2023 Crucible – Day 10 – Si, Selby and McGill complete the QFs line-up

The last three of the round 2 matches finished yesterday and those are the reports by WST

Si Jiahui beat Robert Milkins by 13-7

Chinese Wonder-Kid Si Into Quarters

Shaun Murphy’s prediction that Si Jiahui will become the first Crucible king from China took a step closer to reality as the new sensation wrapped up a 13-7 victory over Robert Milkins to reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship.

Coming into this tournament, world number 80 Si had reached only one ranking event quarter-final – that came at the European Masters earlier this season. The 20-year-old is now enjoying the best fortnight of his life on the baize, and having won three qualifying matches to make it to the Theatre of Dreams, he has knocked out two heavy hitters in Murphy and Milkins. He is the youngest Crucible quarter-finalist in 25 years.

After a 10-9 reverse in the first round, Murphy offered the view that Si will become the first player from his country to lift the famous trophy, and he is now just two wins away from the becoming the biggest outsider ever to reach the final. His next opponent on Tuesday and Wednesday will be Anthony McGill, if the Scot can convert an 11-5 lead over Jack Lisowski into a place in the last eight.

Si, based in Sheffield, first turned pro in 2019 and was relegated two years later, but returned in 2022 after winning the World Snooker Federation Open and is clearly now a much improved player with genuine potential.

With Jak Jones also into the last eight, it’s the first time that two debutants have reached the quarter-finals at the Crucible since 1988 when Tony Drago and Steve James both took their first bow.

Si led 11-5 overnight and came from 52-22 down to steal the first frame today with a 35 clearance. He looked set to seal the result in frame 18 until he missed a red to a top corner on 68, and Milkins added some respectability to the scoreline with a fine 69 clearance. Welsh Open champion Milkins then came from 30-0 down to take frame 19 with a run of 55 to raise his hopes of a fight back. But Si ensured that the match would not go to a mid-session interval as he secured victory with a run of 105, his second century of the tie.

Since the qualifiers, I have felt peaceful and calm emotionally,” said Si. “I treat it as if it’s a minor event, like a daily practice, and I try to enjoy the Crucible. Rob is a very aggressive player and plays with a quick rhythm, but I was also in the mindset of expecting opportunities in a match against a player of his style, if he’s not in top form. He can be very dangerous when playing well, after all he is a top 16 seed.

I made a comprehensive break to get over line in the end. I believed the come-back was improbable so I took my time and did it patiently. I told myself not to rush it.

After the Welsh Open, I went back to China and spent 20 days with my family. I had a great time with my parents and hung out with my girlfriend. I was homesick because it had been three years since I last went home. My father owns a pool club and all the customers were watching me playing. It’s great speaking to my dad after matches, to get motivation, he’s been genuinely great and supportive. Even when it’s after midnight in China when I’m playing, they all stay in the club on to cheer for their local boy. I’m sure they will do the same for my next match.

Looking ahead to a potential meeting with McGill, Si added: “He has a very decent Crucible record. The only department of game I can compete against him is attacking because my safety is supposed to be the worst among the 32 players! I went for it and potted my way through to the quarter-finals.

World number 14 Milkins said: “I lost a lot of close frames otherwise it could have been a much better match. Si played well but personally I think he will have to improve a lot to win the tournament. He’s a good player but might need a few more years. I’m not disappointed because I have had a great season and I could have gone out in the first round here.

Some might see Milkins’ assessment on Si as an expression of bitterness but not me. I know Robert for a long time and he’s a straight n-nonsense type of guy. He will say it as he sees it and he’s probably right. At 20, Si isn’t the finished article and he knows it. Indeed, his best chance against McGill is to go on the attack. Playing that way may possibly result in a heavy defeat but it’s the only option because, currently, he doesn’t have the game to outplay Anthony in the tactical department.

Mark Selby beat Gary Wilson by 13-7

Selby Set For Biggest Test

Mark Selby defeated Gary Wilson 13-7 to book a blockbuster Cazoo World Championship quarter-final clash with John Higgins, who he describes facing as snooker’s biggest test.

It will be the latest edition of a storied rivalry between two of the sport’s greatest competitors, who have each won the World Championship four times. Selby leads head-to-head meetings between the pair 13-8, but it is Higgins who narrowly has the better record in their encounters on snooker’s grandest stage.

