Day one at the 2018 world championship & if the next 16 days are as dramatic as this one we are in for one hell of a tournament.
There really is only one place to start and that is with the news that we will be crowning a new world champion, as Mark Selby's two year iron grip on the title came to an end at the hands of Joe Perry.
Selby has had,by his standards,a poor season,but having produced something like his best form in capturing the China Open two weeks,it seemed that once again he was peaking at the right time.Still though I couldn't shake the feeling that if he were going to be vulnerable here then it would be in the early rounds and so it was to prove.
Last year on the opening morning Selby steamrolled a clearly tired Fergal O'Brien,but signs were on it here early on that this would not be as straight forward, as Perry flew out of the traps to lead 4-0 going to the first mid session interval.Such is the reputation that Selby gained for himself over the years, that when he put the next two on the board to close to 4-2 when they resumed, it seemed that it may be a case of panic averted. Perry though was cuing superbly and runs of 59,84 & 109 moved him 7-2 clear at the end of the session.
A major story was now brewing and when Perry took the opener of the night session to extend that lead to 8-2, victory seemed all but assured, Selby though had one more bit of fight in him and with the enormity of what was happening seeming to suddenly dawn on Perry, Selby battled to the next two to close to 8-4. If at this stage he could have also taken the next to get within three at the interval,then maybe we may have had a different story,but instead Perry dug in to take the next with a run of 76 to move within one of victory at 9-4 & he sealed a famous win when they resumed, the score for the record 10-4.
A miserable day for Selby then in what, bar a couple of exceptions, has been a miserable season. It will be interesting to see how he responds next season without the weight of the world crown on his shoulders. For now though we must concentrate on the present and Joe Perry can look forward to round 2 clash with Allen or Highfield.
With that story developing from the morning,all eyes were on the other hot favourite for the title, Ronnie O'Sullivan when he started out against Stephen Maguire this afternoon and "The Rocket" has a bit of work to do when they resume in the morning.
Just like in the Selby match the underdog took an early 4-0 lead here,but helped by back to back centuries Ronnie fought back to within one at 4-3. Maguire though took the last two of the session to go clear again at 6-3.They play to a finish in the morning and by lunchtime tomorrow we may well be looking at a championship with both the hot favourite eliminated.
Elsewhere we also have two other seeds in real danger of going out at the first hurdle as Marco Fu & Ali Carter each trail 6-3 at the end of their respective first sessions.
Fu of course has been out of the game in recent times with serious eye problems and will need all his
years of experience if is to turn it around against the Chinese debutant Lyu Haotian,who joined the exclusive list of player to make a century in their first Crucible session.
Carters opponent comes from the other end of the experience spectrum and it will take some effort from him to come back against the 2006 champ Graeme Dott.
The one seed who looks comfortable is Kyren Wilson who holds a commanding 7-2 lead over Matthew Stevens.
So that was day one and all eyes tomorrow will be on the morning session to see if Ronnie can keep his hopes of a sixth title alive. If he can't then we are looking at possibly the most open championship in history.