World Championship 2018 – Day 2 – Ronnie and Ali fight back, Kyren coasts through and Lyu shows his talent

On Sunday morning, the possibility that the tournament could lose three more seeds, after the Defending Champion exit, looked very real and Worldsnooker had published this article, quoting Joe Perry, explaining why having to qualify my be a blessing in disguise.

The qualifying format for the Betfred World Championship was changed in 2015, with all 128 players needing to win three matches to make it to the Crucible.

The prevailing school of thought at the time was that this new format would leave the players who made it through three best-of-19 matches too drained to go deep in the final stages. Peter Ebdon’s view was that it would be “virtually impossible” for any player coming through the qualifiers to go on to the latter stages at Sheffield’s Theatre of Dreams.

The following year, Ding Junhui disproved that theory when, having dropped out of the top 16, he blitzed through the qualifiers and went all the way to the final before losing 18-14 to Mark Selby. In the semi-finals, Ding had beaten another unseeded player: 45-year-old Alan McManus who reached the last four at the Crucible for the first time since 1993.

To balance the argument, in 2015 only three of the top 16 seeds lost in the first round, and only one of the qualifiers (Anthony McGill) made the quarter-finals. Similarly in 2017, four of the qualifiers made it to round two, and only one of those (Stephen Maguire) went on to the last eight.

But on the first day of this year’s Championship, it was plain to see that those making the short journey from the English Institute of Sport, where the final qualifying round finished on Wednesday, to the Crucible were sharp, confident and eager to keep their winning streaks going.

Joe Perry made a century and seven more breaks over 50 in a 10-4 win over defending champion Mark Selby. Maguire surged 6-3 ahead of Ronnie O’Sullivan, while Lyu Haotian and Graeme Dott built 6-3 leads over Marco Fu and Ali Carter respectively. Of the seeded players, only Kyren Wilson bucked the trend, going 7-2 up on Matthew Stevens.

After one of his best career wins, Perry said: “I don’t think fatigue is such a big thing in snooker. The fact that you’ve won three matches means you’re always high on confidence, and that overrides a little bit of fatigue. Maybe if you progress deep into the competition it might play a part. That’s a problem I’d love to have. It’s very tough to get through those three matches, but once you get here you have a better chance.”

Selby concurred: “If the qualifiers finished two weeks before the main event it would be different. But with only a two day gap, they are bringing that sharpness with them.”

The record for the most seeds losing in the first round is eight, set in 1980 and equalled in 1992 and 2012. As snooker’s strength in depth continues to grow, that record will surely be broken – possibly in the coming days.

As we enter day 3, the prospect of beating the record eight seeds losing looks less likely.

Indeed,in the morning, Ronnie fought back to beat Stephen Maguire by 10-7 

In the afternoon, Ali Carter did the same against Graeme Dott, coming out a 10-8 winner after an extremely hard-fought quality match.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Ali Carter recovered a 6-2 deficit to beat Graeme Dott 10-8 and reach the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship.

Carter showed trademark grit and determination as he won eight of the last ten frames, punching the air in celebration at the end of one of his best Crucible fight backs.

His reward is a showpiece clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round on Friday and Saturday; a repeat of the 2008 and 2012 finals, both won by O’Sullivan. World number 15 Carter has had a disappointing season by his standards, reaching just one ranking event semi-final, but he has the chance to finish on a high at his favourite venue.

Chelmsford’s Carter began today’s session 6-3 behind and took the first two frames with runs of 62 and 108, then got the better of a scrappy frame to make it 6-6. The next two were shared then 2006 World Champion Dott made a 75 to lead 8-7.

Back came Carter with runs of 69 and 56 to lead 9-8, and he looked to be cruising over the winning line in frame 18 until he ran out of position on 63. Dott had a chance to clear but missed a short range red on 22, and when the Scot failed to escape from a snooker his chance was gone.

“Yesterday Graeme thought the job was done, but it wasn’t done,” said 38-year-old Carter. “You can never think you’ve got a match in the bag and that will be a lesson for him. I just wanted to win. I want to be here. I saw what Stephen Maguire said today about feeling left behind a bit. I felt a bit the same and I knew I needed to do something about it.

“I have been through a lot in my life. I have been very ill and overcome it and I wouldn’t have got over that if I didn’t have that personality and fight in me. I used that today.

“It’s great to be involved in a match with Ronnie. I’m very much looking forward to it. He’s red hot favourite but I’m going to turn up and have a little go and see what happens.

“He knows how good I am because we practise with each other. He has a lot of respect for me as a person. He likes my style of play, the way I hit the ball and the way I go out and play snooker. I am a good match for him.”

Dott said: “I was rubbish all the way through the game to be honest. The only time I started to feel normal was at 6-6, when I changed a couple of things and I started being able to hit the white.

“I would rather lose here playing really badly than losing in the qualifiers. But I’m bitterly disappointed with the way I played. Lots of people will criticise me, but nobody will criticise me harder than myself. I only had one break over 50 and I managed to lose 10-8 which is testament to my match play and determination and all the other rubbish that everybody talks about.”

