On Day 12 at the 2020 Crucible

Yesterday was the last day of the quarter finals, and it was also the last of the two table setup. The fitters have been at work and today there will be just one table. That’s when the Crucible arena really delivers its unique atmosphere, although, this time, there will be no crowd to enjoy it… at least for the semi-finals.

This is the semi-finals line-up:

Kyren Wilson v Anthony McGill

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby

Just like last year, we still have a qualifier in the draw, this time it’s Anthony McGill.

How did we get here? Here are the reports by WST.

Mark Selby beat Neil Robertson by 13-7 (morning session)

Mark Selby wrapped up a 13-7 quarter-final win over Neil Robertson at the Betfred World Championship to move within two matches of a fourth Crucible crown.

The meeting of two former champions didn’t feature a single century break, but Selby produced a safety masterclass as he battled his way into the semi-finals for the first time since 2017. World number seven Selby will now face Mark Williams or Ronnie O’Sullivan on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. If he goes all the way to the trophy, the 37-year-old will join John Higgins on four Crucible titles.

Selby has recently started working with psychologist Chris Henry and is playing with renewed self-belief. Australia’s Robertson, by contrast, looked short of inspiration and his sequence of not reaching the final since his 2010 triumph goes on. He made just four breaks over 50 in the 20 frames.

Leicester’s Selby led 11-5 overnight and took the first frame today with a break of 91. Robertson came from 56-1 down to pinch the next, helped by a fluke on the penultimate red. Frame 19 came down to the colours and Robertson potted blue and pink to raise his hopes of a fight back at 12-7.

World number two Robertson was on a break of 53 in frame 20 when he missed the black off its spot. Selby made 14 then trapped his opponent in a tough snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed he cleared with 33 to become the first man into the semi-finals.

“In the first two sessions I was near faultless in terms of my safety and my all round game,” said Selby after reaching the last four at the Crucible for the sixth time. “I was close to my best in that part of the game. I didn’t give Neil many chances. I can’t wait for the semis now, it seems a long time ago that I was last there.”

Asked about his decision to work with Henry,  Selby added: “I went through a spell of doubting myself because I was not winning tournaments. Before that I had got used to winning, and when I stopped I realised how hard the game can be. I knew my mindset was negative so I felt I needed to work with someone to deal with that. I have only been working with Chris for a month but it seems to be working.”

Robertson said: “Mark’s defensive safety was absolutely unbelievable. He didn’t let up and didn’t open up any of the frames. He got his gameplan absolutely spot on and kept it super tight. I just couldn’t get any free flowing scoring going at all. The balls were very scrappy.

That was one of the best safety performances I’ve ever put in, but playing Mark I probably should have spotted the danger signs a little bit earlier and maybe opened things up more.

“You have to try and work out how not to be broken down. In football, when a team puts ten men behind the ball and camps in their box, you need to find answers for that. I probably played 35 frame winning safety shots against Mark and Barry (Hawkins) and both of them kept finding escapes and playing unbelievable safety shots in return.”

The part I put in bold is key. At times yesterday Neil was on nearly 30 seconds AST.  He got dragged into playing a game that’s not his and that rarely works no matter how good the player.

Kyren Wilson beat Judd Trump by 13-9 (afternoon session)

Judd Trump became the latest victim of the Curse of the Crucible as he lost 13-9 to Kyren Wilson in the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship.

Trump had hoped to become the only first-time winner to successfully defend the title the following year, but he was beaten by an outstanding opponent in Wilson. It has been a record breaking season for Trump, becoming the first player to win six ranking titles in a single campaign, but since the tour returned from lockdown he has not hit the same heights.

Defeat for Trump also means he finishes the season on 102 centuries, just short of Neil Robertson’s record of 103.

World number eight Wilson goes through to the semi-finals at the Crucible for the second time – his first came in 2018 when he lost to John Higgins. This time he will start strong favourite against either Kurt Maflin or Anthony McGill over 33 frames.

The 28-year-old from Kettering, known for his fierce determination, has been something of a bogey player for Trump in recent years. Wilson has now won eight of their 13 meetings, including victories in the final of the 2015 Shanghai Masters and the semi-finals of the 2018 Masters. This performance is up there with his career best.

Trailing 10-6 overnight, Trump won the opening frame today with a break of 72, before Wilson hit back with a 94 to lead 11-7. Bristol’s Trump kept fighting and made 100 and 62 to take the next two frames and make it 11-9.

But world number one Trump potted just one ball after the interval, as Wilson dominated frame 21 then sealed victory in the next with a superb 104.

“It is definitely up there with my best wins,” said Wilson. “Judd has been on a phenomenal run. He really held himself well as World Champion. I knew I’d have my hands full and that he’d come all guns blazing from 10-6 down. I’m delighted to have held him off at the end.

“I take a lot of motivation from the greats like Hendry, Davis, O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams. I can imagine they’d be thinking, ‘I want to beat this guy, I want to be better than this guy’. There is no point trying to dodge them. We’d never played each other at the Crucible, it was the one place I wanted to play Judd. I’m really pleased we managed to put on a good performance.

“I won’t take anybody for granted. Whether it is Kurt Maflin or Anthony McGill, they are both fantastic players and fantastic lads. It will be a dream to be in the semi-finals of the World Championship and everything will feel like a bonus for them. That makes them very dangerous.

“For me it is the best venue on Earth. I love coming here and I am so glad they’ve managed to get it on this year.”

Trump said: “Even in the last frame, the bits of luck you need to win the tournament just weren’t going my way. I’m not disappointed with how I played. I battled until the end. I felt good out there but Kyren played some very good stuff. He scored pretty heavily and got the run at the right times, that is a pretty dangerous combination.

“In the last frame I went into the pack and finished on nothing again. It’s just minor things which can affect snooker in such small ways. The difference between 9-7 and 10-6 is huge. A millimetre either way changes the whole game. I’m not going to be too hard on myself. If Kyren plays like that and gets good run of the ball he will be very hard to stop. His long potting was brilliant over the three sessions, he looks like he has improved. He will definitely be my favourite to win the title from here.

“In the past we didn’t get on that well, but we did a few exhibitions together and we get on nowadays. His style is slightly different to mine, I think it is brilliant for the game that I can have someone from my own age group to compete with for the next ten or 15 years. To me, he looks like he has really improved. He’s taken a step up from when we played before. It is all about me trying to put my foot back on the gas and get ready for next season, to keep up where he is at.”

