2023 Crucible – Kyren’s 147, Judd’s exit and Si in the building and kicking

Three more matches concluded yesterday: Kyren Wilson beat Ryan Day, (10-5) scoring a 147 in the process, Anthony McGill got the better of Judd Trump (10-6) and Jack Lisowski beat Noppon Saengkham (10-7).

Kyren Wilson’s 147, probably the highlight of the day, was shared by Eurosport on their YouTube Channel:

This was Kyren’s 4th maximum, his first at the Crucible, the 188th in professional snooker and the 13th at the Crucible.

Here is WST report on the Kyren Wilson v Ryan Day’s match:

Wilson Makes Five Tons In Day Rout

Maximum man Kyren Wilson became only the third player to make five centuries in a first round match at the Crucible at he beat Ryan Day 10-5 at the Cazoo World Championship.

On what he will remember as one of the best days of his career, Wilson joined the elite Crucible 147 club, which has just eight other members, by making a maximum in the fifth frame. And the Kettering cueman joined Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen as the only players to register five tons in an opening round tie.

Wilson is in a purple patch of break-building form, having made six centuries in match of the same length at the recent Tour Championship, where he reached the final before losing to Shaun Murphy. His biggest goal in snooker is to win the world title and no one has played better over the first few days in Sheffield this time.

The world number seven now faces a potentially titanic second round clash with four-time champion John Higgins. That starts on Sunday and concludes on Monday afternoon.

Day trailed 6-3 going into tonight’s concluding session, and took the first frame with a break of 52 to pull one back. But there was little he could do as Wilson surged 9-4 ahead with runs of 120, 108 and 94.

In frame 15, Wilson had a chance to clear from 58-1 down, but missed the last red to a top corner, allowing Day to pull one back. But European Masters champion Wilson soon sealed the result with a 102 in frame 15.

The 147 was absolutely unbelievable,” said five-time ranking event winner Wilson. “I usually try not to get carried away and keep things under wraps. But this morning I was beaming, it’s so nice to be a part of snooker history, that’s something money can’t buy. It’s one of the greatest achievements of my short career and something I will look back on when I’m an old man. To join that short list of players who have made a 147 at the Crucible is amazing.

My wife Sophie told me our two kids were allowed to watch it at school and then they both came running out and gave her a big hug. It’s awesome for them because they are really getting into snooker.

I have been very consistent for the last few months and I have managed to hold on to that form and to bring it here. I always really enjoy playing John Higgins, he is a proper snooker player and competing with him tests every part of your game.

Welshman Day said: “Kyren played great. I don’t think I made all that many mistakes, but he punished any that I made. My season had good parts –  winning British Open was great, it got me to a lot of big events and back up the rankings – but there were lots of not so good bits as well.”

And Hector Nunns, writing for The Sportsman report more – and amusing – details …

Wilson said walking off after the first session: “I’m absolutely buzzing, I am so happy with that.

You know, I have said for a long time now that I have children I would love to leave a legacy, I’d love to leave something for them to watch back when they have kids. That is going to be one of those moments.

Absolute honour to make a maxi at the prestigious Crucible Theatre.
Stuff dreams are made of! 
Thank you everyone for your messages!

It’s definitely a bucket-list thing to try to do, make a 147 at the Crucible. There is no pressure like it to be honest. I am absolutely buzzing.

I under-hit the black with two reds left. So, I left myself on a red where I had to leave a high black. I had to play it with loads of right-hand side to get across for the last red.

That was a tough shot, let alone to get the positioning right. I was short on the last red as well.  I had to throw in some left-hand side.

I hit a good yellow, a good green, a good brown, just overcooked the blue and before I went down to it, I noticed everybody piled into the corner, all the press, with their cameras ready. I got a little bit distracted.

I played a good pink with loads of right-hand side as well. I turned into Alan ‘angles’ McManus.

I have had some maximums before in exhibitions. The amount of people that have come to me afterwards and said they have been snookers fans all their lives and that was an amazing thing to see live. So for the fans at the Crucible to see that live, I am sure it will live long in their memories.

Without a doubt, that is one of the best things I have ever done in my career. I got down for the pink and I couldn’t feel my right arm. The black was perfect. Happy days.”

Both my kids got to watch the 147 at school. My older son Finlay was in PE and they stopped it. And my younger son Bailey had his teacher Miss Palmer streaming it.

If a protester had jumped on the table during the 147 I’d have judo chopped them with my cue and gone all Jackie Chan.”

Wilson went on to complete a 10-5 win over Day last night – and set up a last-16 clash with four-time world champion John Higgins.

The Warrior equalled a record held by Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen of making five centuries in a Crucible first-round match with runs of 133, his magical 147, 120, 108 and a closing 102.

Bizarrely Wilson is the only one of the three joint record-holders who went on to win the match.

Well, well, well … protesters you have been warned! 😂😂😂

Anthony McGill beat Judd Trump by 10-6, and, after yesterday’s display this didn’t surprise me at all.

Here is the final frame, shared by Eurosport on their YouTube channel:

The Crucible always inspires McGill, who, in the past, has admitted that he sometimes struggles to find 100% motivation for smaller events, often played in uninspiring environments. He’s a big occasions player and, on the big scenes, he performs at his best and is very dangerous.

Here are the quotes by both players as reported by WST:

It’s an amazing scalp for me, I have so much respect for Judd,” said 32-year-old McGill. “He has got everything – he can tough it when he needs to and he’s got all the shots. I was never going to go out and beat him 10-3, I was expecting him to come back at me so I didn’t panic when he got back to 6-5. I managed to hold it together.

It’s a privilege to be here. Everyone still left in the draw is world class and can win it. Jack has got the game to entertain but he has also improved the weaknesses in his game. He has been in the top 16 for a good few years and it feels like he is never going to drop out, he is one of the top players and I’ll need to play well.”

Trump, who was runner-up to O’Sullivan last year, said: “I missed too many easy balls. I had more than enough chances, even from 6-3 down. Today I still felt that if I played half decent I’d have a good chance. It didn’t turn out that way. You can’t expect to play like that in the World Championship, it’s just down to myself really.

I just seemed to be falling out of position too often and finishing a little bit awkward. I always felt under pressure. Anthony scored when he got in, but I still felt that most frames I had my chances. There were a lot of careless shots and easy misses.

I feel a lack of match sharpness. A lack of tournament play has probably cost me over the last two or three months since the World Grand Prix. A lot of the time I’m just practising on my own, so when I’m out there I’m not feeling that comfortable. Maybe next season I need to play against a few more top players in practice and just get that sharpness back.”

And this was the Eurosport pundits, Alan McManus and Jimmy White, thoughts on Judd’s first round exit, as reported by Eurosport:

alking in the Eurosport studio, McManus and Jimmy White dissected Trump’s display and his preparation.

Should he be going on holiday 10 days before playing at the Crucible?” McManus said. “In my opinion, no. He’s a grown man, he’s a world champion, he’s won everything there is to win.

I thought that was a mistake quite frankly, I just don’t think that’s the way to go. He clearly does, that’s fine.

When he’s sitting in his chair in between frames, he looks a bit lost out there at times.”

McManus also gave his view that Trump has an issue with his cueing that needs to be rectified, after saying Trump is “not the same player” he was when he won the World Championship 2019.

It pains me to say it, but Trump, in the last two-and-a-half years, has won one ranking event. That’s a fact. In the previous two years or so, he won umpteen ranking events.

I hate to say it, but there is a flaw in his technique, I don’t know how much he’s taken that on board.

It might be the case that it’s getting progressively worse. I hope it’s not the case, but he’s not the wrecking ball he was four years ago when he played the match of history in dismantling John Higgins in the final here.”

Looking back over some of Trump’s errors in his match with McGill, White added: “Average club players don’t miss those shots. So he is struggling with his confidence and his technique.

BBC repeatedly showed Judd Trump slumped in his chair, looking dejected, lost and utterly miserable. I’m not a Judd fan at all, I profoundly disliked the arrogance he showed in the past, although he has grown up past that in recent years, but I didn’t like to see him like that at all. In fact I hated seeing him like that, just as I hated seeing Ronnie being tortured by Ebdon in 2005. Of course, McGill wasn’t using any Ebdon’s dirty tactics, he was just doing his job properly, he was playing well and winning his match. But still … seeing another human being in pain will NEVER be “compelling view” for me and I can’t understand how anyone can enjoy watching this, unless they have a serious sadistic streak.

Finally, Jack Lisowski defeated Noppon Saengkham by 10-7. I didn’t watch much at all of that match, but here is WST report:

‘Panicking’ Lisowski Holds Nerve To Beat Saengkham

Jack Lisowski admitted he almost “collapsed” at the end of his Cazoo World Championship battle with Noppon Saengkham, but recovered in time to win 10-7 and reach the last 16 at the Crucible for the third consecutive year

There were nervous moments for Lisowski as Saengkham came from 9-4 down to 9-7 and had a chance to close the gap further. World number 13 Lisowski has not always shown a killer instinct at the business end of matches but this time he was able to edge over the line to book a second round meeting with Judd Trump or Anthony McGill.

Gloucestershire’s Lisowski reached the quarter-finals for the first time a year ago, notably knocking out Neil Robertson before a narrow 13-12 defeat against John Higgins. Coming through another tough test today will boost his confidence as he looks towards his next assignment which starts on Saturday.

I was panicking a bit at the end because he looked like he really fancied it,” said the six-time ranking event finalist. “He was relaxed, and when your opponent is like that it’s tough. I wasn’t think about the scoreline all match, but then when I got to nine I though it would be over quickly. Then at 9-7 he looked good and I felt I was all over the place. I felt as if I was collapsing but I was also aware that it probably wasn’t as bad as that. That helped me, knowing I have won matches like that before and I could get out alive. It was a tough draw but it was an open attacking game which suited me.”

Lisowski led 6-3 overnight having made breaks of 102, 50, 78 and 58 in the first session. The opening frame today came down to a safety exchange on the colours, and Saengkham got the snooker he needed on the green, but then missed the free-ball blue into a top corner. A grateful Lisowski rolled in the green to go 7-3 ahead.

Frame 11 was another tense affair and was resolved on a respotted black. Lisowski played a series of loose safety shots, and after missing two opportunities at the black,  Saengkham potted it at the third attempt to pull one back. A run of 65 from Lisowski put him 8-4 up, and he dominated the next to go five ahead with six to play.

After the interval came Saengkham’s fight back as he took three in a row with breaks of 62, 47 and 130. And the Thai ace had a chance to win frame 17 but ran out of position with two reds left when he led 51-33. It came down to the blue and Lisowski showed tactical maturity as he got the better of a safety tussle before potting the blue which proved enough for victory.

I would prefer to play Anthony McGill next,” added Lisowski, who has reached the semi-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship and German Masters this season. “It’s hard to concentrate against (close friend) Judd. But Judd and I have had some cracking games. On paper, Judd is more dangerous, but then McGill comes alive here every year, he is a Crucible specialist. It will be tough either way. I have a few days at home now to be ready.

Jack got his wish fulfilled then… good luck Jack, go and win that second round match as well!

Finally … a word about a match that’s still underway. Si Jiahui was “allowed in the building” to play Shaun Murphy 😉 and is currently leading by 5-4 in their match. Si lost the first two frames and was clearly struggling with the conditions and the environment. He was 3-1 down at the MSI. There were quite a few writing him off at that stage and clearly rejoicing at the prospect of him getting beaten heavily. Someone even suggested that he regretted not betting on a 10-0 outcome when the lad was 2-0 down. It’s mean and I can’t shake off the feeling that that person would never have written such a thing if Si was British.

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.

2023 Crucible – Day 3 – Grudge, chaos and orange powder

To say that yesterday at the Crucible was eventful is the mother of all understatements!

Three matches concluded yesterday.

Hossein Vafaei beat Ding Junhui by 10-6. Ding had won the first session by 5-4, but Hossein totally dominated the second session, scoring very heavily. He scored breaks of 87, 117, 122, 68, 57 and 89 in a marvellous display of attacking snooker. Ding, as so often in recent years, appeared to lack fighting spirit once he got behind. His body language wasn’t great.

Hossein’s fireworks on the table were followed by an fiery post-match interview…

Here is the report by WST:

Vafaei Stirs Up O’Sullivan Clash

Hossein Vafaei, the flag-bearer for Iranian snooker, won a match at the Crucible for the first time with a 10-6 victory over Ding Junhui in the opening round of the Cazoo World Championship.

Vafaei will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round, over three days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and added spice to the fixture by stoking up rivalry between the pair. “Ronnie O’Sullivan is such a legend, such a good player when he’s on the table,” said Vafaei. “He’s just such a nice person…when he’s asleep.

World number 23 Vafaei, by far the best ever player from Iran, became the first player from his country to compete at the Crucible last year, losing to Judd Trump. The 28-year-old has now gone one step further thanks to a tremendous display against three-time UK Champion Ding, making two centuries and six more breaks over 50.

Vafaei trailed 5-4 overnight but reeled off the first four frames today in just 43 minutes with runs of 117, 122, 68 and 57 to go 8-5 up. China’s Ding, the 16th seed, pulled one back with a break of 77, but Vafaei bounced back with an 89 for 9-6. Ding had two scoring chances in frame 16 but could muster only ten points, and Vafaei’s run of 45 ended the tie.

His performance was good enough to inspire a standing ovation from the Crucible crowd. However, it was Vafaei’s comments about O’Sullivan which are sure to generate headlines. He referred to a match at last season’s German Masters qualifiers when he scored a 5-0 victory over O’Sullivan, who smashed the pack of reds from the break-off in the last frame.

Ronnie was my hero,” said the 2022 Shoot Out champion. “I could never see myself beating him. When I beat him 5-0 I was a little bit sad, but on another side happy because I showed I can play. He will remember that, 100 per cent. Play like a man. Don’t play mind games or smash the balls and disrespect me, when 70 million or 80 million people are watching me in Iran. Now he’s my opponent. This is life. I have to stand up in front of him if I want to be World Champion.

If we want this sport to improve, we need to respect each other, and teach others to respect us. When we don’t respect each other, even the people don’t respect us. We have to teach the children to respect their father and family, and everything will be good.

I believe that everything happens for a reason, you can’t run away. If you do something bad to the people and break someone else’s heart, then God will give you an opportunity to get revenge.

He has already proved everything, he has done everything in this sport. Hopefully I will play the way I played today. If he beats me 13-0 I will still love being involved in the match. Get your popcorn everyone!

As for today’s match, Vafaei added: “It was such a great game, I enjoyed it a lot. I’m a big fan of Ding because he has opened up a massive market for snooker so every one of us should respect what he has done for our sport., I told him before the match that I am his fan, but this is a game and someone has to lose. Hopefully I can show this type of performance more.

I don’t want to be boring! I love the fans, they pay to come and watch us. Nothing scares me and I enjoy playing in front of them. Sometimes I say something to make them laugh. I know that’s not our job, but it suits some people. If you want to be a champion, you must have the people’s heart.

Ding said: “The first two frames, he took control. I tried to get it back but he was very good today.  He could go far and win more matches.

Overall this season has been very good. The past two seasons I was not there. Sometimes I have good season, then I disappear for a few seasons and come back again so I will try to be more consistent.”

There were also quotes, not reported above, about Ronnie’s illness just being “excuses”. Frankly that makes no sense at all given that Ronnie had won the match, not even mentioning that he looked absolutely exhausted during the post-match interview.

Now about the incident that apparently upset Hossein so much… Ronnie smashed the pack open at the German Masters qualifiers when he was already 4-0 down. That’s obviously not a great attitude to have BUT was it directed at his opponent? Was it deliberate disrespect? I don’t think so. I’m 100% certain that it had nothing to do with Hossein at all and everything to do with Ronnie hating those qualifiers, hating the venue, feeling unable to get the motivation to apply himself, and as he already was on the cusp of defeat, wanting to get out of there asap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses for Ronnie here, but I’m 100% convinced that, if Hossein believes it was directed at him, he’s completely misreading the situation and Ronnie’s behaviour under the circumstances.

That said, Ronnie is not an innocent lamb and the day before yesterday, had properly taunted Hossein during his own post-match as reported by Hector Nunns:

“Don’t rattle my cage” – Ronnie O’Sullivan hits out at potential next Crucible opponent

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased into the second round of this year’s Snooker World Championship, where he may face Hossein Vafaei, who called for The Rocket to retire last year

Image credits: Eurosport

Ronnie O’Sullivan has reignited his feud with Hossein Vafaei as the Iranian faces Ding Junhui for the chance to take on ‘ The Rocket ‘ the Crucible. 

O’Sullivan defeated Pang Junxu 10-7 in his opening match of this year’s World Championships in Sheffield. Vafaei will be The Rocket’s opponent in the second round if he defeats World No 16 Ding, with their game beginning on Sunday. 

Ding is the favourite, though O’Sullivan appears to be relishing the chance to take on the Prince of Persia more. The duo clashed during last year’s World Championships when Vafaei called for O’Sullivan to retire for being ‘disrespectful. 

Though he rowed back on those comments, it appears The Rocket has not forgotten Vafaei’s blast. After easing his way past Pang, O’Sullivan, the reigning world champion, hit out at Vafaei and warned him not to spark another feud.

O’Sullivan told Eurosport: “Hossein Vafaei, the man who said…what did he say about me, I can’t remember?” Pundit Alan McManus gave him an answer of: “I think he said you should retire.”

The Rocket then responded: “Has he been saying much this year?. I think he’s learned to be quiet. Don’t rattle my cage! I’m just having fun. I love it when they call me out, I love it when they give me stick.

I love it, it turns me on, I get off on it. I need it to fire me up so I’m hoping someone says something, so I can have a reason to perform. But they’re not going to say it now, they probably realise it’s not a good tactic.”

Mark Williams beat Jimmy Robertson by 10-5. Jimmy Robertson was leading by 5-4 at the start of the session but didn’t win a frame yesterday. Here is Mark Williams assessment of his performance and the state of his game as reported by Worldsnooker:

I played really solid today and put the pressure on Jimmy,” said Williams. “He missed a few that he wasn’t missing yesterday. My form has been good this season. I nearly won the Masters. I am still here and still doing it, I am moulding into a solid player all round. My potting is not as good as it used to be but my all-round game now is probably better than it was years ago.

Sometimes there are long pots which I would have gone for in the past and got them nine times out of ten. These days my eyes are not as good so I turn them down. It will be a tough game against Luca but I’m not worried about anyone else, I’ll just try my best. And if I win the tournament again, this time all my clothes are staying on!

Mark Allen beat Fan Zhengui by 10-5. That match was interrupted by an unprecedented incident and, credits to both players for refocusing after that and playing a good match. Fan certainly didn’t disgrace himself on his Crucible debut. Here is Mark’s assessment of the match as reported by WST:

The frame before the interval was really big. If it went 7-6, I think Fan would have been in the ascendancy. His long potting was really good and he was playing some clever safety. To see that pink go over the pocket was huge,” said nine-time ranking event winner Allen.

I felt like mentally I was ready for anything out there. The work that I’ve done with Paul Gaffney (sport psychologist) over the last 12 months has stood me in good stead. I’ve even practised differently in the build uip. I’ve actually taken my foot off the gas in the last week. Normally, I try to do seven or eight hours a day. I feel like I’ve conserved a lot of energy.

The bottom line is I haven’t played well enough here. I feel that I’ve always prepared really well. I’ve tried the same thing year on year. It hasn’t worked and I was expecting different results. I’ve tried something different this time and I’ve even done a bit of commentary. Some people have criticised me for that, but I feel I need to try something different to break the monotony of not going well here.”

Now about the incident …

Just stop Oil … stops the play at the Crucible – video shared on twitter.

What happened there ??? Here is the report by Phil Haigh

Protester jumps on table during World Snooker Championship match at the Crucible

Phil Haigh Monday 17 Apr 2023 7:23 pm

A Just Stop Oil protester jumps on the table and throws orange powder during the match between Robert Milkins against Joe Perry during day three of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Picture date: Monday April 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA Story SNOOKER World. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
A Just Stop Oil protester jumped on the table, causing chaos at the Crucible (Picture: PA)

A protester jumped on the table during a match at the World Snooker Championship on Monday evening, blasting orange powder over the baize.

The first round match between Rob Milkins and Joe Perry on Table One was interrupted as a protester wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ t-shirt leapt on the table.

He opened a small bag which sent orange powder all over the table before he was hauled off.

Another protester attempted to jump on the other table, where Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi were playing, but they were stopped beforehand and removed.

Play was stopped on both tables as a clear-up operation began, with venue staff, World Snooker Tour employees and even MC and commentator Rob Walker joining in to hoover up the powder.

A statement from South Yorkshire Police read: ‘Two people were detained after protesters gained entry to The Crucible earlier this evening (Monday 17 April).

A 30-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Both are in police custody.’

Stephen Hendry, the seven-time world champion, said: ‘I have never seen that before at a snooker event. It’s a first.

It is scary. Wow! You just hope the cloth can be recovered from that. It caught us all by surprise and then this happens.

For me, straightaway as a snooker player I am thinking: “Is the table recoverable?” We don’t know what that is on the table.’

A Just Stop Oil protester jumps on the table and throws orange powder during the match between Robert Milkins against Joe Perry during day three of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Picture date: Monday April 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA Story SNOOKER World. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
The protester ended the Perry v Milkins match for the night (Picture: PA)

The protest occurred at around 7.15pm and just before 8pm Allen and Fan returned to Table Two, but Table One is to be recovered overnight.

Milkins and Perry will play their first session tomorrow night at 7pm, when they were due to play their first. The second session time is set to be played at 9.30am on Thursday.

Remarkably, Allen was on a break of 24 before the interruption and returned to complete a brilliant century, scoring an immense 126.

I’m a bit surprised. and aggrieved, that Olivier Marteel’s prompt reaction isn’t mentioned. Indeed he immediately wrestled the woman who was trying to climb on “his” table and, aided by WST security got her out of the arena. Without his swift intervention it’s unlikely that play would have resumed at all yesterday evening. Of course, Olivier is a nurse, working at emergency services, he’s used to pressure situations asking for immediate action. As it is, Allen and Fan were able to continue their match, the “Crucible curtain” was opened and the fans were eventually able to enjoy some great snooker

Here are some more images shared on social media

The table was hoovered and protected by a slipcover before play resumed. And yes, Rob Walker is a man of many talents…

2023 Crucible – Day 2 – Four winners, Two 146s and Ronnie about the Netflix Documentary and Snooker

Four more players booked their places in the second round yesterday

They are Neil Robertson, Luca Brecel, Jak Jones and Stuart Bingham. All detailed results are on snooker.org.

Neil Robertson beat Wu Yize, the 19 years old debutant, by 13-3 and it wasn’t a case of Wu playing badly as he had two great centuries of his own. Neil though was scarily good and scored very heavily fron start to finish. Making a 146 is a rare feat, making two in one match … well I don’t think it ever happened before. This is, of course, the current HB of the tournament. Ryan Day, who has made a 146 in the qualifiers must feel sick! Neil is now the only player to have made 147, 146 and 145 at the Crucible. In his post-match interview he asked if he has now got the complete “140+ collection” and he was devastated to learn that the 144 is missing… I’m sure that he will try to put that right ASAP.

Neil’s 146 in frame 11, shared by Eurosport on their YouTube channel.

Stuart Bingham beat David Gilbert by 10-4 from 3-1 down. I didn’t watch the match but I didn’t expect it to be that one-sided, especially considering that Gilbert had breaks of 60, 90 and 121 to lead 3-1 at the first MSI. It seems though that Gilbert is going through very difficult times both on and off the table. This is what he had to say to “the Sportsman” after the match, and it’s pretty worrying:

It is what I deserve really. I have to go and sort my life out, I have been far too big a mess for far too long. I will never be able to play snooker again the way I am. I need to go away and do a lot.

Stuart probably thinks he played really well but it was like a club player versus a decent player, I was making it far too easy for him. Unless I get into my rhythm and get going, then I am alright. If I don’t, I haven’t got it in me to pot a tricky ball or play a safety. My confidence and belief isn’t there.

I don’t know, I don’t know what is going to happen when I walk out of it, I have no idea. I miss being able to play snooker to go a good level and compete with the big boys, it is disappointing, but who knows.

I don’t even know if I will bother again, I don’t know. I don’t mean that in a bad manner, or sound arsey, I have just got far too much going on.

I don’t know when I will look at my cue again .Who knows? I might put everything back into it. I might never play again. No idea. A pivotal time in my career? No, my life. I have bigger things than snooker to think about.”

Luca Brecel beat Ricky Walden by 10-9. Luca, who in 2012 had become the youngest player to play at the Crucible, had played in the famous theatre 5 times in previous years and had never won a match. He put that right yesterday by beating Ricky Walden by 10-9 in a hard-fought contest. Ricky had trailed by 6-9 but came back to force a decider scoring breaks of 93 and 71 in the process. Luca took the match with one winning visit in the decider, a good 84. This was a difficult match for me to watch, as I know both of them personally. Luca, of course, is Belgian like me, and I want snooker to further develop in mainland Europe, but Ricky and his manager, Lee Gorton, have done a lot for me when I started taking pictures on the tour some 13 years ago.

Jak Jones beat Ali Carter by 10-6. Lewis had predicted that no debutant would win this year but Jak Jones had other ideas. Of course, Jak is not a kid, he’s 29. He’s a bit of a late developer but he’s a very, very solid player with a good temperament. This is what is needed at the Crucible. Still it’s a bit of a surprise given Ali’s experience – he’s reached the final at the Crucible twice before – and the kind of season he had, winning the German Masters and getting to the final of the Players Championship. Well done Jak!

A very honest interview here by Ronnie

This was shared by Sporting Life on their YouTube channel. Ronnie is speaking to Hector Nunns here. Hector is one of the good guys in the media room, a hard worker, a true snooker fan and someone Ronnie trusts.

In this interview, Ronnie speaks about the Netflix documentary that he should be able to watch today for the first time but will be different from what initially planned, about his life and snooker’s place in it , about his love for his sport, about his new book, Steve Peters and finding the right balance.

It’s truly endearing interview and one that didn’t and won’t get much publicity probably, unlike those given in moments when frustration and negativity took the better of him. We all have such moments, we should remember that. We all have those moments when, no matter how much we love our kids/partner/pet/job, we had enough and just want to forget about it all and flee to Mars.

This is the Ronnie I know and like.

2023 Crucible – Day 1 – Ronnie’s Win and Tour News

Ronnie being the defending champion played his first round match to a finish on the first day of the World Championship. He beat Pang Junxu, who was making his Crucible debut, by 10-7.

Here are the scores:

It was a lengthy match, far from easy, and as you can see Pang was the heaviest scorer of the two. Ronnie didn’t make s century in the match, something that hadn’t happened at the Crucible since the SFs in 2023…

As it transpired, Ronnie was battling though illness and really struggling physically. He was also full of praise for his young opponent.

Here are the reports by WST:

Morning Session

Defending Champion O’Sullivan Leads Pang

Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan made a strong start to his Cazoo World Championship campaign, emerging from the opening session with a 6-3 lead over debutant Pang Junxu at the Crucible Theatre.

This morning’s tie saw O’Sullivan break the record for most appearances at the Crucible. It’s the Essex cueman’s 31st time competing at the Theatre of Dreams, surpassing Steve Davis’s previous record of 30.

O’Sullivan’s 18-13 win over Judd Trump in last year’s final earned him a record equalling seventh Crucible crown, drawing level with Stephen Hendry. The Rocket came out of the traps quickly this morning in his bid for an eighth world title.

China’s Pang, who reached a maiden final at the recent WST Classic, took some time to settle on the sport’s grandest stage and even walked out through the wrong entrance to the arena after he was introduced to the crowd. However, a strong rally at the end of the session saw Pang stay in touch.

The first chance of the morning went to Pang, who crafted a run of 50 to take control of the opener. O’Sullivan got himself back into the frame and a missed blue from Pang allowed him to deposit the last three balls and move 1-0 up.

Further breaks of 61, 53 and 71 helped 47-year-old O’Sullivan to secure a commanding 5-0 lead. However, those who were expecting 23-year-old Pang to wilt in the Crucible cauldron were mistaken.

A stunning run of 133 earned Pang his first frame. Despite O’Sullivan then moving 6-1 ahead, the momentum was with his opponent. Pang shut the 39-time ranking event winner out for the following two frames and made breaks of 83 and 44 to come out of the session just three behind at 6-3. The match will be played to a finish this evening at 7pm.

Evening Session

O’Sullivan Sets New Crucible Record

Ronnie O’Sullivan achieved a new record for appearances at the Crucible as he battled to a 10-7 success over Pang Junxu in the first round of the Cazoo World Championship in Sheffield.

O’Sullivan made a fast start and went 5-0 ahead but as the day went on he struggled with the affects of illness and fatigue. He looked vulnerable in the closing stages when he was hauled back from 9-4 to 9-7, but eventually made it through to the second round for the 27th time.

I am relieved it’s over,” the 47-year-old told Eurosport. “I’ve got a bug. Everything has gone, I was just hanging in there. In the end I was just desperate to get over the line, it was a horrible feeling. I can’t wait to get back to bed. At least I can have a few days of rest now.

O’Sullivan first played at the Crucible in 1993 and has been ever present since; 31 appearances puts him one ahead of Steve Davis. He could have reached another landmark as a century today would have made him the first player to make 200 tons at the Crucible, but his highest break was just 82.

Having equalled Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles last year, today’s victory was the first step in his quest to win an eighth Crucible crown and he now faces another tough test in the last 16 against Ding Junhui or Hossein Vafaei.

China’s 23-year-old Pang, who was Rookie of the Year in 2021, impressed on his Crucible debut, showing his charisma around the table.

He led 6-3 after the first session then that 82 extended his advantage. Pang had a chance to snatch the next from 54-0 down but ran out of position with two reds left, and later played a loose safety which handed his opponent the chance to extend his lead to 8-3.

Frame 12 came down to the last red and Pang enjoyed a handy fluke, slotting it into a top corner when attempting safety, which allowed him to pull one back. O’Sullivan dominated the 13th for 9-4 but the tide turned after the interval as Pang reeled off three in a row with 78, 70 and 73. His hopes of an upset were ended in frame 17 by O’Sullivan’s 81.

When you are feeling good, you are enjoying every moment,” added world number one O’Sullivan. “But tonight I felt as if I was sliding about. It feels like glandular fever, it saps the energy out of you. Sometimes you just have to get through those situations. You fight, that’s what you do. Tiger Woods won a tournament on one leg, Stephen Hendry won the world title with a broken arm.

I believe in the snooker Gods, if I had lost tonight they would have determined that. I turn up and try my best, and if that’s not good enough I have to move on. I never get down or frustrated or worried.

Asked about Pang, he added: “He’s a phenomenal player, a joy to watch. I was like him 30 years ago. It was lovely to see.

WST shared the last frame on the YouTube channel

There were loads of pictures floating around as you would expect

A big big thanks to my friend Tai Chegzhe for these, much appreciated!

And more shared on social media by WST, Matt Huart and other various sources:

Ronnie doesn’t play before Friday so, hopefully he will get enough time to rest and recover.

Announcements …

By Ronnie


At least three events will be played in China next season

World Snooker Tour Set To Return To China With Three Events In 2023/24

The World Snooker Tour will stage a minimum of three tournaments in China later this year, including the first world ranking events since 2019.

CLICK HERE for the 2023-24 WST Provisional Calendar

Aside from the 2022 Hong Kong Masters which was an eight-player invitation event, these will be the first professional snooker events hosted in China for four years.

The tournaments are:

Shanghai Masters – invitational with 24 players. September 11-17

Wuhan Open – world ranking event. October 9-15

International Championship – world ranking event. November 5-12. Host city to be confirmed

Total prize money for these three events combined will exceed £2 million. The provisional calendar for the 2023/24 season has now been released.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “This is a momentous announcement for our sport as we ramp up our return to staging events in Asia. To have a minimum of two world ranking events, plus a major invitation tournament, in China later this year is fantastic for the players and fans.

“Throughout the pandemic we have maintained dialogue and relationships with the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association as well as our key partners and promoters across China. This has allowed us to make a fast return to staging key events now that travel restrictions have lifted.

“We promised our players that this was top of our agenda and we have delivered on that promise, adding more than £2 million in prize money to the tour. We will continue to explore opportunities to stage further events in China and beyond.

We are excited to host a tournament for the first time in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province and a vibrant city of 11 million people. The Shanghai Masters has a long history and is renowned for its prestige.

There is a vast appetite for snooker among fans in China and they will keenly anticipate the return of our star players. We look forward to working with our partners on building a bright future for snooker in the region.

That’s, of course, excellent news.

The 2023 World Snooker Championship – The Crucible Draw

The draw for the 2023 World Championship at the Crucible has been made this morning live on BBC radio 5.

Here is how the first round pans out, with schedule (UK time)

Match 1. Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Pang Junxu
Saturday, April 15th – 10am and 7pm

Match 2. Ding Junhui vs Hossein Vafaei 
Sunday, April 16th – 10am
Monday, April 17th – 10am

Match 3. Luca Brecel vs Ricky Walden
Saturday, April 15th – 2:30pm
Sunday, April 16th – 7pm

Match 4. Mark Williams vs Jimmy Robertson
Sunday, April 16th – 2:30pm
Monday, April 17th – 2:30pm

Match 5. Judd Trump vs Anthony McGill
Tuesday, April 18th – 2:30pm
Wednesday, April 19th – 2:30pm

Match 6. Jack Lisowski vs Noppon Saengkham
Tuesday, April 18th – 10am
Wednesday, April 19th – 10am

Match 7. Robert Milkins vs Joe Perry
Monday, April 17th – 7pm
Tuesday, April 18th – 7pm

Match 8. Shaun Murphy vs Si Jiahui 
Wednesday, April 19th – 7pm
Thursday, April 20th – 7pm

Match 9. Mark Allen vs Fan Zhengyi
Monday, April 17th – 10am and 7pm

Match 10. Stuart Bingham vs David Gilbert 
Saturday, April 15th – 10am
Sunday, April 16th – 10am

Match 11. Ali Carter vs Jak Jones 
Saturday, April 15th – 7pm
Sunday, April 16th – 7pm

Match 12. Neil Robertson vs Wu Yize 
Saturday, April 15th – 2:30pm
Sunday, April 16th – 2:30pm

Match 13. Kyren Wilson vs Ryan Day 
Wednesday, April 19th – 10am and 7pm

Match 14. John Higgins vs David Grace 
Monday, April 17th – 2:30pm
Tuesday, April 18th – 2:30pm

Match 15. Gary Wilson vs Elliot Slessor 
Tuesday, April 18th – 10am and 7pm

Match 16. Mark Selby vs Matthew Selt
Wednesday, April 19th – 2:30pm
Thursday, April 20th – 1pm

Pang Junxu is a very, very good player but he’s a reasonably good draw for Ronnie in the first round. Pang attacks the game, he isn’t slow and, of course, he is a debutant. He’s not to be taken lightly at all but, if Ronnie isn’t suffering from his arm injury, this should be a winnable match. The second round however, should Ronnie get to that stage, will be mightily difficult, no matter who from Ding Junhui or Hossein Vafaei emerges the winner of their round 1 clash. That match, between Ding and Vafaei is the clash of the round.

And meanwhile … the venue is getting ready!

Images shared on social media by various sources

The 2023 World Snooker Championship Qualifiers – Day 10

That’s it… the 2023 World Snooker Championship qualifiers concluded yesterday evening and here is WST report on the last day:

Perry Edges Thriller To Relegate Davis

Joe Perry claimed a black ball decider against Mark Davis to win 10-9 and qualify for the Cazoo World Championship, ending his opponent and close friend’s 32 year run as a professional.

Davis needed to reach the final stages to retain his tour card and had looked set to do it, when he found himself on a match ball final pink. However, he agonisingly spurned his opportunity to the top left.

Perry stepped up and deposited pink and black to clinch a dramatic victory. After the final ball dropped, the Gentleman slumped his shoulders and looked visibly emotional at the table, with the mixed feelings provoked by what had just occurred.

Victory sees 2022 Welsh Open champion Perry earn a first trip to the final stages since 2019, having lost his first match in the previous three years. Davis will now require Q School if he wishes to regain his professional status.

Earlier in the tie, with Davis leading 7-6, Perry crucially took the 14th on the black to restore parity. He then also won the 15th on the final ball to move 8-7 ahead.

Runs of 104 and 75 saw Davis regain the lead at 9-8, before Perry crafted a contribution of 58 to take the tie to that nerve shredding final frame.

I should be absolutely delighted, over the moon and celebrating. I am chuffed to bits to go to the Crucible, but the way it has happened. I just feel so sick for him,” said 48-year-old Perry.

I came to the table (after Davis missed the pink) and I felt physically sick for him. It was a horrible feeling. He is one of my best friends and has been for a long time. I felt sick and I potted a great pink and black.

It never bothered me the whole match, that he was going to drop off the tour if I win. It didn’t enter my head once, until that clearance. It must have hit him like a ton of bricks, because it hit me. It doesn’t matter to me, it matters to him so it must have been awful.”

China’s Pang Junxu secured a Crucible debut after beating compatriot Xu Si 10-5. Pang reached his maiden ranking final at the recent WST Classic, where he was beaten by Mark Selby in the title match. The 23-year-old has carried that form over to this week.

He led 5-4 coming into the evening session and blitzed to the win. Breaks of 85, 86, 102 and 67 helped Pang to five of the six frames played and saw him secure victory.

Pang said: “Before the match, I told myself many times, ‘don’t think about winning, playing at the Crucible and all the stuff comes with it’, so I was able to focus throughout. It is incredible and I’m over the moon, but to be honest both of my opponents offered me with a lot of chances.”

David Grace started the week knowing he needed to win his first match to remain on the circuit. He achieved that by defeating Sean O’Sullivan and followed it up with a win over Sam Craigie. Today, he beat amateur Andrew Higginson 10-5 to reach the final stages of the World Championship.

If you’d offered me winning my first match I’d have taken it. Getting in the 64 and not being at Q School is everything,” said 37-year-old Grace.

It is really special to get to the Crucible. It is right up there with the best achievements of my career. I’ve had a couple of semi-finals and got to the Crucible last time. It is brilliant to be back there.

Iran’s Hossein Vafaei earned his second consecutive Crucible appearance with a 10-6 win over Welshman Jackson Page.

Vafaei came into this evening with a 6-3 advantage and managed his lead well to get over the line, crafting breaks of 84, 52 and 115 along the way.

I don’t care who I play at the Crucible. At the end of the day it is a game of snooker and I am going to play my game. It is my job to play snooker and try my best to perform. I will be respectful of all my opponents and everyone is tough. There is no easy draw for anyone,” said 2022 Shoot Out winner Vafaei.

It has been a hard journey for me. It is my life and I will take it. I am writing everything down, one day my story will come out and I think it will be good for snooker. I have some story to tell. Let’s see what I do at the Crucible. Hopefully my best comes out, like at the Masters. I can’t wait to play at the Crucible as well.”

World number 60 Elliot Slessor will appear at the Theatre of Dreams for a second time, after scoring an impressive 10-5 defeat of Zhou Yuelong.

The North East cueman made his Crucible debut in 2020, which unfortunately coincided with the coronavirus pandemic forcing proceedings behind closed doors. He was beaten 10-7 by Yan Bingtao on that occasion.

Slessor has recently started working with 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon as his coach in a bid to improve his temperament, which he admits isn’t his strongest attribute.

Slessor said: “I don’t think I’m ever going to be blessed with the best temperament. That is just not my personality and not the way I go about life. I’m trying to reign it in as best as I can. I know I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be, but I am trying. That is all I can do.”

Former European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson booked his place in the final stages thanks to a comprehensive 10-2 defeat of Anthony Hamilton.

World number 27 Robertson will be hoping to fare better than he has in his four trips to the Theatre of Dreams.  He is yet to win a game in the final stages and last made a Crucible appearance back in 2018.

Former Crucible semi-finalist David Gilbert beat two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens 10-7 to qualify. The other game saw Ryan Day receive a 10-0 win over Scott Donaldson, who had to withdraw at 4-0 down due to medical reasons.

What happened to Scott Donaldson is horrible of course and Ryan Day must have very mixed feelings about his Crucible qualification. That tremor is one of the known side effects of the covid vaccine and it goes away after a while. It had disappeared in Scott’s case and the fact that it came back at such a crucial moment hints at a strong psychosomatic component in it. Never mind the reasons, I’m deeply sorry for Scott.

Mark Davis was one ball away from qualifying for the Crucible and extending his 32 professional career. He has been a solid professional for 32 years, he has dedicated his life to snooker. I totally get why Joe Perry found it so hard to pot those two balls and, potentially, end his good friend’s career. To be honest I felt gutted as well. Immediately, there were voices on social media calling for Mark to be given a wildcard. Of course, he shouldn’t get one. That would be a very pernicious route for WST to take. But what IS needed, for the sake of those men (and women) who have dedicated their lives to snooker and hugely contributed to the tour, mainly away from the spotlights, is a proper, promoted and funded Seniors tour. They deserve it.

The draw will be made this morning on BBC radio5. This will probably not be available to the majority of fans outside the UK/Ireland and that’s further evidence that the “World” tour remains actually very UK-centric.

This HAS to change, and quick, if they have serious ambitions to develop the game worldwide. But do they?

There was this announcement in the press yesterday:

Matchroom Pool unveils World Nineball Tour as Barry Hearn aims to replicate darts breakaway success

Phil Haigh Wednesday 12 Apr 2023 3:21 pm

Mosconi Cup
Matchroom already have plenty of experience in pool and have ambitious plans for the future (Picture: Matchroom)

Matchroom Pool has created the World Nineball Tour, which Barry Hearn hopes will become the dominant force in the sport and replicate the success of the Professional Darts Corporation in marching to the forefront of the chosen sport.

There will be at least 40 ranking events played across the world, with a minimum prize fund of $3m and guaranteed 1,000 hours of live television.

The progression of pool as a major sport has been hampered by a range of organisations running the game and Matchroom hope that this venture will blow much of the competition out of the water and centralise the interest thanks to the financial backing and a new era of professionalism.

The size and scope of nineball pool is vast and the Matchroom team, which has a lot of experience in the sport, are primed to capitalise on it.

‘We know there are more nineball pool players in the world than snooker, and yet nine-ball pool is a fraction of the size,’ President of Matchroom Hearn told Metro.co.uk

Someone like me sees that and thinks it doesn’t work. There’s 32 million once-a-month players in the United States alone. So we dwarf any other cue sport. But that’s just the number, how do you commercialise that?

It comes through television, streaming, sponsorship, betting right, IP values, endorsements. It’s a complicated business, which is why there are only a few companies in the world that do what we do.

Sport must change people’s lives for it to be successful. This is the beginning of changing the biggest cue sport in the world and the lives of the people that play it. Where it is going to go I have no idea, but I know it will be a humungous success, as always.

As sports promoters, we’re not saying we’re the best in the world but we know we’re in a group of one. By getting it out there, concentrating on data, establishing links with governments rather than local associations who have failed miserably to expand the game. It’s gone nowhere, it’s not being cruel, it’s a fact. There’s not half a dozen players making a living out of it unless they’re playing money matches in seedy pool halls and that’s not the image that’s required today. We need to refresh it.

Our track record, without being immodest, is second to none. I don’t see us being beat on this because I think it’s got our handwriting all over it.’

Barry Hearn
Barry Hearn has not lost any of his confidence or enthusiasm at 74 years old (Picture: Matchroom Multi Sport)

The new venture will certainly ruffle some feathers in the pool organisations that have been doing their thing for many years, but Hearn likens it to the emergence of the PDC and the huge growth in darts as they left the BDO behind.

‘The journey we’re going on now, it’s going to be a lot quicker than the darts, but it’s got the same handwriting on it,’ he said. ‘It’s similar to the PDC breakaway. 

‘Common sense says it should have happened years ago, but no one grasped the opportunity. With the darts it was the BDO and PDC until we shredded everything and made the PDC the dominant force. Well, our nineball circuit will be the dominant force of pool globally within two or three years, simply because it makes commercial sense.’

Emily Frazer, Managing Director of Matchroom Multi Sport, is a driving force behind the expansion of pool in the company and she says she has felt a responsibility to create better opportunities for players.

Our team is mulit-sport and we were only doing there events a year but we’ve all fallen in love with the sport and the players,’ she said. 

We’ve all seen how hard the players work, how far they travel for such a small amount of money. We feel we have a responsibility to the players to create this tour for them.’

Emily Frazer
Emily Frazer is aiming big in the pool world (Picture: Matchroom)

As for Hearn’s motivation, he is semi-retired after stepping down as Matchroom Sport chairman in 2021, but he is not a fan of relaxation and has been looking for a new project, which has presented itself in nineball pool.

For me it’s personal,’ he said. ‘Everyone’s trying to get me to retire, but I’m not sure I’m ready to. But if I don’t have a project I might as well

Emily’s got an amazing enthusiasm and work ethic, she’s too young to be my daughter, but she’s got some Hearn genes in her somewhere. We play to win.

We’re going to create this huge global circuit, we’ve got amazing support from broadcasters because they know our reputation, we’ve got amazing support from players because they’re suddenly going to make some decent money and have the chance to call themselves a real profession.’

World Nineball No.1 Francisco Sanchez Ruiz certainly agrees, saying: ‘The World Nineball Tour gives us all more motivation to succeed. Nineball is the future with the rankings, previously we only had three tournaments now we have so many. Now you can be a professional by playing this game, it’s perfect. The World Nineball Tour means you can qualify for the biggest events and that includes the Mosconi Cup.’

The full World Nineball Tour schedule is available here.

People can bury their heads in the sand all they like, all the signs are there that Matchroom main focus, when it comes to cue sports in now on pool, and if anything, Barry Hearn’s personal involvement is definite proof of it.

Matchroom is the majority shareholder in snooker. If their priority goes elsewhere, especially if it shifts towards another cue sport. it’s definitely very worrying news for the future of the sport we love.