World Championship 2009: Day Ten Blog

Well, I’ve been to the Crucible a lot over the course of the last five years but in all that time I have never experienced a day quite like this one. Click below for my report on an eventful climax to the last 16 matches…


While I usually get the train in to Sheffield, today I was driven there by my Graeme Dott supporting friend who lives nearby which meant that I would be able to stay over for the evening session for the first time this year. Still, the morning session in its own right was interesting enough as what began as an extremely light-hearted and fun clash between Mark Selby and Graeme Dott ended on something of a sour note.

Early on there was a lot of laughing and joking between the two, for example from Mark Selby early on who when in a spot of difficulty, asked Graeme for a re-rack and then asked Alan Chamberlain how many more shots they would get. He was probably joking but Alan appeared to take him seriously and replied that they would have to agree. As it was though there was no re-rack and Graeme did what he had to do, taking three of the first four frames of the day and getting back to just two frames behind at 5-7.

As the next two were shared and Mark continued to banter not just with Graeme, but with referee Alan Chamberlain (regarding whether certain balls were touching or whether there should be a re-rack etc), and I could just sense that something was going to happen. I thought it had done when towards the end of the session, Mark underhit an attempted escape from a snooker and landed short of the pack, before referee Alan Chamberlain replaced the cue ball in completely the wrong place. Mark then protested with Alan and said that it should be about a foot to the right, but Chamberlain seemed to reply with something along the lines of “come on Mark be serious now”, when in fact on this occasion Mark was completely right! After Graeme had defended him and they had got the shot up on the TV they did manage to get it sorted, but you could see that it was a case of the boy who had cried wolf so to speak.

Graeme Dott last week

The real controversy however was to come in the crucial 16th frame, the final one of the session which at 9-6 to Selby would be the difference between him going into the evening with his four frame cushion intact, or leading by just two.You can see the incident here on the BBC website (if you are in the UK at least), but to summarise the cue ball was heading into the green pocket following a shot from Graeme, but before he did he put his hand in the pocket and pushed the ball back into the baulk area. Unfortunately for Mark Selby, he believed that because it was going in-off, he had the ball in hand and picked the ball up and moved it into the D, only to be shocked as Chamberlain called a foul and gave four points to Graeme!

At this point I could hear Neal Foulds offering some rather critical comments on my earpiece but I could also hear Alan Chamberlain clearly explaining to Mark that because the cue ball had not left the bed of the table when Graeme nudged it back into play, Mark should have played the ball from where it had stopped. Mark seemed to be totally baffled by this and appealed to Graeme to “help me out mate” because he felt that there had been an injustice here, before asking Alan again whether he was sure. Alan was not to be moved and replied with a firm ‘absolutely’ and it was now Graeme’s shot!

Overall whilst I do think that Mark was very unfortunate, I think that Alan applied the rules correctly and was technically right to call a foul when Mark picked up the cue ball. Hopefully next time Graeme sees the cue ball heading in-off he will resist the urge to do that though as it was his frustration that caused the situation in the first place!

Ultimately though it did not make much difference to the frame as there was nothing left on and eventually it was Mark who made an excellent break to take it to lead 10-6 going into tonight. The atmosphere during that break was noticeably frosty as the jokes stopped and you could see at the end by his clenched fist just how much it meant to Mark to get over the line in that one. While Graeme had played very well, he had not made any inroads into the four frame deficit that he started the session facing and I think that he had left himself too much to do tonight.

Over on the other table meanwhile, Stephen Maguire appeared to be going well, taking the session 6-2 to lead 10-6 going into the evening.


While the morning session was eventful however, the afternoon session was epic as the clash between John Higgins and Jamie Cope predictably went all the way, though at one stage it looked like Jamie would be able to cause an upset with frames to spare.

Yes despite John getting off to a good start to move 9-8 in front, he was really not playing well and missed several straightforward pots when in the balls and presented Jamie with opportunities that he was more than capable of taking. As a result it was the man from Stoke who took the next three frames and I could not help but think back to last year when Higgins lost a near-identical last 16 match to Ryan Day. The way John was playing it was hard to see him getting back into it, but this would be the biggest win of Jamie’s career and the pressure would surely play a part, particularly with John’s experience.

This certainly looked like being the case as in frame 21, it looked for a while that Jamie could steal it but in the end it turned out to be John’s decision to put the green safe earlier on that stopped him in his tracks and allowed the twice former champion to steal it to close to just one behind at 10-11. At this point on the commentary, Dennis Taylor suggested that the winner of the frame would go on to take the match, but Jamie Cope did his best to deny him with a fabulous break of 103 to move two up with three to play in no time. The key shot here was an excellent double on a red at a critical stage of the break with the frame not yet won, but Jamie showed no fear and looked more than capable of causing a shock.

