2022 World Championship – Day 4

Let’s start – as usual – with WST’s reports on yesterday

Morning session

Robertson Up And Running

Neil Robertson got his bid for a second Crucible crown underway with a 10-5 win over Ashley Hugill at the Betfred World Championship.

Tournament favourite Robertson has been in red hot form so far this season. The Australian secured a second Masters title in January, beating Barry Hawkins in the final at Alexandra Palace. He’s also landed ranking silverware at the English Open, Players Championship and Tour Championship.

However, Robertson has struggled at the World Championship in recent years. Since beating Graeme Dott in the 2010 title match, he has only reached the semi-finals on one occasion back in 2014.

The 40-year-old has admitted that previous trips to Sheffield have ended with matches where his opponent has dictated the style of the game. Robertson is aiming to impose his own brand of snooker on matches this time around. His next assignment is a last 16 tie with Jack Lisowski or Matthew Stevens.

York’s Hugill can depart in the knowledge he made a good account of himself on his Crucible debut. He came through three qualifying matches at the English Institute of Sport, beating Joe O’Connor in the final round to earn his place on the sport’s biggest stage.

Hugill made a dream start in yesterday’s first session, taking a 3-1 lead. However, a run of five consecutive frames from world number three Robertson put him in charge at 6-3.

When this morning’s concluding session got underway Robertson continued to press home his advantage, taking the first three frames to move to the verge of victory at 9-3.

The Melbourne cueman then looked set to get over the line before an unfortunate pack split left him without a red to go at on 42. Hugill stepped up with a break of 51 and took the frame to reduce his arrears. The 27-year-old then showed his class with a contribution of 82 to make it 9-5. However, Robertson wrapped up the win in the 15th, firing in a superb break of 109 to get over the line.

I thought my performance was pretty good. Part of you as a seed wants to draw a debutant, because they have less experience here. I stayed aggressive – made three centuries and some other big breaks as well. I played well to get to 6-3 at the end of the first session. This morning just felt like having a professional job to do,” said 23-time ranking event winner Robertson

He was just walking around the venue smiling to himself, he looked so comfortable, so I just thought is he going to come here and absolutely fly without a care in a world. That’s how he started out. He was deserving of his 3-1 lead. I saw the footage of his family watching his last qualifying match, that was lovely to see. I hope he enjoyed playing here, It was nice to see him playing with a smile on his face.

I just have to take it one match at a time. The matches are so long you can’t get ahead of yourself and start looking at potential draws or anything like that – you’ve just got to play. I’ve always done that in any tournament no matter what it is. I just play a frame at a time.

Hugill said: “It was incredible. I was trying not to look into the crowd too much at first, because I thought it might be a bit intimidating. In the second session, when it went to 9-3, I thought I would just take it in a bit and try to take in what I was doing. To make my debut is an incredible achievement and I know I can compete with the best in the world.

On the other table, 2021 Masters champion Yan Bingtao secured a slender 5-4 lead over Chris Wakelin.

Yan is making his fourth Crucible appearance and has exited the event at the last 16 stage in the previous two years, while Wakelin is still seeking his first match win at the Theatre of Dreams, having lost first round ties in 2018 and 2021.

It was Yan who took the opener in a high quality session, after crafting a run of 71. Wakelin responded emphatically, making a superb break of 130 to restore parity. The Nuneaton potter then stole the third on the black thanks to a clearance of 74. Yan hit back in turn and runs of 79, 69 and 56 gave him a 3-2 lead.

Wakelin claimed two on the bounce to move 4-3 in front, but contributions of 84 and 100 saw Yan wrest back control and end the session with a 5-4 advantage. They will return at 7pm this evening to play to a conclusion.

Ashley Hugill may not be that young in snooker’s terms but he has been a breath of fresh air at the Crucible this year. Trying his best,  with a smile … even when things weren’t going his way. He is probably the most improved player of this season, and it’s not just about his game, it’s about his whole approach to the sport. He looks much more comfortable, much more positive than ever in the past. Hats off Ashley!

Afternoon session

Bingham Too Strong For Lyu

Stuart Bingham made eight breaks over 50 on his way to a comprehensive 10-5 defeat of China’s Lyu Haotian at the Betfred World Championship.

The 2015 Crucible king thrives on the longer format at the Theatre of Dreams and in recent times he has reserved his best snooker for the Sheffield showpiece.

Bingham’s only semi-final appearance in a ranking event last season came at the World Championship, where he was narrowly beaten 17-15 by Mark Selby. The Basildon cueman has only made one semi-final this term, at the World Grand Prix, but he appears to once again be firing on all cylinders for the sport’s biggest event.

China’s 24-year-old Lyu came through three matches at qualifying to earn what was a fourth Crucible appearance. His best showing in the event thus far saw him beat Marco Fu to make the second round back in 2018.

Bingham made the highest break of the final stages so far during the first session, a run of 140, on his way to opening up a 6-3 advantage and he seized the initiative when play got underway this afternoon. The 45-year-old took the opening two frames to establish a commanding 8-3 lead. However, Lyu responded with a break of 86 to take the 12th, before stealing the 13th on the black to make it 8-5.

A run of 68 then helped Bingham to close within a frame of the win and he didn’t flinch at the finish line, wrapping up a 10-5 victory. Next up is a last 16 clash with either Kyren Wilson or Ding Junhui.

It was a tough game with Lyu Haotian. I knew I had to be on my guard. I played some good snooker and I’m pleased to be through to round two,” said six-time ranking event winner Bingham.

My strength is my break building. It was good to get my timing right. I’ve been up here for a few days and I’ve been to both Victoria and Ding’s academies. Something has clicked on the practice table, so it was nice to show not just my break building but my safety game.

It was nice to come here and walk out in front of a packed crowd. I had the vibes of the semi-finals last year. I have good memories coming back here. Not everyone can settle down, but if you can and play some good snooker then this is the best place to be. I had a smile on my face, enjoyed it and showed what I can do.

On the other table, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh put on a superb display to secure a 5-4 lead over four-time World Champion John Higgins.

Thailand’s former Shoot Out champion Un-Nooh found himself in the unexpected position of a tour survival battle at the qualifying event, but he came through to secure his professional status and seal a fourth Crucible appearance.

Higgins is still searching for his first ranking silverware of the season. However, he has shown great consistency to make five major finals this season. The Scot came closest to silverware at the Tour Championship earlier this month, where he surrendered a 9-4 advantage in the final to lose 10-9 to Neil Robertson.

Un-Nooh had led 4-2 this afternoon, but back-to-back breaks of 106 and 98 saw Higgins draw himself level at 4-4. The final frame of the day went the way of Un-Nooh, who fired in a run of 114 to end 5-4 ahead. They will play their concluding session tomorrow morning at 10am.

I didn’t watch this match, except in patches, but clearly Stuart lived up to the “heavy scorer” profile Ronnie had been speaking about in the ES studio. Lyu Haotian is only 24. It’s hard to believe because he has been on our screens since 2012 … 10 years! He has been thrown into the game far too young, lived through terrible experiences, a lost kid in a foreign country. I had seen him play in Shanghai an Yixing in 2012. He was sensational, but he was also “over-hyped”, with huge expectations piled over him.  Evey time I watch him play I feel sad, remembering the bright kid he was then. Has he been permanently damaged? Could a “Chines Steve Peters” help him?

Evening session

Tiger On The Crucible Prowl

Yan has won his last three matches against Selby

Yan Bingtao pulled away from 5-5 to beat Chris Wakelin 10-6 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship, and having made two centuries and nine more breaks over 50, he looks sure to pose a serious challenge to Mark Selby in the last 16.

China’s Yan, nicknamed the Tiger, is through to the second round for the third consecutive year and has the chance to reach his first Crucible quarter-final, if he can sink his teeth into defending champion Selby. That match gets underway on Friday afternoon.

Former Masters champion Yan has not added to his trophy collection this season – his best run came at the German Masters where he reached the final before being annihilated 9-0 by Zhao Xintong. With an excellent all-round game and a steady temperament, 22-year-old Yan looks sure to have a bright future ahead of him.

Breaks of 71, 68, 79, 69, 56, 62, 84 and 100 helped give Yan a 5-4 lead in the first session this morning. Wakelin won the first frame of the evening with a run of 77 to square the match. The Englishman had a chance to steal frame 11 from 56-0 down but missed a difficult pot on the third last red along a side cushion on 28, and soon found himself behind again at 6-5.

Yan’s excellent break of 106 doubled his lead and he added a scrappy 13th frame to make it 8-5 at the interval. Wakelin might have pulled one back but missed the last red to a top corner when trailing 53-46 in frame 14, and could only watch as Yan converted cracking pots on the red, brown and yellow as he extended his advantage.

Yan was just three balls from victory in the 15th when he missed a mid-range pot on the third last red, and Wakelin took advantage to narrow the gap to 9-6. World number 16 Yan made 48 in the next before running out of position, but soon got another chance and added the points he needed.

I felt very confident, I played very well this morning,” said Yan. “This year the Championship feels different, compared to the last two years. I’m just trying to relax ahead of my matches so I feel more confident. But I always feel pressure. Last night I only slept two hours so I am feeling very tired now.

It will be a great match against Mark Selby. Many people say we are similar players. I cannot wait to play him in a best-of-25 match. I will just try to enjoy it. Mark has very good control over the table. I always try to be as good as he is in safety.

I am very lucky because I didn’t go to the Gibraltar Open, I could have been knocked out of the top 16 then I would have had to qualify.

Wakelin said: “I’m really delighted with how I’ve performed here today. If I’d been facing anyone else in the draw I’d probably have come out a comfortable winner. But hats off to Yan, he just played absolutely phenomenal snooker today. He did not give me an inch,

It’s been a testing season, I’ve made a lot of changes my lifestyle such as losing weight. I’ve smashed that, I’ve lost four stone. I don’t feel like today was a loss. I feel like I did myself justice and I was really pleased with how I played.”

Meanwhile, Jack Lisowski established a 6-3 overnight lead against Matthew Stevens in a match which finishes on Wednesday afternoon.