Tomorrow’s match will be the sixth time Selby and Higgins have crossed cues at the Crucible Theatre. They have contested two world finals against each other; 31-time ranking event winner Higgins was victorious in 2007 and 22-time ranking event winner Selby claimed the title in 2017. Higgins currently leads their World Championship head-to-head 3-2.

This evening’s defeat ends a significant season for Wilson, who picked up his maiden ranking title at the Scottish Open last December. The Tyneside cueman beat Joe O’Connor 9-2 in the final to capture the Stephen Hendry Trophy. Having broken through to the world’s top 16, he will be hoping to add further to his trophy collection next season.

They came into this evening’s session with Selby requiring just three for victory, leading 10-6. The Leicester cueman took the opener in emphatic fashion, firing in a century run of 109 and extending his advantage to 11-6.

Wilson replied with breaks of 58 and 53 to take the 18th frame, but any thoughts of a comeback were quickly stifled by Selby, who moved 12-7 ahead. He then claimed the 20th frame to wrap up victory and set up his meeting with Higgins.

Mentally it is the biggest test for me playing John. You need to stay strong, because he doesn’t give you anything. You have to work for your chances. He punishes you more times than not and his safety is second to none. If you let your head drop there is no way in the world you are going to win,” said 39-year-old Selby.

If you are a young lad growing up, you can’t go far wrong looking at John’s game and basing yourself on that. Technically he is very good and his all-round game is very good. I know I’m in for a tough match and the way he played against Kyren Wilson was phenomenal. If he plays anything like that, I know I’ll have to be on top of my game.

I’m very happy to get through tonight. It is a long tournament, you don’t want to peak too soon and for me it is just about winning. You can always improve as the event goes on. It was a tough game against Gary. I felt the balls went scrappy in most of the sessions. It wasn’t too free flowing. You will get some games like that and I’ve been here long enough to know what the World Championship does to you.”

Wilson said: “I don’t overanalyse things too much in terms of who I’m playing. The simple fact of the matter is that I didn’t perform to my level. You aren’t going to win doing that. It isn’t a very positive thing to take from it but there aren’t any, if you look at the whole game I wasn’t up to scratch.

I won my first ranking event this season but that is in the past for me now. I’ve got one and I was really relieved and happy to do it at the time. Straight away it was back to trying to get more. I was hoping my levels would improve a bit and they haven’t really. I take all of the positives in terms of where I am in the rankings, coming here seeded and getting more experience. Looking at the overall picture I am very slowly moving forward.”

I can’t really comment on that match because I didn’t watch any of it. That’s not because I’m a “Selby hater” or a “Higgins hater” … I was just watching the other table. One thing though: I believe that Gary Wilson is often too harsh on himself. Nobody can play at their highest level all the time. Nobody. Mark Selby always makes it difficult for the opposition, no matter who he plays. Gary should take some time off, relax, and before the next season starts, watch the game again, with his coach or whoever is on his side, and objectively analyse what can be improved. He has all the talent he needs but too often gets too harsh on himself.

Anthony Mc Gill beat Jack Lisowski by 13-8

McGill: Snooker Is Drama

Crucible specialist Anthony McGill reached the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship for the third time in four years, keeping his composure to round off a 13-8 victory over Jack Lisowski.

McGill led 10-1 at one stage of this second round clash before Lisowski battled back to within three frames at 11-8. Unflappable, Glasgow’s McGill took the next two, and progresses to a meeting with China’s Si Jiahui.

Asked how he remains calm in those intense situations, 32-year-old McGill replied: “How can you not enjoy being out there? Sometimes things aren’t going well, but you still have to feel a sense of gratitude just to be there. There are a lot worse things you could be doing than losing a game of snooker. Sometimes you win and it’s even better.

We are in a theatre and snooker is drama. It’s the best kind of drama, and no one can tell me otherwise. I love it. It’s a shame we don’t play in more theatres because snooker is perfect for it, and this place is the best of all.”

World number 21 McGill needs one more win to match his best Crucible performance, having reached the semi-finals in 2020 when he lost 17-16 to Kyren Wilson in a classic encounter. The Scot will hope that his considerable experience at this stage of the tournament will give him an advantage against debutant Si.

