipped Dott, in part because I had seen how well he played last week, in part because he had the upper hand on Ali in previous matches at the Crucible, and in part because I had witnessed Ali getting frustrated to the point of playing silly shots in this very arena. But there was absolutely nothing of that yesterday: Ali fought with the heart of a lion and all credits to him for the way he ruined my predictions.

In the evening, Kyren Wilson coasted through, beating an ailing Matthew Stevens by 10-3, whilst young Lyu HaoTian was a 10-5 winner over Marco Fu. It’s great to see such a young player do well, and this one in particular, because, when Lyu first came on the tour, at 15, he wasn’t ready, and it looked like he had lost control of his life, being all lost in an alien country, barely more than a child. But he’s come back, looking very mature for his years. As for Marco, he deserves every credit for giving it a good go, despite his eye issues. He denied that his eyes issue were a problem, but then he’s never been one to make excuses,even when the problem is very real. In an interview before the tournament he admitted still seeing “floaters”I wish him the best, I really hope he can recover fully and come back, because it would be very sad if his career was to end this way.

Here is the reports on Worldsnooker

Wilson v Stevens

Kyren Wilson produced a blistering display to dispatch 2003 UK Champion Matthew Stevens 10-3 in their first round match at the Betfred World Championship.

Stevens (world finalist in 2000 and 2005) hadn’t appeared at the Theatre of Dreams since 2015 and admitted after qualifying that there were times he’d wondered if he would ever make the final stages of the World Championship again.

In contrast, 26-year-old Wilson reached his maiden Triple Crown final at the Masters in January, where he lost out to Mark Allen and it seems that the peak of the Warrior’s Crucible career could well be ahead of him.

Wilson has also appeared in two ranking finals so far this season, but losses to Ding Junhui at the Yushan World Open and Ronnie O’Sullivan at the English Open have seen him fall short of silverware. He will be hoping to contest at the latter stages this week after runs to the World Championship quarter-finals in 2016 and 2017.

The 2015 Shanghai Masters champion came into this evening’s session with a healthy 7-2 advantage and he compounded that lead immediately with a fine century run of 121. Stevens did pull a frame back, but a further two on the bounce for Wilson including a break of 54 saw him comfortably over the line.

Wilson said: “It’s a very satisfying win. Matthew is a classy opponent, he’s been there and done it before, so a 10-3 scoreline is flattering. I feel like I did most of the damage in the first session. I’m pleased to get the victory, and I’m going to go home and come back refreshed for the second round.

“It was a very tough draw in the first round to get Matthew Stevens. It wasn’t long ago that he was a seed here and I could have been drawing him. I would like to say what a classy guy he is to call his fouls on himself, not once but twice. There was one in the 12th frame where he could have got back to 8-4 and then he would have been back in the game.

“I do need to improve in certain aspects, but it was quite a pleasing performance. I felt like I played well, I didn’t miss anything too simple which is nice. If you’re not missing the easy balls you’re going to be there or thereabouts. It’s just about getting my preparation right now for the second round and coming back refreshed.”

Afterwards Stevens reflected on a disappointing defeat and admitted that picking up a virus ahead of yesterday’s first session had a big impact on his performance.

“I hate going into matches having not slept and feeling ill. I don’t like making excuses, but yesterday afternoon I didn’t want to play. I felt like death warmed up, it was horrible and gutting, but that’s life and worse things happen,” said the 40-year-old. “I felt a million times better today and even at 7-2 I fancied my chances. Kyren would have had to miss a few balls, he is a good player and it didn’t happen so that’s the end of it.”

Fu v Lyu

Lyu Haotian, one of a growing army of talented young Chinese players on the World Snooker Tour, enjoyed a superb 10-5 victory over Marco Fu in his first appearance at the final stages of the Betfred World Championship.

It was a tough return to action for Fu, who has missed the last three months after undergoing laser eye surgery for retinal degeneration. The three-time ranking event winner was clearly rusty, but that’s to take nothing away from his 20-year-old opponent who showcased his break-building skills.

Sheffield-based Lyu has had his best season as a pro so far, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open. He now faces Barry Hawkins or Stuart Carrington in the last 16 at the Crucible and will be confident of another deep run.

Breaks of 122, 127 and 87 helped Lyu build a 6-3 lead in the first session on Saturday. Fu, a former Crucible semi-finalist, failed to score a point in the first two frames tonight as Lyu extended his advantage to 8-3.  A run of 49 gave Fu frame 12 and he then found some rhythm with a 120 in the next to close to 8-5 at the interval.