After sharing the first four frames, Lisowski pulled away to take four in a row, knocking in breaks of 106, 100, 73 and 52. Two-time finalist Stevens won the final frame of the session with a break of 108 but still needs seven of the last ten. Victory for Lisowski would put him into the second round for the third time and set up a meeting with Neil Robertson.

I started the evening watching Lisowksi and Stevens … and gave up promptly out of sheer frustration. The start of the match was a bit of a miss fest. They must have improved later going by the above report.

Yan was rock solid in the evening. Chris played well, just not well enough to beat yan in that mood. It was a good match. Chris has every reason to be proud of himself, not just because of what he did at the table, but off the table as well. He mentioned “losing weight” in his post-match but he did much more than that, he helped others in the process as well, massively. If you wonder why some call him the”Dancing Potter” here is the explanation.  And they did fantastically well!

Judd Trump will start today and he’s been speaking to Phil Haigh.

Judd Trump frustrated, annoyed but defiant: ‘I’ll always think I’m the best player in the world’

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Ten
Judd Trump is out to put his frustrations behind him at the World Championship (Picture: Getty Images)

Judd Trump is cutting a frustrated figure as he heads into the 2022 World Snooker Championship, irked by both what he sees as a lack of progress in the sport and with his own form this season. But the inner confidence never wanes, as he says: ‘If both players play their best then I am the best.’

A great season by almost any other player’s standards, Trump has won the Turkish Masters and Champion of Champions, but it has just not been as good as his stellar last two campaigns, so has felt underwhelming for the Ace.

The sense of irritation within the 2019 world champ is clear as even just asking him how he’s feeling on arrival at the Crucible sees frustrations pour out.

This tournament is always special, the Masters is always special but some of the other tournaments are a bit half-hearted now the China ones have been gone for a couple of years,’ Trump told Metro.co.uk.

‘I think a lot of the tournaments are quite poor, a bit rushed. This is one that, when you get started, you’re excited to be here. It’s the rest of the season in between, I feel like the game has gone a little bit downhill over the past couple of years.

‘There’s been no real progress in the stature, the prize money anything like that. I feel like someone who is trying to promote the game as best as possible, be adventurous, do different things and get your name out there, I feel that people don’t seem to have the same kind of views as me.’

Trump has spoken out in the past about being keen to modernise the game, attract younger audiences and grow snooker in new areas.

The pandemic has obviously made this very difficult over the last two years, with snooker doing well to keep a full calendar of events, never mind make significant expansions.

However, Trump says he is not the only one feeling frustrated and now intends to just concentrate on playing rather than speak out on changes he wants to see brought in.

I think all the top players are frustrated,’ he said. ‘I think Ronnie [O’Sullivan] especially has tried to help in the past but gave up a long time ago. I think I’ll probably have to go down that line at some point.

‘It is important to me, but I think it’s best just to play snooker. Play this event, get it out the way, hopefully I can do well, there’s no reason why I can’t do well.

I’ve put the work in and I’ll be trying my best. It’s nice to have friends and family back supporting. For me, when I come here I like to have a big base around me so I feel at home. This is the first year in three that I’ve been able to do that.

Judd Trump
Judd Trump beat Matt Selt to lift the giant Turkish Masters trophy (Picture: Eurosport)

On his own chances of a second world title this year, Trump is far from clear, having left the Tour Championship last month after an early exit and sounding like he was woefully out of love with snooker.

He told The Sportsman: ‘My main aim in snooker always is to enjoy it, and at the moment I am not.

So whether I have to start missing more events or even do what Ronnie did and miss a season out, I don’t know.

After a short break between the Tour Championship and Crucible preparation Trump is ready for the challenge in Sheffield, but cannot be certain of how his form is.

I don’t really know where my game is,’ he said. ‘I had a few days off and then started practicing again, so not really [a break], I think I’ll just save it until the end of the season.

See how this tournament goes, the tournament’s so long, you can be playing bad, scrape through and you’ve got another 15 days of the tournament left. It’s such an adventure this event, but it’s one that you can quite easily find form in, because you’ve got so long to find it.

Judd Trump
Trump is hoping to replicate the greatest moment of his career which came to pass three years ago (Picture: Getty Images)

I don’t really know what to expect this time. I’ve prepared as well as I have done in the last couple of years, but I could go out there and miss everything, or fly from the start. It probably makes it easier for me knowing that I’m not favourite, it’s a 50-50 first round game, hopefully I find a bit of confidence and go further.

Trump sounds like he is talking down his chances a bit and taking the pressure off his shoulders, but he insists there is no problem with his confidence, it’s just that he must keep proving his quality to fans.

I’ll always think I’m the best player in the world, I know my game and I know other people have different opinions, but on my day I’ve proved that if both players play their best then I am the best,’ he said.

So I still know that deep down, but you’ve got to keep proving it. Proving it at every event otherwise people are quick to forget what’s happened.

It can be annoying because it feels like all your hard work gets forgotten straight after if you don’t keep doing it, but it’s the same in every sport, someone else comes along and you get forgotten about. If I want to be considered the best, I’m sure winning this title will go a long way towards that.

If he is to lift the World Championship trophy for a second time he will have to beat Hossein Vafaei in the first round, with the challenge of the Iranian debutant something he is looking forward to.

He’s one of the players…it’s a tough draw but his style of play suits me as well,’ said Judd. ‘It’s going to be an open game, I didn’t want someone slower, or who’s not going to be attacking.

This is going to be a game where they’ll either go in or not. You’re not worried about getting pulled off, it’ll be over as quick as possible. He’s someone I enjoy watching, he hits the ball really good and looks like he’s got a lot of confidence in himself, hopefully that can rub off on me as well.

Vafaei ruffled some feathers before the tournament when he said Ronnie O’Sullivan was not good for snooker, hadn’t done enough to grow the game and should retire.

Trump says the Prince of Persia has made similar comments in the past, and while he backs any player speaking their mind, he thinks Vafaei’s words were far too harsh on the Rocket.

He’s said that to me before when we was flying to another tournament, so it didn’t surprise me when it come out,’ Trump said.

Evergrande 2019 World Snooker China Championship - Day 6
Hossein Vafaei sparked some controversy with his comments on Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Getty Images)

As someone that’s sort of up and coming, he might not realise that other people have tried to get somewhere and it gets thrown back in your face.

He’s someone that obviously wants to expand the game, but it’s not as easy as that. Plenty of people have tried, including myself, including Ronnie, I know at times he’s gone out of his way to promote the game but it hasn’t been reciprocated. Nowadays he does his own thing, turns up, plays his tournaments and that’s the best way to be.

You’ve got to get it off your chest, no point holding it in or caring what people think. If that’s on his mind and he gets it out, he has to be his own person. People can like him or not, either way.

Trump and Vafaei will be looking to take out their frustrations on each other on the Crucible baize on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday evening in the first round at the Crucible for a place in the last 16.

Now waiting for Csilla big smile…



2022 World Championship – Day 3

Those are the WST reports on each of the three sessions played yesterday and some thoughs about what I saw …

Morning session:

Massive Fluke Helps McGill Beat Highfield

Anthony McGill enjoyed a huge fluke at a crucial moment which helped him wrap up a 10-7 victory over Liam Highfield in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Former Crucible semi-finalist McGill was well short of his best during a hard-fought battle against Highfield, but did enough to book a second round meeting with Judd Trump or Hossein Vafaei.

Leading 9-7 and by 39 points to 32 in frame 17, McGill attempted a long red and missed his target, but luck went his way as the balls collided and another red dropped into a top corner. That proved decisive as he cleared with 51 for victory.

I needed that because if it went to 9-8, Liam would have been confident as he was definitely the better player today, no doubt,” admitted Glasgow’s McGill. “I struggled today, the same as yesterday. There were a hell of a lot of mistakes and missed pots. My positional play was so bad. My safety was good and that’s what got my through. That has always been the best part of my game.

World number 13 McGill is through to the last 16 for the sixth time since 2015. He made it to the last four in 2020, losing narrowly 17-16 to Kyren Wilson, and relishes every opportunity to compete in Sheffield.

Highfield took the opening frame today to reduce his deficit to 6-4 and he led 63-0 with four reds remaining in frame 11 when he ran out of position. He then hit the blue when escaping from a snooker, and McGill cleared superbly with 59 to restore his three-frame cushion.

McGill trailed 44-54 in the 12th when he made a safety error on the penultimate red, handing Highfield the chance to close the gap, and the Englishman took the next as well with a run of 73 to make it 7-6 at the interval.

A break of 48 helped McGill take frame 14, and in the 15th he laid a tough snooker on the last red, earning the opportunity to clear for 9-6. Highfield dominated the next to raise his chances of a fight-back, but his hopes ended with McGill’s fluke in the 17th.

McGill said: “In the first two frames yesterday I was really nervous which is strange because I had no nerves in the build up, then when I went out there it hit me. After that I really enjoyed it. What’s happening in Ukraine puts it into perspective – it’s only a game of snooker. It’s great to win, but if the worst thing that happens is losing a match, things are ok. I am trying my absolute best, but I used to get really wound up when I lost and it would affect me for days and weeks.

You can’t beat the Crucible. Every time I am out there I think about all the moments that have happened here, with Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and all the others.”

Two-time ranking event winner McGill now heads to Glasgow to practise with Stephen Maguire and added: “We’ve got each other to have a few good games and get into shape. The more you play, the more everything comes together.”

Highfield said: “I can’t complain with one fluke in 17 frames, Anthony got to ten frames first. I didn’t really do that much wrong, maybe just didn’t quite score heavy enough. I tried my best throughout and did all the right things. Hopefully I can come back many more times and get some wins.

On the other table, Mark Allen edged to a 5-4 lead against Scott Donaldson in a high quality opening session.

Antrim’s Allen enjoyed one of the highlights of his career earlier this season, defeating John Higgins 9-8 in the final of the Northern Ireland Open. Allen will be hoping to recreate that form over the next two weeks, having struggled in Sheffield in recent years. The six-time ranking event winner has only been beyond the second round once in his previous ten attempts.