Trailing 11-5 going into the last session, Lisowski took the first frame tonight with a break of 74 and dominated the next as well to close to 11-7. In frame 19, McGill led 43-24 when he misjudged an attempted pot on the penultimate red, and his opponent took advantage with a 33 clearance to narrow the gap to just three frames.

But two-time ranking event winner McGill dominated frame 20, with breaks of 38 and 48, to go 12-18 ahead at the interval. Lisowski might have pulled another one back but missed a red to a top corner when he led 40-3 in frame 21, and McGill made an excellent 58 to reach his 24th career ranking event quarter-final.

Credit to Jack because he really pushed me hard – he could have been forgiven for giving up at 10-1,” McGill added. “It was a good job I had that lead in the end. If it had gone 11-9 he would have kept the momentum, so to go 12-8 was massive and I played that frame well.

I would love to go all the way to the final this year. But first I have to beat Si Jiahui and I will really be up against it. He is a world class player. I’ll give it my best shot, just as I have in my first two matches.

Lisowski said: “Anthony was solid all the way through. I think he can win the tournament. I managed to make a game of it from 10-1 down, at least I gave the crowd something to watch. That’s the only positive I can take out if it because I wasn’t good enough over the three days.

I need to figure out a game plan for next season. I need a more solid game, I am too patchy. My safety was ok in that match but my scoring and potting weren’t good enough.”

Jason Francis will be thrilled if he reads Anthony’s quotes about drama and theatre – the part I put in bold – because that’s exactly his views as well. The problem is that theatres aren’t usually very spacious and can rarely accommodate more than one table comfortably, severely limiting the size of the playing field.

Jack fought really hard from 10-1 down and he went on the attack in the last session. That’s his strength. I’m not sure that Ebdon is the person he needs in his corner, not in the long term anyway. Jack will never be a top-class defender, that’s not him. He needs a good safety game but he must play to his own strengths and that’s attacking and scoring. Maybe he needs to learn to slow it down a bit at times, but only just a bit, and take a deep breath. IMO Jack’s biggest weakness is that he’s prone to “lack of concentration” moments. I know that Murphy claims that this is not a thing … 😉 … but really … 😂 …

Only eight players remain in the field and the atmosphere at the Crucible , backstage, changes significantly. The buzz of the first week is gone, there are long days without a match finishing. Especially, from the SFs on, there are sessions that feel a bit flat, unless a match gets one-sided ,there are empty seats. Usually it happens in the second and third sessions of the SFs and the third of the Final . It might be even worse this year. The “Century Club” thing already left the entire first row of seats empty in some sessions. That doesn’t look great, and it’s not nice for the players. It doesn’t work at the Crucible.

3 thoughts on “2023 Crucible – Day 10 – Si, Selby and McGill complete the QFs line-up

  1. It was probably just as well some of the matches proved to be a bit closer than anticipated, or else not very many frames would have been played yesterday. We got 13 frames in total in the 4 sessions across 2 tables.

    That extended interview with Si Jiahui is quite extraordinary, and shows how we are missing out on some of the best stories. Si Jiahui didn’t visit his parents and girlfriend for 3 years (since he was 17). You can imagine some people would crack up in such circumstances – in fact it seems that some people did…

    As for the Crucible Theatrre, the table conditions haven’t been satisfactory this year – especially Table 1. There has been a lot of variation in the behaviour of the cloth and the cushions, sometimes triggered by opening the partition (which has happened a lot). The pockets are playing ‘easy’ (the sleek anti-static cloth allows balls to slide in more easily), which might increase the century count, but perhaps not in the way we would want. The World Championship should be a test of the skills of the best players, performing at their peak.

    • Without wanting to be flippant, this really surprised me when I saw the interview on Eurosport: Si had a girlfriend when he was 17, so the girl must be very young too and they didn’t meet for 3 years and she is still his girlfriend? Quite a girl.

      • Yes, but any Chinese professional snooker player is quite a celebrity in China, so he’s a great catch! However, I know of at least two Chinese players who split up with girlfriends during the pandemic, nodoubt putting a great strain on the relationship… It’s something for the WPBSA to think about, the situation that some of their ‘valued professionals’ have found themselves.

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