Against most players I would have fancied him to go on and complete the job but John Higgins of course is not ‘most players’, he is one of the best five players that I have ever seen and he set about proving that point with a sublime break of his own, just short of a century at 96. Under any circumstances it would have been a great effort but knowing that he could not make any mistakes, it was even better and you could just feel the pressure shift right back onto Jamie again.

Frame 24 and we had a bizarre moment as with John down to take a shot I think it was, suddenly across the arena I could see people frantically waving on the front row and trying to get the referee’s attention. At first I thought that they were shouting ‘foul’ but it quickly became evident that they were in fact shouting for help and that one man at the front was having some sort of fit. Some people came to help him and Eirian said to the players to have a break and to just go back to the dressing rooms for a couple of minutes to sort things out.

On a totally unrelated note, there was a nice moment earlier on between frames when Eirian appeared to give a lady in the crowd who was struggling with a cold some sort of cough sweet to make her feel better. It seemed to work as she stopped coughing after that, so I thought it was a nice touch.

Still, back to the action and with the struggling man now out of the arena and hopefully ok, John was soon in the balls and impressively, given the distraction we had experienced, put together a nice break to put himself in the driving seat. He did run out of position however and Jamie Cope knocked in a terrific red, only to bizarrely see his attempt to snooker John behind the yellow fail as the cue ball dramatically rolled off target. From my seat I was looking right down the baulk line and it was really quite a deviation.

For the first time Jamie was outwardly frustrated and this showed in his next shot as he played a rash long red and ended up presenting John with the opportunity to clear and force a deciding frame which he would surely start as the favourite.

As the players shook hands to start the final frame it was John who was presented with the first chance, but just as Jamie was on his previous shot it became apparent that amazingly, another spectator (seated just three seats right of me), also had a fit and clearly needed urgent medical attention. As Eirian became aware of the incident, again play was suspended and the paramedics, already outside the front of the building (an ambulance, a car and a motorbike as it happens!), came in to attend to the guy who was eventually escorted outside. Never seen anything like it, not twice in a match anyway!

When the players eventually did return, John was faced with a daunting red into the right-centre, with the white fairly close to the baulk cushion behind the brown. At 12-12 in a World Championship last 16 match, having just spent five minutes in the dressing room having been distracted by not just one, but two spectators requiring medical assistance it would have to be a special pot and that is exactly what he produced as he knocked it in at some pace and set up a frame-winning chance. I had been fairly neutral in the match as I have to say I like both players, but after this pot I wanted John to win and that he was exactly what he did, wrapping up what was clearly an emotional victory with a run of 80.

It was tough on Jamie because he had played really well and I think would have won against most other players. Hopefully he will be back next season and will be even better for this experience.

Against John though he was playing for me the best matchplayer in the sport and one who after the mid-session interval looked to be transformed. His 96 break oozed class and then to knock a stunningly brave opening red in on the way to that decisive break in the last frame, I just had to admire that and say that’s why he’s a twice champion here. Total class.


Following the match I headed on out but as far as photo-taking goes, it was a bit of a non-event today as not only did it rain for much of it, but I already have photos of most of the players left in the tournament anyway! I did manage to catch Jamie Cope though who considering what had just happened, was in pretty good spirits and signed a lot of autographs.

Without a ticket for the evening session though I waited to see the players go in before heading to Pizza Hut with a friend to get some food before watching the conclusion of the Dott/Selby match on the big screen. Stephen Maguire had already completed his victory by the time we had got back so I can only assume that he did not waste much time there!

Graeme did well to fight back hard and get himself back into the match at 11-9 but having played so well in the afternoon you just got the feeling that not to have come out having closed the gap at all would probably leave him too much to do. So it proved and his run in the tournament comes to an end, as of course does his run in the top 16. For Mark though it is a great result and you could see just how much it meant to him as he potted the winning balls to just about get over the line. He did not really play great at any time but like John Higgins he is a terrific match player and that is who he will meet next, for the fourth time in five years at the Crucible.

Finally the other match to come to a close today was that between Neil Robertson and Ali Carter as the ‘thunder from down under’ as he is introduced these days managed to complete a 13-8 win. Many expected this one to be a bit closer but to be honest I could see this one coming. Yesterday Ali looked so focused and determined to improve on his poor opening session and as he took the first three frames it looked like he would do this. Bizarrely though he went on to lose a succession of frames on the final black after the interval and to come through the session still trailing by four frames, having put in such an effort, I had a feeling that he might not be able to respond for a second time today.

Well done to Neil though and with a quarter-final line-up in which any of the eight remaining players could conceivably win the tournament, we are in for an enthralling final week…