On the other table, 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy finished 5-4 ahead of Jamie Jones. From 1-0 down, Murphy took four frames in a row with top breaks of 75 and 137. Jones – who beat Murphy on his Crucible debut in 2012 – stopped the rot in frame six with a 27 clearance which included an excellent pot on the final black.

Murphy then made it 5-2 but it was Welshman Jones who finished the session strongly, firing runs of 94 and 114 to trail by just one overnight. They resume on Monday at 2.30pm.

When I wrote my predictions, I tipped Dott, in part because I had seen how well he played last week, in part because he had the upper hand on Ali in previous matches at the Crucible, and in part because I had witnessed Ali getting frustrated to the point of playing silly shots in this very arena. But there was absolutely nothing of that yesterday: Ali fought with the heart of a lion and all credits to him for the way he ruined my predictions.

In the evening, Kyren Wilson coasted through, beating an ailing Matthew Stevens by 10-3, whilst young Lyu HaoTian was a 10-5 winner over Marco Fu. It’s great to see such a young player do well, and this one in particular, because, when Lyu first came on the tour, at 15, he wasn’t ready, and it looked like he had lost control of his life, being all lost in an alien country, barely more than a child. But he’s come back, looking very mature for his years. As for Marco, he deserves every credit for giving it a good go, despite his eye issues. He denied that his eyes issue were a problem, but then he’s never been one to make excuses,even when the problem is very real. In an interview before the tournament he admitted still seeing “floaters”I wish him the best, I really hope he can recover fully and come back, because it would be very sad if his career was to end this way.

Here is the reports on Worldsnooker

Wilson v Stevens

Kyren Wilson produced a blistering display to dispatch 2003 UK Champion Matthew Stevens 10-3 in their first round match at the Betfred World Championship.

Stevens (world finalist in 2000 and 2005) hadn’t appeared at the Theatre of Dreams since 2015 and admitted after qualifying that there were times he’d wondered if he would ever make the final stages of the World Championship again.

In contrast, 26-year-old Wilson reached his maiden Triple Crown final at the Masters in January, where he lost out to Mark Allen and it seems that the peak of the Warrior’s Crucible career could well be ahead of him.

Wilson has also appeared in two ranking finals so far this season, but losses to Ding Junhui at the Yushan World Open and Ronnie O’Sullivan at the English Open have seen him fall short of silverware. He will be hoping to contest at the latter stages this week after runs to the World Championship quarter-finals in 2016 and 2017.

The 2015 Shanghai Masters champion came into this evening’s session with a healthy 7-2 advantage and he compounded that lead immediately with a fine century run of 121. Stevens did pull a frame back, but a further two on the bounce for Wilson including a break of 54 saw him comfortably over the line.

Wilson said: “It’s a very satisfying win. Matthew is a classy opponent, he’s been there and done it before, so a 10-3 scoreline is flattering. I feel like I did most of the damage in the first session. I’m pleased to get the victory, and I’m going to go home and come back refreshed for the second round.

“It was a very tough draw in the first round to get Matthew Stevens. It wasn’t long ago that he was a seed here and I could have been drawing him. I would like to say what a classy guy he is to call his fouls on himself, not once but twice. There was one in the 12th frame where he could have got back to 8-4 and then he would have been back in the game.

“I do need to improve in certain aspects, but it was quite a pleasing performance. I felt like I played well, I didn’t miss anything too simple which is nice. If you’re not missing the easy balls you’re going to be there or thereabouts. It’s just about getting my preparation right now for the second round and coming back refreshed.”

Afterwards Stevens reflected on a disappointing defeat and admitted that picking up a virus ahead of yesterday’s first session had a big impact on his performance.

“I hate going into matches having not slept and feeling ill. I don’t like making excuses, but yesterday afternoon I didn’t want to play. I felt like death warmed up, it was horrible and gutting, but that’s life and worse things happen,” said the 40-year-old. “I felt a million times better today and even at 7-2 I fancied my chances. Kyren would have had to miss a few balls, he is a good player and it didn’t happen so that’s the end of it.”

Fu v Lyu

Lyu Haotian, one of a growing army of talented young Chinese players on the World Snooker Tour, enjoyed a superb 10-5 victory over Marco Fu in his first appearance at the final stages of the Betfred World Championship.

It was a tough return to action for Fu, who has missed the last three months after undergoing laser eye surgery for retinal degeneration. The three-time ranking event winner was clearly rusty, but that’s to take nothing away from his 20-year-old opponent who showcased his break-building skills.

Sheffield-based Lyu has had his best season as a pro so far, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open. He now faces Barry Hawkins or Stuart Carrington in the last 16 at the Crucible and will be confident of another deep run.

