Crucible Diary 2011: Day Eight Blog

Into the second week at the Crucible and the last eight line-up is becoming clearer by the day as Mark Allen, Judd Trump and Graeme Dott all came through in style today. Click below to read my report…

Arriving at the Crucible shortly after 11:30am, I was soon greeted by the news that Judd Trump had already secured the two frames that he had needed to move into his first Crucible quarter-final, winning the match 13-6.

As I have said during the past couple of days, there is a marked difference in Judd even from his first round match here against Neil to this most recent one against Martin. Gone are any nerves that he might have had on opening day and he is now walking around the table with such a confident swagger that you generally only see in those destined for the very top. It goes without saying that he is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment and the general consensus at the venue right now is that he has every chance of going all the way to the final.

His next match though will be far from easy as he will take on former champion and two times a runner-up Graeme Dott who came through a cracking match with Ali Carter this afternoon.

Resuming at 8-8 in a roasting Crucible arena, it was Ali who made the more impressive start by taking the opener before in accordance with the pattern of yesterday’s first session, Graeme drew level by taking a hard-fought frame on the colours. Graeme then went ahead by taking advantage of a piece of misfortune for Carter who went in-off following a good initial red before another 90+ break took him two clear at the mid-session interval.

At that stage Graeme was looking very impressive but as was the case last night, Ali responded well after the break by drawing level with runs of 104 and 78, effectively setting up a best of three as the scoreline went 11-11. When asked the question however it was Graeme who answered it, again raising his game to move one away with a break of 70 before Ali looked like forcing a decider when leading frame 24 by 32 points. Decisively though Graeme was able to lay an excellent snooker and although Ali was able to escape, he could only leave the final red on to the right-centre pocket from which Graeme completed an excellent clearance under pressure to seal a 13-11 victory.

As many have since noted, Graeme is a real specialist at this place and more than most players on the tour can be relied upon to produce the goods when under the most extreme pressure. As he himself hinted following the match it was Ali who looked the more fluent when in the balls but when it came down to the close frames which came down to the colours, it was the Scot who took the vast majority of them and that is probably what made the difference in the end. He was many people’s pre-tournament dark horse at 33/1 and with his track record here who is to say that he cannot go all the way?

His match with Judd Trump is a fascinating one and I have to say that in my own mind I am not really sure how it is going to pan out. On the one hand you have Trump who is flying high on the back of his win in China as well as his performances here and is surely destined for the top, while on the other you have Graeme who is such a strong match player and has as much bottle as anyone else out there.

One thing is for sure, Judd is certainly going to face a different style of play to that offered by Martin Gould previously and it will be interesting to see how he handles that. Without doubt he will have frames where he knocks a long red in and wins with a century break, indeed as Ali did, but will he fare any better when faced with the pressure pots in the tighter frames? From what I have seen recently Judd’s temperament is excellent, but so too is Graeme’s…

The other match of the afternoon session was that between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy, the three-time world champion eventually capitalising on what sounded like a poor performance from Murphy to come out with a 6-2 overnight lead. I cannot comment on the match as I didn’t see it, although I did read that Shaun had a pot success rate of 83%, but what really struck me was that the crowd were unusually subdued for an O’Sullivan match. As Snookerbacker pointed out to me, you would have honestly thought that Ronnie must have been losing had you not known the score. Not sure why that was but it was certainly refreshing.

Following the match I decided to hang around the venue for a while as without a ticket for the evening session the plan was to come home early and attempt to recharge my batteries ahead of the second week. While doing so I bumped into Clive Everton briefly as well as saying hello to Stuart Bingham ahead of his match with Ding Junhui tomorrow. I also saw Graeme Dott and having taken a photo also explained that I wrote this blog and was pleasantly surprised when he said that he was a reader and asked if I was Matt. That’s notoriety for you!

While I was not there for the evening session, the match between Mark Selby and Stephen Hendry began in brilliant fashion, three century breaks in the opening three frames between them seeing Selby take a 2-1 lead before a break of 98 put him two clear at the break. From there however Hendry’s game began to fall apart under extreme pressure from Mark who played some fabulous snooker to eventually finish with a 7-1 overnight lead.

Losing with a session to spare would be a sad way for Hendry to bow out if this is to be his last appearance at the Crucible so hopefully he can put on a show tomorrow. Frankly though I cannot say that I am all that shocked by the scoreline as Mark is just such a good all-round player right now.

In the final match Mark Allen was to survive a gutsy comeback from Barry Hawkins in the evening session to win his second consecutive decider. Resuming at 5-3 down in the morning, Mark did not make the best of starts as he soon found himself 7-3 down but to his credit was able to win the next two to head into the mid-session interval just two frames behind as he had started the day.

From there however Mark produced some sensational snooker, winning three frames on the spin with breaks of 79, 114 and 82 before taking a nervy final frame of the session to complete a marvellous comeback. Again as those of you following me on Twitter will have noticed, it was not so much the size of those breaks but the pots that he produced and the style with which he completed them that really stood out and demonstrated again why for me he is probably the player in the game who I enjoy watching play more than any other at the moment.

In the evening session the lead became 12-9 as Mark looked to progress into the next round without too much trouble but most impressively it was Barry’s turn to up his game and he did just that with a series of big breaks to force an unlikely decider.

Sadly for Barry however it was to soon end in disappointment as a poor break-off shot from which he hit the blue with the cue ball proved to be his last shot, Mark being presented with an easy starter and soon getting over the winning line in one visit. Incredibly for some time it looked as though he would do with with a maximum break of 147 only to suffer a horrendous kick on a black and miss the subsequent red into the green pocket. Still though it was more than enough to win the match and book a quarter-final clash with another left-hander, Mark Williams.