Curse of the Crucible – where the first-time champions have fallen

1980 Terry Griffiths – lost in second round to Steve Davis
1981 Cliff Thorburn – lost in semi-finals to Steve Davis
1982 Steve Davis – lost in first round to Tony Knowles
1986 Dennis Taylor – lost in first round to Mike Hallett
1987 Joe Johnson – lost in final to Steve Davis
1991 Stephen Hendry – lost in quarter-finals to Steve James
1992 John Parrott – lost in quarter-finals to Alan McManus
1998 Ken Doherty – lost in final to John Higgins
1999 John Higgins- lost in semi-finals to Mark Williams
2001 Mark Williams – lost in second round to Joe Swail
2002 Ronnie O’Sullivan – lost in semi-finals to Stephen Hendry
2003 Peter Ebdon – lost in quarter-finals to Paul Hunter
2006 Shaun Murphy – lost in quarter-finals to Peter Ebdon
2007 Graeme Dott – lost in first round to Ian McCulloch
2011 Neil Robertson – lost first round to Judd Trump
2015 Mark Selby- lost in second round to Anthony McGill
2016 Stuart Bingham – lost first round to Ali Carter
2020 Judd Trump – lost in quarter-finals to Kyren Wilson

Again I did put some bits in bold. Indeed Judd Trump didn’t play anywhere near his best after the lockdown, be it in the CLS, in the Tour Championship or indeed here. He did win six tournaments this season and will surely be voted “player of the season” but it’s worth noting that he didn’t perform well in any of the three “majors”: in the 2019 UK Championship, he went out in the last 32, beaten 6-3 by the 54 years old Nigel Bond and at the 2020 Masters he went out in the first round, beaten 6-3 by Shaun Murphy. Each time he had been boasting his chances when speaking to the press ahead of the event. It’s good to be confident, and nothing wrong with showing it, but, at times, it backfires because it also puts unecessary pressure on yourself. Again also, he couldn’t refrain to mention bad luck. Sorry but over three sessions, you’re bound to get some bad luck, and so does your opponent. 

Ronnie beat Mark Williams by 13-10 from 7-2 down. They played two sessions yesterday and you can read all about it here.

Anthony McGill beat Kurt Maflin by 13-10. They played two sessions yesterday. It was a great effort by Maflin who was trailing by 7-1 at the start of the day.

Morning session:

Anthony McGill moved within three frames of a first semi-final appearance at the Betfred World Championship as he took a 10-6 lead over Kurt Maflin going into their concluding session.

They resume at 7pm tonight with first to 13 frames to go through to the last four to face Judd Trump or Kyren Wilson.

Maflin started the second session 7-1 behind, and though he took five of the eight frames this morning, the Norwegian may regret missing chances to narrow the gap further.

A break of 87 gave Maflin the opening frame today and he won the next on the colours to make it 7-3. He made 62 in the next but couldn’t finish the frame off and his opponent eventually cleared from brown to black to steal it. That gave McGill a boost and he made an 86 to lead 9-3 at the interval.

World number 43 Maflin won frame 13 with an 87 and he took a scrappy 14th to close to 9-5. In the next he had a chance to clear from the penultimate red and got to the final pink before missing it to a baulk corner, only to enjoy a huge slice of fortune as the pink rolled across the table into a centre pocket to give him the frame.

Both players had chances in the last of the session, but it was world number 39 McGill who got the better of a safety tussle on the third-last red and secured his four-frame cushion

Evening session:

Anthony McGill reached the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the first time by beating fellow qualifier Kurt Maflin 13-10.

McGill saw a 9-3 lead reduced to 12-10, but eventually got over the line to set up a best-of-33 clash with Kyren Wilson over the next three days.

The Glaswegian has played 67 frames over the past eight days, having beaten Jack Lisowski 10-9 and Jamie Clarke 13-12 in the previous two rounds. But the 29-year-old seems to have the mental and physical sharpness to keep going as he aims to continue his superb run. The former Indian Open and Shoot Out champion is already guaranteed his career biggest pay day of £100,000.

This will be his fifth ranking event semi-final and first since 2017. McGill’s only previous ranking quarter-final appearance this season had come at the Shoot Out, but the Crucible has brought the best out of him.

Norway’s Maflin can reflect on excellent wins over David Gilbert and John Higgins, but played poorly in the first session against McGill, going 7-1 down, and it was too big a deficit to make up.

A break of 92 gave world number 39 McGill the first frame tonight to put him 11-6 ahead. Maflin pulled one back then made a 73 to close to 11-8, only for McGill to respond with 75 to lead 12-8 at the interval.

World number 43 Maflin kept battling, making a 69 to win frame 21 then a superb 81 clearance to take the next from 54-0 behind. He had one chance in frame 23 but only made 11, and McGill took it with runs of 47 and 12 to secure the result.

“This morning I was so nervous,” admitted McGill. “I was pleased to only lose the session 5-3 because my game wasn’t there at all. To go 10-6 instead of 9-7 was massive. Kurt had the better of it today and it was only the 7-1 lead that got me over the line.

“I was feeling tired yesterday but played well, I was running on adrenaline. I just always try to play the right shot, regardless of how the match is going. My temperament probably suits the longer matches.

“I’ll make sure I enjoy the match against Kyren because this is a special place to play on one table and I might never get back there. I have never even been to watch a semi-final here so I haven’t seen the arena like that with my own eyes. It’s still six pockets and the same number of reds!”

Maflin said: “I’m disappointed, I played terrible the whole match. Anthony dug in and won the frames but I had chances in all of them. I have no idea why I started so slowly in the first session, and from 7-1 down it’s very hard to get back into it. By tomorrow I will feel more positive because it has been a good experience.

“Producing the stuff that I know I can on the big stage and beating John Higgins are the highlights for me. I’m looking forward to next season starting in a month’s time. I have been in every newspaper and TV channel in Norway, more and more people are watching snooker there and supporting me which I am thankful for. Hopefully I’ll be flying that flag again next year and getting a bit further.”

 

 

 

2020 World Championship – Ronnie beats Mark Williams by 13-10 in the QFs

Ronnie came back from 7-2 down to beat Mark Williams by 13-10 and book his place in the semi-finals, where he will play Mark Selby. It’s the first time since 2014 that Ronnie reaches the one table settup.

This was a match to savour. Even when Ronnie looked dead and buried, I still enjoyed it.

Those two are greats of our sport. They are in their mid-forties and still top 8 material, still producing breathtaking snooker, still challenging for titles, still winning. How long can they continue doing this? Nobody knows. They however aren’t going to be around forever. We should enjoy what they offer us at the table while we can.

Here are the numbers for session 2:

RonnieWilloQF-Sesh2RonnieWilloQF-Sesh2-ScoresRonnieWilloQF-Sesh2-Stats

and WST report:

Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 8-4 down to level at 8-8 against Mark Williams going into their final session, which starts at 7pm.

O’Sullivan’s fight-back sets up a blockbuster conclusion to a quarter-final between two players with eight Crucible crowns between them.

Victory for O’Sullivan would put him into the last four for the first time since 2014, while Williams is aiming to keep his hopes alive of a repeat of his run to the title in 2018.

Trailing 6-2 after the first session, O’Sullivan made a break of 54 in the first frame today, but his opponent got the snooker he needed and eventually took it on respotted black. Breaks of 105 and 74 saw O’Sullivan reduce his arrears to 7-4, then Williams made a 57 in the next to restore his four frame cushion at the interval.

Mistakes crept into Welshman Williams’ game in the second half of the session and O’Sullivan punished him. A top break of 112 helped the Rocket take four frames in a row to square the match. First to 13 frames goes through to meet Mark Selby.

And here are the numbers for the match:

RonnieWilloQF-WinRonnieWilloQF-Match-ScoresRonnieWilloQF-WinStats

This is WST report on Ronnie’s QF win:

Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 8-4 down to beat Mark Williams 13-10 at the Betfred World Championship, reaching the semi-finals for a record-equalling 12th time.

RonnieWilloQF-Win-1

Only Stephen Hendry has made a dozen appearances in the single table situation at the Crucible, and now O’Sullivan will match that record when he faces Mark Selby over 33 frames over the next three days. It’s his first run to the semi-finals since he lost to Selby in the 2014 final.

O’Sullivan was in deep trouble at 7-2 and 8-4 behind, but found an extra gear when he needed it. His long potting was patchy, but among the balls the 44-year-old was as ruthless as ever, making five centuries and seven more breaks over 50 across the contest. Two more wins will give him a sixth world title, bringing him within one of Hendry’s record of seven.

He has now won all five meetings with Williams at the Crucible, and has lost just once to his old adversary in their past 12 ranking event matches.

The first two frames tonight were shared to leave the score at 9-9. World number six O’Sullivan was on a break of 52 in the next when he missed a red to a centre pocket. Williams replied with 49 then was lucky to trap his opponent in a snooker on the last red after failing to convert a double. From the chance that followed, Williams cleared to take the lead.

Back came O’Sullivan with a 104 to make it 10-10 at the interval. Breaks of 61 and 65 gave him frame 21 to put him ahead for the first time since 2-1, and he soon extended his lead to 12-10 with a quickfire 133, his fifth century of the match and ninth of the tournament.

RonnieWilloQF-Win-2Both players missed chances in frame 23, O’Sullivan notably under-cutting match-ball blue to a centre pocket when he led by 18 points. Williams cleared to force a respotted black but then made a safety error, and O’Sullivan slotted in a mid-range black to seal the result.

“I’m sure it was fun to watch for the fans,” said O’Sullivan, winner of 36 ranking titles. “For me there were a lot of nervy moments, I was struggling with certain parts of my game so I had to maximise my opportunities when they came up. I felt as if I was fighting, it was tough. At 8-4 Mark was cueing well, he was ripping through the ball. I didn’t think I had it in me to turn it around.

“This afternoon and this evening I scored well and made a few breaks. The blue in the last frame, I got stuck inside, jabbed it and hit it thick. I was sitting in my chair thinking ‘this game it just beats you every time, even when you think you are on top of it.’ Even with the simple black at the end I wouldn’t have been surprised if I missed it. I just tried to get over it and hit the middle of the white. It was pure relief when it went in.

“I refuse to play any match and not find a way of enjoying it. I try to play every game on my terms, and if that means I don’t win as many matches it doesn’t matter. The minute you stop enjoying the game is when you should stop playing, especially at my age. Longevity comes when you can find enjoyment in what you are doing.

“Mark Selby and I have had a lot of finals and big matches. We have both done well in the biggest tournaments. If I can find some control in my long game, manage to manipulate the ball and keep it on line, that will give me more confidence to give him a game.”

World number three Williams, who saw his hopes of a fourth Crucible crown come to an end, said: “I enjoyed it all of the way through. I thought there was some good stuff. Some good breaks and good potting. There were a few misses, but what do you expect over 25 frames? It boiled down to a couple of bad flicks towards the end. It would have been nice to make it 12-11 and see what would have happened.

“There is a reason I haven’t beaten him here and it is because he is the best ever player. He’s probably cost me at least one and maybe two world titles over my career. What can I say? I just came up a little bit short again.”

Listen here is Ronnie’s interview with WST after the match:

A lot of fans on social media predict that Ronnie will not be able to cope with Mark Selby’s style. I don’t think he will even try to. It’s not the way he plays, it doesn’t suit him and he doesn’t enjoy that type of game. I believe that Ronnie will go all out attack in the next three days. It may work, or not, but listening to the interview above, I’m convinced that this is what he will do. He knows that he can’t out-grind Mark Selby over three day without losing his (own brand of) sanity, but, on form, he can out-pot him. He downplays his chances, but he made five centuries in this QF match, and the way he fought back shows that the competitive beast within is still well and truly alive and kicking.

Good luck Ronnie!

About Mark Selby, Ronnie said this to the press

….

He added: “I love Mark Selby, he’s my favourite guy on the circuit. He’s proper lovely guy, funny as hell, but as a snooker player he’s a beast and the ultimate test, and I’m going to have to draw on every bit of skill and experience that I’ve got.”

On Day 11 at the 2020 Crucible

The first day of the quarter finals wasn’t a great day for me, as a Ronnie fan and as an European … Ronnie trails by 6-2 to Mark Williams after their first session and it wasn’t a case that Ronnie was playing badly or taking reckless shots or rushing things … No, it was a case of Mark Williams playing very much the way he did when he lifted the trophy in 2018. Kurt Maflin is in an even worse situation as he trails Anthony McGill by 7-5.

Anyway … here are WST reports

Kyren Wilson leads Judd Trump by 10-6

First session of that match (morning):

Kyren Wilson established a 5-3 lead over defending champion Judd Trump after the opening session of their quarter-final clash at the Betfred World Championship.

The pair have fought out a keenly contested rivalry over the last few years. Trump triumphed 4-3 in their most recent meeting in the Gibraltar Open final. That earned the world number one a record breaking sixth ranking title of the campaign. However, Wilson holds the overall upper hand, leading 7-5 in the head-to-head.

World number eight Wilson, who reached the Crucible semi-finals in 2018, got off to a quick start this morning by taking the opening frame with a break of 74. Trump responded immediately, crafting runs of 85 and 76 to lead 2-1.

Wilson claimed the last frame before the mid-session to restore parity. The Warrior then stole the fifth on the black and fired in a break of 72 in the sixth to lead 4-2. Trump pulled one back, but a break of 79 in the last frame of the session saw Wilson seal his 5-3 lead.

Second session of that match + Selby v Robertson (evening):

Judd Trump needs a dramatic turnaround from 10-6 behind in the concluding session of his Betfred World Championship quarter-final with Kyren Wilson.

Trump won the title for the first time last year but will become the latest victim of the Curse of the Crucible if he can’t successfully defend the crown. He needs to win seven of the last nine frames against Wilson when they resume at 2.30pm on Tuesday. The world number one has looked well below his brilliant best so far and will surely need to raise his game to survive.

Wilson is aiming to reach the semi-finals in Sheffield for the second time, having lost to John Higgins in the last four in 2018.

Trailing 5-3 after the first session, Trump took the first frame tonight with a break of 73. Wilson took the next with a 65 then Trump’s 70 made it 6-5. Frame 12 came down to the colours and Wilson missed the pink of its spot, but was then relieved to see Trump fail to pot the black to a baulk corner. World number eight Wilson won a safety tussle and slotted the black into a centre pocket to make it 7-5 at the interval.

Trump, winner of six ranking titles this season, made a 64 to win frame 13, but then saw the contest slip away from him in the later stages of the session. Wilson’s breaks of 94 and 80 stretched his lead to 9-6. In frame 16, Trump led 47-22 when he missed a mid-range red to a top corner, and his opponent punished him with an excellent 63 clearance.

On the other table, three-time Crucible king Mark Selby opened up an 11-5 lead over Neil Robertson. They are back on the baize at 10am with Selby needing just two frames to reach his sixth world semi-final.

Leicester’s Selby took a scrappy opening frame tonight to lead 6-3 then made a 92 to extend his advantage. Australia’s Robertson cleared from the last red to steal frame 11, but Selby took the next in three scoring visits to make it 8-4 at the interval.

In frame 13, Selby cleared from the penultimate red to force a respotted black, but then made a safety error to gift it to his opponent. World number six Selby bounced back by taking the next with runs of 35 and 32.

Second seed Robertson led 30-23 in frame 15 when he missed a red with the rest to a top corner, and Selby punished him with a run of 46 to go 10-5 up. The Englishman finished the session strongly with a break of 76, leaving Robertson in need of a monumental fight-back.

Mark Williams leads Ronnie by 6-2

(first session of the two matches – afternoon):

Mark Williams is on course for a surprise win over Ronnie O’Sullivan as he leads 6-2 after the first session of their Betfred World Championship quarter-final.

Five-time champion O’Sullivan will need to win 11 out of 17 frames over the last two sessions on Tuesday to go through to the semi-finals. Welshman Williams has looked the stronger player so far, producing perhaps his best form since he won this title two years ago.

O’Sullivan impressed in wins over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Ding Junhui in the first two rounds but has made errors against Williams, an opponent he has been playing for some 34 years.

Three-time Crucible king Williams took the opening frame with a break of 70 then O’Sullivan hit back with 101 and 70 to lead 2-1. Two scrappy frames went the way of Williams and he made a 72 to lead 4-2.

O’Sullivan was on a break of 41 in frame seven when he missed a straight-forward pink to a top corner. Williams replied with 56 then got the better of a safety exchange on the colours to go 5-2 up. And the Cwm cueman finished the session in style with a 130 to lead by four overnight. They resume at 2.30pm on Tuesday.

On the other table, Anthony McGill opened up a 7-1 lead over Kurt Maflin in the battle of two qualifiers.

Before this match McGill had already played 44 frames this week having beaten Jack Lisowski 10-9 in round one and Jamie Clarke 13-12in a marathon contest which finished after midnight last night. But the Glaswegian is showing no signs of fatigue and will hope for a more comfortable victory this time.

The 29-year-old, a two-time ranking event winner, is playing in his second Crucible quarter-final and hoping to reach the semis for the first time.

Breaks of 53, 63 and 78 gave McGill a 3-0 lead before Maflin got the better of a scrappy fourth frame. Norway’s Maflin was outstanding in a 13-11 defeat of John Higgins in the second round but could not replicate that standard today. McGill took two fragmented frames to lead 5-1 then made a 92 in the seventh.

In the last frame of the session, Maflin made 54 before missing  a short range red to a centre pocket. There were three reds on side cushions but McGill crafted a brilliant 81 clearance to extend his advantage ahead of the second session on Tuesday morning.

The two scrappy frames really kept Ronnie cold, especially as they came right after the MSI. He completely lost his rhythm. That missed pink was a costly mistake, although Ronnie appeared to get a kick as the pink ball jumped a bit. You can read more about that Ronnie v Willo session here

Mark Selby leads Neil Robertson by 11-5 

First session of that match (morning):

Mark Selby won the first five frames of his quarter-final against Neil Robertson at the Betfred World Championship on Monday morning, though it was Robertson who finished the session strongly as he clawed his way back to 5-3.

Two of snooker’s all-time greats, with 35 ranking titles and four world crown between them, are playing at the Crucible for the second time, and first since the classic 2014 semi-final when Selby won 17-15. This time the winner will go through to a semi-final with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Williams.

The opening frame lasted 58 minutes and was settled when Leicester’s Selby potted blue, pink and black. Breaks of 73, 63, 72 and 66 helped the Englishman go 5-0 up.

Robertson finally got going in frame six with a break of 81 and he made an excellent 66 clearance in the next to reduce his arrears to 5-2. Selby led 55-0 in the last frame of the session but his opponent fluked a red and made 65 to take it to the colours. Australia’s Robertson then got the better of a safety battle on the brown and cleared for 5-3.

They return at 7pm tonight for  eight more frames, with the concluding session on Tuesday morning at 10am.

I’m not sure if the title of this article is sarcastic… the first frame lasted nearly an hour!