Breaks of 122, 127 and 87 helped Lyu build a 6-3 lead in the first session on Saturday. Fu, a former Crucible semi-finalist, failed to score a point in the first two frames tonight as Lyu extended his advantage to 8-3.  A run of 49 gave Fu frame 12 and he then found some rhythm with a 120 in the next to close to 8-5 at the interval.

But there was to be no fight back as Lyu compiled breaks of 79 and 61 to win the last two frames.

“I’m very happy to win, it was a really enjoyable match,” said Lyu in his press conference, via an interpreter. “I’m happy to have been able to perform well. I was expecting to be nervous on my debut, but it turned out to be very enjoyable. I know Marco was not feeling well about his eyes so maybe that affected his performance and contributed to the result.

“I just hope to continue to give this kind of performance in the next round. I never think about winning the tournament, I just want to play well, especially at this venue.

“Living in Sheffield is very convenient, it gives me a certain kind of advantage because it’s very easy to get to my practice tables, so I can go there whenever I want.”

Fu said: “Overall, between the two sessions, Lyu was by far the stronger player so 10-5 is a fair score. Lyu was superb. I’ve played at the Crucible as a 20-year-old myself and I know how difficult it is, but for him it was just like practice. He rose to the occasion, and I think he played even better here at the Crucible than he did in the qualifiers.

“My eyes are good, it didn’t really affect my game. I just lost to a better player, simple as that. I’ve got a few months off now so I’ll probably take a rest and have a few checkups. I will be back next season. This tournament came a bit too soon for me because I really lack match practice. I would have loved to have had one more tournament before coming here but the timing just wasn’t right.”

And, finally, two matches started yesterday, due to finish today: Mark Allen leads Liam Highfield by 6-3, and I would be very surprised if he didnt finish the job this morning, and Shaun Murphy leads Jamie Jones by 5-4. That one is far from over. Jamie Jones had a great run here in 2012, he’s up for this and he looked very sharp in the qualifiers. Shaun has been suffering from neck and shoulders injuries and it’s hard to tell whether he’s fully fit or not.

Oh… and

Hawkins birthday

 

World Championship 2018 – Ronnie beats Stephen Maguire in last 32

Ronnie beat Stephen Maguire by 10-7, recovering from a terrible first session where he trailed 4-0 at the first MSI. I must admit that I wasn’t confident, but now I’m extremely pleased to have watched it to the end. Ronnie showed both his commitment and his fighting qualities there!

Crucible2018ROSL32Stats

Ronnie was extremely embarrassed by his poor display yesterday, as he explained during his press conference.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker (excerpt)

Ronnie O’Sullivan overhauled Stephen Maguire’s three-frame overnight lead to come through a 10-7 winner in their opening round clash at the Betfred World Championship.

O’Sullivan is enjoying a career-best season in terms of ranking title victories. He has equalled the record jointly held by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui and Mark Selby of five ranking crowns in a single campaign.

Victory at the Crucible this year would not only see the Rocket break that record, but he would also historically eclipse Stephen Hendry’s 18 Triple Crown titles and draw level with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on six World Championship wins.

Five-time Crucible king O’Sullivan and former UK Champion Maguire have now met on 22 occasions. O’Sullivan has dominated the vast majority of those meetings with today’s victory being his 18thcompared to the Scot’s four wins.

Maguire outplayed O’Sullivan in the opening session yesterday; he was 4-0 up and ended 6-3 ahead. However, 33-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan landed several key blows in the early exchanges this morning to turn the tide.

With the score at 6-4, Maguire had looked set to restore his three frame advantage but he broke down on 49, missing a straightforward red. O’Sullivan punished him with a sublime clearance of 86 to pull within one frame.

World number 18 Maguire then had a chance to steal the next frame on the colours, but left the final pink in the jaws of the top right pocket and allowed world number two O’Sullivan to draw level at 6-6.

Maguire did regain the lead in the 13th frame but from there O’Sullivan charged to the finish, taking four in a row with top runs of 53 and 77 to win 10-7.

“The first session was so embarrassing, I felt like giving the fans their money back,” said O’Sullivan, who now meets Ali Carter or Graeme Dott in the last 16. “I wanted to battle through, and make the scoreline a bit respectable. When I got three frames on the board I went home thinking, I’ve had a result really. It gave me a little bit of belief today.”

 At the age of 42, O’Sullivan is playing perhaps the best snooker of his career, and he insists that is partly due to an improved diet.

“The biggest thing for me this year is how I’ve tackled how I eat,” he added. “I’m amazed by how good I feel and how healthy I am, it’s unbelievable. I’ve always been fit, but through injuries I couldn’t run as much and I ballooned up to nearly 15 stone. I’m down to 13 stone now, so I’ve lost two stone and I haven’t exercised any more than usual.

“I’ve changed what I eat, I’m never hungry, and I’ve got massive amounts of energy. I’d never thought I’d like celery, but I’m eating so much of it now. I suppose compared to the average person in Britain, I’ll always look well because we aren’t the healthiest society. If you go to other continents, they eat proper food, whereas over here it’s all pre-packed meals and that’s why we have a problem with obesity.

“I’m ready for the next 40 years. They have a saying in China, you get two lives: 0 to 40 and then 40 to 80. I’m ready for the 40-80.”

Maguire said: “I only had the lead because Ronnie was so bad yesterday. I was under no illusions that I was playing well enough to be 6-3 up, so I wasn’t surprised when he came out today because I knew he would improve and he did, while I stayed the same. There were two frames that I could have nicked to make it 8-5 but that doesn’t mean I would have won the match from then.

“Ronnie never gives up against me. I’ve seen him in matches throw in the towel, I wish he would do that with me! He has giving me some hidings in the past which were good to watch but that match was there for the taking if I had stepped it up.

“I am accepting it now that I’ll be outside the top 16 and qualifying for this one. The odds are that I’ll be floating around the top 32 for the next few years. I just have to accept that these boys are a step better than me. It’s hard to accept but it is accepted.

“These players have improved where as I have probably just stayed the same. It shows because I’ve not won a tournament in years and even then, I’ve only won a few.”

And big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for these images of the match

World Championship 2018 – Day 1 – Seeds are suffering

It wasn’t a great day for the seeds at the Crucible yesterday. Indeed five matches started, one of them finished and only one seed, Kyren Wilson, is ahead. Mark Selby, the defending champion went out to Joe Perry on a rather damning score: 10-4. Marco Fu, Ali Carter and Ronnie all trail by 6-3. Fu of course is probably not really fit, having suffered some serious eye problems, and not played, since January. But the key thing is simply that the qualifiers – Perry, Maguire and Dott – are very sharp, whilst the seeds come here cold and under pressure, because they have everything to lose and the weight of expectations is on them. Also, contrary to what happened last year, there were no long close matches, with late finishes in the last round of the qualifiers, so the qualifiers are still relatively fresh.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

http://www.worldsnooker.com/maguire-leads-rocket/

Stephen Maguire outplayed Ronnie O’Sullivan in an enthralling first session of their opening round clash at the Betfred World Championship to establish a 6-3 advantage.

The Rocket is enjoying his most fruitful season on the World Snooker Tour, having won five ranking titles in a single campaign for the first time in his career. He will have come into this afternoon’s clash with Maguire full of confidence, holding a 17-4 lead in their head-to-head record.

That disparity wasn’t reflected in the early exchanges today which saw Maguire, who is competing at the Crucible for the 15th consecutive season, storm to a 4-0 lead at the mid-session. The 2004 UK Champion compiled breaks of 101 and 95 as he asserted himself upon proceedings.

When they returned O’Sullivan fired in back-to-back century breaks of 118 and 110  to pull within one at 4-3. Maguire then took a scrappy 30-minute eighth frame where both players spurned opportunities.

That could prove to be a pivotal moment, as the tenacious Scot compounded his advantage with a break of 84 to restore a three-frame gap overnight. The match will be played to a conclusion tomorrow morning at 10am.

Kyren Wilson is on the verge of a spot in round two after a dominant performance saw him open up a 7-2 lead against two-time Crucible finalist Matthew Stevens.

The Warrior reached the quarter-final stage in 2016 and 2017 and he will be hoping to go at least a step further and make the one-table setup for a first time this year. Wilson qualified for his maiden Triple Crown final earlier this year at the Masters, although he did lose out in a 10-7 defeat against Mark Allen.

Stevens is playing at the Crucible for the first time since 2015. However, his hopes of a run were dashed by a late blitz by Wilson this afternoon. From 4-2, the 2015 Shanghai Masters champion compiled runs of 94, 65 and 126 to move three frames from victory at 7-2. They will resume tomorrow evening at 7pm.

http://www.worldsnooker.com/perry-ends-selbys-crucible-reign/

Joe Perry inflicted defending champion Mark Selby’s first Crucible defeat in three years after a shock 10-4 victory for the Gentleman in their opening round tie at the Betfred World Championship.

Selby’s winning run in Sheffield had extended to ten matches across his triumphs in 2016 and 2017. It’s only the seventh time a reigning champion has been ousted at the first hurdle at the Crucible Theatre.

First Round Crucible Defeats For Defending Champions

  • 1982 Steve Davis 1-10 Tony Knowles
  • 1986 Dennis Taylor 6-10 Mike Hallett
  • 2000 Stephen Hendry 7-10 Stuart Bingham
  • 2007 Graeme Dott 7-10 Ian McCulloch
  • 2012 Neil Robertson 8-10 Judd Trump
  • 2016 Stuart Bingham 9-10 Ali Carter
  • 2017 Mark Selby 4-10 Joe Perry

Regardless of the outcome at the Crucible this year, Selby has already ensured that he will finish the season as world number one after victory at the recent China Open.

Perry’s win this evening comes 12 months on from missing out on a place at the Crucible in 2017. The former Players Champion came through three tough matches at qualifying last week to seal his place at the event.

The world number 22 looked the sharper throughout today’s clash, but inflicted the majority of the damage in a fine morning session performance, which saw him establish a 7-2 lead.

Selby showed his steel last year when he overturned a 10-4 deficit to defeat John Higgins to win 18-15 in the final. However, the five-frame gap this evening proved too much for the 34-year-old.

The Leicester potter took two out of the first three frames this evening to give himself a glimmer of hope at 8-4. However, from there Perry thrust himself over the line with breaks of 76 and 90 to seal a famous win.

“I’m delighted, chuffed,” said Perry. “When the draw came out, I knew I’d have to perform to the best of my ability. Luck was on my side today, I had a few nice little bits of run which I capitalised on. All in all, I’m really pleased with my performance.

“The frame to go 9-4 up was massive. I sensed that for the first time all day he could smell blood. Luckily he didn’t get on a ball when he split the reds and I took full advantage with a good break.

“Mark is the best player we’ve got, he’s the best ambassador we’ve got and I didn’t want to celebrate too much at the end. I’ve got too much respect for him and it must be horrible for him to lose. I’ve lost here before lots of times, and never experienced being the reigning champion.

“It’s up there with my best results. I beat Mark Williams when he was world champion years ago (2004), and at the time that was one of my highlights and one of the best wins I’d ever had. When you beat the world number one, the World Champion, in any tournament it’s a great feeling and to do it at the Crucible makes it even more special.

“I know my game’s in good order, but come Thursday this result doesn’t mean anything. I’ve got to go out and perform again at a very high level. But I’ll enjoy it for now.”

Afterwards a disappointed Selby was full of praise for his opponent and admitted much of the damage was done this morning.

“He’s underachieved if anything. He should have a lot won more than he’s won. I’ve always rated him as a top player,” said the world number one. “I knew he wouldn’t be fazed by the occasion, he’s been here too many times and is too long in the tooth for that.

“I lost it really in the first session. My safety wasn’t up to scratch and every time I made a mistake he punished me heavily.”

“The last three or four years I’ve had some good success here so I can’t complain. I’m gutted to lose but if you’d told me in 2014 that in the next three or four years I’d have won it three times I’d definitely have taken that.”

Meanwhile, 2006 Crucible king Graeme Dott built a 6-3 lead over Ali Carter to move within four frames of a last 16 meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Stephen Maguire.

Dott took the opening frame with a top break of 49 then Carter levelled with a 106. Two scrappy frames went Dott’s way then he made a 34 clearance to nick the next on the black and go 4-1 up.

Carter pulled one back with a 52 clearance but Scotland’s Dott dominated the next two for 6-2. The last of the session went Carter’s way but he’ll need seven of the last ten frames when they resume at 2.30pm on Sunday.

So things are not looking good for Ronnie who looked both tense and flat yesterday. Obviously 6-3 is a huge deficit against someone of Maguire’s quality. However, if Ronnie could win the first mini-session by 3-1, he would find himself only one behind – 7-6 to Maguire – and right back in the match. But he will need to play much better than he did yesterday and apply himself 100%. If I’m honest, I’m not optimistic…

 

 

And a final Interview whith Ronnie before it starts …

This one in the Yorkshire Post

No Crucible drama for O’Sullivan in pursuit of Yorkshire hat-trick

RICHARD HERCOCK

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s mood was as bright as the sunshine which bathed Sheffield yesterday on the eve of the Betfred World Championship. As the sport’s top players gathered for snooker’s media day, including defending champion Mark Selby, all eyes were on five-time winner O’Sullivan.

ROS Crucible 2018
Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The last of those Crucible titles may have come in 2013, but that five-year stretch has not hoodwinked bookies, and tournament sponsors, Betfred who make him 5-2 favourite to emerge as champion in 17 days time. And with good reason. Victory in Sheffield would complete an amazing Yorkshire hat-trick, after winning the UK Championship in York, and the English Open in Barnsley earlier this season. Throw in other ranking tournament wins at the Shanghai Masters, World Grand Prix and the Players Championship, and it’s clear the 42-year-old is the man to beat at the Crucible. “I like it up this end of the world,” O’Sullivan told The Yorkshire Post. “I spend a lot of time in Sheffield, it’s a great place.

ROS Crucible 2018Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2018 Betfred World Snooker Championship Media Launch at The Crucible, Sheffield. Picture Tony Johnson.

“It’s good to be here. Statistically it’s been a good year, could have played better. “But there’s still quite a bit of silverware in the cabinet so I am not going to start complaining,” added O’Sullivan, who could become the first player to win £1m prize money on a single season with another Crucible title.

Not that O’Sullivan is thinking about the financial rewards. “(Reaching £1m) would mean something if I played for money, but I don’t play snooker for money,” he said. “That’s not something that enters my head, but I am aware that you all talk about it.

ROS Lunch Crucible 2018Ronnie O’Sullivan eats his lunch.

“I don’t look at records, I just try to enjoy myself.

“I am enjoying what I do in my life, playing snooker when I can, and this is just a two-week holiday in Sheffield for me hopefully.

“If it isn’t, I will just go back and do some stuff with Eurosport, bit of commentary. I am in a win-win situation. “A Chinese proverb says you have two lives, zero to 40, and 40-80. I am in that second part of my life now. “Two or three years ago I thought it was important to plan what I was going to do away from snooker. “I am just trying to hang in there and get a few results to keep me going. “I have won the world title five times and it’s a great feeling.

“But it’s probably not as good a feeling as you think it is. It sinks in a week later. But for me, I get detached a little bit, and have a bit of fun really.”

O’Sullivan opens up in Sheffield today against Scotsman Stephen Maguire, 37, in a tough first-round encounter. The Crucible format, stretched over 17 days, is a sporting marathon, which even keen runner O’Sullivan struggles to enjoy.

“I don’t have to get myself up for it,” he said. “Seventeen days is a long time, it’s just another tournament. “Someone like me, I prefer a five-day or seven-day tournament. That probably suits my personality a little bit better.

“If you start asking Usain Bolt would he like to run the 10km, he probably wouldn’t fancy the training. It’s a bit long for him. “But Mo Farah would love it. It’s different strokes for different folks. “I just need to come here and make it as relaxed as possible, but I much prefer shorter tournaments.”

O’Sullivan stands two short of Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven world titles. But former world No 2 Maguire – now ranked 18th in the world – is an awkward first-round opponent, having come through this week’s qualifiers to reach the Crucible. O’Sullivan said: “I don’t care who I play, if you want to win it you have to play well. If you don’t play well, you are going out. There’s no need to complicate it. “He is a fantastic player and the sort of player you wouldn’t want to draw in the first round. But I have drawn him, and have to get on with it. “I don’t really analyse it, it all comes instinctively. I don’t know how I am going to prepare, what I will be thinking, just get on with it, play the game, and let it unravel.”

Being interviewed in the bar of the Crucible – the famous Sheffield theatre which is no stranger to drama over the years – O’Sullivan cuts a relaxed figure. So long snooker’s poster boy, and box-office hit, the Essex potter has found a good balance between work and life off the table. “As you get older, you get a little bit wiser,” he explained. “I feel pretty good, happy with how my career is going, what I am doing. “The last two or three years have been really good. “I am quite a selfish person really. The family fit in with what I am doing, I am away working a lot. I pay the bills, so they understand that.” “I just go out, do my work and enjoy myself. When I am home they see me, when I am not, they speak to me on Facetime.”

O’Sullivan is closing in on another Hendry record, he has 33 ranking title wins, compared to the Scot’s 36. Not that the six-times UK champion and seven-times Masters winner likes to compare himself with players from previous generations. “It’s really hard to compare, because it depends what era you do it,” he said. “It’s okay winning tournaments when the field is a bit weak, but to compare records is pretty difficult. “Look at Federer, who did it when players like Nadal and Djokovic were around. That makes it even more impressive. “I am not sure how to measure myself against Stephen Hendry, as long as I keep getting a buzz from snooker I will keep doing it.”

And Ronnie took time to meet the Thai fans who came to support their player, Theppy! One is young Nutcharuk. They shared this on social media…

dbqegxvxuaez0_a

Good luck Ronnie!

Media Day ahead of the Crucible 2018

The top 16 seeds were to meet the press today at the Crucible. Here are some images shared on social media by Worldsnooker, and thanks to Tai Chengzhe  who sent me a couple more!

Of course, as result there are plenty of articles and interviews out today. Here are links to a few you might like:

World Snooker Championship 2018: Ronnie O’Sullivan avoids Stephen Hendry comparisons (BBC)

World Championship: What makes the perfect snooker player? (BBC)

Ronnie O’Sullivan: Older, wiser and playing the best snooker of his life

World Snooker Championship 2018: Crucible quest continues for qualifying survivors (BBC)

Hector Nunns, on twitter, showed his appreciation for the players efforts and availability

Long day at the Crucible for the Media Day with the top 16. Credit to the players, they’ve all got through a lot of interviews. Some have now gone home, some stayed in if playing Sat/Sun

World Championship 2018 – Ronnie’s previews and goals

This interview, probably originally done for Eurosport, has been published in several media, here is one

O’Sullivan playing down chances of Crucible record as World Championship bid begins

Ronnie O’Sullivan doesn’t normally turn down a challenge – he’s a man more accustomed to scaling the heights of every obstacle he comes across.

Yet Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world snooker titles is one mountain even the Rocket claims he won’t set himself the task of climbing.

On paper, O’Sullivan isn’t that far away from matching Hendry – five world titles to his name already and arguably in the form of his life as he prepares to head to the Crucible for the 26th time next week.

Statistically speaking, the 42-year-old has had the best season of his career. In fact, statistically speaking, no snooker player has ever had a better campaign – O’Sullivan’s five ranking event titles to date equals the single-season record.

He’s the bookies’ favourite heading into the 2018 Betfred World Championship – where he opens up against world No.18 Stephen Maguire on Saturday – and anything other than lifting the trophy aloft two weeks on Monday, for the first time since 2013, would be viewed as a disappointment.

However, O’Sullivan freely admits the 17-day marathon in Sheffield doesn’t particularly suit him – “some people might enjoy that sort of slog style but it’s not my favourite tournament because obviously it goes on a bit too long,” he says – and his numerous interests outside snooker mean he could well retire before having too many more shots at Hendry’s magnificent seven.

Instead, the world No.2 has other goals he still wants to accomplish on the baize.

“I’m motivated by stuff that I think is achievable,” explains O’Sullivan. “Breaking the 36 ranking events that Stephen Hendry holds [O’Sullivan currently has 33] is something that is achievable, so that is one of my goals.

“A thousand centuries is definitely something I will do at some point [he has currently made 937], as long as I don’t have a fatal accident that prevents me from playing!

“That’s something that’s definitely on my radar and obviously the 18 major titles [World Championship, UK Championship and Masters crowns] that me and Hendry both jointly hold is something that I’m in a position to move on and beat. They’re three goals that I’d like to tick off.

“Seven world titles is probably a mountain I wouldn’t want to set myself to climb because I don’t know when I’m going to stop playing.

“I haven’t set a date, but while things are still going pretty well I’ll keep playing. It’s probably the best results I’ve had this season, although my form has probably been better.

“That’s kind of weird to say – how do you have your best season and yet you feel like your form has not been as good as it has been in previous seasons where you’ve maybe not won as much?

“It just goes to show that sport can be pretty unpredictable and you just have to suck it up sometimes and see what you get at the end of it.”

Ealing Times: Ronnie O'Sullivan

The days of the mid-noughties and early 2010s that saw O’Sullivan threatening to quit snooker on a seemingly annual basis and taking a year off from the sport at a time are firmly behind him – thanks in no small part to working with renowned sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters since 2011.

But he has also found plenty of other interests to keep him balanced – he’s a successful snooker pundit on Eurosport, a published crime author and has filmed a documentary called American Hustle for the History Channel, where he explores America’s history with the game of pool.

World Championship 2018 – Round 1 Preview

Crucible20182draws

Previews are in fashion this time of the year, so here is mine…

Mark Selby v Joe Perry

Having watched Joe Perry playing this week in the EIS, I know that he’s playing well, he’s very solid. Nothing fancy but very efficient. He is a tough draw for any seed, even for Mark Selby. Mark Selby played well toward the end of the China Open at the start of this month and he claims that his confidence is back for it. If his form and confidence are indeed back, he should win this match; I certainly don’t expect a one-sided affair, but Mark should have too much for Joe over a best of 19. The only question for me is whether Mark will really show up in the form he found in Beijing. The reason for raising that question is this: earlier this season Mark went to China to defend his International Championship title, and succeeded. He had a very poor start of the season before that event, and everyone thought he had turned the corner. However, the poor form returned almost right away. Mark Selby to win by 10-7

Mark Allen v Liam Highfield

Liam Highfield is a very capable player whose career has been held back by health issues. He played very well at the EIS. Mark Allen hasn’t really played that well since his Masters triumph: he hasn’t got past the last 16 in any tournament since that win. Being the Masters Champion may also add an extra level of expectations on Mark, who has not always coped that well with it. Can Liam Highfield cause an upset? If this wasn’t the Crucible and if Liam wasn’t a debutant, my answer would be yes: he’s good enough. As it is, I doubt it. Mark Allen to win by 10-6

Kyren Wilson v Matthew Stevens

It’s good to have Matthew back at the Crucible. He played solid last week. Still I believe that Kyren will be too much to handle for Matthew, who, in addition, has history of losing matches from well in front. Kyren will not give up, even if he goes behind, and he will apply pressure on Matthew at the slightest sign of weakness or indecision. Therefore I expect Kyren to win by 10-5

Shaun Murphy v Jamie Jones

Remember the World Championship 2012? This was a first round match back then and it was Jamie Jones who came out the winner by 10-8. He then went on to reach the quarter finals. Can we see a return of the “Jones Kid”? Well it’s certainly a possibility if he keeps playing the way he did at the EIS. Also, there is a question mark over Shaun’s fitness. He hasn’t said anything about the state of his neck and shoulders since the China Open (where he probably shouldn’t have gone because long haul flights do no good in such injury cases). It might mean that he’s OK, or it might mean that he doesn’t want to give his opponent an advantage by admitting he’s not 100%. We will only know during of after the match. Because of this uncertainty I will make no prediction.

John Higgins v Thepchaya Un-Nooh

“Theppy” scored very heavily against Alfie Burden in the last round of the qualifiers. Can he put John Higgins on the back foot with a barrage of high breaks? It’s a possibility. However this is Thepchaya first time at the Crucible and it will all depend on how well and fast he adapts. Higgins is a predator at the table, if you show any weakness he will pounce mercilessly. If Thepchaya goes off to a good start and plants doubts in Higgins mind, he’s got chance, he certainly has the game when on form. The problem though is that Thepchaya hasn’t much of a B game and he’s up against an all-round master over two sessions. Can he hold it together? I’m not sure. Higgins to win by 10-5

Stuart Bingham v Jack Lisowski

Now this is an interesting one. Watching Jack at the EIS there were two things that struck me: he now has a more than decent safety game and he’s more patient than he used to be. That, combined with his natural talent makes him a very dangerous opponent to anyone. Stuart Bingham also appeared to be in great form over the last months. This should be an entertaining match, and a close one. My prediction: this match going 10-8 either way.

Luca Brecel v Ricky Walden

Ricky when on form is champagne. Is he on form? He certainly is back playing more than decent stuff without being quite at 100% of his abilities yet. But Ricky has been here before and there will be no intimidation factor. Luca has been very poor to say the least since his China Championship triumph. There have been all sorts of reasons offered for it: injuries, and cue issues. But then, serious slumps after an excellent run have been a bit of a pattern in Luca’s career so far. There was no real sign of improvement at the China Open. Ricky Walden to win by 10-3

Judd Trump v Chris Wakelin

Chris Wakelin is another debutant. He was truly impressive in the qualifiers. He faces Judd who should be well rested, as he didn’t go to China earlier this month. But will he be match sharp? He certainly didn’t impress me lately in competitions. Even in the Championship League Snooker – a tournament tailor made for him – this time he failed to make it to the winners group. All season Judd had an alternance of seemingly brilliant performances and unexpected defeats, often from ahead. At least this time he doesn’t come here having been boasting about it being “his year”. But he will be under pressure and the memories of last year defeat to Rory McLeod – from 4-0 up – will be present surely. It will be all about how Chris handles the Crucible special setup and atmosphere. So here is my (bold) prediction: Chris Wakelin to win by 10-7

Ding Junhui v Xiao Guodong

Ding couldn’t possibly have a better first round draw: he’s a God in China and plays a Chinese player. Xiao has only beaten him once, and that goes back to 2009. Enough said. My prediction: Ding wins by 10-6

Anthony McGill v Ryan Day

Ryan has the momentum. He’s won three events this season. He looked confident and at ease at the EIS. Mc Gill has been inconsistent this season, and not great actually in the second half of it. Despite a stand-out whitewash of John Higgins in Llanduno I think he’s vulnerable here. Prediction: Ryan Day to win 10-6

Marco Fu v Lyu HaoTian

Marco arrives in Sheffield having not played a competitive match since the Masters in January, and claiming that despite the surgery his eye is no better or worse. It’s hard to see him winning under those circumstances, even if his opponent is a 20 years old debutant. Lyu played really well last week and showed a lot of maturity, something he was lacking when he first qualified as a pro (quite normally considering how young he was). Lyu has quietly managed to climb into the top 64 within his first tour card season this time, just but he’s there. Not a mean feat. Prediction: Lyu to win 10-5

Barry Hawkins v Stuart Carrington

Now that’s a hard one for me to predict as I didn’t watch Carrington at all last week. Barry seems to be playing really well again, he seems to be up for it again and his results at the Crucible tell us that the place and the format do suit him. He’s a bit of a Crucible specialist. Based on that: Barry Hawkins to win by 10-6

Mark Williams v Jimmy Robertson

Jimmy Robertson is another one who played well at the EIS, very well even. He claims that he loves the Crucible but hasn’t been really successful there until now. What can he do against a rejuvenated Mark Williams? Not much I’m afraid if Mark is in the form he has shown for most of the season. Mark Williams to win 10-6

Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins

Robert Milkins can score heavily and fast. He does have a better safety game than most give him credit for. However he’s also often guilty of the unexpected miss leaving his opponent bang in. Can he upset Neil Robertson? Despite Neil’s rather indifferent season, I don’t think so unless Neil has a real stinker. Neil showed clear signs of improvement in the China Open, just at the right time. Prediction: Neil Robertson to win 10-6

Ali Carter v Graeme Dott

Looking at temperament there is only one winner here and that’s Graeme Dott. the gritty “snooker terrier” never gives up, whilst Ali has been guilty of throwing his toys out of the pram a good few times in recent seasons, including at the Crucible. I clearly remember how his second round match against Alan McManus went in 2016, I was there. And he lost to Graeme in 2017, by 10-7. I’ll predict much of the same: Graeme Dott to win by 10-7

Ronnie v Stephen Maguire

It couldn’t have been much harder for either of those two. I’m sure they are both delighted… Ronnie like all seeds comes here cold, with the weight of expectations and everything to lose, Stephen played well in EIS, but his record against Ronnie is rather damning. It won’t be an easy match for either. Just because it happened so often in the past, I expect it to stay close until the last mini session then for Ronnie to pull away. Prediction: Ronnie to win 10-7