Donaldson came through three qualifying matches to earn his place at the Theatre of Dreams, thrashing Allan Taylor 10-1 in the final round. This is his second Crucible appearance, having lost 10-4 to Kyren Wilson in 2019.

World number 15 Allen got up and running with a break of 80 to take the opener. Perth cueman Donaldson quickly warmed to the task and contributions of 50 and 78 saw him take a 2-1 advantage. Donaldson led 60-0 in the fourth, but Allen countered with a clearance of 61 to take the frame by a single point and restore parity at 2-2.

The following two frames were shared, before a century run of 107 helped Allen to regain the lead at 4-3. Donaldson pulled level again, but Allen fired in a break of 109 to end the session 5-4 in front.

Scott Donaldson really stayed with Mark Allen in this first session. Neither of them played outstanding. It was a bit of a mixed bag: some really good breaks, and some unexpected mistakes, not just misses but also weak shot choices. I guess it’s easy to write this from the comfort of the spectator’s seat. They are under pressure out there and those things are bound to happen.

Afternoon session 1

Vintage Williams Fires Four Tons

Mark Williams looked in the mood to add to his tally of three Crucible crowns as he made four centuries in a 10-3 victory over Michael White in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Williams is 47 years old and making his 24th appearance in the televised stages in Sheffield, but has rarely played better in the opening round as he eased into the last 16. Having seen off one fellow Welshman, he now faces another in practice partner Jackson Page, a player he describes as “like a fourth son.”

Just like fellow Class of 92 members John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan, Williams remains a regular face at the business end of the biggest tournaments, three decades after turning professional. He won the British Open at the start of this season, and reached the final of the Shoot Out as well as the semi-finals of the Cazoo Masters.

On the evidence of his performance against White, the left-hander is playing well enough to add the the world titles he landed in 2000, 2003 and 2018.

His match against Page, which starts on Thursday afternoon, will be among the most intriguing of the second round. Williams has tipped his young apprentice for success for several years and will now see at close hand how Page will handle the biggest occasion of his career so far.

Williams is into the second round for the 20th time

It’s going to be tough because Jackson’s not just a friend, he’s like my fourth son,” said world number eight Williams. “He comes to my house, we play cards, have pizzas with my kids, play badminton and golf – you name it, we do it together. Unless he blanks me for the next two days then I assume we’ll be having something to eat together tonight.

I’m going to try my best against him but if I am going to lose to anybody then it would be him. If I lose I will have no problem at all. If it means him getting into the top 64 by beating me then I am half on his side. I know he’s got the talent, I’ve been telling you all for years. He played so well last night (beating Barry Hawkins) and proved me right.

Williams took a 7-2 lead in the first session against White, making breaks of 121, 90, 71, 116 and 138. He won the first two frames today with a top run of 50 before White pulled one back with an 83. But White – only the second amateur to play at the Crucible – couldn’t even force an interval in the second session as Williams wrapped up the contest in frame 13 with a 121.

Williams added: “I started off like a train, put Michael under pressure and didn’t really ease up. My safety was good. To win 10-3 in the first round is unusual these days, especially against someone as good as Michael. The atmosphere here is like nothing else.

My form is as good as it can be at my age. In any sport you start declining when you get to my age. My eyes are deteriorating a little bit, but I am dangerous, whoever I play.

I’ve played well most of the season. A few rubs here and there have stopped me winning a couple of tournaments – with a bit more luck I could have won the Masters or the Tour Championship.

Afternoon session – 2

Robertson Rallies To Lead Hugill

Tournament favourite Neil Robertson recovered from an early deficit to lead Ashley Hugill 6-3 after the opening session of their first round encounter at the Betfred World Championship.

Australia’s Robertson has arrived in Sheffield off the back of what he describes as his best ever season. The world number three has racked up ranking event wins at the English Open, Players Championship and Tour Championship, as well as a second Masters title at Alexandra Palace in January.

Hugill battled through three qualifying rounds at the English Institute of Sport to earn a Crucible debut. He defeated Joe O’Connor 10-7 in the final round to earn a first trip to the Theatre of Dreams.

The Thunder from Down Under struck first this afternoon, with a total clearance of 127. However, Hugill was undeterred by the occasion and summoned a surprise three-frame blitz to take control of the tie. Breaks of 85 and 77 helped him to three on the bounce and a 3-1 lead at the interval.

When play resumed, Melbourne’s Robertson turned up the heat to regain the initiative. Breaks of 72, 97, 109 and 132 helped him to claim five on the bounce to turn the tie on its head and end 6-3 in front. The pair will return tomorrow at 10am to play to a conclusion.

Ashley Hugill played really well before the MSI and Neil Robertson looked extremely unneasy in his chair. The match on the other table finished whilst they were playing the fourth frame and that meant that the “curtain” would go up and that they woud have the whole place for themselves after the MSI. The commentators predicted that this would change the whole feel of the match and would favour Neil. Neil has often complained about the “cramped” nature of the arena and not being able to walk into his shots as he uses to do. When the full arena is “open” the cameramen have a bit more space to work “around” the table and that was going to help Neil. But the commentators also stressed that the atmosphere is more intimidating when the curtain is up and that it could affect Ashley more because he never experienced this before. Having been there myself taking pictures, I can confirm that this is indeed the case, it does feel very different. Whether that was a main factor or not, only the players can tell, but, as a matter of fact, the match turned completely when they resumed.

Evening session

Allen Excited By O’Sullivan Clash

Allen won the Northern Ireland Open earlier this season

Mark Allen came through a tough opening test against Scott Donaldson at the Betfred World Championship by a 10-6 scoreline, and will try to revive memories of his only previous Crucible meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan when the pair go head to head in the second round.

World number 15 Allen looked in danger when Donaldson came from 7-4 down to 7-6, but he finished strongly to take the last three frames and set up a best-of-25 clash with O’Sullivan which starts on Friday morning.

Allen’s first career meeting with O’Sullivan came in Sheffield in 2009 and he won 13-11 en route to the semi-finals. He has a fair record against the Rocket, winning four of their ten matches, and hopes another will go his way this time.

It’s what we play the game for. You want to play your best game on the biggest stage,” said 36-year-old Allen, who has reached the Crucible quarter-finals just once in the past decade. “The only time I played Ronnie in Sheffield, I beat him. So I have to try and keep those memories fresh. The task is tough, but Ronnie has been coming here for 30 years, and he’s won six titles. That means he’s lost 24.

I’ll go out there, hopefully play well, and try to keep control of myself. He looks in a good place so far, but we all know it can turn very quickly with Ronnie so it’s up to me to go out there on Friday and Saturday and play the best I can and get under his skin. He’s a genius, but he is beatable.

Leading 5-4 coming into tonight’s concluding session, Allen made a break of 57 in taking the opening frame to double his lead. In frame 11, Donaldson led 47-35 and had the balls at his mercy when he missed the brown to a top corner. Allen punished him by clearing to extend his advantage to 7-4.

The Northern Irishman might have increased his lead, but missed the penultimate red when he led by 35 points in frame 12. It came down to a safety exchange on the pink, resolved when Donaldson converted an excellent long pot to a top corner and added the black. The Scot also dominated the 13th to close to 7-6 at the interval.

A run of 52 helped Allen take frame 14. The next came down to a battle on the last red, and Allen trapped his opponent in a tough snooker, which created the opportunity to put him 9-6 in front. And the Pistol sealed the result in the 16th with runs of 34 and 38.

That match had a bit of everything today,” added Allen, winner of six ranking titles. “I don’t think it’s the best match we’ve ever seen but by far from the worst either. There was some real good stuff in there.

I’ve been feeling unwell for the last ten days or so. I was convinced I had Covid, but I’ve been testing negative every day. Today hit me more out there, being under the lights and the heat. I have a few days now to rest and hopefully I’ll be firing on Friday.

Donaldson said: “I felt really comfortable out there, I feel like I’m enjoying my snooker again. I love playing in the Crucible, I think everyone loves playing here. It’s a brilliant buzz to be out there, even if you don’t play very well. It’s such a great privilege to play here.

My game is going the right way again. I had a tough time earlier in the season but I’m happy now where I am both personally and on the table. I know my flaws, I know my strengths – I’ll just work on those and go out there and try my best. I think Mark can win it. If he can find his A-game, then he can go all the way.

On the other table, 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham opened up a 6-3 lead over Lyu Haotian.

Basildon’s Bingham reached the semi-finals here last year, beating Ding Junhui, Jamie Jones and Anthony McGill before losing 17-15 to Mark Selby.

Lyu is making his third Crucible appearance, he beat Marco Fu to make the last 16 back in 2018 and succumbed to an opening round loss against Allen in 2021. Lyu defeated Dominic Dale 10-4 in the final round of qualifying to secure his place at the Sheffield showpiece this year.

China’s Lyu edged a nervy opening frame on the black, before Bingham claimed the second to restore parity. The former Masters winner then took the lead at 2-1 with a break of 52. Lyu, age 24, showed his class with a century break of 103 to make it 2-2 at the interval.

Bingham returned in clinical mood and produced a run of frame winning breaks to pull clear. Contributions of 54, 85, 86 and a stunning 140 saw him rack up four in a row to move into a 6-2 lead.

Bingham looked in position to take the last, but missed a red on 68. Lyu pounced and cleared to the black with 69 to steal by a single point and stay in touch at 6-3. They return on Tuesday at 2:30pm for the final session.

About the Allen v Donaldson, the thing is: Allen improved, Donaldson didn’t and even, if anything, his shot selection became a bit more negative. That made the difference. Allen is not afraid of anyone and he will be a though opponent for Ronnie. I do think however that he will need to win more frames in one visit to beat him. He’s very capable of doing that of course and he will be up for it.

Ronnie was in the Eurosport studio for most of the day. Asked about Bingham’s strengths he immediately answered: “He scores very heavily”. He does indeed: he had six breaks over 50 yesterday evening and was first in in most frames. That’s a deadly combination.

With Ronnie in the studio a few sujects were discussed.