The account on the second session is included in the evening session report above.

WST also published a long and interesting article about Kurt Maflin:

Norway’s number one Kurt Maflin has enjoyed a rollercoaster journey from his London roots to becoming snooker’s top Scandinavian. Now he’s flourishing on the sport’s grandest stage, preparing for the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship.

Having represented England as an amateur, Maflin switched London for Oslo in 2004. He moved there to live with wife Anita, who was representing Norway when they met at the 2001 European Amateur Championship in Riga.

Since then Maflin has become fluent in the language, had a son in Oslo named Neon and now proudly plays as a Norwegian on the professional circuit. He admits that, although the move was initially both a daunting and exciting prospect, he was ready for a change.

“It was quite nerve-racking,” said three-time ranking semi-finalist Maflin. “I was fed up of London by that point. Oslo is quite a big city, but it has a relatively small population. It is a great place to live and I settled in pretty quickly.

“Norway isn’t that different to England in terms of the culture. I learned the language in about six months. I did it by reading the subtitles on television. They don’t dub over films in English like they do in other countries. They just put subtitles on the bottom. So I would try to read them and match things up. I wasn’t afraid to embarrass myself and I picked it up pretty quickly.

“I would never have dreamed that I would move to Norway, have a child in Norway and represent the country. Never in a million years. I take a lot of pride from it. I now also do some commentary for Norwegian Eurosport and I really enjoy that. My Norwegian fans and viewers all class me as Norwegian and they can’t hear any difference when I am talking. They see me as one of their own.”

In the years following Maflin’s leap to professional snooker, he endured an up and down time on the table. Between the 2001/02 season and the 2011/12 campaign he suffered five relegations from the circuit, but the world number 43 has since been a firm fixture on the tour.

He spent a few years away from the professional scene after his move to Norway in 2004 and had decided to hang up his cue, until a chance meeting with a potential sponsor at a national amateur event.

Maflin explained: “I moved to Norway and had basically stopped playing. Anita wanted to play in one of the Norwegian tournaments, so I thought I would go along. I got to the final and before I played I met a businessman called Knut Pedersen. He had been watching me play and said that if I made a century break in the final then he would sponsor me to start playing again. I made a 137 break in the first frame, won the final and that was that.”

Maflin went on to win the 2006 World Amateur Championship in Jordan, a feat which he describes as ‘one of the highlights’ of his career. However, after returning to the professional tour and suffering another relegation, he was hit by a bitter blow in 2010 when he broke his collar bone in a car accident.

“I was driving in Norway and found myself on pure ice. I was approaching a roundabout and lightly pressed down on the breaks, but I still started skidding. The car spun round and round and collided head on with another car coming in the other direction. There was a five or ten second period where I blacked out. The first thing I heard when I came round and got out of the car, was children screaming. I thought it was going to be very bad. Thankfully a man got out of the car and he didn’t have a scratch on him and neither did the children, they were just shaken up. I didn’t know I had broken my collar bone until I complained about how sore it was and showed another driver who had pulled over. He told me it was snapped in two and I went into hospital.

“I had a Challenge Tour event in London just a few days after that. The doctor told me that I needed an operation as it was quite a complicated break. I told him I couldn’t as I was in quite a good position in the rankings on the Challenge Tour and needed to play. I flew over and it was so painful that I couldn’t play any stun shots, all I could do was roll balls in. I somehow managed to win my first game and lost in the next round. It was a bit stupid really. When I got back I had the surgery and they did a really good job. I have a six to eight-inch plate in my shoulder with eight screws, but it hasn’t affected me really. I haven’t had to change my cue action. It just took quite a while to get fit again.”

Maflin enjoyed a special moment in 2015 when he competed for Norway in the World Cup, in a two-person team alongside his wife Anita. They bowed out in the group stages, but did register wins against Austria and Singapore.

“I know what it is all about in terms of the nerves and the TV, but for her it was an amazing experience and she did enjoy it. Originally we were told we were only going to have one game on TV against China. In the end we actually played four of the five. She handled it really well, even though I played terribly. It was a really good experience and is something that has never happened before, with husband and wife playing in the same team for their country. It was quite unique.”

Over the years Maflin has been very open about the fact he feels he’s underachieved in not winning a professional title to date. In the run-up to this year’s World Championship he dramatically upped his work ethic and has reaped the rewards at the Theatre of Dreams. Whether it be here in Sheffield, or in the future, the Norwegian is determined to capitalise and land silverware.

“I feel that I have underachieved in my career if I am honest and that is frustrating. There is nobody to blame but myself. My dad has coached me all of my life and he gives 150%, while for most of my career I was giving around 60%. I’ve started practising a lot harder since around April last year, so hopefully I can benefit. I now spend about half of the year in the UK. A lot of the top players talk highly of me and think I should be higher ranked. Even Ronnie said that in the studio, after my quarter-final loss to Neil Robertson at last year’s Welsh Open.

“I have always said that you can never truly believe that you have it in you to win that first tournament until you have done it. There is always that slight doubt in your mind. I know people say that once you get that first one you can go on and do more and I would love to try and do just that.”

World Championship 2020 – Mark Williams leads Ronnie by 6-2 after the first session of their QF match

Mark Williams played very much the way he played to win the 2018 World Championship this afternoon and he did build a good lead over Ronnie in their first session.

Here are the numbers

RonnieWilloQF-Sesh1RonnieWilloQF-Sesh1-ScoresRonnieWilloQF-Sesh1-Stats

The first mini-session was shared, both players playing well, and it seemed at that point that this would be a close match. But it all changed after the MSI. Mark won the first frame of the second mini session. It was a scrappy, disjointed affair. Mark is one of the best at winning this sort of frames. He doesn’t mind picking balls one by one. He played better and better after that, keeping Ronnie cold in his chair for most of the time, and when Ronnie came at the table, more often than not, things were awkward. Mark took full advantage … as he should.

It will be hard for Ronnie to recover from this deficit unless Mark Williams’ level drops a bit. It’s just as well that this session came to an end. They will resume tomorrow afternoon.

And before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, Ronnie didn’t play recklessly, nor did he rush things as the AST above shows. As much as I want Ronnie to win this match, as a snooker fan, I could only admire and enjoy Mark’s skills on display.

This is the account by Phil Haigh and a good accurate one

Ronnie O’Sullivan struggling against brilliant Mark Williams at World Snooker Championship

Ronnie O’Sullivan is in a spot of bother in his World Snooker Championship quarter-final, trailing Mark Williams 6-2 after the first session at the Crucible.

