2021 Crucible – Day 5

Only two first round matches are stil underway, and the last 16 starts today.

Here are yesterday’s results as reportred by WST.

Judd Trump 10-4 Liam Highfield

Trump Cruises Into Round Two

Judd Trump completed a one-sided 10-4 victory over Liam Highfield to reach the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship – a result which guarantees that he will finish the season as world number one.

So dominant has the Bristol cueman been over the past two seasons – landing 11 ranking titles – that even if he were to lose in the second round and then Ronnie O’Sullivan were to win the Crucible crown for a second year in a row, that would not be enough to dislodge Trump from top spot.

Trump has already won five ranking titles this season, one short of the record of six he set last term

But 31-year-old Trump’s only focus now will be to take the £500,000 first prize himself and double his tally of world titles, having captured his first in 2019. He could face a difficult test against David Gilbert over 25 frames on Sunday and Monday.

The opening round at the Crucible has been a hazardous hunting ground for Trump in recent years; since 2016 he has had two wins by a 10-8 scoreline and two 10-9 victories as well as a 10-8 defeat against Rory McLeod. But this time he was always in control as Highfield never threatened an upset.

Trump led 7-2 after the first session with a top break of 116. A run of 51 in the first frame today helped him extend his lead. In frame 11, Trump could have cleared from 56-4 down but ran out of position from pink to black, then played a loose safety which allowed Highfield to pull one back.

A run of 84 put Trump 9-3 ahead, then world number 49 Highfield had the consolation of making the highest break of the match and showing his talent with a 138 total clearance. But there would be no fight back as Trump won frame 14 with a top run of 52.

Liam played some really good stuff and played with a lot of freedom,” said Trump, making his 11th consecutive Crucible appearance.He missed the odd ball here and there. It was a really enjoyable game, free flowing, we both went for our shots.

I have tried to approach this tournament as if I was 21, saving some excitement for it and trying to enjoy myself. I have spent a lot of time at home over the past year so I want to take it all in while I’m in Sheffield. There have been times this season when I have won a tournament, picked up a trophy, got in the car and driven home. The enjoyment of that couple of hours afterwards when you celebrate with your friends and family has not been there. I have got my brother with me backstage this time which brings back the chance to share it with someone.”

Trump was also asked about Barry Hearn who bowed out as WST Chairman on Tuesday. “He did everything he possibly could for snooker. It was his first love and his passion,” said Trump. “That rubs off on everyone who has worked hard to get us to this point. It’s up to the players and the other people behind the scenes now to make a few changes and take it to the next level. He can sit back now and be proud of putting us in that position.

I freely admit that I didn’t watch anything of the second session but what I saw in the first session does not resemble Judd’s description of what happened at the table when I was watching. What I saw was Judd potting some great balls, but also missing a lot of seemingly routine shots, going for things he probably shouldn’t and in general playing as if his own victory was a certainty no matter what his opponent could possibly do. Liam Highfield during that session was missing all sorts and looked a bit overwhelmed. Being 7-2 down, he probably relaxed and played better yesterday.

Barry Hawkins 10-3 Matthew Selt

Hawkins Shines Again In Sheffield

Crucible specialist Barry Hawkins reached the second round in Sheffield for an 11th consecutive year as he hammered Matthew Selt 10-3 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Hawkins was runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2013 and also reached the semi-finals in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018

Hawkins has an outstanding record at snooker’s most famous venue, and has now won 23 matches at the Crucible since 2011. His super-smooth cue action and calm temperament are ideal attributes in the heat of battle. The 41-year-old Londoner can now look forward to a last-16 clash with Kyren Wilson on Friday and Saturday.

In recent months, world number 11 Hawkins has been close to the form which took him to the final here in 2013. He has reached the semi-finals of the German Masters, Cazoo Players Championship and Cazoo Tour Championship, nailing down a top-16 place which looked under threat at the start of the year.  Always reluctant to talk up his chances, Hawkins will feel quietly confident of another deep run at the Theatre of Dreams.

