Crucible 2019 – Day 15

After 15 days of battle on the table(s) and emotional highs and lows, here we are: the final starts today: it’s John Higgins v Judd Trump in a repeat of the 2011 final. And yet, it will definitely be a very different match.

In 2011, Judd Trump, only 21, was a qualifier, albeit as the winner the last tournament before the Crucible: the China Open.. He had knocked out the defending champion, Neil Robertson, on the first day of the tournament. He had no battle scars and went for absolutely everything, getting most. He was a breath of fresh air, he played with freedom, he had already exceeded all expectations. Now 8 years later, many fans and pundits feel that if he doesn’t win the World Championship very soon, he might never do it and Judd hasn’t always coped well with those expectations. He’s also not always made it easier for himself by taking a brazen attitude.

In 2011, John Higgins came to the Crucible a man with something to prove, a man eager to redeem himself after the scandal that had tarnished the 2010 World Championship. Having missed the start of the season because of his ban, he came back with a bang. he made the final in the first three tournaments he played in: he won EPTC 5, was runner-up in EPTC 6 and won the UK Championship. He then lost his father – who had been his biggest supporter through his career since he was a boy – and was forced to withdraw from the German Masters. And he immediately bounced back, winning the Welsh Open and the World Championship. With a hindsight that was quite some feat. That World title, in 2011, is his last to-date. He’s been in the final in 2017 and 2018, coming runner-up each time. Those two defeats took a huge toll on him. This one is his eight final.

If Judd Trump was to win on Monday, he would complete the triple crown, having won the UK Championship in 2011, and the Masters this season. He would become the first player to pass the £1000000 prize money in a season too. He would climb to World n°2 with a good chance to get the n°1 early in the season, as Ronnie is unlikely to play over the summer.

Here is Ronnie talking to ES about Judd Trump

2019 WSC: Ronnie O’Sullivan on Judd Trump (Eurosport)

If John Higgins was to win on Monday, he would equal Ronnie’s five World titles, and he would climb to World n°3. This would mean that the first three players in the rankings would be Ronnie, Mark Williams and John Higgins: the class of 92. Those three, entering their 28th season as pros, at the age of 43/44, are still better than the rest. Isn’t that extraordinary? Don’t tell me that the standard has never been higher, will you. Ronnie, in the building of the tournament was saying that he’s a grand dad, and that if he was a young player he would be embarrassed to see a grand dad at the top of their sport. He said that it’s about time the young ones step up… but can they?

This is how we got this far:

Judd Trump 17-11  Gary Wilson

Session 3 (source Worldsnooker)

Judd Trump secured a 14-10 advantage over Gary Wilson heading into the final session of their Betfred World Championship semi-final showdown.

The Ace in the Pack is aiming to reach his second world final. His only appearance in snooker’s biggest match to date came in 2011, when he lost a classic encounter with John Higgins 18-15. Trump claimed his second Triple Crown title by defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 in the Masters final earlier this year.

World number 32 Wilson has enjoyed a fairytale run this week. The former taxi driver from Wallsend came through qualifying to secure his place at the Crucible. He is the fifth lowest ranked player ever to reach the semi-final stage of the World Championship.

Trump came into the session with a slender 9-7 advantage. He extended that cushion further this morning by taking the opening two frames to make it 11-7.

Wilson then got off the mark for the morning, before Trump compiled a break of 114 to lead 12-8 at the mid-session interval. The century break had added significance, as it was the 87th of the tournament, breaking the all-time record. The previous best of 86 was set in 2015 and 2016.

When they returned Wilson stole the 21st frame on the final pink to close the gap to 12-9. Trump then restored his four-frame lead with a break of 67. However, Wilson refused to wilt in the Crucible cauldron and breaks of 40 and 52 saw him make it 13-10.

The pair then battled out a crucial final frame of the session, which lasted 45 minutes. Eventually Trump got past the snookers required stage and despite some strong safety play from Wilson he managed to seal the frame and emerge with his 14-10 lead.

Session 4 (source Worldsnooker)

Judd Trump pulled away from Gary Wilson to win 17-11 and set up a Betfred World Championship final against John Higgins, a repeat of their 2011 Crucible clash.

Wilson matched his opponent stride for stride in the early stages of their semi-final and led 6-5 at one point, but Trump got stronger as the match progressed and, in the end, won comfortably. He faces Higgins over 35 frames on Sunday and Monday with the winner to lift the trophy and bank snooker’s biggest ever first prize of £500,000.

Eight years ago, Trump jumped into the limelight with his audacious brand of attacking play, and nearly pulled off an astonishing victory, but lost 18-15 to Higgins. Now age 29, wiser, more experienced and with a better all-round game, Trump will relish the challenge of his second Crucible final and another crack at four-time champion Higgins.