The Rocket hardly played badly over the opening eight frames, but Williams was in excellent form as he took the imposing lead in a race to 13.

The Welshman took the first frame with a break of 70 but O’Sullivan appeared to be near his brilliant best as he took the next two with breaks of 101 and 70, without Williams scoring a single point.

However, few would have bet on it, but that was the last from the five-time world champion would win in the session as Williams reeled off the next five.

The next two were relatively scrappy affairs compared to the first three frames, but then the Welsh Potting Machine really hit his stride, making 72, 56 and 130 to storm into a four-frame lead.

The three-time world champion was looking as good as he has done since he last won the World Championship in 2018, and if he continues that form then it will be a very difficult road back for the Rocket.

This is the fifth time Williams and O’Sullivan have met in the World Championship and the Englishman has won the previous four.

The Welsh Potting Machine has not beaten the Rocket in a ranking event since the 2014 International Championship, so history remains on the side of O’Sullivan as he looks to fight back into the match over the next two sessions.

On Day 10 at the 2020 Crucible

Day 10 brought the last 16 round to a conclusion and delivered this high quality quarter-finals line-up:

Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson
Kurt Maflin v Anthony McGill

Mark Williams v Ronnie O’Sullivan
Mark Selby v Neil Robertson

Remarkably, we have six of the top 8 seeds still in this draw, and five former World Champions. We are also certain to have a member of the “Class of 92” in the semi-finals

This is how we got there (reports by WST)

Kyren Wilson beat Martin Gould by 13-9 (afternoon session)

Kyren Wilson completed a 13-9 victory over Martin Gould to reach the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship for a fifth consecutive year.

Wilson led 11-5 going into the concluding session then had some anxious moments as Gould recovered to 11-8. The session turned in frame 20 when Wilson got the three snookers he needed and cleared for 12-8 – a moment which effectively ended Gould’s resistance. Over the match, Wilson made two centuries and ten more breaks over 50.

The Kettering cueman’s reward is a meeting with defending champion Judd Trump on Monday and Tuesday. It will be a first Crucible clash between two of snooker’s finest young talents. Their last match was at the Gibraltar Open final in March when Trump won 4-3 to land his sixth ranking title of the season.

Since he first reached the quarter-finals in 2016, Wilson has shown a high level of consistency at the Crucible, getting to the same stage every year since, and going one step further to the semi-finals in 2018. After a fine performance against Gould, the 28-year-old will relish the chance to end Trump’s reign.

Qualifier Gould took the first frame today with a break of 58 and the second in two scoring visits. Wilson made 52 in the next but couldn’t seal the frame and his opponent took it with a 49 clearance to close to 11-8.

Gould looked certain to reduce the deficit further until he missed a red with the rest to a top corner at 68-0. Wilson trailed by 46 points on the last red, then got one snooker and laid another. Calamity struck for Gould as he missed the red, hit the black and left a free ball, allowing Wilson to clear with 41.

Gould pulled one more back after the interval with a run of 73 for 12-9, but when he missed a red to a centre pocket on 12 in frame 22, it proved his last shot as Wilson wrapped up victory with a break of 79.

“The frame to go 12-8 was so important,” said Wilson. “They are the frames where you find out whether you are sharp enough to take out that clearance. I was very pleased to steady myself and do that. I remember being 11-5 up against Mark Allen here (in 2016) and he came back to 11-9, so when it went 11-8 today those horrible nightmares were flooding back.

“I felt too relaxed today, there were no nerves and I actually like to have a bit of adrenaline pumping because that’s when I produce my best snooker. At 11-5 I took my foot off the gas. Now I’m in the quarter-finals and if you can’t get up for that there’s something wrong with you.

“I use Judd as a benchmark and I want to achieve what he has done. It makes me ask myself what I have to do to get there, and obviously one of those things is to beat players like him. You have to beat the best players to win the big events.”

On losing the crucial 20th frame from ahead, Gould said: “It’s not the first time and not the last time you will see a frame lost from that position. I just had to take it on the chin and try to get back into the game again. I did and made a good break to go 12-9, but he made a good break in the last. The damage was done yesterday, I didn’t really turn up and didn’t really get into the game. I’m pleased with the effort that I put in today.

“As I’ve said before, if this had been played in April, then I wouldn’t be sat here right now. There are a huge amount of positives to take from it. I will look forward to the Championship League. I’ll probably get the golf clubs back out, enjoy some of the weather and then hit the practice table to get ready for the new season.”

Martin Gould deserves huge credit for the way he fougth back.

Neil Robertson beat Barry Hawkins by 13-9 (afternoon session)

Neil Robertson feels that good shot selection will be crucial to his chances of coming through a tough draw at the Betfred World Championship, having beaten Barry Hawkins 13-9 in a high quality second round match.

From 8-8, Robertson took five of the six frames in the concluding session to score a comfortable victory and set up a quarter-final with Mark Selby.

Hawkins was a dangerous opponent for Robertson as early as the last 16, and the contest featured five centuries and 11 more breaks over 50. But the Australian grew stronger at the business end as he booked his eighth Crucible quarter-final. He has reached the final just once – when he won the title in 2010 – but with three titles under his belt already this season, the 38-year-old looks to have the form and belief to go all the way.

World number two Robertson made a fast start today, winning three frames in a row with top breaks of 59, 42 and 50 to go 11-8 ahead. Hawkins pulled one back with a 104 to stay in touch. But after the interval Robertson regained the momentum with a run of 79 to go 12-9 ahead.

In frame 22, Hawkins had a chance to clear from 61-4 down, and got to the last red but then missed a tough pot along the side cushion with the rest. Robertson potted red and black to secure his place in the next round.

His only previous Crucible meeting with Selby came in the semi-finals in 2014 when Selby won a classic contest 17-15.

“When the draw came out, everyone could see how stacked the bottom half was, and then I got Liang Wenbo in the first round as well,” said Robertson. “Barry in the second round is very tough. My shot selection had to be spot on.

“I have used too many excuses in the past where I thought bad luck went against me. The best way to combat that was good shot selection. I could have been 10-6 down going into the last session, it was good discipline and choice of shots which helped me nick a couple of frames and make it 8-8.

“Then in the last session today I felt I could attack the match and get to the finish line. To compare it to cricket, sometimes you need to make a crucial 40 off your first 120 balls before you can start attacking. Snooker is the same – playing rash shots can really cost you.

“It has been a brilliant season for me, then the break came at a good time because I could work on my fitness. In every frame against Barry I felt fantastic, so that work has paid dividends.”

Robertson and Selby shared a flat together when the former first lived in England as a teenager, and they have remained friends ever since. “Mark and I have got great respect for each other,” Robertson added. “We get along well, we have known each other for 20 years. We have won over 40 tournaments between us – he has got three world titles so he shades it for now! I always enjoy playing him and we tend to bring the best out of each other.”

Hawkins said: “I think it was a good match overall. I really enjoyed it. I gave it my all and that is all you can ask for. I made a few unforgivable safety errors today and I was punished big time.

“I’m happy with my new cue, that I’ve been using it for about a month now. There were a couple of shots that caught me out, safety shots with side were throwing off a bit differently. After a month I should be used to that, so I can’t use it as an excuse. I’m looking forward to carrying on with my fitness, practising hard and dedicating myself again.”

Anthony McGill beat Jamie Clarke in a deciding frame (late night session!)

World number 89 Jamie Clarke came agonisingly close to reaching the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship but lost 13-12 to Anthony McGill in one of the Crucible’s most incident-packed matches of recent years.

Debutant Clarke was just two pots away from victory, on a break of 55, in the penultimate frame, but missed a crucial pink and eventually saw his run in the event come to an end.

The match will be remembered for a heated exchange between the two players during the second session, as McGill felt that Clarke was standing in his eyeline on certain shots. Clarke then seemed to stir the ill feeling by tweeting ‘You want to dance, let’s dance’ during the mid-session interval. The tension was palpable for much of the final session. After the contest the two players, overcome with emotion, embraced in a dressing room backstage.

There was just as much drama on the baize in a gripping contest which finished after midnight. McGill must now regroup as, when the dust settles, he faces a quarter-final against fellow qualifier Kurt Maflin. It will be his second appearance in the last eight, having reached the same stage on his 2015 debut.

Welshman Clarke, who needed to win three qualifying matches to keep his place on the pro tour, would have been the lowest ranked Crucible quarter-finalist since Lee Walker in 1997. He can only wonder what might have been during the long drive back to Llanelli, though he can reflect on a tremendous run which included a first round win over Mark Allen.

McGill took the opening frame of the concluding session with a top break of 58 to level at 8-8. The next lasted 48 minutes and came down to a long battle on the colours, Clarke eventually potting the blue to win his first frame since he led 8-2. Glasgow’s McGill took frame 18, then Clarke’s run of 73 gave him a 10-9 lead at the interval.

Runs of 40 and 78 from McGill put him ahead for the first time in the match at 11-10. Clarke made a 64 in the next to level the tie, then in frame 23 he got the better of a safety tussle on the yellow and cleared to the blue to lead 12-11.

Clarke looked to be cruising over the winning line in frame 24 until he missed a straight-forward pink on 55, just two pots short of victory. McGill cleared to the final black before failing to pot it along the baulk cushion. A safety exchange ended when McGill slotted the black into a baulk corner for 12-12.

Both players had chances in the decider and it came down to a safety exchange on the last red. Clarke, trailing 67-42,  accidentally flicked the yellow when attempting a thin clip on the red, and left a free ball. That let McGill in to add 14 points which was enough for victory.

“I can’t believe I won that match,” said 29-year-old McGill. “Especially considering the position he was in at 12-11 when he missed the pink. My scoring wasn’t there, I felt like I only had about three breaks in the whole match. The only reason I won was that I tried as hard as I could. I’m going to need to pull something out of the bag in my next match.”

Asked about his exchanges with his opponent in the arena, McGill said: “During the first session, there were three or four shots where I was shooting down towards the black end in safety battles and Jamie was standing in my eyeline. I told myself to forget about it because he probably didn’t mean to.

“But I decided that if it continued in the second session I would ask him if he would mind sitting down or standing behind me. A shot like that came up and I asked him politely if he wouldn’t mind sitting down, because it is distracting when someone is standing up and you can see him. He took it the wrong way and it blew into a massive thing, when it should have been resolved in about three seconds.

“I didn’t have any intentions at all behind it. I know people are saying I was trying to unnerve him, but that’s not the type of game I play, you can ask any professional player. A lot of people might not rate me as a player, but nobody can say anything about my conduct at the table when it comes to sportsmanship.”

Clarke, age 25, said: “Anthony held himself together, he deserves a medal for the clearance he made to go 12-12. All credit to him. I said well done to him afterwards because he deserved to win. I missed the pink and I’m sure that’s what people will remind me about.

“I have got nothing against Anthony. I have been tweeting since the first match in the qualifiers and I don’t think there’s a problem with it. I’ll do the same in future, that’s who I am. There are much worse things going on in the world. Even though I lost 13-12 I am very proud of myself. There’s a lot of tension out there and you have to take the rough with the smooth. It has been an immense experience.”

This was a thriller but I still missed the conclusion. I’m afraid I fell asleep … it was past 2 am where I am when the match finished.

In total constrast Ronnie beat Ding by 13-10 in no time at all

2020 Q-School results

The Q-School format is far from ideal, and this year, with the covid-19 situation, it was even more tricky. Early rounds matches were shortened and the first two rounds, of all three events were played on a “roll-off/roll-on” basis so to speak. It was a crazy schedule, and quite difficult as well for the fans who wanted to follow the action.

But here we are and we have out twelve laureates …

Event 1

Fan Zhengyi, Peter Devlin, Lee Walker and Simon Lichtenberg earned a two years tour card through this event. Fan, Lee and Simon are immediately bouncing back from relegation. Peter, 24 years old, turns professional for the first time.

Despite all the issues around the event this is a rather satisfactory outcome. Three of the laureates are young players, and two of them – Fan and Simon – on non-UK players.

Simon, from Germany, has struggled badly on the tour, but hopefully will be able to build on his experience and break through this time.

I’m particularly pleased fo Fan who was clearly not ready for the main tour. He was too young, and being far away from his family, having to cope with an alien culture and a different language was clearly too much for him. He was lost. But during the second half of this season, he started to find his foot, he worked hard, matured and progressed a lot. It was too late though and he couldn’t avoid relegation. He’s bounced back magnificently.