One of the was of course wheter the World Championship should stay at the Crucible:

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson explain why World Snooker Championship could leave the Crucible

Players Champs 1000 centuries gettyimages-1135016765
Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan could see the World Snooker Championship moving (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has hailed the atmosphere at the Crucible, but says the World Snooker Championship could benefit the sport by moving to China if the country made an offer that could not be refused.

The Rocket won his first round match at the Crucible on Saturday, beating Dave Gilbert 10-5, and enjoyed his return to the famous Sheffield venue.

Brilliant, it’s such a good venue and such a good atmosphere,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport of his first round win.

We’re not used to playing in venues like this. Years ago there used to be four or five venues that created this kind of atmosphere.

There isn’t a venue like this anymore, we just play in an atmosphere like this once a year. It’s harder, you get a bit excited and you feel like you want to stay in the tournament a little longer because it’s such a special tournament.

However, there has been some discussion on whether the World Championship could move from the Crucible at some point in the future and O’Sullivan could see it happening, but only under very specific circumstances.

I think the only time you’d move the Crucible is if China said they’d put up a £3m first prize and start competing with the likes of golf and tennis. Which they can do, they’ve got the potential to do it,’ said the Rocket.

‘I think it would be a good one to put it out there to China and go: “Would you be prepared to do four majors. £3m a winner, turn it into a golf or tennis and raise the bar?

It can’t be done in this country or Europe, but it can be done in China.

I just think, if you are going to make that move, it has to be an offer like that on the table that you just cannot refuse. It would elevate the game onto another stratosphere. It can only be done in China.

It would be a sad day for many snooker fans if the World Championship left the Crucible (Picture: Getty Images )

Neil Robertson has spoken out against the Crucible in the past, frustrated about the tight nature of the venue and preferring the atmosphere at the larger Alexandra Palace, the home of the Masters.

The Australian feels the sport’s biggest tournament should be at a bigger venue than the Crucible, which has a capacity of around 1,000, although he would like it to stay in Sheffield – presumably at the Sheffield Arena.

‘If you look at the Masters this year, that was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in, and I think nearly all the players said that, and I believe the atmosphere there is everything that the World Championship isn’t,’ Robertson told Eurosport.

I think we have to be very careful sticking to tradition. There are a lot of sports that have suffered because of that, being too stubborn to move on. I think the Crucible has had a few tables since I’ve been there.

‘The one-table setup is really special but the two-table setup definitely has a lot of room for improvement.

I think it could be possible [to move the tournament] one day, still in Sheffield of course, because that’s the home of snooker. You could get a venue of 4,000-5,000 [fans]. That would be amazing.’

So, basically, whilst Ronnie loves the Crucible and praised the atmosphere it generates, he also believe that over time the World Championship could be moved, and the move would be driven by commercial reasons mainly. He might well be right, especially if the young generation of Chinese players thrive.

Neil Robertson never liked the venue, and he is right when he says it’s cramped and doesn’t offer much room for hospitality but he would like to see the World Championship stay in Sheffield.  Neil has been criticized for his opinion, but, already in 2012, Mark Williams had been very blunt about his views on the venue adequacy and hinted at a move to China:

Williams said: “World Championships just around the corner. Shame its played in the crucible, sh*t hole [sic], hopefully it will be in China soon. Rubbish, rather play in Pontins.”

When contacted, Williams confirmed he made the remarks, saying: “I don’t like the venue, and have never liked playing there. It is everything about it, from the players’ lounge upwards. I think it is inevitable it will end up in China, they have five events already and we only have three [in the UK].

Williams also used Twitter to say: “Over-hyped is correct. It’s only my opinion about the Crucible so [World Snooker] don’t send me any letters or fines.

In response Barry Hearn, the World Snooker chairman, issued a statement that stressed he would be happy to keep snooker’s biggest tournament at the Crucible permanently. The World Championship has been staged at the venue since 1977 and the current contract runs until 2015.

Hearn said: “We’ve had fantastic support from Sheffield City Council, Welcome to Yorkshire and the BBC, and as long as that continues I’d be happy to keep the event at the Crucible until the day I die. It’s an outstanding venue and the refurbishment which recently took place has greatly improved the facilities. There is so much history associated with the Crucible, it is synonymous with snooker and the World Championship.

Mark was fined for those remarks at the time. He was also booed by the press when entering the press room after his first round win … but that was done in jester. The press clearly had some sympathy for Willo. Anyone who is honest will know that the venue has its limitations. Every single session, the commentators come up with the line about the “perfect view from every seat.” Even that is untrue, unless you are tall and not sat behind someone who insists to keep their hat on whilst watching the snooker, or, of course, sat on the front row. And, even there, you might need to look at the TV screens to properly understand the situation on the table.

2022 World Championship – Day 2

Four matches concluded on the second day of the Championship, producing four winners: Zhao Xintong, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jackson Page and Stephen Maguire.

Here are WST reports about the three sessions played yesterday:

Moning session:

‘Phenomenal’ Zhao Scores First Crucible Win

Jamie Clarke claimed that Zhao Xintong will “definitely win the title within five years” after being blown away 10-2 by the Cyclone in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Zhao’s only previous Crucible appearance came in 2019 when he lost 10-7 to Mark Selby, but he has improved dramatically since then and now has a first win in Sheffield under his belt. The 25-year old Chinese ace made his major breakthrough in December when he won his maiden ranking title at the Cazoo UK Championship, and he soon doubled his tally at the German Masters in January.

With flair and fluency in abundance, world number seven Zhao proved against Clarke he is capable of reeling off frames in quick succession, a crucial asset on snooker’s biggest stage. His next opponent will be Stephen Maguire or Shaun Murphy in a last-16 clash which starts on Thursday evening.

Zhao’s natural talent has been widely praised by the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Mark Williams, and a heavily beaten Clarke was quick to join his list of admirers.

He’s just phenomenal, a sensation in our sport,” said the Welshman. “He’s a real contender for the title this year. I’ll put my neck on the line and say that I fancy him to win the world title in the next five years if he doesn’t win it this year. He’s unbelievable to watch. He floats around the table and acts like the game is easy. When you get to the table after he misses it feels difficult because he’s made it look so easy, it makes you only see problems.

In yesterday’s opening session, Zhao scored breaks of 98, 57, 73, 109, 78 and 103 in building a 7-2 lead. Just 25 minutes into today’s second session, he had extended that advantage to 9-2 with runs of 88 and 82. Frame 12 came down to the colours and Clarke got the snooker he needed on the green, but then missed the green and handed Zhao the chance to complete the scoreline.

This is my first win at the Crucible so I’m very happy,” said Zhao, who lives in Sheffield. “I need more confidence for the next match, so this win is very important to me.

In the second session I didn’t want to lose frames because Jamie is a great player, so I had to concentrate on my shots. Now I feel better. It is not easy, it’s very difficult. Even when I was 9-2 up I still felt pressure and I needed to finish the match quickly so that the pressure didn’t build.

Hopefully I can win, I am confident but I don’t know what will happen in the future so I will try my best.

Clarke reached the second round on the Crucible debut in 2020

Clarke added: “I didn’t have any problem with how I played. I played well through the qualifiers, with the pressure of potentially dropping off the tour in the first round. I had a good win against Graeme Dott to qualify which I was really pleased with. I’m back in the top 64 so I don’t have to go to Q School so I’m extremely proud of myself.

After playing three really tough matches to get here – which feels like a tournament in itself – If you’re going to win this tournament, as I aspire to one day, I think getting seeded is crucial because you’re up here for a very long time.”

On the other table, world number 13 Anthony McGill made a strong start to his 2022 Crucible campaign, moving 6-3 up on Liam Highfield.

McGill has a reputation for producing his best snooker at the World Championship. The Glaswegian beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 13-12 last year and made the semis in 2020, when he narrowly lost out 17-16 against Kyren Wilson in an epic clash.

Englishman Highfield is making his third Crucible appearance, but is still seeking his first match win at the Theatre of Dreams. He lost opening round matches in 2018 and 2021 to Mark Allen and Judd Trump respectively.

Highfield took a tightly contested opener this morning on the colours, before a break of 56 helped McGill to restore parity at 1-1. He pressed on from that point, adding a second frame and then crafting a run of 70 to make it 3-1 at the mid-session.

When play resumed, McGill pulled further clear with a break of 71 to take the fifth. However, Highfield showed his resolve by compiling runs of 59 and 55 to take two of the next three and reduce his arrears to 5-3.

Despite Highfield’s efforts, it was McGill who secured the last of the session to end with a three-frame cushion. They will return to play to a conclusion tomorrow at 10am.

Zhao was indeed fantastic to watch. During the second session, the commentators praised his cue ball control and break building ability.

Speaking to Phil Haigh on the opening day, Ronnie had explained how he is trying to help Zhao to reach his phenomenal potential:

Ronnie O’Sullivan reckons Zhao Xintong could be the greatest player of all time and he is helping him do just that by imparting some of his break-building mastery on the young star.

The Rocket has long been a fan of the Cyclone and is looking to help him develop his immense talent, which has seen him win the UK Championship and German Masters this season.

Zhao is yet to develop much consistency, with the two titles coming in an otherwise quiet campaign for the 25-year-old – not winning more than two matches in any other event.

O’Sullivan has been to Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield, where Zhao is based, to help sharpen his skills, with the Chinese star saying it is to improve the way he thinks about the game.

We talk like friends, just about thinking about snooker, he teaches me a lot and he’s a good man. He’s the best player, a legend,’ Zhao told Metro.co.uk.

It’s how to think. I think this is very important. The top players are all so great, so thinking is important.

O’Sullivan went into further detail about how he is helping Zhao think on the table and it is largely about the art of break-building.

The Rocket is the game’s greatest break-builder, thanks to his immense potting ability but more to his control of the white ball.

This is what he is trying to improve in Zhao, although O’Sullivan says it has been an interesting process in trying to teach the Cyclone, because much of it comes to him without thinking, so describing it to someone else is a new challenge.

With Zhao, it’s more about, why have you ended up there?’ O’Sullivan explained. ‘You’re so good, but you’ve ended up there, so figure out why you’ve ended up there.

So I showed him, and he went, “yeah”. We get on the practice table and watch him do something and I’m thinking, “Why can’t you get there? Why are you struggling with that?