Bristol’s Trump has had a career-best season, winning the Masters, the Northern Ireland Open and the World Grand Prix, and the world number seven has the chance to finish it in perfect style. To land a first world title before his 30th birthday would be a milestone achievement.

Wilson has had the best month of his life on the baize, winning three qualifying matches and three more at the Crucible. The 33-year-old from Wallsend leaves with a career-biggest cheque for £100,000.

Trump led 14-10 going into the concluding session, and got the better of a scrappy opening frame tonight to extend his lead. World number 32 Wilson pulled one back with a break of 68 to make it 15-11, but Trump soon quashed any hopes of a fight back with runs of 97 and 88 to take the last two frames.

“My performance was pretty solid, there were a few ups and downs in the game,” said ten-time ranking event winner Trump. “I finished it off well and was very happy with how I played towards the end. I was very pleased to get it over and done with and give myself a little break before the final.

“I’m a different player now compared to the 2011 final. I know when to turn balls down when I’m not playing too well, and how to dig in. My safety’s been a lot better this season and that’s probably the main reason I’ve done so well.

“I hope this final gets close to the same atmosphere of 2011. It’s important against John to get off to a good start, you don’t want him getting too confident. I’m under no illusions as to how hard it’s going to be to beat him. I’m probably going to have to go out there and play the best I’ve ever played.

“In his own head he’s probably massive favourite having been there and done it, under pressure he’s proved how good he is. I’d give everything I’ve won this season to win that trophy. I’m at the age where to win that trophy for me and my family would mean everything. My best years are still ahead of me hopefully. I’m still learning every day as a player.”

Wilson, who had never won a match at the Crucible before this year, said: “I wasn’t good enough over the last two days and that’s why I lost. Judd deserved it, Judd played better. It’s nice to know now that I feel comfortable in the Crucible. I just wish I felt as comfortable in my own game, in my own technique. That’s something I definitely need to work on.

“I’ve been trying to work on that side of my game for ten or 15 years and I haven’t been able to find the answers. All I can do is try and take the positives because I’ve done well in this tournament.”

2019 WSC: Day15 evening session preview (Eurosport) 1/2

2019 WSC: Day15 evening session preview (Eurosport) 2/2

Ronnie was in the commentary box for frames 25-26

John Higgins 17-16 David Gilbert

Session 4 (source Worldsnooker)

John Higgins reached the Betfred World Championship final for the third consecutive year with a nerve-shredding 17-16 victory over David Gilbert in the semi-finals.

The match came down to a deciding frame in which both players battled for an opening on the final red. Eventually Gilbert left Higgins a thin cut to a middle pocket, which the four-time champion converted to reach his eighth final at the Theatre of Dreams. That draws Higgins level with Steve Davis in terms of Crucible final appearances, one behind Stephen Hendry’s record of nine.

Scotland’s Higgins succumbed to an 18-15 defeat against Mark Selby in 2017 and lost a classic final against Mark Williams 18-16 last year. He will be hoping to avoid three consecutive final defeats when he faces Judd Trump or Gary Wilson on Sunday and Monday. It will be the richest match in snooker history, with a £500,000 top prize on offer.

It was an emotional end to a career best run for Tamworth’s Gilbert. The former potato farmer has enjoyed a fairytale rise to fame over recent years. Gilbert dropped off the professional circuit at the end of the 2010/11 season and required Q School to resurrect his snooker career. This year he was a seed at the Crucible for the first time, having been runner-up at the Yushan World Open and the German Masters. Gilbert picks up £100,000, his biggest ever pay day, for reaching the semi-finals.

World number five Higgins, trailing 13-11, had an early chance in the first frame today but only made 20 before missing the pink to a centre pocket. Gilbert punished him with a superb 105 clearance, the 88th century of the tournament.

Back came Higgins, taking three frames in a row with top breaks of 52 and 74 to level at 14-14 at the interval. Frame 29 was re-racked twice, but that didn’t slow down Higgins’ momentum as a run of 96 put him ahead for the first time since 3-2. World number 16 Gilbert replied with an excellent 78 for 15-15.

In frame 31, Higgins made 23 before missing a red with the long rest to a top corner. Gilbert’s 53 put him ahead, and when Higgins missed a long pot on the third-last red, the Englishman added 12 which proved enough to put him ahead. But a safety error from Gilbert early in the 32nd let Higgins in for a marvellous 139 total clearance to force the decider.

Gilbert had the first opportunity and made 28 before missing a tough black, cueing over another red. Higgins stepped in and made 55, then ran out of position on the final red. The subsequent safety battle ended with Higgins coming through to seal the momentous win.

