2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 9

Eight players booked their places at the Crucible yesterday: Mark Davis, Liam Highfield, Jamie Jones, Matthew Selt, Kurt Maflin, Lyu Haotian, Tian Pengfei and Liang Wenbo.

The day provided a number of interesting stories, supported by the excellent coverage on Eurosport. They broadcated two matches and the “roving” coverage by Ken Doherty and Rob Walker.

Mark Davis, at 48, came back from 7-2 down to beat Jamie Clarke by 10-8. It was another “déjà vu” heartbreak for Jamie’s fans but a remarkable and admirable effort by the sympathetic “Dark Mavis”.

Kurt Maflin who missed a number of events because of travel restrictions inflicted 10-4 defeat on Robert Milkins. The score surprised me TBH.

The score was equally surprising in the Matthew Selt v Scott Donaldson match, Selt winning by 6-3. Selt’s “extra” preparation ahead of his clas with Hendry obviously gave his game a boost! Still I was expecting better from Scott.

Tian Pengfei lead by 8-1 after the first session but had to fence off a spirited come back from a Graeme Dott in “terrier mode”. He only won by 10-7.

Jamie Jones is really making the most of his return to the main tour after his ban. In the span of this season, he regained his top 64 status and now qualified for the Crucible.

Zhou Yuelong was the highest ranked player in the qualifiers but he played a disappointing match. Liam Highfield through, who has been battling health issues for years, deserves a lot of credit for the way he played and held it together in the end. To say that he was a bag of nerves whilst facing the last balls is the mother of all understatements.

I am very happy to see Lyu Haotian playing well and winning again. His first years on the main  tour turned out to be a very traumatic experience. Despite his defeat Chang Bingyu impressed as well.

There was never more than two frames between Liang Wenbo and Lu Ning up to 7-7. Then Liang pulled away. He’s another who “disappeared” for a while but seems to be coming back to form.

Morning session

Tian Takes Charge Of Judgement Day Clash

World number 53 Tian Pengfei is just two frames away from a second Crucible appearance, leading 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott 8-1 after the first session of their final round meeting at Betfred World Championship qualifying.

All of today’s best of 19 matches will be played to a conclusion from 5pm, with the winners qualifying for the final stages at the Crucible. Watch live on our Facebook and YouTube channels, as well as the Eurosport app.

Dott was defeated on Judgement Day in 2020 and has it all to do if he is to avoid the same fate this year. Tian qualified for the first time in 2019, defeating Matthew Stevens 10-8 in the final round.

Tian produced a blistering display in today’s first session. The Chinese cueman fired in breaks of 82, 108, 110, 78, 67 and 114 on his way to securing a commanding advantage.

Liam Highfield has edged to a slender 5-4 lead over world number 17 Zhou Yuelong. A crucial break of 51 saw him take the ninth frame and lead heading into tonight.

Jamie Jones established a 7-2 lead over Li Hang in his quest to secure a first trip to the Crucible since his return to the World Snooker Tour this season. The Welshman made two century runs of 100 and 103 in the first session.

Jamie Clarke requires three frames for a second consecutive Crucible berth, leading Mark Davis 7-2, while Lu Ning holds a narrow 5-4 lead over Liang Wenbo.

Matthew Selt heads into this evening 6-2 up on Scott Donaldson and Norway’s Kurt Maflin leads Robert Milkins 7-2.

Afternoon session 

Davis – My Best Ever Comeback

Mark Davis recovered a 7-2 deficit to score a 10-8 victory over Jamie Clarke in the final qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship, booking a 12th trip to the Crucible.

Davis is one of eight players so far to make it through Judgement Day and get their name into the draw for the final stages, which will take place on Thursday at 11am, ahead of the main event which starts on Saturday.

Sussex’s 48-year-old Davis first appeared at the Crucible in 1994 and is now heading back to the Theatre of Dreams after making what he described as the best fight-back of his 30-year career.

Welshman Clarke, who reached the last 16 in Sheffield last year, looked on course for a return when he led 7-2. But Davis then reeled off seven frames in a row  with top breaks of 54, 60, 68, 70, 76 and 68. Clarke pulled one back to trail 9-8, only for Davis to get the better of a scrappy 18th frame for victory.

“I can’t remember coming back from that deficit in my career, especially against such a good player,” said former Six-Red World Champion Davis. “I have been playing well lately but I wasn’t with it in the first session today. I still had hope tonight because I know my game is there. I don’t know how the last few balls went in. It’s crazy how you have to deal with things, mentally.

“If someone had said back in 1994 that I would still be playing 27 years later, I wouldn’t have believed it. My problem sometimes is that I don’t enjoy snooker enough, matches can be like a pint of blood. You never know when your last trip to the Crucible will be, I’ll go there and enjoy it. It’s a special place.”