So I’d tell him to do this or do that and he’d get it, and actually it taught me a lot. I didn’t realise until I was watching him, because I know how to get there but it’s not until you watch someone do it, you think what you have to do. When you do it yourself you don’t realise you’re doing that.

I think I’ve been able to help him navigate the table a bit better. I’ve realised my break-building and the breaks I’ve made over the years are because the way I go about my shots.

How I get from A to B, basically, and I’m trying to show him that he can get from A to B a lot more efficiently and easier and the mistakes that we picked out will no longer be mistakes because shots will be a lot easier.

I just want to see him develop. I want all the snooker fans to get to see the best Xintong they get to see. If I can help with his development and sit back and watch him come along, I get great joy out of that.

How far he could develop is extremely far indeed, according to O’Sullivan, who thinks the Chinese sensation has the skills to become the finest player in history.

The Rocket is happy to try and help him do just that, as the legendary Ray Reardon did for him as he developed his own game.

He could be the greatest of all time with his talent, his ability,’ said O’Sullivan. ‘I always say he’s Roger Federer with a snooker cue in his hands. But he’s got to develop and learn, and he will learn. He’s like me, he’s a quick learner and he’s shown that he’s on it.

A bit like what Reardon done with me, he showed me how to defend better. Xintong attacks but it’s sometimes attacking because he’s forced to attack. I said to him, “If you do this better, you’ll always have the upper hand, the more you’ve got the upper hand the more you will feel comfortable. You don’t want to play snooker from desperation.

That’s what I used to do, play from desperation. Attack because I don’t know how to get out of trouble and pot my way out of it. Let’s not do that, get the odds in our favour, but you need to go about it in a certain way for that to happen.

Well, it’s working it seems. Zhao is obviously a good student! Ronnie and Zhao could potentially play each other in the QFs. It could be interesting!

Afternoon session Wlliams v White match:

On the other table, Mark Williams made a sizzling start to his Welsh derby against Michael White, taking a 7-2 lead. Three time champion Williams compiled breaks of 121, 90, 71, 116 and 138 in winning the first seven frames.

White is only the second amateur to play at the Crucible and at that stage he looked in danger of being on the wrong end of a rare whitewash. But he won the last two of the session with runs of 56 and 68. They return on Monday at 2.30pm, Williams needing three frames to reach round two.

You can read the part about Ronnie’s win over David Gilbert and more here.

Evening Session Page v Hawkins:

New Chapter For Brilliant Page

Page made three centuries and seven more breaks over 50

Jackson Page proved himself an authentic star in the making with the best win of his career so far as he beat former finalist Barry Hawkins 10-7 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

On his Crucible debut, 20-year-old Page finished the match in the style of a seasoned champion by making back-to-back centuries to win the last two frames. World number nine Hawkins, runner-up in 2013, becomes the first seed to be knocked out of this year’s event, and it’s the first time since 2010 that he has failed to reach the second round.

Page’s potential was first recognised in 2017 when, competing as a 15-year-old schoolboy, he reached the third round of the Welsh Open. Like many leading amateurs, he struggled with the huge step up to the professional tour, and dropped off the circuit at the end of last season. But he bounced back immediately through Q School and has shown more maturity in his game this term.

The 20-year-old from Cwm is now enjoying the best month of his life on the baize, having won four matches in the qualifying rounds just to make it to the Crucible, before his tremendous win over three-time ranking event winner Hawkins.

Page could face his mentor and practice partner Mark Williams in the last 16, if the the three-time champion can convert a 7-2 lead over Michael White into a second round spot on Monday. So calm did Page look in the closing stages tonight that he seems to have absorbed Williams’ unflappable temperament.

Through to the last 16 of a ranking event for the fifth time in his career, world number 90 Page is already guaranteed a career high pay day of £30,000.

Hawkins trailed 6-3 going into the concluding session but got the start he needed by taking the first two frames for 6-5. He led 49-5 in the 12th when he missed a difficult red to a centre pocket, then sat in his chair as Page knocked in a long red and made an excellent 54 clearance. Hawkins dominated the 13th to close to 7-6 at the interval.

Londoner Hawkins trailed 44-27 in frame 14 when he missed a tough pot on the last red to a top corner, leaving his opponent the chance to clear and double his lead. A run of 59 saw Hawkins close to 8-7, but he failed to score a point in the last two frames. Marvellous total clearances of 128 and 135 saw Page into the second round.

I couldn’t have asked for a much better debut,” said Page. “When I get my mind in the zone, the scoreline and everything else is irrelevant, I’m just trying to take what’s there on the table. It got a bit edgy out there tonight but I made a great century break to go 9-7 up and then another century to win it. The break to go 9-7 I felt slightly nervous, but overall I felt pretty cool.

I played great in the qualifying, it all leads up to this really, and I’m going to try and keep it going. I was focused on the match but it was hard not to take glances around the place. I just enjoyed it all. It’s about time I had a good run in a tournament – it would be great if it was this one. Everyone in my corner, Mark Williams, Mark Skinner my sponsor, family, friends – I cannot thank them all enough.

Asked about the prospect of taking on Williams, Page added: “I suppose it’s fitting if I do take Mark on next. It’s going to be fun. We’re still going to be friends afterwards so the scoreline is irrelevant. It’s going to be a good fight and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. Mark is a very good mentor – he sets a great example. It’s good to learn off him.

Hawkins said: “The way he finished in the last two frames was very classy. I thought he might feel the pressure but he looked as if it didn’t bother him at all. He has come through the qualifiers and he looked sharp – much sharper than me. The seeds are under pressure in the first round. Mark Williams has been saying for years how good Jackson is and I think we saw that today.

Barry Hawkins has an excellent record at the Crucible but was well below his best yesterday evening. That said Jackson Page did remarkably well: it was his first match at the Crucible and he’s only 20. Mark Williams’ influence on the young man was very noticeable, both in his attitude and in his shot selection. He’s matured a lot this season.

Evening session Maguire v Murphy:

Maguire Downs Murphy In First Crucible Meeting

Stephen Maguire defeated Shaun Murphy 10-8 in the first ever Crucible encounter between the pair, to reach the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship.

The two adversaries have been battling it out on the World Snooker Tour for 21 years, but until this week have never faced one another on the sport’s biggest stage. Today’s victory for Maguire cuts his head-to-head deficit with Murphy to 12-11.

World number 40 Maguire came through two qualifying matches this year, beating Zhou Yuelong 10-7 in the final round. The six-time ranking event winner admits that the experience was enough to motivate him to return to the world’s top 16 and avoid having to qualify again.

Afterwards he said: “I kept seeing gravestones and skulls. It’s hard – snooker players understand what it’s like. You are out there trying not to lose, when you should just be trying to win. I would rather be in the top 16, back at home watching Judgement Day.”

Triple Crown winner Murphy went on an inspired run to the final 12 months ago, beating Judd Trump and Kyren Wilson on his way to the title match before losing a pulsating encounter with Mark Selby. His campaign ends at the first hurdle on this occasion.

Maguire established a healthy 6-3 advantage after the first session, but it was 2005 World Champion Murphy who came out firing this evening.

The Magician crafted a stunning run of 130, his 100th century break in the World Championship, to take the opening frame. Murphy then made it two on the bounce, thanks to a break of 61, to pull within a frame at 6-5.

Maguire halted the comeback charge with a contribution of 57. However, it was Murphy who claimed the following frame in 40 minutes to head in for the interval with a spring in his step, trailing by just one at 7-6.

A marathon 14th frame was described by Ken Doherty on commentary as one of the craziest he has ever seen. It involved Maguire ironically throwing his cue to the ground after missing position, Murphy inadvertently fouling the pink with his finger and a four-minute discussion over a free ball, which Murphy sportingly refused. Eventually, after 71 minutes, it was Murphy who claimed it on the black to restore parity.

He then compiled a break of 50 to take the lead for the first time in the match at 8-7. However, from there Maguire summoned his best snooker to charge for the finish line.

Breaks of 90 and 82 helped the Glaswegian on his way to three on the bounce and a place in the next round. He now faces a mouth-watering last 16 tie with UK Champion Zhao Xintong.

I didn’t expect all those twists and turns, but I did expect a fight back from Shaun. Even though I was 6-3 up, I was lucky to be. The two of us were bad and he was worse. All he did today was play a bit better and he looked as if he was favourite to win at one point,” said 41-year-old Maguire.

I thought the match was over for me when he pulled level. When I lost that one, I thought I had nothing left. Somehow I managed to find three frames from somewhere. I’m just so tired, but I’m over the moon. I’ve got a few days off now, and I need to improve badly before my next match.

Zhao has kicked on this season, all the players knew over the last few years how good he could be – he always had that sort of style, similar to Jimmy White. What he’s done this season is special and the way he’s done it I can’t speak highly enough of him. He’s a contender for the title this year. He’s won two big tournaments this season so why not? He’s got his first Crucible win out of the way now, so he’ll go on from there.

Murphy said: “It was always going to be a battle. Our games are very similar. We’ve been playing each other since we were boys, and neither of us were going to run away with it. I am just pleased from 6-2 down, I made a game of it. Perhaps if I played the same today as I did yesterday the score line would have been different.”

I was blown away last year by the support I got here and the stories created around my run to the final. It was so special for everyone after we were starting to come out of the pandemic. This year, although I’ve fallen at the first hurdle, I felt the same love and support here at the venue and on social media too.

This was a pretty terrible match actually and to make it worse the crowd was extremely rowdy. It was actually problematic for the players, even those on the other table and the commentators reflected on that. Just imagine that there would be 10000 persons in there, as Trump wished, and the kind of atmosphere we get at the Masters…  Would that be ok? The Masters is just one table, a shorter format and not ranking. But this is the World Championship and should be treated as such. It’s already 17 days, so just one table is hardly an option. So NO.

2022 World Championship – Ronnie beats David Gilbert by 10-5 in the last 32 round

Ronnie booked his place in the last 16 round at this year World Championship by breating David Gilbert by 10-5. Althouugh the score line looks comfortable, it was a tough match as both of them played well.


Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Beats Gilbert To Equal Records

Ronnie O’Sullivan equalled long-standing records held by Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry by beating David Gilbert 10-5 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Crucible2022ROSL32-5The Rocket is making his 30th appearance at the Crucible, matching Davis’ total. And victory over Gilbert was the 70th match he has won at the Theatre of Dreams, a record Hendry had held on his own since 2012. O’Sullivan will make it 71 if he can beat Mark Allen or Scott Donaldson in a second round tie which starts on Friday morning.

His target at the end of the fortnight is Hendry’s greatest record – seven world titles – the only one which O’Sullivan needs to equal to put beyond doubt his status as snooker’s all-time number one. He landed his sixth crown in 2020 and, at the age of 46, remains one of the favourites for the first prize.

O’Sullivan was handed a tough first round assignment against Gilbert, a semi-finalist here in 2019, and struggled for rhythm in sections of the contest, but eventually secured a place in the last 16 for the 26th time. Having trailed 3-0 in the early stages, the 38-time ranking event winner had to dig deep to fight back.

I’m just there competing, like Gladiator,” he said. “I just find a way, like gladiators do. I drew on all my past experience, all my skills, everything I’ve learned. I don’t know what it is, but you just do it. That’s what I was born to do.

Snooker is challenging but it teaches you something about your character. Some players are like robots. And I’m not one of those, I’m quite an emotional character. Some days it gets tough, and I ask myself why I am doing this? But I somehow just do it.

Leading 6-3 after the first session, world number one O’Sullivan made a break of 58 in the opening frame today before over-cutting a tricky red to a centre pocket. Gilbert punished him with a 63 clearance, then came from 45-0 down in frame 11 to clear with 82 and reduce his deficit to 6-5.

Crucible2022ROSL32-6O’Sullivan has now earned more than £3million at the Crucible

O’Sullivan bounced back in the 12th with a run of 109, his third century of the match and 187th at the Crucible. Frame 13 came down to a safety battle on the colours and O’Sullivan enjoyed a huge slice of fortune as, leading 49-39 but trapped in a snooker, he fluked the yellow and finished with position on the green, allowing him to clear for 8-5.

A break of 81 put him four ahead with five to play, and he clinched the result in frame 15 with breaks of 26 and 42.

Asked about equalling records, O’Sullivan replied: “I don’t look at them. I just back myself. I was never born a winner, I had to have it drummed into me, a bit like Tiger Woods and Serena Williams – I had that same type of father figure as them. Mentally I was toughened up. Once you get a taste for winning, it’s hard to settle for anything other than being the best you can be.

Whatever I’m doing now I try to be the best I can be. Thirty appearances doesn’t really mean anything to me. I want to be a champion and do the business. That’s what I’m proud of. I don’t care about centuries, I don’t care about maximums. I just care about how many majors I’ve won. It’s all about those.

Ronnie was very positive and looked happy in his post-match interview.

He also spoke to the sponsor after the match:

Eurosport shared the last frame on their Youtube channel




2022 World Championship – Day 1

The defending Champion is the only seed who finishes his match on day 1 and Mark Selby progressed to the last 16 round, after beating Jamie Jones by 10-7.

There were uncertainties about Mark’s form and state of mind after his admission about mental health struggles that prompted him to take a break from the sport. He did look vulnerable at the start of the match, but as the match progressed you could see him becoming more comfortable with each frame.

Jamie Jones, who had reached the quarter-finals on his Crucible debut, fell 8-3 behind but fought with all he had. It was too much and too late however as Mark eventually prevailed by 10-7.

Here are the reports by WST:

Morning session

Selby Takes Control Of Opener

Defending champion Mark Selby made a strong start to the 2022 Betfred World Championship, opening up a 6-3 lead over Jamie Jones on day one at the Crucible Theatre.

The four-time World Champion lifted the famous trophy 12 months ago in Sheffield, following a pulsating 18-15 defeat of Shaun Murphy in the final. His other victories at the Theatre of Dreams have come in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

This season hasn’t seen Selby hit the same heights, with the 38-year-old making just one semi-final appearance at the World Grand Prix back in December.

The loss of form was understandable after a brave admission earlier this year revealed that he has been struggling with depression. Selby elected not to play in his last two tournaments to give himself a break ahead of the World Championship and says he feels he has turned a corner with his mental health.

Jones successfully negotiated the qualifying gauntlet last week and defeated Tom Ford in the final round. The Welshman’s best Crucible run came in 2012, when he reached the quarter-finals in what was his debut year.

It was Jones who took a fragmented opener this morning, before Selby restored parity by claiming the second. The Leicester cueman followed that up with breaks of 71 and 134 to lead 3-1 at the mid-session.

Jones clawed one back upon the resumption with a break of 60. A tightly contested sixth frame then came down to the yellow, with Selby eventually laying a telling snooker behind the black, which garnered 16 penalty points. Jones then left an opportunity to pot the yellow, Selby took it and added the green to go 4-2 up.

That clicked 20-time ranking event winner Selby into gear and runs of 73 and 129 then saw him assume a commanding 6-2 advantage. However, Jones took the last to end just three behind at 6-3. They will return at 7pm this evening to play out the remainder of the best of 19 encounter.

World number seven Zhao Xintong blitzed to a 7-2 lead over Jamie Clarke after their opening session.

The 25-year-old sensationally landed his first Triple Crown title at the UK Championship in December, he defeated Luca Brecel 10-5 in the final. China’s Zhao won his second piece of ranking silverware at the German Masters in January, whitewashing close friend Yan Bingtao 9-0 in the title match.

Clarke came through three qualifying matches in order to reach the Crucible for a second time and avoid relegation from the circuit in the process. He beat Graeme Dott 10-8 in the final round.

Zhao came out firing on all cylinders this morning and crafted breaks of 98, 57, 73, 109, 78 and 103 on his way to a 6-1 lead. Clarke responded with 67 to get his second frame on the board, but it was Zhao who took a 30-minute concluding frame to end 7-2 up. They will return for the concluding session tomorrow morning at 10am.

Afternoon session

O’Sullivan Hits Gilbert For Six

Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 3-0 down to win six frames in a row against David Gilbert, taking a 6-3 lead in the first session of their Betfred World Championship clashCrucible2022ROSL32-3

O’Sullivan has captured one title so far this season, the Cazoo World Grand Prix in December

Gilbert will rue missing chances to put more pressure on his illustrious opponent, as O’Sullivan recovered from a slow start to take control of this first round Crucible clash. They resume on Sunday at 2.30pm with first to ten frames to reach the last 16.

Six-time champion O’Sullivan needs one more title to match Stephen Hendry’s record of seven, and comes into the tournament on top of the world rankings. Gilbert, a semi-finalist here in 2019, was considered a tough opening draw, though O’Sullivan has won all six of their previous meetings.

Breaks of 56 and 94 gave Gilbert the first two frames. The third came down to the colours and O’Sullivan missed a tough green to a baulk corner, leaving his opponent the chance to go 3-0 ahead. O’Sullivan got going with a 122 to pull one back, then in the fifth he trapped Gilbert on a difficult snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed he narrowed the gap to 3-2.

Trailing 32-23 in frame six, Gilbert failed to convert a long red, and handed O’Sullivan an opening to add a run of 64 to square the match. A superb break of 104 gave O’Sullivan the lead at 4-3, and when his opponent missed a black off its spot on 25 in frame eight, he cleared with 66 to build his momentum. The last frame of the session was dominated by O’Sullivan, helped by a run of 54, to establish a handy overnight cushion.

On the other table, Crucible debutant Jackson Page is on course to register an early shock in the tournament as he leads former finalist Barry Hawkins 6-3.

Welsh 20-year-old Page won four matches to qualify for the tournament and has already shown his potential on the main stage in Sheffield, making a century and six more breaks over 50.

World number 90 Page fired runs of 53, 67, 55 and 84 to go 3-0 ahead. Hawkins, runner-up to O’Sullivan in 2013, took two of the next three to close the gap to 4-2, then Page pulled away again with 61 and 102 for 6-2.

In the last frame of the session, Hawkins trailed by 29 points on the yellow but got the snooker he required on the green. Page missed a thin clip on a long blue, and Hawkins converted excellent pots on blue, pink and black to raise his hopes of a fight-back. They return to the baize at 7pm on Sunday.

More about Ronnie’s first session here.

Evening session

Selby Thrives On Return To Main Stage

Mark Selby praised the tremendous reception he received from the Crucible crowd as he began the defence of his Betfred World Championship title with a 10-7 defeat of Jamie Jones.

Selby is playing at the Crucible for the 18th consecutive year

Selby made three centuries in an impressive performance as he took the first step towards his goal of a fifth Crucible crown since 2014. He was briefly under pressure when Jones recovered from 8-3 to 8-6, but passed the test to add the two frames he needed, setting up a last 16 meeting with Yan Bingtao or Chris Wakelin.

Leicester’s Selby continues to have treatment for the mental health struggles he revealed earlier this year, but on the baize the 38-year-old looked focussed on the challenge as he avoided a potential opening day banana skin against a dangerous opponent in Jones. This was his first competitive outing since the Welsh Open six weeks ago, and he was welcomed back into the limelight by the fans in Sheffield.

It was quite emotional walking out there today,” said Selby. “The reception was great, I suppose partly because I am defending champion and partly because I have been honest about what I am going through. People can relate to it. Everyone on social media has also been really supportive.

The result was irrelevant for me today because it was all about going out there and enjoying it. At one point I wasn’t sure whether I was going to play in this event, so even if I had lost I would not have been disappointed. I have had matches this season, like in the Masters, where I stopped enjoying the game. I still love the game but mentally I was not in a good place. Today was a lot better.”

Trailing 6-3 after the first session, Jones had a chance to clear from 55-0 down in the opening frame tonight, but in potting the final green he sent the cue-ball into a centre pocket. That handed Selby the chance to extend his lead, and he also took frame 11 by getting the better of a safety battle on the last red for 8-3.

The 12th came down to a long tactical exchange on the final black, and Jones slotted it home from mid-range to start his fight-back. A run of 53 helped him make it 8-5 and when Selby missed a simple pink to a centre pocket on 48 in frame 14, he looked vulnerable as Jones closed within two frames.

