2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 2

WST report on the day was quite short, and its focus is on the battle between two veterans.

Walker Edges Doherty Marathon

There were 12 and a half hours between the opening break and the final ball, but world number 122 Lee Walker eventually edged out 1997 Crucible king Ken Doherty 6-4 at Betfred World Championship qualifying.

Walker trailed 4-1 this morning, before battling his way back to lead the Irishman 5-4. It was at that point that play was called to a halt to allow for the afternoon session to begin.

The pair had over seven hours to wait for the resumption. When play finally got back underway, Welshman Walker summoned a steely clearance of 42 to clinch the match at the first time of asking.

Doherty will have to wait at least another year for a return to the Crucible. The six-time ranking event winner last reached the final stages back in 2014.

Former Crucible quarter-finalist Walker is bidding for a first trip to the Theatre of Dreams since 2004. He faces 1995 runner-up Nigel Bond in round two.

This evening’s victory is a crucial one for Walker, who has suffered severe back problems throughout the season. He is currently near pain free and is hoping that he can build momentum from today’s win.

“I haven’t won many matches this season with the back problems that I’ve had and I’ve not played that great. It was a huge match,” said 45-year-old Walker.

“Touch wood, the back is a lot better. I’ve had a couple of sessions with John Cox the physio. It’s not completely gone, but over Christmas I couldn’t walk. I played Stuart Bingham in the Scottish Open and I was in absolute agony. It got worse and I started thinking it might be the end. Thankfully, it now seems to be on the right road.

“It would mean everything to get to the Crucible. I’m 45 years of age, I haven’t got that long left to play. To get to the Crucible is one of the goals for the rest of my career. To get there would mean the world.”

Women’s world number four Rebecca Kenna put up a valiant fight against Brandon Sargeant, but succumbed to a 6-4 defeat.

Sargeant was never ahead until the ninth frame, where he pulled in front to lead 5-4. He then took the following frame to claim victory and set up a second round meeting with Andrew Higginson.

Rory McLeod edged out Frenchman 22-year-old Brian Ochoiski 6-5, while Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo secured a 6-0 whitewash win over Farakh Ajaib.

Welshman Jamie Clarke came through a thrilling encounter with Ukrainian 15-year-old Iulian Boiko to reach round two, edging to a 6-4 win. Clarke faces Jamie O’Neill next.

The match between Jamie Clarke and Iulian Boiko was an entertaining abnd very close one. Iulian’s game is lacking in the tactical department, but then he’s only 15 years old. Jamie Clarke used to be vulnerable under pressure, but, over the last year,  he seems to have found the self-belief he needs to get over the line when things get tense. Neither is in danger of relegation – they are in the first year of a two year card – and I was pleased with what I saw.

Bai Langning, who is only 18, is in his second year of his tour card, his opponent Alan Taylor is in his first year, hence safe. Bai did go back to China, last year, after the 2020 Gibraltar Open and hadn’t played on the main tour since. He did very well yesterday. He would need to reach the Crucible to stay on tour, that’s obviously a big, big ask. I’m not sure if he stayed in China all season by choice or because of circumstances out of his control. If it’s the latter, I hope that WST will give him another year. They have done that before when a player did not have the opportunity to “defend” his tour card because of circumstances out of their control.

Rebecca Kenna impressed me and many others. This is what Matt Huart had to say on facebook about her performance:

I don’t like to single out individual players, not least because of my role but even when I wrote my blog previously it wasn’t something that I tended to do anyway.
But I do have to say with my World Women’s Snooker hat on that I’m incredibly proud of Bex Kenna tonight. Her first WWS tournament in Clay Cross was also the first tournament that I worked on and ever since then it has been a pleasure to watch her growth in the game, be it as a player, a coach or with her shop.
Although she wasn’t able to get over the line, it has to be remembered that it was her first proper competitive match in 14 months, her first time playing in this environment with the table, the TV lighting and everything else around it, her first time at the World Championship (or any pro event if you exclude the Shoot Out), her first best of 11…
In all the circumstances then, I was very impressed by her composure and thought that it was a very good effort. Certainly she (and of course Reanne yesterday) gave a very good account not only of herself, but our women’s snooker in general.
No doubt lots to learn from, but experiences like this one can only help and knowing her, she will be determined to keep improving and to make sure that this won’t be the last time that we see her in such a match.RebeccaKennaWCQ2021

I can only second that.

Brian Ochoiski fought back from 4-0 down to force a decider in his match with Rory McLeod. The slow start cost him, but he showed tremendous fighting qualities.

Brian had been interviewed by WST before his match:

Euro Stars | Brian Ochoiski

Top French cueman Brian Ochoiski is the latest in our series of interviews featuring players from a growing wave of talent emerging in continental Europe.

Ochoiski, 22, narrowly missed out on securing professional status at 2020 Q School, losing 4-2 in the final round of event three to Farakh Ajaib. However, he is now setting his sights running the Betfred World Championship qualifying gauntlet and reaching the Crucible.

He faces Rory McLeod in the opening round this afternoon and if he were to reach the Theatre of Dreams, it would come with the added bonus of a two-year tour card. Ochoiski believes that clinching his place on the World Snooker Tour and the Crucible this week is a realistic possibility.

Despite missing out on professional status, Ochoiski has played a prominent role on the circuit this season as a top up. He crafted his first century on the World Snooker Tour in an impressive encounter with World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan at the English Open, which he led 2-0 before going out 4-2.

Ochoiski said: “I take this opportunity to turn professional via the Crucible very seriously. I’m working hard towards this. I think my game is in good shape at the moment so why not go to the Crucible and turn professional this way? It would be amazing for me, for France and for everyone supporting me. I’m in Sheffield practising and every day I walk past the Crucible and I look at it as the place I want to be. It would be amazing to be there.

“It was a dream come true to play Ronnie O’Sullivan. I’ve come from nowhere as my country isn’t very developed with snooker at the moment, I hope that it will be in the future. When I saw I was drawn against Ronnie I was very happy. It was the right moment to play him. Making my first professional century against him was amazing. Even if I didn’t win the match, I was very happy to play him.”

Watch the interview in full:

When Brian says that his country is nowhere at the moment it’s an understatement. The number of snooker clubs is very low. The French Federation is firmly focussed on carom, the ” billard français”  and three-cushions, disciplines that are traditional in the country and in which France has top exponents. Snooker is not helped by the very poor quality of the French commentary on Eurosport FR.

Today my focus will be on Peter Devlin v Lukas Kleckers, Lei Peifan v Ben Mertens and Xu Si v Stephen Hendry.


One thought on “2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 2

  1. Bai Langning comes from Jilin province, which borders North Korea, so travelling was indeed much more restricted. I’m sure he could have come back to the UK at some point in the season, but probably felt that he had no chance to stay on tour anyway and was better off staying in China to continue his development, then return for the World Championship and Q School. This season there has been only one CBSA tournament: a teams event in Lanzhou. Bai was on the winning team, so he has clearly kept his game in good shape. But it’s obviously a great effort to come back and play so well in his first match. The way he finished was tremendous.

    From what I’ve seen and read, most of the matches so far have either been loose and error-strewn, or slow grinders. Playing best-of-11 does shorten the matches, but it means that each frame is more valuable and thus more tense. In a best-of-19, players can relax more and try to find a bit of form. The standard should improve with the start of the second round, when some excellent players enter, playing against first round winners. This is also the round when most of the relegation places are sealed.

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