My view from Row B at the Crucible today
Day three of the World Championship already and here is my latest update from the Crucible Theatre. I’ll keep it short as I am a bit knackered after all the travelling, but as I am having a day off on Wednesday I am planning to write a summary of the first round for the blog.
Arriving reasonably early for once I headed round to Stage Door to see if anything was happening but it was pretty quiet as most of the players in action had already arrived and got themselves into the venue. As a result I went back round and into the arena and the excellent seat I had for the first session of the Joe Swail/Marco Fu match, one that I found very hard to call.
There was a funny moment before the match even started actually as when introduced, Joe Swail headed over to the wrong side of the arena and nearly sat down in Martin Gould’s chair before he realised his error! It was a nice light-hearted moment though, reminiscent of Liang Wenbo’s antics last year when he walked out at the wrong time.
As for the match itself, it was a pretty good standard, Marco opening up with a flawless century break before Joe responded with a 54 of his own on the way to drawing level. The pair continued to be evenly matched throughout the session really, the majority of the frames lasting about 20 minutes and containing some decent break-building as well as tactical play. The exception was frame seven which was an entertaining 40 minute scrap as Marco put himself in a seemingly dominant position of being 65-0 up with several balls awkward, before playing a couple of careless shots and seeing Joe come right back at him. In the end though Marco just about managed to hang on and took the frame to lead 4-3.
One other point I’d make is that at around this time, Joe seemed to have a problem with his back, sitting in his chair between shots holding it and looking in some discomfort around the table. I’ve not heard whether he has said anything about it post-match but he didn’t look to be 100% happy with it.
Meanwhile over on table one, Mark Allen resumed at 7-2 up and was expected to cruise to victory, but Martin Gould had other ideas as he flew out of the traps in fabulous form, knocking in runs of 87, 90 and 74 in no time to bring himself back to 7-5. Crucially for Mark though (who could have been forgiven for thinking back to last year and the match that he lost against Stephen Hendry from a dominant position), he did well to take the last before the interval and from there played well enough to complete an good win.
Really pleased for Mark as he’s a top player to watch and his match against O’Sullivan in the last 16 should be a great one for the neutral. Like yesterday both Mark and Martin managed to get to their mid-session interval in under an hour as both looked fluent, so that next match could be even better.
I am disappointed for Martin but pleased that he could show how good a player he is today as he gave it a good go and for a while looked like he might get right back into the match. Now in the top 48 for next season, I expect that we will see more of him on our TV screens in the future.
Following the conclusion of the morning session I headed outside to see who was about and managed to catch Joe Swail, Terry Griffiths and Clive Everton leaving the building, presumably to get some refreshments. Joe seemed to be in pretty good spirits and stood for a photo, as did Terry Griffiths who seemed to be in good health (I heard he had some problems towards the end of last year though I am unaware of the details). Clive meanwhile was in demand, signing a few photos (including one that I took last year) and having to explain to people why he was not at the Masters this year and will not be commentating for the full duration of this tournament.
Other players I saw heading in were Ricky Walden, Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo, though they were all in a bit of a hurry so I left them to it rather than join in the fight for their signatures!
When heading round to the front I also found Mark Allen, already changed into his casual clothing and just relaxing in the crowd. Had a brief chat with him and he said that he can’t see his match with Ronnie taking too long, and I totally agree with him!
And they were in a hurry because their match was soon to start so I soon followed suit and took up my seat (same as the morning), for what promised to be a really fascinating match between China’s top two players. As in the morning there was a moment of comedy before the players even came out as MC Rob Walker made a mess of his introductions. Apparently Liang Wenbo beat Len Toherty last year if he is to be believed! 😀
The match itself was a really nervy affair between the two though as despite a nice 70+ break from Ding early on,both played a few careless shots and struggled to find their best form. At the interval it was Ding who led 3-1, but despite not finding his potting game, Liang in truth deserved at least to be level given how the match unfolded. Still, following a nice break from Ding for 4-1, Liang soon began to find his rhythm and knocked in a couple of excellent breaks to close to just 4-3 behind.
MC Rob Walker getting his lines wrong!
Then came an enthralling eighth frame as Ding was fighting to stop the rot while Liang was pushing to draw level for the first time since 1-1. Both played some really good shots in the frame and there seemed to be about a million different pivotal shots and momentum swings during the frame, but in the end it was Ding who stole it on the black and guaranteed an overnight lead. Liang though kept on fighting and managed to take the last, leaving the match delicately poised ahead of tomorrow morning’s second session.
Aside from the match itself though I cannot type this without mentioning the fan sat to my left (for a couple of frames anyway), who had a banner with him which said “Good Luck Liang” on it. Every time that Liang came to the table or played a good shot he proudly held it up and clapped his hands hard, which I found to be hilarious, particularly when I heard on the radio that it had been on television. You have got to love the passion there though and as someone who has been known to wear t-shirts supporting certain players before, I know exactly where he was coming from! It was really entertaining though.
As this match again was quite a slow one, I did not have too much time to hang around afterwards, but did catch Marco Fu who was heading into the building about half an hour before he was due to start against Joe Swail. I expected this one to be really close but when I got home to find Marco 9-4 up I couldn’t believe it! I’m not sure quite how it unfolded, perhaps someone could fill me in on that. The opening session between Joe Perry and Jamie Cope seems to have been quite a good one, but again I did not see anything so can’t say much on it.
Also well done to Mark Selby who completed an impressive win against Ricky Walden this afternoon. Though on the other table I could tell that it was an entertaining session as a few quips were being made, but it was always going to be hard to see Walden running him too close today. That result also means that Walden cannot make the top 16 now and eases the pressure on Ding Junhui to some extent by the way. I have updated the latest rankings here.
Back again tomorrow first thing for the climax of the Ding/Wenbo match. Still not sure which way that is going to go but I look forward to finding out.