On Day 2 at the 2020 Crucible

Action resumed yesterday in an empty theatre. Stuart Bingham, Ding Junhui and Mark Williams joined Judd Trump in the last 16.

Here are the reports by WST:

Morning and afternoon sessions:

In his first competitive match in six months, China’s Ding Junhui won a dramatic deciding frame to beat Mark King 10-9 in the opening round of the Betfred World Championship.

The Asian number one now faces the mouth-watering prospect of a last 16 clash with either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. His preparations for the Crucible have been less than ideal, having had to spend 14 days in quarantine after arriving in the UK, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ding has travelled to Sheffield this year harbouring hopes of becoming Asia’s first World Champion. He reached the final in 2016, but was  runner-up to Mark Selby. Ding won the fourth Triple Crown title of his career in December, beating Stephen Maguire 10-6 to win the UK Championship.

King was making his first Crucible appearance since 2013. On that occasion he was also beaten by Ding, suffering a 13-9 defeat in the last 16.

The pair came into this afternoon with just a frame between them, after Ding established a narrow 5-4 advantage in yesterday’s first session.

King took a tight opening frame by depositing a fine long range yellow to the top pocket and clearing the colours to make it 5-5. Ding remained undeterred and emphatically regained the lead with a sublime century run of 125.

Essex cueman King restored parity at 6-6, before another century contribution of 119 from Ding saw him lead 7-6 at the mid-session interval.

When they returned, King claimed the 14th frame with a gutsy clearance of 34, to make it 7-7. However, breaks of 85 and 67 moved Ding to the verge of victory at 9-7.

King pulled one back and then stole the 18th on the black to force a decider at 9-9. It all came down to a safety battle on the final red, but it was Ding who eventually deposited a brilliant long pot to the top corner and cleared to clinch victory.

After the match Ding said that he hopes his new coach Chris Henry can help give him an edge and improve the mental aspect of his game.

Ding said: “Sometimes I need to learn new things, the control of the game and psychology. I don’t want to read the book myself! I just want to have someone with the experience to be able to tell me how to do it.

“After 14 days of quarantine, I only had eight or nine days to get ready for the World Championship. I’m not sure I can play well with that little practice, I will just try. I am looking forward to the second round and I am looking to improve my game. Whoever I play, I want to win.

“There were still nerves for me without the crowd. It doesn’t change a lot. We were both concentrating on the table, I didn’t think about the crowd and it was ok for us.”

Meanwhile, John Higgins started his bid to reach a fourth consecutive Crucible final by taking a 6-3 lead over Matthew Stevens.

Welshman Stevens, runner-up here in 2000 and 2005, had the better of the opening exchanges and took a 3-2 lead with top breaks of 60, 77 and 94. But four-time World Champion Higgins got the better of a tight sixth frame, and that turned the tide as the Wishaw potter then fired runs of 60, 61 and 69 to establish a three-frame overnight advantage. They are back on the baize at 2.30pm on Sunday.

When it came to a decider many on social media predicted that Ding would lose from there. Whenever deciders come into the conversation, most fans go about John Higgins and Mark Selby, In fact Ding has a better win % in deciders than both of them (source cuetracker.net). It may come as a surprise but from the current top players, he’s only second to Ronnie. When I pointed that out, I got a reply saying that, had there been a crowd, he definiyely would have lost. I’m wouldn’t be so sure. The crowd is a massive factor in China, less so in the UK. What definitely was a huge factor in Sheffield in previous year, was a massive presence of the Chinese media. They always put enormous pressure on him. My guess is that, just like my friend Tai Chengzhe, they weren’t able to travel this, or not in big numbers certainly. The coverage seems to be done from China, going by those pictures shared by Tai:

Evening session:

Mark Williams showed glimpses of the form which has won him three Crucible titles as he reeled off seven frames in a row to beat Alan McManus 10-5 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Williams has often contemplated retirement in recent years but the 45-year-old insisted tonight that he will keep playing as long as he can, admitting that time away from snooker during lockdown has given him a new perspective on the sport and enthusiasm for competition.

The Welshman certainly had a spring in his steps tonight as he outplayed fellow veteran McManus. Scotland’s McManus led 5-3 during the first session on Friday but didn’t win another frame as his opponent rattled in breaks of  68, 50, 79 and 59 as he eased into the last 16. Williams, who won the title in 2000, 2003 and 2018, now faces Stuart Bingham.

The 2019/20 season had been a patchy one for Williams before it ground to a halt in March – he reached just one ranking event final and one other semi-final. His passion for snooker and for practice has flickered on and off in the past, but now he has no doubt about his future plans.

“I have made the decision to never retire and that has been a weight off my shoulders,” said the 22-time ranking event winner. “I am not going to change my mind and I am excited to see where I’ll be in the rankings when I’m 50. If I win another tournament then brilliant, if not I will still enjoy playing.

“Everyone has been through tough times and the lockdown gave me time to think. Snooker started off as a hobby, which turned into a job and you can earn an unbelievable amount of money if you do well at it.

“My father worked down a pit near where I grew up for 30 years. When I was 13 he took me down with him for a shift. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen. I remember crawling around in the dark on my hands and knees, it was horrible. He did it to make me realise that playing snooker was a much easier way of making a living. Thinking about that has given me a kick up the backside and forced me to stop being a big baby when other people are out there doing proper jobs.”

As for the match against McManus, Williams added: “Yesterday he outplayed me and I was happy to be 5-4 down because it could have been 7-2. Tonight I put pressure on him, then he got frustrated and I knew I had him as long as I didn’t make silly mistakes.”

This is what Mark Williams shared yesterday on social media. His Nan had kept that pictures all those years.

Young Mark Williams down the mine

There was also a very strange incident at the start of the evening session …

That’s never happened before, and it wouldn’t because there used to be a “gap” at both sides of the dividing mobile “wall”, allowing for people to move around if needed. This year, because of the covid-19 crisis, there isn’t…

One thought on “On Day 2 at the 2020 Crucible

  1. Of course Ding-bashing is a regular activity, especially on Chinese social media. Working with Chris Henry is a very positive move, although given the vast size of the forces at stake I wonder if Chris might not end up needing psychological help himself! Also, Ding has opened up a new 16-table academy in Sheffield. These contradict many people’s opinion of Ding having no motivation…

    Several parts of Ding’s game were terrible, but we’d already seen that from the other returning Chinese players. Whatever happens in the next round, he’s done a great service to snooker just to agree to come back, even though he surely knew his preparation would be insufficient.

    The Zhibo Chinese streams features Zhang Anda commentating and singing between frames! Xiao Guodong is slightly more serious. But I suppose they are catering for a different generation than the BBC, who have actually engaged some new commentators.

    As usual at the Crucible there are issues with the tables, primarily Table 2, with a lot of kicks, possibly caused by the disinfectant that is being used on the balls (a Covid-19 measure).

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