Crucible 2019 – Day 2

It was a day of highs and lows ending in pure late-night drama

But before I come to that, here is the review of Mark Williams win yesterday, including an interview, where he, once again, expresses his unhappiness about how he has been treated whilst he was World Champion

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker and coverage:

Morning session

Ding Junhui fired three centuries and six more breaks over 50 as he reached the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship with a 10-7 win over Anthony McGill.

There were some uncomfortable moments for China’s Ding at the business end of the match as McGill came from 9-5 down to 9-7, but a superb 106 in the 17th frame put Ding into round two. He will face an intriguing clash with Judd Trump next, if Trump gets through his first round test against  Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

World number ten Ding has had a disappointing season by his standards, failing to reach the semi-finals of a ranking event. The 32-year-old will hope he can finish it in style as he continues his quest to become the first player from Asia to conquer the Crucible.

He built a 6-3 lead in the first session yesterday with runs of 64, 70, 64, 52 and 129. In today’s concluding session he knocked in 99, 134 and 91 to extend his advantage to 9-5.

Scotland’s McGill took a scrappy 15th frame on the colours then came from 42-0 down to snatch the next. But Ding quashed any hopes of a fight back with his third century of the tie.

“I played ok, not that bad,” said Ding, who won his 13th and most recent ranking title at the 2017 Yushan World Open. “At 9-7 it was looking like he could come back to 9-9. In the last frame I missed a chance and I thought ‘this is bad.’ It’s lucky that I left nothing for him and I got another chance. The first round is always tough.

“I’m not worried about who I’m playing next round. I’ve got to face the best players if I want to win the title. Judd is playing great this season. He’s so confident, he wants to beat everybody and he tries to win everything.

“I’m not a big name at this World Championship, which is normal because the fans want to talk about the players in form. I think Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby are the favourites to win. I haven’t had a good season.”

McGill said: “I should have won a couple of more frames yesterday. The match could have gone my way but Ding is some player – just a class act. His cue ball control was so good, it’s such a strength and mine isn’t at the same standard. I don’t think I played that bad. Out of the five times I’ve played here, that is by far the most confident I’ve felt. I really enjoyed it. But he’s just that bit better.

“I’d put Ding right there in terms of contenders. He’s a funny player because he’s a top player but he seems to get some odd results where you think ‘how the hell did he lose that?’ He’s got so much class.

“I’m really excited for next season – my results this year have been so bad but I feel like my game is starting to get there. I’m only a few shots away from playing really well. I’m looking forward to getting back into it and keeping up the good work that I’m doing. Plant the seed, keep watering it, give it some sunshine and it’s going to grow!”

On the other table, four-time Crucible king John Higgins took a 6-3 lead over Mark Davis.  Sussex cueman Davis has been a bogey player for Wishaw’s Higgins in recent years, winning six of their last seven matches, but this time the Scot looks in control.

A break of 57 gave Davis the opening frame then Higgins levelled with a 100. The next two were also shared before Higgins stepped up a gear after the interval, taking four of the next five with runs of 61, 75, 84 and 63.

They play to a finish on Monday at 2.30pm with Higgins needing four more frames for victory.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect Ding to play so well. At the Crucible there is always massive pressure on him from the Chinese media and he hasn’t coped too well with that in the past. Add to it that he’s had a very bad season and there was no reason to feel optimistic about his performance. But apparently, I got it all wrong. Maybe, precisely because his season was so bad, the expectations on him aren’t as high as usual, and, maybe, becoming a father has given him a sense of perspective that allows him to distance himself from all the expectations. Whatever, Ding did play extremely well and had too much for Anthony McGill, who, to his credit, fought to the last ball … as I expected (At least I got something right here … hum)

Afternoon session

Shaun Murphy produced a supreme display to take a clean sweep of the frames and lead China’s 19-year-old Luo Honghao 9-0 after the first session of their Betfred World Championship round one tie.

Crucible debutant Luo has been given a harsh introduction to competing at snooker’s biggest event. 2005 World Champion Murphy restricted Luo to just 78 points and requires only one more frame for victory in the best of 19 clash.

