Crucible 2019 – Day 7

It’s hard to explain but it felt like a rather strange day yesterday at the Crucible.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Morning session

Neil Robertson holds a healthy 10-6 advantage over Shaun Murphy heading into this evening’s concluding session of their Betfred World Championship second round tie in Sheffield.

Australia’s 2010 World Champion Robertson is competing in the last 16 of the World Championship for the tenth time. He has enjoyed one of his finest seasons on the World Snooker Tour, having picked up titles at the Riga Masters, Welsh Open and China Open.

Murphy came into this week off the back of one of his worst ever seasons on the professional circuit. He has suffered nine first round defeats during the campaign. However, he returned to his dazzling best in the opening round. The Magician destroyed China’s Luo Honghao 10-0 to become only the second player in Crucible history to inflict a whitewash on his opponent, following John Parrott’s 10-0 win over Eddie Charlton in 1992.

Robertson came into the session with a 5-3 lead. As play got underway this morning, 37-year-old Robertson extended that advantage by making a break of 67 to move 6-3 ahead. Murphy then pulled one back and they traded frames to arrive at the mid-session with Robertson leading 7-5.

Robertson then edged further in front. However, Murphy replied once more with a break of 59 to make it 8-6. The subsequent 15th frame could prove to be pivotal.

Murphy had looked set to move within one, before missing a frame ball brown, Robertson punished that error. He eventually converted a long range blue and cleared to the black to steal the frame. Robertson compounded the disappointment for Murphy by taking the last frame of the session to end it 10-6 up. They will return to play the best of 25 clash to a finish at 7pm.

On the other table, Stephen Maguire opened up 5-3 advantage against the Crucible’s first ever amateur competitor James Cahill.

Scotland’s Maguire booked his second round spot thanks to a nerve-jangling 10-9 win over Tian Pengfei. While Cahill hit the headlines with a giant killing 10-8 defeat of world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Maguire made two century runs of 103 and 125 to open up a 5-2 lead. However, Cahill took an important 38-minute final frame of the session to end just two behind at 5-3.

Up to there, things looked relatively normal. Neil Robertson in this session played a notch under the level he had shown in the first session of the match but did more than enough. The difference was made in the safety department, that’s where Neil really outplayed Shaun. I didn’t see anything of the other table so can’t comment.

Afternoon session

Gary Wilson will take a 9-7 advantage over Mark Selby into the concluding session of their second round clash at the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield.

Wallsend’s Wilson currently has an unenviable head-to-head record against three-time World Champion Selby. He’s lost all five of his previous matches with the Jester from Leicester. Their most recent meeting came at the 2016 English Open, where Selby secured a 4-0 whitewash. Wilson was also on the wrong end of a 10-2 scoreline in the final of the 2015 China Open.

However, it’s Wilson who has been setting the pace this afternoon. The world number 32 is competing in the last 16 at the World Championship for the first time. His decider in the previous round against Luca Brecel was the longest frame in Crucible history, but he came through to seal a fine 10-9 win.

Wilson secured a 5-3 lead after the opening session and he continued to push on this afternoon, despite 15-time ranking event winner Selby throwing everything at him.

Selby took the opening two frames with breaks of 64 and 84 to level at 5-5, before Wilson responded with a run of 60 to regain the lead.

Selby then fired in contributions of 120 and 74 to take the lead for the first time in the match at 7-6. However, Wilson showed his steel with breaks of 97, 115 and 78 to claim the final three frames of the session and emerge with a 9-7 lead. They will play to a finish at 10am tomorrow.

On the other table David Gilbert seized the early initiative against defending champion Mark Williams, to take a 5-3 cushion after their opening session.

The match is a repeat of this season’s dramatic Yushan World Open final. On that occasion Gilbert held a 9-5 advantage, but let it slip as Williams roared back to win 10-9.

Gilbert is competing as a Crucible seed for the first time and he put on an impressive display this afternoon. Breaks of 61, 61 52 and 58 helped him to earn a two-frame gap heading into tomorrow. They resume at 10am.

Gary Wilson continued to play well against Mark Selby, although he looked very nervous for a while in the middle of this session. There was a long phase where Mark Selby was chasing one single snooker and Gary Wilson managed to deny him and, that, in my perception, is what allowed Gary to settle again. He had got the upper hand in the aspect of the game that is his opponent strength.

On the other table David Gilbert won the session over the defending champion. It later transpired that Mark Williams was feeling unwell suffering for chest pains. After getting advice from a doctor at the Crucible he was rushed to hospital.