But there was to be no fight back as Lyu compiled breaks of 79 and 61 to win the last two frames.

“I’m very happy to win, it was a really enjoyable match,” said Lyu in his press conference, via an interpreter. “I’m happy to have been able to perform well. I was expecting to be nervous on my debut, but it turned out to be very enjoyable. I know Marco was not feeling well about his eyes so maybe that affected his performance and contributed to the result.

“I just hope to continue to give this kind of performance in the next round. I never think about winning the tournament, I just want to play well, especially at this venue.

“Living in Sheffield is very convenient, it gives me a certain kind of advantage because it’s very easy to get to my practice tables, so I can go there whenever I want.”

Fu said: “Overall, between the two sessions, Lyu was by far the stronger player so 10-5 is a fair score. Lyu was superb. I’ve played at the Crucible as a 20-year-old myself and I know how difficult it is, but for him it was just like practice. He rose to the occasion, and I think he played even better here at the Crucible than he did in the qualifiers.

“My eyes are good, it didn’t really affect my game. I just lost to a better player, simple as that. I’ve got a few months off now so I’ll probably take a rest and have a few checkups. I will be back next season. This tournament came a bit too soon for me because I really lack match practice. I would have loved to have had one more tournament before coming here but the timing just wasn’t right.”

And, finally, two matches started yesterday, due to finish today: Mark Allen leads Liam Highfield by 6-3, and I would be very surprised if he didnt finish the job this morning, and Shaun Murphy leads Jamie Jones by 5-4. That one is far from over. Jamie Jones had a great run here in 2012, he’s up for this and he looked very sharp in the qualifiers. Shaun has been suffering from neck and shoulders injuries and it’s hard to tell whether he’s fully fit or not.

Oh… and

Hawkins birthday


World Championship 2018 – Ronnie beats Stephen Maguire in last 32

Ronnie beat Stephen Maguire by 10-7, recovering from a terrible first session where he trailed 4-0 at the first MSI. I must admit that I wasn’t confident, but now I’m extremely pleased to have watched it to the end. Ronnie showed both his commitment and his fighting qualities there!


Ronnie was extremely embarrassed by his poor display yesterday, as he explained during his press conference.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker (excerpt)

Ronnie O’Sullivan overhauled Stephen Maguire’s three-frame overnight lead to come through a 10-7 winner in their opening round clash at the Betfred World Championship.

O’Sullivan is enjoying a career-best season in terms of ranking title victories. He has equalled the record jointly held by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui and Mark Selby of five ranking crowns in a single campaign.

Victory at the Crucible this year would not only see the Rocket break that record, but he would also historically eclipse Stephen Hendry’s 18 Triple Crown titles and draw level with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on six World Championship wins.

Five-time Crucible king O’Sullivan and former UK Champion Maguire have now met on 22 occasions. O’Sullivan has dominated the vast majority of those meetings with today’s victory being his 18thcompared to the Scot’s four wins.

Maguire outplayed O’Sullivan in the opening session yesterday; he was 4-0 up and ended 6-3 ahead. However, 33-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan landed several key blows in the early exchanges this morning to turn the tide.

With the score at 6-4, Maguire had looked set to restore his three frame advantage but he broke down on 49, missing a straightforward red. O’Sullivan punished him with a sublime clearance of 86 to pull within one frame.

World number 18 Maguire then had a chance to steal the next frame on the colours, but left the final pink in the jaws of the top right pocket and allowed world number two O’Sullivan to draw level at 6-6.

Maguire did regain the lead in the 13th frame but from there O’Sullivan charged to the finish, taking four in a row with top runs of 53 and 77 to win 10-7.

“The first session was so embarrassing, I felt like giving the fans their money back,” said O’Sullivan, who now meets Ali Carter or Graeme Dott in the last 16. “I wanted to battle through, and make the scoreline a bit respectable. When I got three frames on the board I went home thinking, I’ve had a result really. It gave me a little bit of belief today.”

 At the age of 42, O’Sullivan is playing perhaps the best snooker of his career, and he insists that is partly due to an improved diet.

“The biggest thing for me this year is how I’ve tackled how I eat,” he added. “I’m amazed by how good I feel and how healthy I am, it’s unbelievable. I’ve always been fit, but through injuries I couldn’t run as much and I ballooned up to nearly 15 stone. I’m down to 13 stone now, so I’ve lost two stone and I haven’t exercised any more than usual.

“I’ve changed what I eat, I’m never hungry, and I’ve got massive amounts of energy. I’d never thought I’d like celery, but I’m eating so much of it now. I suppose compared to the average person in Britain, I’ll always look well because we aren’t the healthiest society. If you go to other continents, they eat proper food, whereas over here it’s all pre-packed meals and that’s why we have a problem with obesity.

