2022 World Championship – Day 6

We had only two sessions yesterday – the last first round matches concluded as the first last 16 matches started –  and here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session

Daddy Cool! Double Celebration For Saengkham

Noppon Saengkham became a father for the first time this week – but he’ll have to wait a while to see his new baby in Thailand as his 10-5 victory over Luca Brecel put him into the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

Saengkham’s wife was due to give birth in mid-May, but went into labour three weeks early on Wednesday morning. He decided to stay in Sheffield and compete in snooker’s biggest event and he now has a superb victory to celebrate as well as at least £30,000 in prize money. The 29-year-old will return to his home in Thailand to see his new daughter – named Believe – after the tournament.

For now, world number 38 Saengkham will be fully focussed on his second round match against John Higgins which starts on Sunday. There are good omens for Saengkham as he has won three of their last four meetings, including a 5-2 success at this season’s German Masters.

The former world under-21 champion, who came through two qualifying matches, is through to the last 16 at the Crucible for the second time, having beaten Shaun Murphy in 2020 before a narrow 13-12 defeat against Mark Selby.

The season ends in disappointment for Belgium’s Brecel, who enjoyed a golden spell in December when he reached the Cazoo UK Championship final and won the Scottish Open, but has since gone off the boil. The world number 11 has now appeared five times at the Crucible without winning a match.

Leading 6-3 overnight, Saengkham dominated the first three frames today with top breaks of 56 and 54 to extend his advantage to 9-3.  He led 52-0 in frame 13 when he ran out of position, and Brecel countered with 26. After a safety exchange, Brecel made a 51 clearance to take the session to an interval.

A tremendous run of 109 from Brecel raised his hopes of a fight back as he reduced the deficit to 9-5. And he had a clear scoring chance in frame 15 but missed the blue off its spot when he trailed 18-8. Saengkham’s run of 45 booked his second round place.

I’m very happy, my daughter was born yesterday at 7am UK time,” said Saengkham. “I haven’t seen her yet as she is still in the hospital. I speak with my wife every day, I’ll see my daughter on a video call tomorrow so everything will be ok.

Today I performed very well and tried to enjoy every moment I was at the table. I was surprised about the scoreline but overall, I am very happy. I’ve been to the Crucible three times now. The first time I came here I performed badly because I was very nervous. I could not control my mind and lost 10-4 to Neil Robertson.

The second time here I won my first ever match in the Crucible, but without out a crowd – so there was less pressure, and I could concentrate more. I had to learn how to play in a rowdy Crucible – learn how to keep control of myself and learn how to enjoy the experience. I felt less pressured when I was out there because of that.

I’ve beaten John Higgins before, but this will be a tough game – especially over a best-of-25. He’s a four-time World Champion, it will not be easy to play him here. I can only learn from him, and I’ll try my best to enjoy it out there.

Brecel said: “He played amazing – what a great player he is. I hope he goes really deep because he is so nice so polite, and I like Thai people in general so I hope he does well. I’ve had an unbelievable season, a dream season so hopefully I’ll have another good one next year. I’m in the top 16 and that was the aim before the season.

I don’t know why I haven’t done well at the Crucible. I felt a bit dizzy today in the first couple of frames – at one point I thought I was going to fall down to the floor. But yesterday I felt good and didn’t play well.”

On the other table, three-time World Champion Mark Williams compiled a string of big breaks as he established a 7-1 lead over his 20-year-old protégé Jackson Page.

Williams fired in four centuries during a 10-3 demolition of Michael White in round one while Page enjoyed a dream Crucible debut, beating Barry Hawkins 10-7

Williams described Page as being like a “fourth son” but showed no mercy today as he took control of the second round match. The 47-year-old Welshman limited his younger compatriot to just 143 points in the session, scoring 789 points himself at a pot success rate of 93%.

Breaks of 125, 74, 53, 50, 100, 75, 51 and 121 gave Williams a 7-0 lead. Page avoided the ignominy of a session whitewash by making a 43 clearance in the last frame. They return for a possible eight more frames on Friday at 10am, with the best-of-25 clash to conclude on Friday evening.