But world number two Selby weathered the storm, making a fabulous 137 total clearance to lead 9-6. Jones pulled one back and had chances in frame 17, but Selby outmaneuvered   him on the final red and cleared to cross the winning line.

Selby added: “I have so much respect for Jamie, I think he’s a great player. He is showing everyone just how good he is. It was a tough game and I’m happy to get through.

I’ll be going back home for a few days, spending some time with the family. When I come back, I’ll try and enjoy it again but whatever happens I’ll accept. I’ll be out there trying my hardest as I always do.

Jones said: “I couldn’t keep control of the white, around the black spot. There’s a lot of pressure out there and you need to make things simple, but I couldn’t do that. I showed a lot of heart and I’m proud to have stuck in there with the World Champion. I could have rolled over at 8-3 but I never give up.

Maguire had to win two qualifying matches to make it to the Crucible

On the other table, Stephen Maguire opened up a 6-3 lead over last year’s runner-up Shaun Murphy. The pair have been battling it out on the circuit for 21 years, since their first meeting back in 2001. However, this is the first time they have ever met at the Crucible. Murphy leads the head-to-head standings 12-10.

Maguire claimed the opening frame, before a break of 53 helped 2005 World Champion Murphy restore parity at 1-1. Scotland’s Maguire edged ahead once more with a run of 65, before Englishman Murphy again pegged him back to 2-2.

Maguire rapped the table in frustration after missing a red during a scrappy 37-minute fifth frame, but he eventually stole it on the black to lead 3-2. The former UK Champion then edged two clear for the first time, crafting a run of 67 to come from 51 points behind and win the sixth on the pink.

Maguire added the next two frames to make it four on the bounce and lead 6-2. Murphy won the final frame of the evening, compiling a break of 79, but will still require seven of the last ten when they return on Sunday at 7pm.

Speaking after his match, Mark Selby said that he actually enjoyed playing yesterday and feels in a better state of mind. Here are some more quotes reported by Phil Haigh:

It was tough, it was quite emotional going out there today, because the last two tournaments I’ve not played because it’s been quite tough.

‘I’ve been working with this doctor for a little while, he told me to carry on playing at the start, but I just felt like it was getting a bit too much, a bit too much pressure and with me not being in the right mental state. So we gave it a go but then we took a break.

‘I was still up in the air over whether I was going to play in this or not. The last few weeks I’ve done a lot of sessions with him and he’s got me a little bit better, I’m definitely on the right track.’

‘It’s never been the snooker that’s been the pressure that’s put me in the state I’m in,’ he explained. ‘It’s my past, losing my dad so young, I know people lose loved ones every day, but I’ve never really coped with it as much as other people and let it out. I bottled it up, it ended up snowballing and it got to the point where I had to speak out.

‘I got a great standing ovation walking out this morning and a great ovation tonight. It was quite emotional. I’ve had a lot of support on social media after speaking out as well.

‘Snooker’s such a hard game even if you’re in the right mental state, if you’re not in the right mental state then its doubly hard.

‘Just coming here for the tournament got me thinking a bit better and feeling more positive. I said I’m going to give it a go. No way in the world I wanted to not be in it as defending champ.’

The result today was irrelevant,’ he said. ‘As long as I tried to enjoy it, smile a little bit, which I did. Whatever happens, happens. The main thing for me is getting myself better.

‘Jamie’s a great player and he said to me at the end: “Well done mate, it’s nice to see you back.” That was a nice touch.

‘Never mind the centuries, I actually enjoyed the game today. I was sat in my chair at 9-7 thinking, “If he comes back and beats me 10-9 I can walk away thinking I actually enjoyed that.”

‘That’s been missing most of this year. I’ve not been performing great but not enjoying it either. I’ve said that the time I stop enjoying the game is the time I hang my cue up.

‘Because I love the game, obviously being in a tough mental state was difficult. Especially in snooker, sat in your chair for long periods of time, you’re going into your own head space. It wasn’t good. That’s why I took the break.’

I was never one to enjoy seeing people – or animals – suffer. Contrary to so many who seem to have loved seeing Ronnie being tortured by Ebdon in 2005, I never saw a person’s struggles and pain as something “compelling”. It’s not compelling, it’s awful, horrible. That’s all. I’m genuinely happy to read that Mark enjoyed his match and is feeling better.

On a different an lighter note, Ronnie predicted “carnage” for the seeds in the first round this year. Both Barry Hawkins and Shaun Murphy are in serious trouble…

Zhao Xintong on the other hand took a very useful lead yesterday and, at the time of writing has already swiftly wrapped his first round match up, beating Jamie Clarke by 10-2.


2022 World Championship – Ronnie leads by 6-3 after his first session in the last 32

Ronnie leads David Gilbert by 6-3 after the first session of their last 32 match at the 2022 World Championship. David got off to the better start and lead 3-0 before Ronnie settled and found his touch. Here are the scores and stats:



And the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Hits Gilbert For Six

Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 3-0 down to win six frames in a row against David Gilbert, taking a 6-3 lead in the first session of their Betfred World Championship clash.

Crucible2022ROSL32-3O’Sullivan has captured one title so far this season, the Cazoo World Grand Prix in December

Gilbert will rue missing chances to put more pressure on his illustrious opponent, as O’Sullivan recovered from a slow start to take control of this first round Crucible clash. They resume on Sunday at 2.30pm with first to ten frames to reach the last 16.

Six-time champion O’Sullivan needs one more title to match Stephen Hendry’s record of seven, and comes into the tournament on top of the world rankings. Gilbert, a semi-finalist here in 2019, was considered a tough opening draw, though O’Sullivan has won all six of their previous meetings.

Breaks of 56 and 94 gave Gilbert the first two frames. The third came down to the colours and O’Sullivan missed a tough green to a baulk corner, leaving his opponent the chance to go 3-0 ahead. O’Sullivan got going with a 122 to pull one back, then in the fifth he trapped Gilbert on a difficult snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed he narrowed the gap to 3-2.

Trailing 32-23 in frame six, Gilbert failed to convert a long red, and handed O’Sullivan an opening to add a run of 64 to square the match. A superb break of 104 gave O’Sullivan the lead at 4-3, and when his opponent missed a black off its spot on 25 in frame eight, he cleared with 66 to build his momentum. The last frame of the session was dominated by O’Sullivan, helped by a run of 54, to establish a handy overnight cushion.

Eurosport gave a more detailed account of the session:


Ronnie O’Sullivan and David Gilbert are locked in battle in the first round of the World Championship at the Crucible. O’Sullivan said on the eve of the tournament that it was one of the toughest draws possible, and Gilbert proved that by racing into a three-frame advantage. However, O’Sullivan responded in brilliant fashion to secure a lead.

Ronnie O’Sullivan went through the gears to secure a 6-3 lead over David Gilbert after the opening session of their first-round clash in the World Championship at the Crucible.

Gilbert came into the match having lost all seven of his tournament meetings with O’Sullivan, but brought up thoughts of a shock when racing into a three-frame lead.

However, O’Sullivan got going with a ton in the fourth and never looked back to take control of the match ahead of Sunday afternoon’s concluding session.

O’Sullivan had a sighter at a long red to the bottom left in the first frame, but it failed to find its target and he was unfortunate to see it hit the jaws of the right middle and leave it on for Gilbert, who cashed in with a telling break to settle the nerves and take the opener.

Gilbert had to come through qualification, but he has form at the Crucible – having made it to the semi-finals in 2019 – and he doubled his lead with a break of 94 in the second. Fortune was on Gilbert’s side in the second, as he missed a red by some way and sent balls round the table but left nothing easy, and got in again shortly afterwards and took full advantage.

After potting one ball in the opening two frames, O’Sullivan got his cue arm moving in the third with a break of 44 – which was a good effort given black and pink were out of commission.

However, he did not kill the frame off and after winning a safety battle, O’Sullivan left a gift for Gilbert when missing a tough green and the Angry Farmer cleared the colours to open up a three-frame lead.

O’Sullivan was under pressure after losing a frame he should have won, but there was no sign of it as he stroked in a stunning long red and raced through the 185th century of his Crucible career to get on the board.

The fifth had a similar feel to the third, as OSullivan broke down on a break of 43 and Gilbert countered. It boiled down to a battle on the final red, and it went O’Sullivan’s way after he laid a fiendish snooker and Gilbert coughed up an error.

From 3-0 down, O’Sullivan levelled the contest after winning a safety exchange and crafting a break of 64 – which came after a bizarre disturbance in the crowd.

Gilbert claimed before the draw that he wanted to avoid one of the big guns, and said following the draw ‘anyone but Ronnnie.’

At three frames to the good that was probably the furthest thing from his mind, but after O’Sullivan knocked in a 104 to lead for the first time in the match at 4-3 those thoughts likely came flooding back.

Gilbert had a chance in the eighth, but missed a simple black off its spot – with his thoughts almost certainly on splitting the pack. It was a costly error as O’Sullivan picked off a run of 67 to extend his lead.

O’Sullivan thought the session was over after eight frames but had to be reminded by referee Brendan Moore that there are nine in the opening session.

So instead of shaking hands with Gilbert, he picked off the ninth with a break of 58 to secure a commanding 6-3 advantage.

The bizarre disturbance was a Satnav starting to give loud directions … That’s a first and very strange indeed! The referee, Brendan, looked utterly bemused.

Whatever Ronnie says about not caring, he was clearly tense at the start of the match and applied himself 100% … I really liked his attitude yesterday and he did play well once he got going.

He had been speaking to the sponsor ahead of his match:

It’s a good, positive interview.



2022 World Championship – Press Day

The day before the start of the World Championship is traditionally a “press day” attended by the top 16 seeds. This year was no different: whilst the fitters and BBC crew were making sure the arena is ready the top 16 players and the “Crucible” referees met the press.

This World Championship also marks the 25th anniversary of Ronnie’s most famous 147 and, of course, it prompted a discussion in the press room as reported by Hector Nunns:

25th Anniversary Of THAT Crucible 147 By Ronnie O’Sullivan

In an amusing exchange at the official launch on Friday of the Betfred World Championship Ronnie O’Sullivan was asked if anyone could ever make a quicker 147 than the perfect maximum he made at the Crucible in a record five minutes and 20 seconds – some years later rounded down even lower by another 12 seconds.

After initially shouting out in jest “Me!”, the Rocket admitted that he thought it was unlikely, that such a feat would not be something he would even attempt these days, and that the magical break in 1997 was a “moment” that he was capable of in his youth at a time when by his own admission “I could never have won the world title”.

With the top 16 players gathered at the top table the banter started, with three-time champion Mark Williams – sitting between Zhao Xintong and Jack Lisowski, two of the fastest guns on tour – suggesting that the Chinese player was a likely candidate to beat the five minutes and eight seconds mark.

That prompted four-time champion John Higgins to weigh in with “What about me?”, to which Williams replied “You’d need about 500 minutes.

But the whole episode served as a reminder of just what an incredible feat O’Sullivan pulled off that day 25 years ago at the Crucible. Although making 147s is far less rare these days with the overall standard on the tour considerably higher, that one still stands alone for the sheer speed and instinct displayed while making it with apparently a bare minimum of effort.

Snooker perfection demands a player pots a black with each of all 15 reds and then all the colours to reach the famous number. At the time of writing there have been 175 made in history, with the first made by Steve Davis against John Spencer in 1982, which earned him a Lada car from the event sponsors. ​​​​​​

The first one ever made at the Crucible came from Canada’s Cliff Thorburn against Terry Griffiths at the World Championship the following year. And the most recent came from Scotland’s Graeme Dott in qualifying for the 2022 World Championship, though it wasn’t enough to see him through to the final stages.

But the most famous one of all came a quarter of a century ago, from a cocky 21-year-old who while already a superstar with several titles including the UK Championship and the Masters tucked away and on his CV, was yet to win a world title.

With the score at 8-5 to O’Sullivan, Mick Price left a safety shot short and from that moment the maximum always looked on, helped by a good split of the reds from the black about halfway through. But it was the sheer speed and fluency that made it such an iconic moment.

Reflecting on the moment, O’Sullivan – who with pandemonium in the arena threw his chalk into the crowd, said: “After the second or third red I thought ‘This could be a 147’. You can smell it when it’s on, even though one dodgy positional shot and it’s over. When I went into the pack they split beautifully, though there was just one red on into the middle.

When you hear the crowd react because they know it’s on, then the pressure increases. It’s mad when I look back on it. It was a great break, but it also tells me why up to that point I hadn’t quite won the world title because it was just so fast, so instinctive that you can’t keep doing that sort of stuff.

I had to learn and develop as a player but if you put it on a showreel yeah, of course it would look good on there. Of all the things I have achieved in my career, that is a highlight.

Big Len Ganley, who was in charge, was one of our top referees. And I think that is how I got my nickname of ‘The Rocket’ from that break. I also remember getting beat in the next match to Darren Morgan. I thought ‘How do you go from making that 147 to losing in the next round?’ Everyone thought I was going to win the world title, but Darren put me in my place.

Opponent Price, 55, and now a maths teacher, said: ““I made a decent break and he played safe, and with my next safety shot I cut it a bit thin. Five minutes and eight seconds later, and I’m in the Guinness Book of Records.

The break came with a very substantial financial bonus, with O’Sullivan, who has made the most 147s (15), netting £147,000 for the maximum plus another £18,000 for the high-break prize, yielding a total of £165,000.

And Neil Robertson, joining in the general debate on Friday, maintained that he still could not believe the carefree abandon with which the Rocket approached the break given the huge amount of money at stake. Although O’Sullivan appreciates a pound note as much as anyone, you would never have guessed it watching this 308 seconds that saw him pocket £536 with each second.

Shamoon Hafez (BBC) reports some of the players quotes:

Mark Selby admits he considered not defending his World title because of his ongoing battle with mental health issues – and said winning in Sheffield would be his greatest achievement.

In January, the Leicester player opened up publicly about his struggles with mental health saying he “needs help”.

However, he decided to compete after seeing “a little bit of improvement”.

Selby comes into the 17-day tournament without playing a competitive match since 2 March, when he was beaten in the last 64 of the Welsh Open by Liam Highfield, and he subsequently withdrew from the Turkish Masters and Gibraltar Open.

Instead of ramping up his preparations for snooker’s showpiece event, Selby instead took a holiday to Dubai with his family.

After a heavy defeat by Barry Hawkins at the Masters in London, Selby admitted a “huge weight” has been lifted off his shoulders after revealing his struggles with his mental health.

Up to a few months ago, I was [considering not playing],” said world number two Selby.

When I decided to pull out of the other two tournaments, I didn’t pull out of the Worlds because you didn’t need to let them know at that particular time.

I wasn’t even thinking of playing in this, I thought I would just give the next few weeks, see how that goes with the doctor and if I feel a bit better I will come and play because it would be a shame not to come here as defending champion and try to play.

Even if you are just out there and don’t perform, at least you can say you’ve been here and tried to defend it. I was thinking about it, but as the weeks have gone on I have seen a little bit of improvement in myself so we will give it a go.

Selby has won a total of 20 ranking titles and, asked if winning the title would be his greatest achievement, he replied: “Possibly yeah, for sure, because the game is tough enough anyway.

To be here for two weeks is mentally and physically quite draining. It is going to be a challenge for me but a challenge I am willing to try and take on and we will see what happens.

I sometimes wish I’d have done something else – O’Sullivan

Six-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan returned to the top of the world rankings prior to the tournament and is aiming to equal Stephen Hendry’s haul of seven Crucible titles in Sheffield.

But the Rocket faces a tough first round match against dangerous qualifier David Gilbert and has sympathy for Selby having struggled with mental health issues himself.

O’Sullivan said: “Be careful if you want to take this game up, because you’re letting yourself in for a lot of disappointment, loneliness, a lot of dedication, a lot of playing in an environment when you don’t talk to each other.

When you toll all that together you have to ask, is it really healthy? So before you undertake something like that you need to have a plan in place to reserve your own sanity.

I sometimes wish I’d have done something else, but no matter what you do is going to be hard. If you want to be the best hairdresser in the world I am sure there are going to highs and lows with it, and you look at the rewards and ask if its going to be worth it?

I’d rather have gone through the stresses and pains of being a golfer or a F1 or rally driver or a footballer in a team sport because nothing’s easy, so if nothing’s easy you at least think where’s the benefits?

If I’ve got to go through all this stress and pain I can at least look back it and say that softened the blow.

No regrets this year – Robertson

Meanwhile, Australia’s Neil Robertson comes into the tournament as favourite as the form player of the season, winning four titles including the Masters and being a beaten finalist in another.

But his record at the World Championship is surprisingly poor since lifting the trophy in 2010, reaching just one semi-final eight years ago.

Terrible, it is awful. Shocking,” Robertson told BBC Sport.

There have been a couple unlucky quarter-finals where it has gone super close and then there have been times where I have been in a good position and taken my foot off the gas, in particular the last few years.

This season I have been good at keeping the foot down and winning matches really well and also coming back in matches and winning.

Robertson, who kicks off his title quest against debutant Ashley Hugill, added: “I have to accept I am not the best safety player like John Higgins or Mark Selby, but my best strength is the attacking play, get the balls in the open and making big breaks.

The last few years I have got beaten here, I have thought I wish I played more my game. The worst thing in sport is not the winning or losing, it is the regrets. This year there won’t be any of that.

Ronnie already mentioned that he is involved  in the making of a documentary and insisted that he won’t allow this to add pressure when he goes out there playing:

Ronnie O’Sullivan insists Netflix-style documentary will not add pressure

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he ‘couldn’t give a monkey’s’ if he crashes out in the first round at the Crucible – even though a camera crew are following his every move.

The world No1 is currently being filmed for a Netflix-style documentary, with producers hoping to capture him win a record-equalling seventh world title.

O’Sullivan, who last lifted the trophy in Sheffield in 2020, faces a tough opening tie against former semi-finalist and world No19 David Gilbert on Saturday.

Ronnie Crucible PA

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he won’t be under extra pressure due to being filmed for a Netflix-style documentary

But the 46-year-old said: ‘If I’m going to get bombed out in the first round, I couldn’t give a monkey’s.

The documentary isn’t about me trying to win a world title. If it happens, great. If not they’ll have to put up with a first-round exit. They’re the business guys behind it, I’m just an actor.

The reason I’m doing it is because of everything I’ve done in my past. It’s a chance for people to watch someone they’ve followed for years.

Let them see the pressure, the stress, the good and the not-so-good.’


O’Sullivan also insists he is not motivated by trying to match Stephen Hendry’s record haul. ‘Seven, eight, nine, ten, they are just numbers to me,’ added the Rocket.

If people want to talk about it, great, but I am just enjoying my life. Snooker is the least important thing in my life.

I don’t get tied into all these records and stuff. Life first, snooker after.

I think anyone can win the tournament this year because there are so many good players.

The first round is going to be like Formula One into the first corner, it’s going to be carnage. There will be a lot of seeds going, guaranteed.

Hossein Vafaei criticisms also came in the conversation … and Ronnie’s reaction was reported by Phil Haigh 

The strong words from the Prince of Persia have not seemed to bother O’Sullivan, who is well aware that he has said more than a few controversial things over his great career.

The Rocket is certainly not fuming about the criticism, but he might just be a bit more fired up next time they meet on the table.

I can’t start criticising when people say something,’ said O’Sullivan. ‘Some of the things I’ve said over the years have been…I look back and laugh at them because some of them have been blinders.

I can’t help but laugh, I look back and think, “that was a beauty!” You know what I mean? Sometimes you need to say something just to fire yourself up.

Hossein has said what he said. Listen, he’s a great player, he’s a good guy and you know…it’ll be a good match if I play him.’

They can only meet in the Final… bring it on!

And finally, the first price for elegance goes to Victoria’s boys…

Added … two excerpts of the press conference. Sorry about the pretty terrible soubd quality.