“I’m ready for the next 40 years. They have a saying in China, you get two lives: 0 to 40 and then 40 to 80. I’m ready for the 40-80.”

Maguire said: “I only had the lead because Ronnie was so bad yesterday. I was under no illusions that I was playing well enough to be 6-3 up, so I wasn’t surprised when he came out today because I knew he would improve and he did, while I stayed the same. There were two frames that I could have nicked to make it 8-5 but that doesn’t mean I would have won the match from then.

“Ronnie never gives up against me. I’ve seen him in matches throw in the towel, I wish he would do that with me! He has giving me some hidings in the past which were good to watch but that match was there for the taking if I had stepped it up.

“I am accepting it now that I’ll be outside the top 16 and qualifying for this one. The odds are that I’ll be floating around the top 32 for the next few years. I just have to accept that these boys are a step better than me. It’s hard to accept but it is accepted.

“These players have improved where as I have probably just stayed the same. It shows because I’ve not won a tournament in years and even then, I’ve only won a few.”

And big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for these images of the match


MissingClip 2018 WSC: preview of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – Stephen Maguire match (Session1, BBC)

2018 WSC: Ronnie O’Sullivan – Stephen Maguire 1st session

MissingClip 2018 WSC: MSI of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – Stephen Maguire match (Session1, BBC)

2018 WSC: Ronnie O’Sullivan – Stephen Maguire 2nd session (with BBC preview and review)

MissingClip 2018 WSC: MSI of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – Stephen Maguire match (Session2, BBC)


World Championship 2018 – Day 1 – Seeds are suffering

It wasn’t a great day for the seeds at the Crucible yesterday. Indeed five matches started, one of them finished and only one seed, Kyren Wilson, is ahead. Mark Selby, the defending champion went out to Joe Perry on a rather damning score: 10-4. Marco Fu, Ali Carter and Ronnie all trail by 6-3. Fu, of course, is probably not really fit, having suffered some serious eye problems, and not played, since January. But the key thing is simply that the qualifiers – Perry, Maguire, and Dott – are very sharp, whilst the seeds come here cold and under pressure because they have everything to lose and the weight of expectations is on them. Also, contrary to what happened last year, there weren’t many long close matches, with late finishes in the last round of the qualifiers, so the qualifiers are still relatively fresh.

Here is the ES tournament preview, as well as Selby v Perry preview:

Tournament preview + preview of the Mark Selby – Joe Perry match (Session1, ES)

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Stephen Maguire outplayed Ronnie O’Sullivan in an enthralling first session of their opening round clash at the Betfred World Championship to establish a 6-3 advantage.

The Rocket is enjoying his most fruitful season on the World Snooker Tour, having won five ranking titles in a single campaign for the first time in his career. He will have come into this afternoon’s clash with Maguire full of confidence, holding a 17-4 lead in their head-to-head record.

That disparity wasn’t reflected in the early exchanges today which saw Maguire, who is competing at the Crucible for the 15th consecutive season, storm to a 4-0 lead at the mid-session. The 2004 UK Champion compiled breaks of 101 and 95 as he asserted himself upon proceedings.

When they returned O’Sullivan fired in back-to-back century breaks of 118 and 110  to pull within one at 4-3. Maguire then took a scrappy 30-minute eighth frame where both players spurned opportunities.

That could prove to be a pivotal moment, as the tenacious Scot compounded his advantage with a break of 84 to restore a three-frame gap overnight. The match will be played to a conclusion tomorrow morning at 10am.

Kyren Wilson is on the verge of a spot in round two after a dominant performance saw him open up a 7-2 lead against two-time Crucible finalist Matthew Stevens.

The Warrior reached the quarter-final stage in 2016 and 2017 and he will be hoping to go at least a step further and make the one-table setup for a first time this year. Wilson qualified for his maiden Triple Crown final earlier this year at the Masters, although he did lose out in a 10-7 defeat against Mark Allen.

Stevens is playing at the Crucible for the first time since 2015. However, his hopes of a run were dashed by a late blitz by Wilson this afternoon. From 4-2, the 2015 Shanghai Masters champion compiled runs of 94, 65 and 126 to move three frames from victory at 7-2. They will resume tomorrow evening at 7pm.

Joe Perry inflicted defending champion Mark Selby’s first Crucible defeat in three years after a shock 10-4 victory for the Gentleman in their opening round tie at the Betfred World Championship.