Congratulations to Noppon’s family and all the best to the little one. Noppon was solid indeed and Luca was poor. It’s as simple as that.

Mark Williams was scary … for seven frames he never looked like missing. It was mesmerising. If he produces more of the same today he may well win with a session to spare.

Evening session

Trump Ends Vafaei’s Historic Run

Hossein Vafaei’s moment in the limelight as the first Iranian player to compete at the Crucible came to an end as he was beaten 10-4 by Judd Trump in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Trump’s passage into the last 16 was comfortable and, despite struggling with his game for much of this season, he remains one of the favourites for the title. The 2019 Crucible champion faces Anthony McGill in the second round in a match which starts on Saturday.

James Maddison met players including Stephen Hendry, Mark Selby and John Parrott backstage

Supporting Trump in the arena was his friend James Maddison, the England and Leicester footballer. “He spoke to me a few weeks back – it was his dad’s birthday and he messaged me asking if he could get some tickets as a present for him,” Trump explained.

It’s nice for him to be here supporting me. This is such a big event. It stands out from the rest. It’s a different atmosphere here compared to the other tournaments. I’m more than happy if anyone want to come and support me here. Anything we can to do grow the game and get people from different backgrounds involved is only a positive thing for the sport.”

It has been a tremendous breakthrough season for Vafaei as he won his first ranking title at the Shoot Out in January, and won two qualifying matches to achieve another of his career goals of competing at snooker’s most famous venue. He briefly threatened to give Trump a genuine test when he came from 3-0 down to 3-3, but after that he took only one more frame. Still, the Prince of Persia can be proud of his achievements and the impact he is making on snooker in his homeland.

Leading 6-3 after the first session, world number four Trump won the opening frame tonight, then came from 43-0 down to take the second with a break of 58, going 8-3 in front. Vafaei pulled one back with an excellent 121, his highest break of the match.

Frames 13 and 14 both came down to the last red, and on both occasions Trump trapped his opponent in a snooker, then clinched the frame from the chance that followed. The 32-year-old from Bristol is through to the second round for the 11th time.

At 3-3 it was looking dangerous, but getting that 6-3 lead overnight essentially finished the match off,” Trump added. “I wasn’t at my brilliant best but there was a lot of good long potting and I gave myself a lot of chances which I took. It’s just about improving as the tournament goes on.

Trump’s form has been mercurial this season but he has won the Champion of Champions and Turkish Masters

It’s going to be a tough against Anthony. He always plays his best snooker at the World Championship. The games he’s had in this tournament, the atmospheres he’s experienced – he’s someone who struggles to get up for the other tournaments because of that. He feels at home in this event and has a lot of self-belief. He’s a good test to have at this stage.

World number 18 Vafaei said: “It was great, I enjoyed it. Judd played fantastic, he was the better player over the two days. I’m happy to make history for my country, that was a very good moment for me and snooker. It was a great journey and I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t matter that I’ve lost. Life has ups and downs. I will come back stronger, the same as always. This is just the beginning.

As a snooker player, we all dream to play at the home of snooker which is the Crucible. It was fantastic, a very big achievement for me and my country. The fans were amazing. I come from a country with very little snooker history. I came to the UK with one suitcase, one cue, no coach. Imagine how odd it was for me. It was tough but few people understand me because they have never been in my position. Hopefully, I can be a good model for the Iranian players and people.

On the other table, Stephen Maguire earned a 5-3 lead over China’s Zhao Xintong after the opening session of their second round clash.

Scotland’s six-time ranking event winner Maguire was forced to qualify this year, after sliding down to 40th in the world rankings. He defeated Zhao’s compatriot Zhou Yuelong in the final round to reach the Crucible and battled to a 10-8 win over Shaun Murphy in the last 32.

World number seven Zhao has enjoyed a breakthrough season to earn his place as a seed at this year’s event. He won a maiden Triple Crown and ranking title at the UK Championship in December and followed that up with a second victory at the German Masters in January. Zhao put on a superb display in round one to thrash Jamie Clarke 10-2.