“I don’t know how I got through that match,” said 43-year-old Higgins, aiming for his 31st ranking title. “I could have thrown the towel in during the first three sessions, I was getting so annoyed with myself, but I was just trying to hang in.

“I’ve got to say I was lucky in that last frame as well. Dave got a kick on 28 and left himself bridging over a red for the black and missed, otherwise he might have cleared up.

“I could see he was really upset at the end, that’s what it does to you, but he’ll be back. If I wasn’t in the tournament and I was watching him back home — like 99% of the players — I’d be wanting Dave to win because he’s a diamond of a guy.

“He let me off the hook in the first two sessions. He wouldn’t have had a good night’s sleep only leading 13-11 because he would have been thinking he should have been 15-9 or 16-8 in front. I was over the moon to only be 13-11 behind. It was such a high quality final session, it was a great game.

“My wife Denise and the kids came down. I needed their support, because you don’t know how many more times you’re going to be coming here. I felt I had to try and savour it, to try and get every ounce out of myself, and my family can help me.

“It would be interesting to play Judd in the final again. It would be a brilliant final to be involved in and play him again. He’s a different player, an unbelievable all round player.”

Gilbert said: “I have loved every minute of it since I’ve been here. I came here with no expectations. It was an honour to play John – he’s an absolute legend of the game, very classy. I’m absolutely gutted to lose of course. To have got to a world final wow, what an incredible feeling that would have been. I’ve got nothing to feel too sad about though, I gave it my everything.

“To get a kick on an easy red in the last frame to leave me hampered on the black…that’s a bitter taste right now. The way I felt at the table right then was the best feeling I’ve had in my life and I really think I could have potted a few more balls.

“This is probably the best couple of weeks I’ve had in my career by a mile. I’d love to be playing tomorrow. It might be the closest I ever come to a World Championship but I’m not going to feel down about it. Thank you to all my friends and my wife. We’ve had a fantastic time. It’s time to put the cue away for a couple of weeks and have a beer.”

Here are the preview on that session and the decider:

2019 WSC: Day15 afternoon preview (Eurosport) from

2019 WSC: John Higgins – David Gilbert (final frame)

And Ronnie was in the commentary box for frames 27-28

David Gilbert was in tears after the match. He then went to apologise to the media for it… You don’t have to apologise for anything David! You have been fantastic over the last two weeks. You should be very proud.

I won’t risk myself at a preview., I’ve got enough things wrong over the last two weeks. IMO neither Higgins nor Trump played really well except in patches. Higgins was impressive in the last session, but has otherwise been average at best. His determination though was remarkable. Trump had maybe three good sessions over the last two weeks. Both Maguire and Ding were poor, Gary Wilson’s lack of experience and, maybe, tiredness too were a factor as well (he had played three best of 19 before getting to the Crucible, it was his 4th week of competition without much break).

John Higgins hit out at World Snooker for the Final schedule. He’s barking at the wrong tree: the schedule is largely dictated by the BBC. What this reveals however is that he probably feels tired and the taxing schedule isn’t going to help him.

Judd Trump has downplayed his chances against the Scot. His record against Higgins is indeed rather damning. But he’s the younger man and had a far easier passage through the semi finals. He should be the fresher of the two. If he takes any liberties though, he will be made to pay for them.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Crucible 2019 – Day 15

  1. It was the likely final line-up once we had reached the semi-final stage, although Gilbert might have won, he’s known to have a tendency to crack under pressure, which helped John Higgins, even if only psychologically.

    As for the ‘class of 92’ I would agree that the standard at the top today is not as good as it was. Where the standard is much higher is 20-80 in the rankings, with a log-jam of players (mostly in their 30’s and 40’s) who provide a tough obstacle for young players to progress, and exhaust the top players in the early rounds. At the start of the season Dave Gilbert and Gary Wilson were ranked 27 and 40. The old cliche ‘you learn from your defeats’ is occasionally applicable, but if a young player is losing in the first or second round week-after-week, this is hugely damaging to his confidence, practice regime and finances – it takes them years to build the stamina to progress deep into a tournament. By contrast, in 1992, Ronnie won his first 38 matches, mostly against weak opposition in qualifying rounds. Many of the top players now appear burned out and unhealthy due to the brutal schedule. So we cannot really make any meaningful comparisons with past times.

    Yes, snooker is currently on a high, and the ‘class of 92’ players remaining at the top helps as they are known to the wider public. But it will probably have come at a cost to the future of the game.

    • I agree with you Lewis and that’s why I would welcome a return of the tiered system in at least half of the tournaments. It would give the young ones a more progressive path to development. It’s all the more important because of the decline of the amateur scene, in Europe and UK paticularly.

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