Selby’s winning run in Sheffield had extended to ten matches across his triumphs in 2016 and 2017. It’s only the seventh time a reigning champion has been ousted at the first hurdle at the Crucible Theatre.

First Round Crucible Defeats For Defending Champions

  • 1982 Steve Davis 1-10 Tony Knowles
  • 1986 Dennis Taylor 6-10 Mike Hallett
  • 2000 Stephen Hendry 7-10 Stuart Bingham
  • 2007 Graeme Dott 7-10 Ian McCulloch
  • 2012 Neil Robertson 8-10 Judd Trump
  • 2016 Stuart Bingham 9-10 Ali Carter
  • 2017 Mark Selby 4-10 Joe Perry

Regardless of the outcome at the Crucible this year, Selby has already ensured that he will finish the season as world number one after victory at the recent China Open.

Perry’s win this evening comes 12 months on from missing out on a place at the Crucible in 2017. The former Players Champion came through three tough matches at qualifying last week to seal his place at the event.

The world number 22 looked the sharper throughout today’s clash, but inflicted the majority of the damage in a fine morning session performance, which saw him establish a 7-2 lead.

Selby showed his steel last year when he overturned a 10-4 deficit to defeat John Higgins to win 18-15 in the final. However, the five-frame gap this evening proved too much for the 34-year-old.

The Leicester potter took two out of the first three frames this evening to give himself a glimmer of hope at 8-4. However, from there Perry thrust himself over the line with breaks of 76 and 90 to seal a famous win.

“I’m delighted, chuffed,” said Perry. “When the draw came out, I knew I’d have to perform to the best of my ability. Luck was on my side today, I had a few nice little bits of run which I capitalised on. All in all, I’m really pleased with my performance.

“The frame to go 9-4 up was massive. I sensed that for the first time all day he could smell blood. Luckily he didn’t get on a ball when he split the reds and I took full advantage with a good break.

“Mark is the best player we’ve got, he’s the best ambassador we’ve got and I didn’t want to celebrate too much at the end. I’ve got too much respect for him and it must be horrible for him to lose. I’ve lost here before lots of times, and never experienced being the reigning champion.

“It’s up there with my best results. I beat Mark Williams when he was world champion years ago (2004), and at the time that was one of my highlights and one of the best wins I’d ever had. When you beat the world number one, the World Champion, in any tournament it’s a great feeling and to do it at the Crucible makes it even more special.

“I know my game’s in good order, but come Thursday this result doesn’t mean anything. I’ve got to go out and perform again at a very high level. But I’ll enjoy it for now.”

Afterwards a disappointed Selby was full of praise for his opponent and admitted much of the damage was done this morning.

“He’s underachieved if anything. He should have a lot won more than he’s won. I’ve always rated him as a top player,” said the world number one. “I knew he wouldn’t be fazed by the occasion, he’s been here too many times and is too long in the tooth for that.

“I lost it really in the first session. My safety wasn’t up to scratch and every time I made a mistake he punished me heavily.”

“The last three or four years I’ve had some good success here so I can’t complain. I’m gutted to lose but if you’d told me in 2014 that in the next three or four years I’d have won it three times I’d definitely have taken that.”

Meanwhile, 2006 Crucible king Graeme Dott built a 6-3 lead over Ali Carter to move within four frames of a last 16 meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Stephen Maguire.

Dott took the opening frame with a top break of 49 then Carter levelled with a 106. Two scrappy frames went Dott’s way then he made a 34 clearance to nick the next on the black and go 4-1 up.

Carter pulled one back with a 52 clearance but Scotland’s Dott dominated the next two for 6-2. The last of the session went Carter’s way but he’ll need seven of the last ten frames when they resume at 2.30pm on Sunday.

So things are not looking good for Ronnie who looked both tense and flat yesterday. Obviously, 6-3 is a huge deficit against someone of Maguire’s quality. However, if Ronnie could win the first mini-session by 3-1, he would find himself only one behind – 7-6 to Maguire – and right back in the match. But he will need to play much better than he did yesterday and apply himself 100%. If I’m honest, I’m not optimistic…



And a final Interview whith Ronnie before it starts …

This one in the Yorkshire Post

No Crucible drama for O’Sullivan in pursuit of Yorkshire hat-trick


Ronnie O’Sullivan’s mood was as bright as the sunshine which bathed Sheffield yesterday on the eve of the Betfred World Championship. As the sport’s top players gathered for snooker’s media day, including defending champion Mark Selby, all eyes were on five-time winner O’Sullivan.

