2021 Crucible – before it starts …

There were concerns about tomorrow second session scheduling at the Crucible because of the Duke of Edinburgh funerals will take place tomorrow afternoon.

WST has made the following announcement:

Minute’s Silence To Honour The Duke Of Edinburgh

Matches will be paused at the Betfred World Championship on Saturday for a minute’s silence to honour Prince Philip, who died last week at the age of 99.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral takes place on Saturday at Windsor Castle, with the service starting at 3.00pm.

At the same time, both matches will be paused on the opening day at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. Players, referees and fans will observe the minute’s silence in the arena. The four players and two referees will wear black armbands.

A spokesman for WST said: “This will be the first time in the 94-year history of the Championship that we have paused matches in order to honour the Royal Family and a country that is in mourning. The session will start at 2.30pm as planned and then just before 3pm the matches will be paused. This event is broadcast to over 100 countries around the globe so people watching worldwide can pay their respects to Prince Philip at the same time.”

Then, of course, experts go for their previews …

David Hendon and Michael McMullan discuss theirs in the latest Snooker Scene podcast

It’s an interesting conversation as always and there are three points that particularly attracted my attention:

  • David Hendon is tipping Ronnie and Kyren Wilson to make the final again, with the same winner but a closer match. And IF Ronnie wins, he expects him to go for eight. Well, I wouldn’t complain if he was proved right. I just wish I was more confident.
  • The two discuss Judd Trumps’ ideas to “fix” snooker … and … their conclusion is that all his complaints about the pundits excessive focus on the past come down to himself wanting more attention. That made me smile!
  • The fact that David Gilbert, a semi-finalist two years ago, really needs to win. If he doesn’t he will be in a battle for his tour survival in the coming season. Just shows you how brutal the system is now.

Despite all the precautions taken by WST, Ronnie is still unneasy with having fans around

‘Rocket’ warns he will ‘kick off’ if fans invade his space at Crucible

Ronnie - Betway UK Championship

Ronnie O’Sullivan has warned that he will “kick off” if fans invade his personal space during the World Snooker Championship, after fearing that his mother would die from Covid-19.

Crowds will be permitted inside Sheffield Crucible’s Theatre throughout the tournament, where O’Sullivan will start the defence of his title on Saturday, beginning with 33 per cent capacity for the first round and potentially rising to a full crowd for the final. O’Sullivan, who is 45, is hoping to get his vaccine in the coming weeks and, as easily the sport’s most popular and recognisable personality, has urged World Snooker to make sure that there is some level of security for players coming in and out of the venue.

I’m not fine with people coming close to me, I’m just really not, and I would kick off,” he told Sporting Life.

You get these crazy fans and people putting those autograph (books) in front of you, and coming up and wanting a selfie.

And if I don’t get a level of protection or feel safe in Sheffield, I’m not sure whether I would feel comfortable being there.

O’Sullivan is supportive of World Snooker being used to trial the indoor return of fans, who must have tested negative for
Covid-19 either on the day of the match or the day before.

He will, however, personally avoid busy restaurants and crowded indoor spaces for several years until much more is known about the disease, and particularly the impacts of long Covid.

O’Sullivan’s mother, Maria, required a ventilator and antibiotics after suffering from a Covid-19 infection.

There will be two tests for spectators at the World Snooker Championship, the first of which will take place at a UK government test centre local to their area. This test is free.

Fans must then take a test five days after they were at the tournament with a free home kit.

All spectators will also have to ‘check in’ at the venue using the NHS Track and Trace app.

O’Sullivan could equal Stephen Hendry’s modern day record of seven world titles should ‘The Rocket’ again triumph over the coming weeks. World No 1 Judd Trump, who will face a qualifier in the opening round, starts the tournament as favourite.

No player more than Ronnie gets this type of stalking by fans. People wanting to touch him, kiss him, shake his hand at the stage door or whenever he walks through the city, or sits in a restaurant. I have seen it close up on several occasions when we had lunch together: people shoving their cell phone right in his face whilst he was eating. people pushing their kids on his lap to take pictures, people sitting right next to him and wanting his attention for a conversation, despite him being there with friends … even worse, once, a guy had taken a picture when he was in the toilets and was then circulating the picture around in the crowd. That was at an exhibition, and years ago , but still!

Neil Robertson agrees with Ronnie, as he told the BBC

You don’t want to be mixing with people, even if they have the best intentions – if you were to pick it [Covid-19] up, you would be out of the event,” said Robertson.

I am going to have a policy this year where I am not stopping for socially-distanced selfies or signing anything. You just can’t afford to do that on the ridiculous chance of catching it. It would be pretty disastrous.