That means Luo is in danger of setting a new record low for points scored in a Crucible match. Danny Fowler currently holds the unwanted record, having only managed 191 points in his 10-1 defeat to Stephen Hendry in 1993. The only ever player to suffer a Crucible whitewash was Eddie Charlton, who lost 10-0 to John Parrott in 1992.

It was a session which saw Murphy, nicknamed the Magician, return to his spellbinding best form. The seven-time ranking event winner had come into this week off the back of one of his worst seasons in recent years, having suffered nine first round exits.

Despite that, Triple Crown winner Murphy looked as sharp as ever when play got underway, putting on a relentless showing of break building power which included four centuries. He crafted contributions of 138, 102, 101, 76, 62 and 123. They return tomorrow morning at 10am to play to a conclusion.

The winner of this match faces either Neil Robertson or Michael Georgiou, who are in a similar situation in their first round tie.

Australia’s 2010 World Champion Robertson also holds a 9-0 advantage, having restricted his Cypriot counterpart to just 107 points in their match.

Robertson and Georgiou finish off their tie this evening at 7pm.

Gary Wilson leads Belgium’s Luca Brecel 9-8 in their opening round contest, which was pulled off before they could reach a conclusion this afternoon.

Brecel had led 7-5, before a superb charge from Wallsend’s Wilson saw him surge back into contention. He made breaks of 106, 85 and 55 as he took four frames in a row to move 9-7 in front. However, Brecel claimed a nervy final frame to stay in the tie at 9-8.

They will play to a finish on the first available table in this evening’s session.

Another one that I got totally wrong! Shaun Murphy played superbly and poor young Luo, who had been hyped before his Crucible debut, looked a picture of despair and embarrassment in his chair all match. I hope that he can at least get one frame today. I remain unconvinced about Murphy’s true form though. Why? Because, earlier during the season, he started matches like a runaway train, but as soon as his opponent managed to win a couple of frames and put him under pressure he collapsed. Luo didn’t manage to put him under ANY pressure. Shaun could as well have been playing at an exhibition out there. As for Luo, I do hope he has some good people around him, able to lift his spirits and help him understand that it’s not the end of his world. Neil Robertson, when playing at the Crucible for the first time, in 2005, trailed 7-2 after the first session. He was 23, not 19, he was a pro for 6 years, not a rookie. So it does happen to the best. And … he finished that match, losing by 10-7 to Stephen Hendry, which was more than honorable!

Evening session

Neil Robertson’s outstanding form continued as he crushed Michael Georgiou 10-1 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Robertson has already won three ranking titles in a season for the first time in his career and arrives in Sheffield on a run of four consecutive ranking finals. His performance on the opening weekend strengthens his status as one of the favourites for the title at the Crucible.

Georgiou became the first ever Cypriot player to compete at the Crucible, and while he suffered a heavy defeat, he at least avoided the ignominy of becoming only the second player to be whitewashed at the famous venue, after Eddie Charlton who lost 10-0 to John Parrott in 1992.

Starting tonight’s session 9-0 down, Georgiou was also in danger of setting a new record for the lowest number of points scored in a match at the Crucible,  held by part-time binman Danny Fowler who amassed 191 points during his 10-1 defeat to Stephen Hendry in 1993. A break of 90 from Georgiou in the first frame tonight saw him avoid that record and raised the biggest cheer of the day.

Robertson took a 9-0 lead on Saturday with top breaks of 58, 100, 96, 68, 120, 85 and 55. Despite losing the first frame tonight, he sealed victory in the next with a 64 clearance which included a series of flamboyant pots.

And the 37-year-old Australian, who won this title in 2010, looks in the mood to become the first non-British player to lift the famous trophy twice.

In the last 16 he could face a blockbuster clash with Shaun Murphy, who played tremendous snooker today in taking a 9-0 lead over Luo Honghao.

I had a great start, put Michael under a lot of pressure and just kept him in his chair,” said world number four Robertson. “It’s a brutal game when you’re on the receiving end of a heavy defeat or heavy loss in a session. When you draw a debutant I guess you can take advantage of them not knowing what to expect when they get out there.