Hawkins led 6-3 after the first session, making a top break of 137. The first frame of the concluding session came down to the last two reds, and a safety error from Selt gave Hawkins a chance at a mid-range pot, which he slotted in to set up a frame-winning break. That gave Hawkins the impetus to reel off the last three frames with breaks of 76, 126 and 82.

“Matt is a confident player so he wouldn’t have been worried about playing me,” said Hawkins. “The scoreline flattered me, in the first session I won a lot of frames from behind. I was over the moon to be 6-3 up because I could have been 5-4 down. I was determined to concentrate hard tonight and I didn’t give him many chances. I played Matt in the first round here in 2015 and he came from 9-4 down to 9-9 before I won 10-9, so I didn’t want to see that happen again.

“It’s all about confidence – if you have that behind you then you can get on a roll. And how you handle it out there is huge. It’s nice when you are playing well, but it’s the toughest place in the world when you are struggling. Then it’s all about damage limitation – if you are playing badly but you can share a session 4-4 then you are still in the match.”

Selt said: “I couldn’t control the cue ball in the most important parts of the match. I created a lot of chances but just didn’t score. I felt great but I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t take my chances. Next time I come back here I’ll be a better player.”

I didn’t see a ball of this match, so can’t comment other that this looks like Barry Hawkins being Barry Hawkins at the Crucible… solid and dangerous.

Mark Williams 10-4 Sam Caigie

Williams Sets Up Higgins Showdown

Mark Williams rattled off five frames on the bounce to see off Crucible debutant Sam Craigie 10-4 and set up a second round clash with familiar foe John Higgins at the Betfred World Championship.

The last time Williams and Higgins locked horns at the Crucible was one of the all-time great World Championship finals back in 2018, when Williams emerged an 18-16 victor in an epic encounter to claim his third world title. However, it’s four-time World Champion Higgins who leads the head-to-head between the pair, holding a 20-18 advantage.

They will take to the baize for the first session of their best of 25 showdown on Friday at 2:30pm. Speed demon Williams now heads into that match as the fastest player on the World Snooker Tour, averaging just 18.07 seconds per shot this season.

It was a disappointing evening for 27-year-old Craigie, who fell away from 5-4 down after the opening session. The Wallsend cueman will still be able to reflect on a memorable 10-9 Judgement Day win over Zhao Xintong in qualifying last week, which earned him his first appearance at the Theatre of Dreams.

Williams wasted little time in surging to victory this evening. Breaks of 53, 73 and 94 helped the Welshman to claim all of the first five frames and canter over the line for a comfortable 10-4 win.

Tonight I played really well to be honest. Every part of my game was strong and I kept him under pressure. I don’t think he did much wrong tonight to be honest. The first session was a bit scrappy. For me to come out with a 5-4 lead, I was very happy. I thought I was really solid tonight,” said 46-year-old Williams.

I’m looking forward to facing John Higgins. I’ve lost count of how many times we have played. We’ve had so many good games here. Close ones, I’ve beat him, he’s beat me. The final I played him was probably the best match of my life, just because of the standard, the atmosphere and the drama at the end. This one isn’t going to be as good, but I’m going to enjoy it, win or lose.

I can guarantee you I won’t be frightened of the occasion. I will be going for some pots that if they go in, I will look a million Dollars. If they don’t, I will look like an absolute donkey. I’m happy with that. I don’t play the game to worry about what people say I should or shouldn’t go for. If I think it is the right shot, I will go for it.”

Mark Williams played well, even very well, Sam Craigie had no answer.

That’s it. That’s all.

It’s always entertaining to watch Willo on form and I enjoyed  watching the match despite the one-sided second session. Mark Williams plays the game differently from everyone else on the tour. His shot selection is unconventional, his attitude is unconventional and, at 46 he still has the soul of a cheeky teenager. Long may it last!