Graeme Dott, the 2006 World Champion, also made a spirited fight-back but was beaten 10-7 by China’s Tian Pengfei. Breaks of 82, 108, 110, 78, 67 and 114 helped Tian to an 8-1 advantage. Dott battled back to 9-7 before Tian won the 17th frame.

Zhou Yuelong, the highest ranked player in the qualifying rounds at world number 17, will not be at the Crucible as he was beaten 10-7 by Liam Highfield.

“I can’t wait to get out there,” said Stoke’s Highfield, whose only previous appearance in the Crucible came in 2018. “I have put a lot of hard work in because if you prepare right and get yourself into a good place mentally then you stand a much better chance.” Highfield, who has Crohn’s disease, added: “I have come through turmoil and now it’s just about prolonging my career and getting as high as I can up the rankings.”

Jamie Jones, who reached the quarter-finals at the Crucible on his 2012 debut and last played there in 2018, earned his return with a 10-5 win over Li Hang. Welshman Jones was suspended from the pro tour in October 2018 for breaching betting regulations. He served an enforced two-year absence from the circuit, before coming through Q School in 2020 to regain his card.

The 33-year-old has enjoyed a renaissance this season, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish Open. And now he’s back on snooker’s biggest stage, seeing off Li with top runs of 103, 100, 60, 68 and 76.

“People closest to me never doubted me,” said Jones. “I’m just really happy to be back competing and back at the Crucible. I’ll be giving it my best shot as I have all season. I felt a bit shaky at the end today, the pockets seemed to be closing up on me. I knew what the prize on offer was but I tried to treat it like any other match.”

Matthew Selt, playing what he describes as the best snooker of his career, thrashed Scott Donaldson 10-3. Breaks of 59, 110, 106, 77, 61 and 135 helped Indian Open champion Selt to book his third Crucible appearance and first since 2015.

“I knew how good my game was when I came here,” said Selt. “I played well today and finished the match off well. My game is the best it has ever been. I can’t be any sharper. That won’t determine whether I settle down or feel comfortable, because the last two times I played at the Crucible I started badly.  But playing well and winning breeds confidence so I’m really looking forward to next week. I’d like to draw John Higgins, that would be a dream for me to play my hero on the biggest stage.”

Kurt Maflin, a quarter-finalist at the Crucible last year, secured his return with a 10-4 win over Robert Milkins, highlighted by breaks of 72, 53, 77, 64, 87 and 89.

Lyu Haotian won a Chinese derby against Chang Bingyu by a 10-6 scoreline with top breaks of 50, 77, 100, 53, 131, 114 and 59. Lyu reached the second round on his only previous Crucible appearance in 2018.

In another all-Chinese encounter, former English Open champion Liang Wenbo saw off Lu Ning 10-7 with a top break of 130.

Today promises to be just as interesting and thrilling.


3 thoughts on “2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 9

  1. Yes it was an epic day as usual, but actually there were no close matches: even Mavis’s 10-8 win was not in doubt once he had come back from 7-2 down to 7-7.

    In the first session, the roaming commentary by Rob Walker and Ken Doherty often drifted towards the Crucible, or the usual 1980’s nostalgia, with features on Dennis Taylor, Mark Williams and frequent mentions of Alex Higgins. Of course it should have been exclusively about the players who were actually in front of us – this was their day. That improved in the second session as the matches moved towards a climax.

    Lyu Haotian hit the ball better than I have seen in over 2 years – his shot timing was sharp, a vital part of his technique. He was put under pressure by Chang Bingyu, who started the match with a magnificent 135. The pair shared 5 centuries before Lyu pulled away. Chang will learn a lot from this World Championship and should be a dangerous force next season.

    Matt Selt also played extremely well, as he sometimes has this season. Evidently he plans to reduce his schedule next season, something which many players might start doing. It’s a risk with the current ranking system, but may help some to stay fresh. Kurt Maflin also did remarkably well, given his disrupted season. But he probably found a lot of inspiration from the prospect of returning to the Crucible after his adventure last year. Tian Pengfei played an incredible first session, which is also a good effort after a year with lots of health and financial complications (he runs a restaurant). Jamie Jones completed a fine season, returning from his ban with obvious determination.

    • Tian was very emotional after his win. I had never seen him show that much emotion, not even anything close to what he expressed yesterday.

      • Oh I have. He lost an incredible match against Fergal O’Brien at Pond’s Forge, where he successfully got 3 snookers in the final frame, but missed a difficult pink. That final frame took about 90 minutes and finished at 2:30am. Only 6 of us were left watching at the end, including Tian’s wife and Mei Xiwen, who had to console a distraught man. A few days later Fergal repeated the ‘performance’ against Dave Gilbert. The World Championship means everything to him after so many heartbreaks. Even when he eventually did qualify, he had terrible bad luck against Maguire, who had a decisive fluke.

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