“I know he won the Shoot Out but he probably hasn’t experienced anything like that before. The crowd are so close to you that even when you make the slightest of mistakes you can hear them whispering. I was really pleased with how I played yesterday for sure. I was just pretty ruthless.

“Yesterday when I left the Crucible it took me about 45 minutes to get to the top of the road because I stopped for all the selfies and autographs. I was 9-0 up so I didn’t mind having to wait. I had about 400 people tell me ‘you’ve got to let him win a frame!’ The killer instinct in me was saying I’d love to win 10-0, but I like Michael a lot and I wanted him to take something away from the experience of playing here. I tried to win the first frame tonight but he made a really good break.

“The most important thing for me was to finish nice and early so I can go back home for a few days, chill out and practise before heading back up. If I play Shaun Murphy next, he will definitely be up for it because he doesn’t like not being talked about as a potential candidate to win the tournament, he’ll be very determined to put that right.

“Whatever happens it’s my best ever season by a million miles. I’m just playing and enjoying it and I guess that makes me a very dangerous opponent.”

Georgiou said: “I was really pleased that I could show people what I could actually do on the table tonight. I didn’t actually expect the noise from the crowd to be that high. It’s definitely inspiring to be here. Yesterday I just found myself looking around which is probably the wrong thing to do. It was the first time that I’ve actually stepped inside the Crucible and my focus wasn’t on the match.

“That’s up there with one of the best experiences of my life. It’s so crazy, I’m used to watching it all on TV and watching the documentaries. I didn’t expect it to be so small but it was just brilliant. The noise was crazy when I walked out. The crowd were fantastic, the table was great, like an ice rink. It has definitely inspired me to work harder next season and get here again.”

Although short, the end of the Robertson v Georgiou game was endearing. Neil Robertson is merciless at the table – as he should be – but off the table, he’s a kind soul and this showed in his press conference and general attitude. There was absolutely nothing patronising there. As already stated above, he had a difficult start at the Crucible. Michael Georgiou will never be a world-beater, but he’s a good player, and a great guy, very positive. He made history for his country, he should be proud despite the defeat.

That match was followed by the conclusion of Luca Brecel v Gary Wilson

Gary Wilson won the longest frame in Crucible history, which lasted 79 minutes and 31 seconds, to get over the line and defeat Luca Brecel 10-9 in their opening round clash at the Betfred World Championship.

The epic deciding frame came after the pair were pulled off at the end of the afternoon session, with Wallsend’s Wilson leading his Belgian counterpart 9-8. Brecel managed to force the decider when they resumed, before a cloud of tension descended on the Crucible Theatre.

The final frame got off to a cagey start, requiring a re-rack after a period of stalemate. They then embarked on a tactical battle longer than any other to have taken place at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. Several reds gathered to the left of the black spot on the top cushion. The clock wore on, as they jostled for position to dislodge them.

Eventually Wilson managed to get in and crucially doubled the final red to allow him to clear with 31 and win the nerve-shredding contest.

The previous record for the longest frame at the Crucible was 76 minutes and 11 seconds, during a semi-final match between Mark Selby and Marco Fu in 2016.

Both players were battling for their first ever Crucible match win. Brecel, now 24-years old, became the youngest ever player to compete at the Sheffield venue back in 2012, aged 17. He lost on that occasion and has failed to record a win in four appearances at the Crucible.

Former China Open runner-up Wilson’s only other match in the final stages of the World Championship was a 10-7 loss against Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2017. He has now tasted victory at the second time of asking. Wilson’s prize is a second round meeting with either three-time World Champion Mark Selby or young Chinese star Zhao Xintong in round two.

“I’m just over the moon to get through it on the right side,” said 33-year-old Wilson. “I gave it 100% for the whole match and when I got a sniff of a chance it went my way.

“I tried not to give anything away. Even the moments when I left a bit of a long red and he potted it, I was annoyed. I knew that 15 or 20 points in that scenario were massive. I just wanted to leave as little as possible and do as much as I could.

“You know deep down in your gut what the right shot is and when to play it. I did with that double at the end. As soon as I got on the blue I had to try and get on the double for the last red. I knew it had to be played.