This is what he tweeted from there:

A&E. Could be hear a while , couldn’t stick the chest pains no more. Lucky there wasn’t any more frames to play .

and later:

Doctors are confidant it’s not anything to do with my heart🙏. Awaiting more tests at 10 o clock .

So that’s good news, and the more important is of course Mark’s health. It may be the World Championship, at the end od the day it’s only a game of snooker.

Mark is supposed to resume his match this morning. We’ll see what happens. I expect him to try to play even if he’s not 100%, but really it would be foolish to go against the doctors advice if they think that he’s unfit.

In a far more serious note, but quite bizarre, Shaun Murphy was in the Winter Garden during the afternoon doing punditry, whilst his own match was still underway and he was due to play in the next session. Even weirder, he gave comments over his own match before it was over. That’s a bit baffling. But maybe it was his way to take his mind off the match.

Evening session

Neil Robertson became the first player into the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship as he took the last five frames of his clash with Shaun Murphy to win 13-6.

It was snooker of the highest quality from Australia’s Robertson – he fired three centuries and six more breaks over 50 as he turned a potentially tough second round match against 2005 Crucible champion Murphy into a comfortable victory. World number four Robertson now meets John Higgins or Stuart Bingham on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Having won three ranking titles and reached three other finals this term, 37-year-old Robertson is enjoying the best season of his career. And he could finish it by becoming the first non-British player to lift snooker’s most famous trophy twice, having done so for the first time in 2010.

Murphy, by contrast, has had a disappointing campaign by his high standards, failing to add to his trophy haul. He looked back in form in a 10-0 demolition of Luo Honghao in the first round this week, but was no match for Robertson.

Breaks of 106, 79, 57, 127, 67 and 62 helped Robertson build a 10-6 lead in the first two sessions. The match would have been closer had Murphy not missed a crucial frame-ball brown at 8-6 during the second session.

And there would be no fight-back from the Englishman in tonight’s conclusion; in fact he potted just one ball. Robertson compiled runs of 120, 88 and 95 as he sailed over the winning line.

“The first session yesterday was a wonderful standard from both of us,” said Robertson, winner of 16 ranking titles. “This morning was a little bit tougher, there were some close frames, but I pinched a couple of big frames on the black.

“Tonight was a great way to finish off the match. I’m playing with freedom. It’s a lot easier said than done, but I’m just going out there and playing. There will always be nervous moments, because as a competitor you want to win. Just ask my son, when we play Monopoly or Scrabble I hate losing, even to him – if I lose I flip the board over!

“But at the same time the bigger picture is going out there and performing for the crowd, hoping they see a great match and making some big breaks for them. I’d love to win it, no doubt whatsoever, but I’m just trying to play well and it’s working.”

Murphy said: “I was bang under it from the moment I was drawn against Neil Robertson. He was just too good, he played too well, scored too well, his safety was too good, his tactical play was too clever, and frankly if he keeps playing like that he’ll win the tournament. If he keeps playing like that get the engravers ready, his name’s going on the trophy.

“I played well in my first match, I was really thrilled to have a good performance again. That’s given me a bit of confidence going forward into next season. I’ll put the cue down for a few weeks, get back on the practice table, and try and pick up next season where I’ve finished this season, which is in a much better place than I’ve been for most of it.”

On the other table, Stephen Maguire holds a 9-7 overnight lead going into the concluding session of his match against James Cahill. Having knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in round one, Cahill is battling hard as he seeks to continue his run.

Glasgow’s Maguire led 5-3 after the first session and took two of the first three scrappy frames tonight to go 7-4 ahead. Blackpool’s Cahill fought back impressively as breaks of 69 and 52 helped him recover to 7-7. But it was Maguire who finished the session strongly as runs of 83 and 121 saw him regain the advantage.

They resume at 2.30pm on Saturday.

Neil duly wrapped off the match in no time. Shaun didn’t make another frame and some suggested that his presence in the Winter Garden earlier was a sign that he had somehow given up. I’m not sure about that. I don’t believe that spending time at the practice table necessarily helps at that stage unless there is a specific issue the player needs to work on. Shaun’s issue was quite simply that currently Neil is a better and more complete player and time in practice wasn’t going to fix that for him anyway.

On the other table, it was a miss fest and cuebang central. The standard of the match between Stephen Maguire and James Cahill was pretty terrible, to the point it was hilarious at times. The ES pundits were having a blast in the studio. Maguire was mightily frustrated and that didn’t help is concentration. He was oozing anger. Somehow he managed to regain some composure to win the last two frames with some decent snooker. Truth to be said Stephen is a bit on a hiding to nothing in that match: his opponent has absolutely nothing to lose here as he’s already achieved much more than anyone expected, even if it was again an ailing opponent.

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