Peter Devlin is a “character”. The boy is handsome and knows it only too well. He’s an extravert through and through. He writes songs – raps mainly – and sings them. Enough said. Check his youtube channel and see/hear by yourself

Here are all detailed results for Event 1 on snooker.org

Event 2

Jamie Jones, Zak Surety, Oliver Lines and Ben Hancorn are the laureates of event 2. Oliver Lines immediately bounced back from relegation. Jamie Jones and Zak Surety have been pros before. Ben Hancorn, 38, and winner of the 100th English Amateur Championship earlier this season, turns professional for the first time.

Jamie Jones of course was banned from the sport for failing to report a match fixing approach. From what transpired, it was a case of misguided loyalty towards a mate more than anything else. Jamie was never to gain any advantage from the approach. As such – in my opinion – the length and timing of the ban were quite harsh, because it effectively meant that he would be relegated. I’m glad he managed to get back on tour via the Q-shool this year (he failed in the WSF event in Malta before this).

Ben Hancorn is someone you may know, without knowing that you know him … Ben is Andrew Norman’s brother in law, and, along with him, he was a constant presence at the SWSA in Gloucester. Everyone who went to a tournament there – PTC, junior event, Pink Ribbon – will have met Ben. Turning Pro has been his dream for a long time. Good luck Ben.

Here are all detailed results for Event 2 on snooker.org

Event 3

Event 3 event laureates are Rory McLeod, Steven Hallworth, Farakh Ajaib and Jamie Wilson. Rory and Steven have been pros before, Farakh and Jamie are new to the tour.

I know nothing about Farakh, and very little about Jamie. Jamie is 16 years old, and playing at the Cuestars Academy, run by John Hunter, a place where Tim Dunkley also uses for coaching. The Academy is oriented towards attracting young people to snooker and developing young talents.

I’m also glad to see Rory McLeod back on tour. Having met Rory at WSS events regularly over the last two years, I know how desperate he was to regain his professional status. Job done. And the good news for Rory, is that, under the new rules, he will still be able to play on the WSS Tour until he gets into the top 64 in the main tour.

Here are all detailed results for Event 3 on snooker.org

Of course it ended in heartbreak for many … amongst those who didn’t succeed, we have Michael Georgiou, Michael White and Alfie Burden.

It’s hard and sad for all of them – and so many others I didn’t name – but Michael White is partitcularly tragic. He’s only just turned 29, he was tipped as the possible “next big thing” as a junior, he won two ranking events – the 2015 Indian Open and the 2017 Paul Hunter Classic – and he was ranked as high as 15th in the World in 2016. What’s happened there? And why?

World Championship 2020 – Ronnie beats Ding by 13-10 in the last 16 round

Ronnie has beaten Ding Junhui by 13-10 tonight and is through to the quarter-finals where he will play Mark Williams. This was Ronnie’s 100th match at the Crucible.

Those are the numbers:

RonnievDingL16WinRonnievDingL16WinScoresRonnievDingL16WinStats

I think this is pretty impressive.

And two interesting quotes that transpired on social media.

RonnievDingL16WinQuotes-1RonnievDingL16WinQuotes-2

Apparently Ronnie’s interview with BBC was quite something, but I can’t watch BBC where I am. I hope it will be available somewhere in the coming days 😇

And this was Mark Williams’s reaction on twitter:

Willo on twitter ahead of the RS-Willo QF at the 2020 Crucible

Here is the report by WST:

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased into the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship with a trademark display of rapid attacking snooker to beat Ding Junhui 13-10.

RonnievDingL16Sesh3-1

O’Sullivan is into the last eight at the Crucible for the 19th time, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record. He faces old adversary Mark Williams over 25 frames on Monday and Tuesday, and victory for O’Sullivan would put him into the semi-finals for the first time since 2014.

The Rocket hasn’t won a title since the Shanghai Masters 11 months ago but has looked sharp and focused so far in Sheffield as he chases a sixth Crucible crown. In Ding and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh he has faced two opponents happy to trade blow for blow, and O’Sullivan’s scoring prowess has carried him through.

In the 23 frames he has won so far, he has compiled four centuries and 15 more breaks over 50. The 44-year-old will hope for a similarly open match against Williams.

O’Sullivan knocked in breaks of 87 and 73 in the first two frames tonight to lead 10-8, before Ding pulled one back with an 88. In frame 20, Ding had a clear chance to draw level, but missed a mid-range red to a top corner on 39, letting O’Sullivan in for a 60 clearance to lead 11-9 at the interval.

O’Sullivan missed a black to top corner on 22 in the next and China’s Ding raised his hopes of a fight-back with a break of 81. But world number six O’Sullivan rose to the challenge and fired runs of 117 and 93 to take the last two frames. The seven frames in tonight’s session took just 67 minutes.

RonnievDingL16Sesh3-2

“If Ding had been a bit tighter and taken certain opportunities he could have run away with it,” said O’Sullivan. “In both sessions I had to come back from bad starts. I was over the moon to be 8-8 at the start of this session. Tonight I just tried to focus and play each shot as it comes, and I’m pleased with how I finished the match off.

“I had a few days at home after my first match which was helpful. When you get out of Sheffield, even to go into the Peak District to have a bit of dinner, it gets you out of that pressurised environment. The emotions are running high because it is such an important tournament.

“I have been playing Mark Williams since we were on the junior circuit in 1986. We were in pro-ams together all of the time, then John Higgins came along in 1989. We had some battles as amateurs and then as professionals. We have been in each other’s heads for 34 years.

“Mark has done really well for himself, he’s got a lovely family, enjoys his holidays, he has achieved a lot in the game, and if he gave up snooker he’d just live on the golf course. He’s got a very simple lifestyle, which is brilliant. I am similar, but I couldn’t play golf every day, so I have had to create something else for myself, so that I have something to do when snooker stops being the be-all and end-all.

“We’ll both want to play well because we have pride in performance. Even if we were playing a practice match in the club we would still want to beat each other, so at the Crucible it’s going to have an extra edge to it.”

Ding’s wait to become the first World Champion from Asia goes on – his only final appearance was in 2016 when he lost to Mark Selby. He said: “In the first two sessions, Ronnie missed a lot of blacks or pinks off the spot and I took those chances. I played well, but today wasn’t as good as the first two sessions. Sometimes I need to score heavily and I didn’t do that well enough.

“I’m working hard. I’ve got my own academy and I’ve got my own tables now. I’m playing more and I’m enjoying practising now. I’m just looking forward to the new season. It is a tough time for everybody and for all snooker players, we should take every chance to play.”

You can listen to Ronnnie’s interviews here:

With BBC:

With Rob Walker for WST/press: