2021 Crucible – Day 2

Throughout the championship I will only focus on the daily results, unless something special happens.

Yesterday four matches came to a conclusion. Here are the reports by WST:

Yan Bingtao 10-6 Martin Gould

Yan Bingtao kept alive his dream of becoming the youngest ever Betfred World Champion as he beat Martin Gould 10-6 to reach the second round.

China’s Yan needs to win the title this year to beat Stephen Hendry’s record as the youngest Crucible king. Hendry was 21 years and four months old when he lifted the trophy in 1990, while Yan would be a month younger.

The player nicknamed the Tiger rode his luck in the closing stages against Gould as he pulled away from 5-5 to take five of the last six frames, but did enough to set up a last 16 clash with Shaun Murphy or Mark Davis.

Yan reached the second round at the Crucible for the first time last year, before a narrow 13-11 reverse against Judd Trump

Earlier this year, Yan enjoyed by far the best moment of his career so far as he beat John Higgins in the final of the Betfred Masters. However he has had a patchy season in ranking events, reaching just two quarter-finals, so today’s victory brings a welcome boost of £30,000 to his ranking tally.

Gould won the opening frame of the concluding session to level the match at 5-5, before Yan fired breaks of 130 and 116 to go 7-5 up. The Asian ace then came from 50-0 down in frame 13 to make an excellent 70 clearance.

The 14th came down to a safety battle on the final red, and Yan enjoyed a huge slice of good fortune as he fluked the red by doubling it the length of the table into a top corner, setting him up to clear for 9-5.

Yan could have sealed victory in the 15th frame if he had not missed a tricky final blue, allowing Gould to pull one back. But a run of 67 in frame 16 proved enough to get Yan over the winning line; Gould’s last chance ending when he went in-off as he potted the penultimate red.

From 5-5 I made back to back centuries and then made a good clearance to go 8-5, that gave me a lot of confidence,” said Yan. “Martin is very dangerous. Winning the Masters changed my life. I am working hard on practice for this Championship. If I miss a ball I just keep a poker face. Maybe I am too young to have a chance. Ding Junhui has a bigger chance, he is 13 years older.”

Yan played really well yesterday and also answered the post-match questions in English. Congratulations to him. I enjoyed watching this match. It was a good standard, it was actually closer than the score suggests and both players potted some great balls. Yan has a very solid head on his young shoulders. I personally believe that he has a better chance than Ding to become a World Champion. Ding seems to have lost his intensity.

David Gilbert 10-4 Chris Wakelin

Resurgent Gilbert Sees Off Wakelin

David Gilbert played his best snooker of the season as he beat Chris Wakelin 10-4 to reach the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship, and insists he would relish a possible clash with Judd Trump.

Other than a run to the semi-finals of the Betfred Masters in January, Gilbert has had a poor season by his standards, and admits he has struggled for motivation at times. On the one-year ranking list he lies in 52nd place, so a run at the Crucible would dramatically improve his chances of keeping his top 16 place next season. Having worked hard on his game and his fitness in recent months, Gilbert believes he has turned a corner.

The 39-year-old reached the semi-finals in Sheffield two years ago – narrowly losing 17-16 to John Higgins – so knows what it takes to win matches on the biggest stage. In the second round he will face Judd Trump, if the world number one can come through the challenge of Liam Highfield.

Tamworth’s Gilbert did most of the damage against Wakelin in the first session on Saturday night, firing breaks of 60, 132, 111, 50, 90 and 100 as he went 7-2 ahead.

In the first frame today, Gilbert missed the final black along the top cushion, allowing Wakelin to pull one back. A run of 58 helped restore Gilbert’s five-frame advantage at 8-3. Wakelin’s 81 clearance kept his hopes alive and he had chances in frame 13, but crucially missed the last red to a top corner when trailing 49-58.

Gilbert took advantage for 9-4, then clinched the result after the interval with a break of 84.

Since January I have been hard at it in practice and I have put a gym in my garage to do some weights,” said Gilbert. “When I am fitter I play better, I should have done it ages ago. Last night I found a good rhythm and I fancied potting the balls.

“I don’t think about the money or the rankings, but I know that you plummet if you don’t win matches. This tournament can turn a bad year into a great year.

Last night the wall between the tables went up and I was thinking about the semi-final against John two years ago. I envisaged myself in the chair on the other side. My biggest goal in snooker is to get back to that one table situation.

“If it’s Judd in the next round I would really look forward to that. He is an amazing world number one, the way he plays the game is brilliant. I have nothing but respect for him.”

Chris Wakelin had done what he needed to do by reaching the Crucible: he had secured his professional status. Maybe he came into this one a bit “flat”. Gilbert victory looked to be on the cards quite early in the match. That said, Gilbert played really well and, if he can stay calm and level-headed, he will be a handful no matter who he faces.

Neil Robertson 10-3 Liang Wenbo

Thunder Storms To Beat Liang

World number three Neil Robertson eased to an impressive 10-3 defeat of Liang Wenbo at the Betfred World Championship.

The Australian came into this week in red hot form after blitzing his way to winning the recent Cazoo Tour Championship, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 in the final to land a 20th ranking title.

Robertson was handed a huge boost ahead of that victory after he was reunited with his father Ian, who was given special dispensation to fly to Britain from Australia. It was a reunion which was nearly two years in the making due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Thunder from Down Under is aiming to capture a second Crucible crown this year. His only World Championship victory to date came in 2010, when he defeated Graeme Dott in the final. Since then Robertson has struggled to produce his best at the Theatre of Dreams, recording just one semi-final appearance back in 2014.

He stamped his authority in the opening session of this encounter, crafting five breaks over 50 on his way to establishing a 6-3 advantage.

Robertson came out firing this evening, making a superb century run of exactly 100 after depositing a long red from Liang’s break. He then won a tight 11thframe, before swiftly closing out the tie with breaks of 110 and 73 to wrap up the 10-3 victory. Robertson now faces a tough second round encounter against either Jack Lisowski or Ali Carter.

“I’m quite excited that the more we can go on in the tournament, the more crowds can be allowed in as well. I thought the crowd were really good, even though they were reduced. The Crucible crowd always feels three or four times bigger than the actual capacity,” said 39-year-old Robertson. “I’m very relieved that everything has gone ahead with the Government re-opening and that we could get the crowds in. I think they have seen some excellent snooker over the last couple of days. I’m very happy for the people who have committed to the sport and gone into the arena out there.

It had been a long time not seeing my family from Australia, nearly two years. My dad came over before the Tour Championship and gave me a massive boost. Alexander my son was so happy as well. Penelope my daughter didn’t even recognise him, it is really sad that he hadn’t seen her for so long. It is great that he is able to enjoy being with her and that he can take Alexander to his footy training. He can give me feedback on the training as well so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on too much.

“Over the last seven or eight years, in probably five of those I’ve blitzed through the first two rounds and everyone has been putting my name on the trophy. I’ve maybe relaxed a little bit, expected to win and thought that my opponent couldn’t possibly beat me over 25 frames. Coming here, I’m just ignoring all of that and playing the game on my terms. It is important I make players worry about playing me, rather than letting them dictate the pace of play.

I didn’t watch that match. It went exactly as I expected and I like both players but Liang frustrates me a lot. He hasn’t built up on his English Open victory, but then, probably, private issues have been a huge negative factor. Liang comes from a wealthy family but money isn’t everything.

Jamie Jones 10-4 Stephen Maguire

Jones: I Felt I Had Lost Everything

Two years ago, Jamie Jones was at his lowest ebb and was uncertain whether he would ever return to snooker’s highest level. Now back where he belongs, the Welshman beat Stephen Maguire 10-4 to reach the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship.

In October 2018, Jones was suspended from the tour for breaching betting regulations. He did not fix the outcome of matches himself, but failed to report knowledge of an arrangement involving another player. He spent almost two years away from the circuit, leaving his career on the baize in doubt.

Maguire is the first top-16 seed to be knocked out this year

Having served his time, Jones regained his tour card via Q School last August, and now believes he is a better player than ever and is relishing the opportunity to make a fresh start. Already this season he has climbed to 69th in the world rankings and is now set to go much higher having won four matches in snooker’s biggest tournament.

I am proud of myself,” said the 33-year-old. “I felt I had lost everything. I’d say to anyone going through difficult times, it’s important to talk to people and make positive choices, which I did.

Jones is no stranger to the Crucible’s business end – he reached the quarter-finals on his debut in 2012. And this time he goes into his clash with Stuart Bingham or Ding Junhui full of belief.

Maguire, by contrast, heads back to Scotland demoralised, having lost in the first round in Sheffield for the eighth time in the last 11 years. The world number eight has had a disappointing season, going beyond the last 32 of just one ranking event.

Jones led 5-4 overnight and soon extended his lead to 7-4 with breaks of 73 and 81. Maguire had chances in each of the next three frames but struggled to control the cue ball and made a top break of just 22 during the session. Jones compiled runs of 43, 65 and 48 as he took all three frames for victory.

It’s a fantastic win for me,” added the Neath cueman. “It’s always special to play here. I felt as comfortable out there tonight as I ever have. I felt as calm as you can be under pressure. It was a nice feeling.

You can’t compare the player I am now to the way I was in 2012. I am a much more rounded player now. Even at 9-4 up I was prepared to wait, and make it difficult for Stephen. That comes with experience.

Having come through the qualifiers, I am under less pressure and expectation. I can just really enjoy the experience and I love the longer matches. I have come so far in a short space of time this season and now I am riding the wave.”

Maguire said: “I’m frustrated. I don’t think there’s a word for how I played. If there is a word, I’d get fined! I didn’t do anything in the whole match. Jamie upped his game from 3-1 down. I wasn’t good enough. I lost trust in my cue action and everything I was doing. I’ll have to keep the TV off for the next two weeks. I said to Jamie at the end it’s good to have him back.

I only watched the first session and that was a decent game but the way it had developed I somehow expected what happened yesterday. I like both of them and I hate seeing a player I like crumbling..

Stephen Maguire may come across as rough, but he’s a nice bloke, very honest, genuine and true to himself. He’s never looking for excuses, if anything, he’s hard on himself. This defeat certainly hurt.

Jamie Jones has matured a lot as a person. His reaction to his ban has been exemplary. He made a “mistake” – he didn’t grass on a mate –  and was punished very harshly, too harshly in my opinion. It’s only how I see it, and I understand that the sport’s integrity is paramount,  but I feel that others have done much worse and have got away with it lightly, or even got away with it entirely.

One thought on “2021 Crucible – Day 2

  1. I have a soft spot in my heat for Maguire. Like I said before, as a rule as long as Ronnie is in a tournament I keep to strict neutrality with respect to others (with one notable exception), but it is bad so see Maguire struggle so bad. Yesterday it was horrible to see how he played. 😦

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