2023 Crucible – Day 4 – Focus back on the action

After the madness of day 3, yesterday saw a return to normal and the focus returned to the action on the table. Only two matches finished yesterday: John Higgins and Gary Wilson booked their place in the last 16.

John Higgins had an easy passage and scored heavily: he had eight breaks over 50, including two centuries. David Grace, who is a genuine and lovely person was able to see the positives despite the trashing. He didn’t say a thing about that but I wonder how he coped with the very tight setup. David is extremely tall, much taller than Neil Robertson who regularly complains about the lack of space around the tables. Anyway…

This is the report by WST:

Crucible Inspires Higgins To Thrash Grace

John Higgins enjoyed his most one-sided Cazoo World Championship first round victory in seven years as he beat David Grace 10-3 to reach the last 16 at the Crucible.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Higgins’ first world title in 1998, and he went on to lift the trophy again in 2007, 2009 and 2011, as well as appearing in four other finals. The Scot is recognised as one of the all-time great Crucible competitors, and while he has had a poor season by his standards, he has the capacity to become a different animal in Sheffield.

This was perhaps his best display of the season as he fired two centuries and six more breaks over 50, offering Grace no chance of an upset. Higgins goes through to the second round for the 25th time and will face either Kyren Wilson or Ryan Day on Sunday and Monday.

The Wishaw cueman, who turns 48 next month, is yet to reach the semi-finals of a ranking event this season, but believes a recent amendment to his technique could revive his fortunes.

A few weeks ago I found something which I am happy with,” said the tenth seed. “Until you’re out in that cauldron and you are bang under it against one of the top boys, that’s when you find out what you’ve got in the tank. I’m delighted I’m through and I can look forward to the next game.”

Higgins led 7-2 overnight, having made breaks of 51, 98, 66, 67 and 90 in the first session. He started today with a run of 114, then in frame 11 potted six reds with blacks before missing a difficult plant on a red. Grace took advantage with an 83 clearance to make it 8-3, but Higgins compiled a run of 97 in the 12th to go six ahead. And he finished in style with a 124; that was his 166th century at the Crucible, a tally trumped only by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 199.

David never settled and I was able to build a big lead yesterday,” Higgins added. “You need to make breaks here because it’s going to get harder as you get through the rounds, you need to have bursts where you do some damage, to counter what the other guy is going to do to you. As you get older, it’s good to win matches quickly and easily, that will help you later in the tournament.

I’m proud to still be coming here, 25 years after I first won it, and I feel as if I’m playing better stuff than ever.

Yorkshireman Grace said: “I didn’t settle at any stage. Credit to John because he was never going to let me into the game, he is one of the all time greats and he comes alive here. He was hitting the white so nicely and putting it wherever he wanted to. I was determined to enjoy being at the Crucible, even though I got pumped!

If I had lost my first qualifying match I would have been off the tour, so to get to the Crucible and get into the top 64, I feel as if it has been my best season in terms of consistency.”

The match between Gary Wilson and Elliott Slessor threatened to be equally one-sided when Gary end the first session 7-2 up. However, Elliott Slessor showed how determined he is and mounted a serious comeback. Eventually it was in vain though as Gary won the match by 10-8.

Here is the report by WST:

Wilson Relieved To Win Geordie Joust

Gary Wilson admitted his North East derby with Elliot Slessor got “too close for comfort” when he almost let slip a 7-1 lead, but eventually came through 10-8 to reach the second round of the Cazoo World Championship.

This has been a momentous season for Wilson as he won his first ranking title at the Scottish Open and is now playing as one of the top 16 seeds at the Crucible for the first time. But the campaign almost finished on a low note as Slessor threatened a remarkable comeback. Eventually, Wilson rounded off the tie with a century in the 18th frame and goes through to face Mark Selby or Matthew Selt in the last 16.

If he meets Selby, then 37-year-old Wilson will have no fear as he beat the four-time Crucible king on his way to the semi-finals in 2019, also knocking out Luca Brecel and Ali Carter before losing to Judd Trump.

Slessor trailed 7-1 before taking the last frame of this morning’s session, and got the start he needed tonight as breaks of 70 and 90 reduced his deficit to 7-4. In frame 12, Wilson led 50-31 when he trapped his opponent in a difficult snooker on the last red, and Slessor gave away 16 penalty points before leaving the red available for Wilson to make it 8-4.

World number 60 Slessor continued to battled and pulled one back with a run of 82, but his hopes faded when he lost an epic hour-long 14th frame. It came down to a long safety battle on the colours, and Slessor potted the brown but then missed the blue to a centre pocket. Wilson then laid a snooker on the blue and, from the chance that followed, potted it for 9-5.

In the 15th, Wallsend’s Wilson was just four pots from victory when he missed the black off the last red, leading 47-38. Slessor cleared to keep his hopes alive then rattled in runs of 76 and 69 to close to 9-8. But Wilson stayed calm and took his chance with a superb break of 109.

I squandered the chance to win 10-5 which was a shock, and after that I could see my lead dwindling and it was too close for comfort,” admitted 15th seed Wilson. “I was sitting in my chair watching Elliot and there wasn’t much I could do. He had the momentum. So when I got the chance in the last frame I was determined to keep it simple and not mess it up.

I have known Elliot for a long time and he’s a very good all-round player. He knows he just has to tighten up on his temperament and he has got Peter Ebdon in his corner to try to achieve that.”

Slessor said: “I was garbage in the first session. The crowd was amazing but I’m devastated that I didn’t give them much to cheer about. Tonight I went for a few more and made a game of it, but I lost every single scrappy frame.

I can’t actually comment much on those matches as I mainly watched the other matches that aren’t over yet.

As it stands Anthony McGill is leading Judd trump by 6-3. Anthony played really well and he’s been making changes to his approach of the game as well. He now plays faster, more fluently and I really enjoyed watching him yesterday. In the past I often found him tedious and painful to watch.

The Perry v Milkins first session was painful to watch. Milkins was so completely out of sorts that even Perry, who has a job to do of course, looked uneasy with it. It was interesting also to hear Perry’s account of the Just Stop Oils incident, how they felt on the moment and how WST involved them in finding the best solution going forward.