Of course the press spoke to other players too

Neil Robertson is confident 

The way I have been playing this season, I am not really too worried about who I am playing,” said Robertson.

If you ask Liang, he probably won’t be too happy about the draw, whereas I am not really too fussed on who I am playing, it is about how I approach the game.

“If I play well, I think I will win. It will be a tough game, but hopefully I will have too much (for him).

“This season I have always played matches on my terms, they have always been aggressive, open games which brings the best out of me.

“I have just got to concentrate on people being worried about what I can bring to the match, rather than stopping other people from playing. I have just got to go out to attack as well as I can.”

….

Judd Trump misses the people coughing and the mobile phones going off …

“You miss the coughing and the mobile phones going off,” Trump told BBC Radio 5 Live.

When you are losing and you get a frame or two behind [without fans], it is so much easier to give up because you feel nobody is there to see it.

When you’ve got a crowd you sometimes take a toilet break just to get the roar of the fans and get them calling your name to get you back in the game. So it makes a huge difference.

“I need the fans there just to bring out the best in me. Just adding more nerves and excitement helps my concentration.”

I feel my game is there for another win,” added the 2019 world champion. “It is such a long time, 17 days, that you can’t peak for every single game. You’ve got to be mentally prepared to go through hell to win the tournament.

“It’s been quite draining seeing the same surroundings over and over again. It feels like you are playing the same tournament over and over again. You’re in the same hotel rooms and are just on your own.

“It’s just going to be nice to take someone to the Crucible to have in your corner and help you through dark times in a game.

Shaun Murphy gave a rather emotional interview

Shaun Murphy interview: I hope the crowds bring back my spark, otherwise I’m in serious trouble

Matt Majendie

If Shaun Murphy won a tournament, the celebration would be food and drink. If he was commiserating a loss, it would be pizza.

When the World Snooker Championship begins at the Crucible on Saturday, he will weigh two stone lighter than he was on January 1. His battle with weight is not won, he says, but is now more under control.

I’m an emotional eater,” he said. “My relationship with food nosedived. Treats and food were a reward mechanism coaching me as a kid… a Mars Bar if you do this.

“This has manipulated to a monster of 30 years later where I can’t have a bar of chocolate, I have to have six. It’s been hard work addressing it, it’s doubly hard on tour. I’ve strayed a few times and paid the penalty.

Murphy has signed up to Overeaters Anonymous, Weightwatchers and Slimming World over the years but a charity head to head with snooker MC Phil Seymour, labelled Snooker’s Biggest Loser, has proved the catalyst in losing the pounds.

The aim was to see who could drop the most weight in 2021 leading up to the Worlds. Murphy lost, which he hopes is his only Crucible defeat of the next two-and-a-half weeks.

During the various lockdowns of the past year, Murphy’s game has struggled but he hopes snooker’s biggest tournament can act as a springboard for change with spectators allowed back in for one of the Government’s test events.

I need that extra buzz from the performing element to a live audience to bring out the best in me,” he said. “My wife says I’m the biggest show-off she’s ever met and snooker is merely my vehicle to let that out.

“I love that performing element. If I wasn’t a snooker player, I’d have been on the West End. Without the crowds, it’s just not worked. There’s matches I’ve lost this year I would have won with an audience.

“I’m excited at the prospect in playing in front of someone again. I hope it brings that spark. If not, I’m in serious trouble. And I’m not sure what else is wrong.”

Murphy’s preparations have been far better this year that the last World Championship, delayed until August last year. He has been practising with last year’s runner-up in Kyren Wilson as well as Mark Allen.

In addition, he went into the last Worlds having just attended the funeral of Brandon Parker, his manager and long-term confidant.

That was very, very tough,” he said. “Plus, I went to the UK Championship this season, turned on my phone and head my uncle had died. He wasn’t even ill. It’s been a horrible year for that sort of stuff.

“There’s so many times this year I would have picked up the phone to Brandon. He was like a second father to me and leaves such a big hole in my life on and off the table.”

There have been other hardships over the years too, some of which he’s discussed in the past, some of which he touches upon in conversation and some of which he plans to save for another day.

There’s a few misconceptions about me,” he said. “I had a very, very hard upbringing. It wasn’t the bowl of fruit people think it was. There was loads of things. The bullying as a kid. Financially it was very turbulent. My parents were big drinkers at some points and there was a lot of volatility there. There’s a good film in there one day!

His own life is now settled with his wife and two children in Dublin where they relocated from Nottinghamshire for more family support.

And the hope is the 38-year-old can add a second world title to the one won 16 years ago.

If you’d asked a 22-year-old me in 2005 if I’d win more than one world title, I’m sure I would have said ‘yes’,” he said. “I’ve got very close since – I was within a few frames in 2015 – but it’s not that easy.

The 2015 loss to Stuart Bingham in the final is still the one that rankles and tellingly he hasn’t been past the second round at the Crucible since.

The loss in 2015 really left a scar and hurt me,” he admitted. “That’s our Everest and to get so close to the top of it and then collapse down the mountain, it’s left a mark on me for a few years.

“But the asterisk to that is that I’m sat in my snooker room at home with a replica World Championship trophy. So, I have that in my locker. I’ve just run into a few superheroes in the years since.

“I will try my absolute best to win again. I believe I’m good enough. And if I don’t win? I’ll just go home and play with the kids.

Did anyone interview the qualifiers?

Yess !!! Hector Nunns interviewed Mark Joyce!

Screenshot 2021-04-16 at 14.19.04s Mark Joyce pre Crucible 2021

5 thoughts on “2021 Crucible – before it starts …

  1. Well, my understanding of ‘media day’ is that it’s all about the top-16 players. Essentialy, the qualifiers already had their interview with Rob Walker on ‘Judgement Day’.

    But of course we know that the majority of the qualifiers aren’t the focus of attention, even from the snooker media. The Hendon/McMullan podcast didn’t cover the qualifying tournament at all – the only match they appear to have seen was Hendry-White. Indeed, last year they cancelled their podcast in favour of a film review. Clearly they are not interested in the ‘melting pot’ of the snooker tour, except when someone occasionally has an unexpected success (like Jordan Brown), or has some off-table story to tell. They may claim that Judd Trump’s comments about media nostalgia is aimed at the BBC, but they spend the majority of their time on those podcasts on the 1980’s and 1990’s just the same. To be fair to them, they have a busy 17 days ahead of them and probably need time out. Their podcasts aim to respond to listener correspondence. They have to please their audiences – that’s the reality of 21st century media. But it’s also unsustainable and doesn’t help the game develop in the way that it must.

  2. Yes, asking for an autograph at the right time is one thing. Invading someones space at a private lunch is quite ridiculous of course. Good insight there Monique. Oh well, any banter between Ron and Mark pre tourney will just add an extra edge of anticipation to the worlds and get everybody s juices flowing lol. Enjoy

    • Of course it is good publicity and fans just enjoy it, but my partner says it is Selby’s effort to destabilize Ronnie mentally and he should be careful lest of affects him. I certainly hope he is not dwelling on this.

  3. Wow, I was really worried they would rearrange the afternoon schedule -and with it the whole afternoon schedule because of the funeral.

    Ronnie has always complained about too much fan-attention when playing, and with all this horror about this virus it is fair enough that he is even more worried, hope, organizers will pay attention and keep some order.

    They interviewed some qualifiers after their victories in the broadcast, I was wondering about Murphy: he would not have necessarily qualified if he had to.

    If this Eurosport documentary, ‘One Day at The Crucible’ pops up somewhere on YouTube etc, please post a link, I’m very curious, it looks a lot worse than just speaking in the heart of the defeat right after the battle.

    It’s a bit too much:

    “Because playing any other player… if that was John Higgins, he would have just tried to get out of the shot and play the right shots.
    “I felt as though Ronnie was obviously doing that [smashing the balls], and if you are doing that you don’t deserve to not only win the match, but you don’t deserve to not stick balls on.
    “He was sort of smashing them and getting away with it and not leaving me anything.
    Obviously at that point, only in that match, I felt as though he was disrespectful to me and the game at that particular time.
    “In other matches when I’ve played him he has not been like that, it was just that one particular match when I felt it was just disrespectful.”

    It’s very funny to complain about not having anything left…

    Ronnie pretty much responded in kind, but justifiably so:

    O’Sullivan responded in somewhat frosty fashion and questioned whether Selby would ever be able to “get over” his defeat in the classic match.
    “I just think that he is obviously just picking one or two shots out of 33 frames, and he has done that to a lot of players over the years,” O’Sullivan retorted.
    “He has turned matches into maybe not such good spectacles, but just does enough to get a result. Some people would look at that and go, ‘Well that’s probably not in the spirit of the game.’
    “I played one shot but there were 33 frames, and three brilliant frames towards the end of the match. I’d rather focus on that.

    The article about it:

    https://www.eurosport.co.uk/snooker/world-championship/2020-2021/world-championship-2021-snooker-ronnie-o-sullivan-hits-back-at-mark-selby-disrespect-accusation_sto8244200/story.shtml

    It does not sound good…

    • I will definitely try to get the footage Csilla. Today there is a discussion on twitterwith people saying that SElby has moved on. Doesn’t sound like it at all to me. And Ronnie had said BEFORE the Championship that he was not going to allow anyone to trap him in that sort of game again. Now Robertson is basically saying the same thing… play on his own terms.

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