The quality of the matches on display has raised significantly as we reach day 6 and the third round of the World Qualifiers.
Selt Fightback Floors Bond
Matthew Selt summoned a superb fightback from 5-2 down to beat Nigel Bond 6-5 and clinch a Judgement Day spot at Betfred World Championship qualifying.
Former Indian Open champion Selt came into the Sheffield event in strong form, having produced his best showing of the season so far last month by reaching the semi-finals of the Gibraltar Open.
Selt has bowed out in the final round of qualifying in each of the last two years. He’ll be hoping not to suffer the same fate this year when he goes up against Scott Donaldson with a Crucible place on the line. The Essex cueman last graced the Theatre of Dreams in 2015.
The early signs indicated a straightforward afternoon could be in the offing for Selt, after he composed breaks of 64 and 137 to take a 2-0 lead.
However, 55-year-old Bond hit back and notched up four frames on the spin, before a superb break of 122 took him a frame from victory at 5-2.
Selt refused to wilt and produced a break building burst to wrest the momentum back in his favour. Runs of 60, 54 and a tournament high break of 142 forced a decider. Selt showed his class by making 110 to seal the dramatic 6-5 win.
“Once Nigel got a foothold in the game, he pretty much strangled me,” admitted 36-year-old Selt. “When I was 3-2 and 4-2 down I was sat in my chair telling myself I had bottled it to be honest. My game is really good at the moment. I’ve played Nigel a few times and he doesn’t give you anything, he wouldn’t give you a nod in the desert.
“At 5-2 down I was assuming that I was going home. Mentally that was very draining for me. I’m very proud of how I have played, but I’m very lucky to still be in.
“I’m 36 years of age and I have three appearances at the Crucible. It’s not really what I dreamed of growing up. As we are sitting here doing this interview, the relief is starting to come through. I know how good my game is, it is the best it has ever been. I’m looking forward to a best of 19 and a chance to get back to the Crucible.”
That was just one of four remarkable matches this afternoon, which all went down to deciding frames. Selt’s Judgement Day opponent Donaldson came from 5-4 down to beat Dominic Dale 6-5.
In the other two matches, world number 17 Zhou Yuelong defeated Chinese compatriot Xu Si 6-5 and Liam Highfield beat Elliot Slessor 6-5. They will now face each other for a place at the Crucible.
Kurt Maflin made three century breaks on his way to an impressive 6-4 defeat of Jak Jones. The Norwegian is now just one win away from a second consecutive trip to the Crucible.
The morning action saw the second round reach a conclusion. Among the results was a 6-3 win for Mark King over Austrian amateur Florian Nuessle. That sets up a third round showdown against Luca Brecel, with a Judgement Day spot on the line.
Once again it focussed on not-so-young British players… unfortunately.
Zhou Yuelong beat Xu Si in the deciding frame of a VERY high quality match. Xu Si though should have done enough to stay on tour.
Chang Bingyu beat Tom Ford who once again showed sign of mental frailty under pressure. All the same it’s an excellent result for Chang, who should also be safe in the tour survival battle.
Chang and Xu are currently ranked 1 and 2 in the “one year redeem list”.
There is an interesting situation regarding that list: both Pang Junxu and Jamie Jones who are in the first year of a two years tour card, could still get into the top 64, at the expense of Chris Wakelin and Louis Heathcote. Should that happen, Wakelin and Heathcote would probably still stay on tour via the “one year redeem list”. It would however make a huge difference for them next season: on one hand they would go back to 0 points, on the other hand they would be assured to get another two seasons and avoid battling on the fringe of the relegation zone next season. It also means that Duane Jones and Gerard Greene are under pressure to win their third round match to stay on tour, and that Jamie O’Neill and Andy Hicks are far from safe.
Yesterday’s result also means that Jimmy White is now set to be relegated from the Main Tour unless he can get back through the Q-School or receives another invitational tour card. Going by what Barry Hearn said in a recent interview, the latter is likely.