“Luca came in here just a second ago, he shook my hand and was nothing but complimentary. He just said that I had got out of some great escapes and it was phenomenal. He is a great kid and I don’t know if I would have been as nice five minutes after getting beat.”

This was the match of the tournament so far. Gary Wilson was indeed phenomenal. His composure was incredible and his knowledge of angles was there with the very best! The decider provided incredible drama and tension and, this type of game is the best advert that snooker could get!

Late evening conclusion

Stephen Maguire benefitted from a huge slice of good fortune with a fluke at a vital moment as he beat Tian Pengfei 10-9 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Maguire looked certain to lose 10-7 deep in the 17th frame when he needed a snooker on the colours. But he got the snooker on the blue,  then went for a risky pot to a baulk corner. He missed his target by several inches, but the blue hit the cue ball again and deflected into the other baulk pocket. He added pink and black to snatch the frame then, almost inevitably, recovered to win 10-9. It was a cruel way to lose for China’s Tian who was making his Crucible debut.

Glasgow’s Maguire had lost in the first round eight times in his previous 15 visits to Sheffield, but this time he’s through to the last 16 to face Ronnie O’Sullivan or James Cahill.

Tian led 5-4 after the first session and won the opening frame tonight. World number 15 Maguire responded with a break of 131, but his opponent won a scrappy 12th frame then made a 104 in the 13th to lead 8-5 at the interval. Runs of 44 and 105 helped Maguire get back to 8-7 before Tian took the next with a 57.

After the drama of the 17th frame which made the score 9-8, Maguire made a 75 to force the decider. World number 81 Tian had first chance and made 42 before running out of position. Maguire replied with 51, then got the better of a safety exchange on the last red before clearing to the brown which proved enough.

“I was very lucky, I fluked a crazy blue,” said 38-year-old Maguire, who reached the semi-finals here in 2007 and 2012. “Before that when I potted the brown I thought I had gone in-off and I took a step towards Tian to shake hands. But the white stayed out and I got the snooker. Then the fluke was outrageous.

“I have been on the receiving end and I know that it’s the worst feeling in the world, when you know you should have already won. So at 9-8 I felt I was going to win. I just can’t believe I am still in the tournament.

“If I play Ronnie in the next round it would be a special occasion because he has an aura about him that no one else has. He is better than he has ever been because he doesn’t let anything upset him. He’s the best ever so I would have to play unbelievable stuff.”

Here are …

The outrageous fluke on the blue that allowed Maguire to survive in the match

The decider

Regarding Tian, there were people out on social media, including the usual “chinese players cheat” brigade, suggesting he had not been competing honestly in the past, and that his behaviour had been inappropriate on occasions. I don’t know Tian personally, and I don’t know if there is any truth in this. What I do know though is that, either those persons have eviddence of what they claim, and then should act accordingly and report him to the appropriate authorities, or they don’t and then they shouldn’t villify the man on social media.

Today Ronnie starts his first match against James Cahill. It would be foolish to underestimate James, who played extremely well last week and has played Ronnie three times in the past and ran him close each time. He’s beaten Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby this season. He’s working with Chris Henry too. This IS a potential banana skin.

2 thoughts on “Crucible 2019 – Day 2

  1. Yes there’s more than one way to have a nightmare at the Crucible.

    Luo collapsed on his debut, as have many, but the truth is he hasn’t been playing well since Christmas. I think the key issue is stamina and resilience. He found inspiration in the qualifiers, but yesterday there was no fight left. He will get stronger, and still has massive potential.

    Tian’s case was much sadder, as he’s spent years fighting to get to the Crucible. Maguire had outrageous amounts of luck from 9-7 down: flukes, balls running safe, even a refereeing mistake. Tian did have opportunities to win, but there will be some shots he’ll regret for the rest of his life. He misses out on a second-round match against Ronnie.

  2. Do you remember my words about Ding. Players like Ding, who hasn’t any pressure on them, are the most dangerous. They have nothing to loose. He’ll beat even Trump, always assuming, of course, that Judd beats Thepchaiya Un Nooh. Not easy at is looks. And Trump becomes fragile if his game doesn’t work.

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