This evening’s play began with a 24-minute frame, which Zhao eventually finished off in quickfire fashion, firing in a run of 72. Maguire immediately hit back with a century break of 102 to restore parity at 1-1. The Scot then took to the front by claiming the third, before Zhao made it 2-2 heading in for the mid-session after a run of 86.

When play resumed Zhao fired in a stunning break of 132 to take the lead at 3-2, but that would prove to be his last frame of the day. Breaks of 65, 107 and 80 helped Maguire to take three on the bounce and end 5-3 ahead.

I didn’t watch any of the Trump v Vafaei conclusion therefore I can’t really appreciate how much Judd Trump improved from his poor performance at the start of the match.

Zhao’s long potting was nowhere as reliable as it had been in his first round match and it clearly affected his confidence. Maguire duly took advantage. He looked frustrated at times but that’s almost always the case. Overall he played well.

Ronnie starts his second round match against Mark Allen today and there’s clearly some needle in there, certainly from Allen’s “side”. Last time they played, Allen won after Ronnie clearly lost patience and got distracted and frustrated, accusing his opponent to repeatedly stand in his eyeline. The match footage showed that he was right, but the referee sided with Allen nevertheless.  That said, Ronnie didn’t handle the situation well: he should have spoken to the referee first, not getting involved in an argument with his opponent.

Anyway, Allen seems determined to try and get under Ronnie’s skin right from the start:

Mark Allen wants to ruin the Ronnie O’Sullivan show at the World Snooker Championship

The Dafabet Masters - Day Five
Mark Allen is hoping to send some Ronnie O’Sullivan fans home unhappy from Sheffield (Picture: Getty Images)

A documentary is being made about Ronnie O’Sullivan during this year’s World Snooker Championship and Mark Allen would take pleasure out of ruining it by beating the Rocket in the last 16.

O’Sullivan has a crew filming him during his stint at the Crucible this year, following almost his every move as he bids for a seventh world title.

The film makers will certainly be hoping that is how their production finishes, but Allen will obviously be trying to stop that happening when he takes on the Rocket in the second round, starting on Friday.

He is motivated to ruin the Rocket party, as he believes many other players would be as well.

Ronnie has his documentary crew here and they may want the footage of him equalling the record and lifting the trophy,’ said Allen. ‘Of course I want to ruin that, and so will other players. It’s not the Ronnie O’Sullivan show here at the Crucible, even if that’s what his documentary might be. There are other players battling it out, it’s not all about him.

We appreciate how good he is and what he brings to the game, but there are players standing in his way before he can even think about the title. If he is still there by the semi-finals, he may be hard to shift. But playing him you know you have to play well, and that can free your mind up.

This will be the second time the two men have met at the Crucible after Allen beat O’Sullivan at the same stage back in 2009. The Pistol found himself 7-9 down in that match to bounce back and win 13-11, which will give him confidence 13 years later.

It’s what we play the game for – to play the best on the biggest stage,’ he said. ‘I’ll have to play very well, but you could say about others in the second round. I beat him in our only previous Crucible meeting so I’ll try and take those good memories into the match. If I play well and control myself, who knows?

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Three
Allen beat Scott Donaldson 10-6 in round one, while O’Sullivan downed Dave Gilbert 10-5 (Picture: Getty Images)

And who knows how he is feeling – a day in the life of Ronnie O’Sullivan, I’m not sure I’d want to be in it. Ronnie is Ronnie, he will always bring off-table stuff with him.

He is probably the only one in our game that can create the column inches he does. He looks in a good place so far, but we all know how quickly that can change with him.

So it is up to me to go out there Friday and Saturday, try to play well and maybe get under his skin a little bit and change that.

When they met in 2009, Ronnie was not in a good place at all, and it’s a long time ago. I’m not sure that really means anything. Their more recent match, and spat, however may still be fresh in both players’ memories.

Yesterday was also the 25th anniversary of Ronnie’s most famous 147… Ronnie revisited it with Alan McManus: