Follow by Email

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

World Championship Day Five

Day five at the dafabet World Championship and as the first round started to draw to a conclusion,the search for the player who might challenge the dominance of O'Sullivan here continued.

One thing for sure is,if that player is to be Judd Trump,he will have to improve greatly on what we have seen from him in his 10-8 victory today over Tom Ford.

After yesterdays hard fought first session,which had to be called ashore a frame early,it was Trump who started the day with a 6-2 lead,but in a session where it took Trump the guts of an hour to pot his first ball,it was Ford who made the running to close to within one at 6-5.He really could have leveled it up in the next ,but Trump managed to pull himself together enough to restore his two frame lead at 7-5.

The next two frames were shared to leave it 8-6,before Ford rallied again to level things up at 8-8.Another shock was certainly on the cards now and more worryingly for Trump it wasn't as if Ford was winning these frames in one visit.Into the 17th and both players again had chances,before Trump edged ahead again at 9-8.Victory came in the next as he took it to record a 10-8 win.

The old adage that as long as your still in the tournament you still have the chance to improve,most certainly applies to Trump here,but my God ho is going to have to if he is to stand a chance of going one better than he did in 2011 & lifting the title.

When all this was going on,on the other side of the screen Barry Hawkins was resuming with a 5-4 lead over David Gilbert having rallied late on in the first session,winning the last three from 4-2 behind to hold that overnight lead.

This run of frames for Hawkins was to continue,as Gilbert spurned three good chances to take the opening frame,allowing Hawkins to pounce with a 93 to make it 6-4. From here further contributions of 50,71 &53 saw Hawkins run away with this one and record an impressive 10-4 win over what looked a tricky opponent.

His second round opponent,in a repeat of last years semi final will be Ricky Walden

Another tie that looked tough on paper was the meeting of Marco Fu & Martin Gould. but it was the seed from Hong Kong who prevailed 10-7 in what was arguably the best match we've seen standardwise this week.

After the first session Fu lead 6-3,but Gould got out of the blocks here with a 66 to make it 6-4.Fu though,who has enjoyed a wondeful season,hit back immediately with breaks of 88 & 114 to lead 8-4. Back Gould came again to close to 8-6 before Fu won the next to go 9-6.A 69 clearance from Gould reduced the deficit to 9-7,but a run of 80 sealed the win for Fu to set up a mouth watering second round tie with Shaun Murphy.

In the other match completed today Mark Allen secured a first round win here for the first time in three years as he won all five frames played tonight to convert his 5-4 overnight lead into a 10-4 victory over Michael Holt. The standard in this one was once again not of the level we would expect from these two men,but Allen will be happy to be through,not least because he suffered a bout of food poisoning on the eve of the match.

This leaves two matches outstanding in round one,but it looks only a matter of dotting the i's & crossing the t's as Neil Robertson and Dominic Dale both hold 7-2 leads over Robbie Willliams & Mark Davis respectively

In other news today the big announcement from Barry Hearn turned out to be not as earth shattering as some had feared as he announced that the World Championship matches would remain best of 19  minimum for all rounds and that the top 16 would still automatically qualify for the Crucible.The big change was the news that the qualifiers would be decided by a flat draw for those ranked 17 to 144 with all former champions welcome to enter.

Also on this subject,the legends wildcards that had been touted didn't materialize,but instead we have places been made available for up to four multiple tournament winners if the full 128 places in the draw aren't filled .This of course raises the possibility of seeing Davis and Hendry still competing o the circuit should they so choose.

In other changes,the only two remaining ranking events on the circuit that don't use the flat 128 draw The Shanghai Masters & the Australian Open will both revert to this when their new contracts come into force over the next two years.

Finally he also announced that Latvia will also host its first European Tour event this coming. August.

Tomorrow see's the end of round one and of course the start of the best of 25 frame second round matches with \Ronnie O'Sullivan again in action

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

World Championship Day Four

Another day and another seed crashes out of the 2014 dafabet World Championship as four times champ John Higgins exited the tournament at the hands of fellow Scot and great friend Alan McManus.

McManus,having seen the late rally from Higgins yesterday afternoon that reduced his arrears from 6-1 to 6-3,would have been fully aware of the need to stamp his authority on this one again as they started out today and helped by some poor play from Higgins,thats what he did as he extended his lead to 8-3.Higgins won the next,but McManus moved to within one of victory,taking the last before the interval to lead 9-4.

It was at this stage though,that perhaps with a"nothing to lose" mentality that Higgins started to cue really well.he won the 14th with a 111 & when McManus ran out of position in the next he pounced again to make it 9-6. That became 9-7 with a 94 in 16th frame and suddenly a comeback which looked so unlikely a short time before was now most certainly on.

Into a tense 17th frame we went and after both player had had good early chances It looked McManus's for the taking until he missed the final red. This gave Higgins the chance to get another one on the board ,but when he overcooked a cut blue to the middle,McManus wasn't to let this chance slip and he cleared to record a famous 10-7 win.

For Higgins,this was more disappointment,but like all  his performances in the second half of this season there were enough glimpses of form to say if he can pull it together a little more consistently,he can still challenge for titles.McManus on the other hand can look forward to a second round clash with fellow veteran  Ken Doherty

In the other match that finished today Ricky Walden eventually saw off the challenge of Kyren Wilson 10-7 in a long mentally exhausting encounter.Walden,who lead 6-3 overnight extended that lead to 8-4 before Wilson staged a comeback to pull it back to 8-7.Walden was now visibly feeling it,but he eventually won the next to go 9-7.Both players were almost out on their feet at this stage and as the 17th frame turned into a comedy of errors lasting 73 minutes it was Walden who,despite having failed on several occasions to kill it off,eventually potted match ball yellow to collapse over the line.

When the draw was made one match that people a mark beside for its shock potential was the clash between Marco Fu & Martin Gould,but it is the man from Hong Kong who holds sway after their first session this morning. Fu was quick out of the traps in here to lead 2-0 & 4-1 before Gould rallied to close to 4-3. From here Fu pulled away again though and took the last two frames to take a 6-3 overnight lead.

Judd Trump started his campaign for a first world title this afternoon and I think its fair to say that if this is to be his year,he'll have to improve on what we saw this afternoon in a long error strewn session with Tom Ford.So slow was progress in this one that it had to be called ashore a frame early with Trump leading 6-2.
They play to a finish in the morning.

On the other table,last years runner up here Barry Hawkins also made a slowish start.but found his scoring boots late on to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 end of session lead over David Gilbert

Mark Allen will take a 5-4 lead into tomorrow after a mixed first session with Michael Holt where the story was more of frames been lost from the jaws of victory rather than of high quality snooker. That said Allen will be happy to hold that lead having gifted two consecutive frames to Holt to trail 4-3 before Holt returned the favour in the next to leave it 4-4.Allen then won the last to hold the slenderest of leads overnight.

Monday, 21 April 2014

World Championship Day Three

Day Three and the question was,after all yesterdays drama,what would today have in store,?Well the answer was every bit as much drama and more,as debutant Michael Wasley produced one of the biggest shocks in Crucible history to beat Ding Junhui.

To be honest this just didn't seem on the cards early on as,after a sluggish start yesterday afternoon,it looked like Ding had weathered the storm when he stretched into a 6-3 overnight lead.Any thoughts however that it was going to be straight forward afternoon for the Chinese were quickly put to bed by Wasley as he won the opening 3 frames to level things up at 6-6.Ding,who has a poor enough record at the Crucible was looking as ruffled as he has in a long time here he would have been relieved to win the next and lead at the interval 7-6.

After the interval Ding established a two frame lead at 8-6 and again looked to have got out of jail,but a lengthy 15th frame went to Wasley and the young Crucible debutant then leveled things up again at 8-8.So long had this session gone on that only one more frame could be played before they were pulled ashore for the start of the evening session and it went to Ding to put one from victory at 9-8.

Back they came then tonight for an unscheduled third session and Wasley produced a stunning 103 to level it up again and force the decider,In a frame similar to those we have seen so many times over the years at this great venue this decider was full of drama with both players having their chances before the decisive moment on the final red came with Wasley fluking it into the centre pocket.From here he cleared to the blue before having to endure some wonderfully laid snookers from Ding until his chance finally came and he slotted it in to seal a famous victory.

Dings poor record on the sports biggest stage continues then and its Michael Wasley who will play the winner between Mark Davis & Dominic Dale in round two, One thing for sure,after this he will fear noone.

Elsewhere,in what seems to be becoming the theme of the first round,Mark Selby survived a deciding frame shoot out with Michael White,the Leicsterman eventually coming through 10-9

Selby,who has had a poor season by his standard, would have been wary of his opponent coming here,so no doubt he was delighted with his start here as he lead 3-0 and 5-1.White though,who reached the quarter final here last season dug deep to end the morning session just the one behind at 5-4.

Into tonight and it was Selby again who started the quicker taking the first three frames  to open an 8-4 lead.White thoug, once again rallied and reeled off four frames of his own to level it up at 8-8.Selby regained his composure in the next to go 9-8,but White leveled again to ensure  we had a 19th and final frame.That frame was to go to Selby thanks in main to a timely break of 57 and the former world no.1 booked his place in the second round.

In the battle of the veteran Scots it is Alan  McManus who holds sway leading John Higgins 6-3 after their first session this afternoon.Indeed it could have been a lot worse for Higgins here as he trailed at one stage 6-1 before  a late rally kept his hopes alive,they play to a finish tomorrow morning.

If Higgins is looking for inspiration he need look no further than Joe Perry who set up a second round clash with Ronnie O'Sullivan after a spirited fightback from 6-3 overnight against Jamie Burnett Perry was quickly out of the blocks this morning,winning the opening two frames with breaks of 87 & 70 ,before a couple of scrappy ones also went his way to see him take the lead at 7-6.

That became 9-6 after the interval and although Burnett did pull one back with a 111,the end was not far away as Perry wrapped up the 10-7 win.

In the other match to begin today Ricky Walden holds a 6-3 lead over Kyren Wilson.They play to a finish tomorrow night.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

World Championship Day Two

The dafabet World Championship my be only in its second day,but we have already seen what makes this event so special after a day of high drama  at the Crucible Theatre.

Its hard to know where even to start with today,but I'll begin with the night session which produced two dramatic final frame deciders.

2005 champ Shaun Murphy had to dig deep into his reserves to finally get past a resurgent Jamie Cope 10-9 after a tense final session that really could have gone either way.The opening frame indeed was sign of what was to come as Cope got in first with a 64 break before missing a red & Murphy cleared with a 75 to level the match at 5-5.Cope,to his credit didn't let this get him down,won the next two to lead 7-5 before Murphy won the next to share the evenings spoils going to the interval.

Murphy also won the next to level things at 7-7,which was then followed by 8-8 and 9-9 to set up the decider this one had seemed destined to have from early on in the evening. In that deciding frame both players had their .chances,but it was Murphy who proved the stronger,finally sealing the victory on the pink. For him it will be much relief that he has survived this early potential banana skin,but also lets hope that Jamie can get over this disappointment and get back to where he was in the game before his troubles began a few seasons back.There is no doubt he is a super talent.

Meanwhile on the other side of the screen Stephen Maguire was battling for all he was worth against Ryan Day but to no avail as the Welshman held his nerve to win 10-9. This was a real high quality match and the fact that it went to a decider says much about Maguires fighting qualities as he trailed 8-4 and 9-6 at different stages in the. night.From 9-6 down he had actually produced some of his best snooker to reel off three in a row with runs of 58,74,& 91.Day though was also in good touch and he made the most of his chance in the last to get over the line with a break of 92.He now awaits the winner of Judd Trump & Tom Ford in round 2

The day had begun with Ken Doherty,the 1997 champion & grand old man of the tournament at 44, producing the first shock of the week beating Stuart Bingham 10-5. Bingham had lead 5-4 overnight,but after a very scrappy opening frame that could have gone either way,it was Doherty who found some form with breaks of 55 & 60 helping him to a 7-5 lead.Bingham was now all at sea and lost the next to go to the interval 8-4 down. On the resumption of play it was Doherty who again found his scoring boots to win the two he needed with runs of 57 & 60 and record a famous 10-5.

This was amazingly the first match \Ken has won here since 2006 and at this stage of his career he knows every victory on the games biggest stage is to be savoured. He can now sit back and relax for a day or two  as he awaits the victor between two players he knows very well John Higgins & Alan Mcmanus.

Two time runner up here Ali Carter also came through a tough test with Xiao Guodong with Carter finally getting the better of the Chinese 10-8 after a titantic struggle this afternoon. Carter had lead this one 5-4 overnight,but it was Xiao who got off to the better start today,winning the opening two frames to lead 6-5. Carter won frame 12 to level it at 6-6 and the next two were also shared to make it 7-7\Carter edged ahead again in the next to make it 8-7 and indeed looked set to make it 9-7  when he knocked in a 59 break in frame 16,but Xiao countered with a 69 of his own  to make it 8-8. From here though Carter proved the stronger and finally saw off his stubborn opponent winning the next two to win 10-8

People looking for someone to challenge O'Sullivan's recent dominance of this event have focused on five time ranking winner this season Ding Junhui,but the Chinese didn't have it all his own way in the opening session against Crucible debutant Michael Wasley and was maybe a tad lucky to have to be 3-3 after a decidedly shaky start.From there though he knocked in a wonderful 136 in opening up a 6-3 overnight lead with this one playing to a finish tomorrow afternoon.

Also finishing off in the morning session tomorrow are Joe Perry & Jamie Burnett with a shock very much on the cards here with Burnett holding a 6-3 lead.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

World Championship Day One

Day one at the 2014 World Championship and we started off the way last years championship finished,with a victory for Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Its one if the traditions in our sport of course ,that the defending champion completes his first match on the opening and it has often proved to be tricky in the past,but O'Sullivan put those fears to rest early here,quickly establishing a 3-0 lead,helped in part by a break of 124 before Robin Hull managed to get off the mark with a century of his own to make it 3-1

It looked like the Finn was going to pull another one back in the next,but Ronnie got the snooker he required on the yellow and cleared to go 4-1.From there the score was to go 5-1 before Hull got another frame on the board ,but Ronnie closed out the session,taking the final two frames to lead 7-2.

Into tonight then and it seemed Ronnie was mentally already in the next round as four scrappy frames before the interval were shared to leave it 9-2.On resumption of play,the end wasn't long coming as Ronnie wrapped up a comfortable 10-4 win which really taught us nothing other than that Ronnie is in Sheffield and brought his cue along.There will be far more testing days ahead in than this one.

Elsewhere Stephen Maguire has his work cut out for him if he is to advance to Round 2 as he trails Ryan Day 6-3 after their first session.The Scot, who has been struggling with a back injury of late,did get off to a good start here taking the opening frame before Day responded with a 130 break to level it up and the next two were also shared to go to the interval at 2-2

From here Days high quality break building continued as he moved to 4-2 before also taking a couple of scrappier ones to lead 6-2. These were now worrying times for Maguire,but he at least managed to keep himself in with a chance,winning the last to make it 6-3 & set up a big final session tomorrow evening.

Also finishing off tomorrow night,in what is already looking like it could be one of the sessions of the tournament,will be Shaun Murphy & Jamie Cope and this one couldn't be more delicately poised with Cope leading 5-4.

This was another high quality session and indeed Murphy will,probably with some justification,be wondering how he is behind having played some wonderful stuff,but behind he is having seen his 4-2 lead turn into a 5-4 deficit.

Another match with nothing in it is the clash between  Stuart Bingham and the 1997 champ Ken Doherty with Bingham also holding a slender 5-4 lead. The standard in this one wasn't of the highest order,but it was Bingham who took the early lead at 3-0. Doherty to his credit battled back to 3-2. Bingham made t 4-2 before Doherty pulled it back to 4-3 with a 91 before letting a couple of glorious chances to level it up slip through his hands as Bingham made it 5-3, Doherty did win the last to set things up nicely for their final session in the morning.

Finally in another match that is too close to call Ali Carter leads Crucible debutant Xiao Guodong 5-4.It was Carter who had taken the early initiative in this one leading 4-1 before the Chinese came back strong to level it up at 4-4.The final frame of the session could have gone either way,but it was Carter who took it to lead by the smallest of margins going into the second session tomorrow afternoon.

So concludes day one then and with all the above in mind,we seem set to be in for quite a day two tomorrow.

Friday, 18 April 2014

World Championship preview

Here we go then,after a wonderful week of drama at the qualifiers,we are now just one day away from the start of the tournament that most snooker fans have been  probably been looking forward to since we saw Ronnie hold aloft the trophy last May bank holiday Monday.

Firstly before I get into this preview a word on the qualifiers which this year provided as much excitement as any full tournament we've seen this season,with a raft of close finishes,including two respotted black ball deciders,Xiao Guodong,Kyren Wilson,Michael Wasley & Robbie Williams all coming through to make the Crucible for the first time and the ending of few era's with former champions Peter Ebdon & Mark Williams both failing to qualify,as well as Steve Davis falling off the main tour.

On to the main event then and what a difference a year makes.On the eve of last years championship the talk was of how would Ronnie O'Sullivan perform after a year out of the game.Well one year on and we now know that only did Ronnie show up in splendid form at The Crucible & claim his fifth World title,but also in his limited outings this season he has appeared in equally good form,claiming the titles at The Champion of Champions,The Masters & the Welsh Open.It is for this reason that he starts this years event as a very short priced favourite,Indeed it could be argued that this preview could end here as it may simply be the case that if he turns up in that sort of  form again, there is noone who can stop him. equaling the modern day efforts of Ray Reardon & Steve Davis & sealing a sixth world crown

So what if Ronnie isn't his peak here,who are the other contenders?Well the obvious place to start is with Ding Junhui,who,in Ronnies absence,has dominated the year,finally shaking off his inability to win on home soil and equaling the record held by Stephen Hendry of winning five ranking titles in a season. His record to date in the World Championship has been sketchy in the past,but he did reach a semi final here three years ago and is arguably playing better now than ever.If he and Ronnie both win through their sections,they will meet in the semi final & what a prospect that would be,

The other man who has grabbed the headlines this season has been Neil Robertson as he has smashed the centuries in a season record & still holds an outside chance of making it a century of centuries in the season. For all that though and despite winning the UK Championship,i'm sure he would swap all records for a couple more titles to his name.Also of late he has shown a few signs of burnout from a busy year & although he deserves great credit for his battling efforts to defend his China Open title recently,reaching the final despite suffering from the flu,he may regret that trip now and I just don't see this being his year.

If Robertson has been struggling a little of late,that and more applies to Mark Selby who has had,for the most part,a season to forget.The successes he has had have been more down to his battling qualities than any sort of form and unless this improves drastically  it would be a shock if he could grind his way to the title.

Other players of note are 2005 champ Shaun Murphy who has been in fine form of late,but you feel would have to step it up again for a potential QF with Ronnie.John Higgins who of course has been successful over course and distance four times,but of late despite showing some signs of revival has also just started to throw in that odd unexpected miss that seems to curse great players just as their game begins to go into decline.& Judd Trump who comes here completely under the radar after a quite season,but may very well be the player who emerges from the section of the draw including Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen & Robertson.

AS you may have gathered from the above I really can't see past Ronnie O'Sullivan here but anything can happen & I'm sure every player who walks down those famous Crucible steps into the arena will firmly believe they can be the last man standing come May 5th.

Recommended Bets.
John Higgins to win his quarter 7/2
Judd Trump to win his quarter  2/1

Full first round draw

Top half
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Robin Hull
Joe Perry v Jamie Burnett
Shaun Murphy v Jamie Cope
Marco Fu v Martin Gould
Barry Hawkins v David Gilbert
Ricky Walden v Kyren Wilson
Mark Davis v Dominic Dale
Ding Junhui v Michael Wasley

Bottom half
Mark Selby v Michael White
Ali Carter v Xiao Guodong
John Higgins v Alan McManus
Stuart Bingham v Ken Doherty
Judd Trump v Tom Ford
Stephen Maguire v Ryan Day
Mark Allen v Michael Holt
Neil Robertson v Robbie Williams

Friday, 11 April 2014

Steve Davis relegated from the tour.

At a time approaching 1am,in a venue within walking distance of The Crucible Theatre,the final curtain fell,(for now at least) on the 36 year professional career of Steve Davis,as he bowed out of the World Championship qualifiers,going down 10-8 to Craig Steadman.

Coming in to this Steve knew he was in the position that to remain in the top 64 in the rankings he needed to at least win his way through one qualify round,but sadly that proved beyond him.That is not to say he went down without a fight,indeed having trailed at one stage 9-5 he showed all the experience and ringcraft that 36 yrs on the tour gives you to grind his way back to 9-8. Both players at this stage were nearly out on their feet,but in the end a missed green to the middle from Steve was to prove the key moment as Steadman potted green,brown & blue to seal the victory.

With the battle to stay on tour becoming so tight in recent months,you have to wonder,though he is unlikely to admit it publicly,does Steve now regret foregoing his place in the UK Championship and a couple of PTCs before it in favour of doing "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here".Yes it could be argued that he still had plenty of chances to make up the ground on his return,but the pressure had by then increased and it was always going to be a big ask.So it proved here.

So what now for the 56 year old six times former World Champion? Well if as he has stated in recent he wishes to continue to play until he is 60 he still has a couple of options he can pursue.Firstly he could enter Q school in May with the prize for those who qualify of a two year tour card or alternatively he can enter all next seasons PTC events as an amateur and regain he place through the order of merit.

It is therefore unlikely,even if he is not a professional right now,that we have heard to last of Steve Davis as a snooker player,but even so as I watched him pack away his cue at 1 am last night,the hint of a tear falling from my eye,it certainly felt like the end of an era