ROS Crucible 2018
Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The last of those Crucible titles may have come in 2013, but that five-year stretch has not hoodwinked bookies, and tournament sponsors, Betfred who make him 5-2 favourite to emerge as champion in 17 days time. And with good reason. Victory in Sheffield would complete an amazing Yorkshire hat-trick, after winning the UK Championship in York, and the English Open in Barnsley earlier this season. Throw in other ranking tournament wins at the Shanghai Masters, World Grand Prix and the Players Championship, and it’s clear the 42-year-old is the man to beat at the Crucible. “I like it up this end of the world,” O’Sullivan told The Yorkshire Post. “I spend a lot of time in Sheffield, it’s a great place.

ROS Crucible 2018Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2018 Betfred World Snooker Championship Media Launch at The Crucible, Sheffield. Picture Tony Johnson.

“It’s good to be here. Statistically it’s been a good year, could have played better. “But there’s still quite a bit of silverware in the cabinet so I am not going to start complaining,” added O’Sullivan, who could become the first player to win £1m prize money on a single season with another Crucible title.

Not that O’Sullivan is thinking about the financial rewards. “(Reaching £1m) would mean something if I played for money, but I don’t play snooker for money,” he said. “That’s not something that enters my head, but I am aware that you all talk about it.

ROS Lunch Crucible 2018Ronnie O’Sullivan eats his lunch.

“I don’t look at records, I just try to enjoy myself.

“I am enjoying what I do in my life, playing snooker when I can, and this is just a two-week holiday in Sheffield for me hopefully.

“If it isn’t, I will just go back and do some stuff with Eurosport, bit of commentary. I am in a win-win situation. “A Chinese proverb says you have two lives, zero to 40, and 40-80. I am in that second part of my life now. “Two or three years ago I thought it was important to plan what I was going to do away from snooker. “I am just trying to hang in there and get a few results to keep me going. “I have won the world title five times and it’s a great feeling.

“But it’s probably not as good a feeling as you think it is. It sinks in a week later. But for me, I get detached a little bit, and have a bit of fun really.”

O’Sullivan opens up in Sheffield today against Scotsman Stephen Maguire, 37, in a tough first-round encounter. The Crucible format, stretched over 17 days, is a sporting marathon, which even keen runner O’Sullivan struggles to enjoy.

“I don’t have to get myself up for it,” he said. “Seventeen days is a long time, it’s just another tournament. “Someone like me, I prefer a five-day or seven-day tournament. That probably suits my personality a little bit better.

“If you start asking Usain Bolt would he like to run the 10km, he probably wouldn’t fancy the training. It’s a bit long for him. “But Mo Farah would love it. It’s different strokes for different folks. “I just need to come here and make it as relaxed as possible, but I much prefer shorter tournaments.”

O’Sullivan stands two short of Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven world titles. But former world No 2 Maguire – now ranked 18th in the world – is an awkward first-round opponent, having come through this week’s qualifiers to reach the Crucible. O’Sullivan said: “I don’t care who I play, if you want to win it you have to play well. If you don’t play well, you are going out. There’s no need to complicate it. “He is a fantastic player and the sort of player you wouldn’t want to draw in the first round. But I have drawn him, and have to get on with it. “I don’t really analyse it, it all comes instinctively. I don’t know how I am going to prepare, what I will be thinking, just get on with it, play the game, and let it unravel.”

Being interviewed in the bar of the Crucible – the famous Sheffield theatre which is no stranger to drama over the years – O’Sullivan cuts a relaxed figure. So long snooker’s poster boy, and box-office hit, the Essex potter has found a good balance between work and life off the table. “As you get older, you get a little bit wiser,” he explained. “I feel pretty good, happy with how my career is going, what I am doing. “The last two or three years have been really good. “I am quite a selfish person really. The family fit in with what I am doing, I am away working a lot. I pay the bills, so they understand that.” “I just go out, do my work and enjoy myself. When I am home they see me, when I am not, they speak to me on Facetime.”

O’Sullivan is closing in on another Hendry record, he has 33 ranking title wins, compared to the Scot’s 36. Not that the six-times UK champion and seven-times Masters winner likes to compare himself with players from previous generations. “It’s really hard to compare, because it depends what era you do it,” he said. “It’s okay winning tournaments when the field is a bit weak, but to compare records is pretty difficult. “Look at Federer, who did it when players like Nadal and Djokovic were around. That makes it even more impressive. “I am not sure how to measure myself against Stephen Hendry, as long as I keep getting a buzz from snooker I will keep doing it.”

And Ronnie took time to meet the Thai fans who came to support their player, Theppy! One is young Nutcharuk. They shared this on social media…


Good luck Ronnie!