Crucible Diary 2011: Day Twelve Blog

View from the photography booth

Day twelve from the Crucible saw this year’s four semi-finalists decided and for me personally it was an eventful day as having been given backstage access to the media room for the first time I was able to enjoy the day from a somewhat different perspective…

Arriving at the venue bright and early I chatted with a couple of friends outside before heading round the back and entering through the Stage Door and being signed in for the day by former player and current World Snooker official Gary Wilkinson. Having spent longer than I should probably admit waiting outside Stage Door for autographs when I first visited the Crucible in the early days, it was a bizarre feeling to actually go in for the first time!

As Gary pointed me in the direction of the media room I was told to follow a man who turned out to be journalist Hector Nunns (@senornunns), who showed me the way and I was soon greeted by a few familiar faces, not least MC Rob Walker who is just as exuberant in the press room as he is the arena!

With the morning session getting underway, the kind soul that is Monique (@moniquelimbos), who is responsible for all of the photos that you are seeing on the World Snooker website this week, offered to take me into one of the commentary booths to give me a feel for the conditions and how they operate. It is certainly different, being in the cramped space with four other people and it is hard to explain but in a way with the glass between you and the match it feels like you are watching the match on television, that you are invisible, but of course you are not and are in fact closer to the action than most!

Mark Williams raises a smile

Having in there watched Mark Williams complete a comfortable 13-5 victory against Mark Allen we soon headed out and back up into the media room for the press conferences which were again a new experience to me and one that I found to be a real eye-opener.

As you would expect Mark Williams was in good spirits, joking that the media should continue to ‘write theit s**t’ about Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins and saying that the venue now becomes a proper venue with the one table set-up. Mark Allen meanwhile was relatively upbeat, making it clear that he was not properly prepared for this tournament and could therefore not be to unhappy with the defeat, before wishing the press a good summer.

At this stage the match on table one between Ding Junhui and Mark Selby had just come to its mid-session interval so I took the opportunity to make the ‘Crucible walk’ that the players do on TV and enter the arena and sit in front of the markers desk behind the TV cameras.

An unfamiliar view

Having been a Crucible stalwart for seven years, it might sound silly to say it but it almost felt like being at the venue for the first time. Indeed I have seen many professional snooker tournaments but it was the first time that I had done so from that end of the table! Being right on top of the action you somehow feel part of the match rather than part of the crowd and the need to sit still is far stronger than even being sat in the front row of the crowd.

Not that the Chinese journalist next to me seemed to have noticed as he celebrated a miss from Mark which prompted a word from referee Brendan Moore to tell him not to celebrate Mark’s misses, but only Ding’s pots which is entirely correct. It was amusing with Brendan because I have chatted to him on a few occasions so could have been tempted to say something between frames but that would not have been right while he was trying to do his job so I tried to avoid eye contact as much as possible!

The only problem with being sat there is that there is not an easily viewable scoreboard so you have to turn round and look at that on the markers desk, though I still enjoyed every minute of it as Ding moved into a 10-6 lead against an oddly nervous and clearly cold Selby. I could certainly empathise with that as the arena was very cold this morning.

The Crucible Media Room

Following that I retreated back to the press room and sat down with MC Rob Walker for a while and recorded an interview that I hope to get up on the blog during the tournament. I was somewhat under-prepared for this as I had asked him with a view to doing it later in the week and he basically said that there is no time like the present but he came out with some interesting answers to my improvised questions! He’s a great guy is Rob, not everybody’s cup of tea on the table but he clearly loves the antics inside the press room and is more knowledgeable than he is probably given credit for.

Soon after it was time for the afternoon matches and in almost no time Judd Trump finished off Graeme Dott, thanks in no small part to a fantastic clearance from a seemingly impossible position 47 points behind in the first frame of the day. Graeme’s press conference was an interesting one as he described his dazzling young opponents as having ‘the cockiness of youth’, something that was put to Judd who said that his confidence is building with every match.

Judd’s demeanour in his press conference was a mirror-image of that on the table as he is clearly becoming more comfortable as the tournament progresses and is enjoying dealing with the media a little more. There were some entertaining pieces of banter in there about the royal wedding (Kate who?), and his Twitter fanbase which was nice to see and I thought that he handled it well.

Judd ‘Invincible’ Trump

The other match of the afternoon was that between John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan as Higgins struggled from the off and each miss was seemingly met by a bigger gasp in the press room! At 8-5 down he looked close to losing it completely but as only he could have probably done, dug in well and stole a few frames to finish locked at 8-8. With a miscue on the yellow and a strange shot selection in frame 16 it was probably Ronnie who came out the happier.

Having left the building for food and bumped into former Crucible semi-finalist Alain Robidoux who was hanging around the venue, I returned upstairs to the press room for the conclusion of the matches involving John Higgins and Ding Junhui, both promising to provide a thrilling climax to the day.

It was clear that John was cueing far better in this session than he had earlier and he demonstrated this from 9-9 by stealing two frames following misses from O’Sullivan to put himself two clear at the interval. This soon became three and despite O’Sullivan taking one back, an outrageous fluke in frame 23 paved the way for the match-winning break for John, much to the relief of the Betfred employee having kittens in the media room.


As you would expect, Ronnie’s press conference was to prove the longest of the day as he explained that while he is feeling happier generally right now and enjoyed his matches here, he is not satisfied with the state of his game right now or the standard that he has produced this week. The press tried to tackle him about a free ball situation at the start of the session but it is safe to say that the reporter came off slightly worse in that exchange!

John meanwhile was obviously relieved and as he said, clearly thought that he was going home earlier in the day as he just could not push the cue through properly for whatever reason.

Following that match came the wait for the conclusion of the Selby/Ding match and despite a tremendous four-frame run from Mark to level at 10-10, it was Ding who took the next three to book a place in his first Crucible semi-final – much to the delight of the Chinese media in the press room! Mark was obviously down in his press conference, attributing the loss to two particular shots from 10-10 but put on a brave face like the professional that he is.

Ding smiles following an excellent win

Ding meanwhile was obviously happy but I have to say that I did struggle to hear what he was saying as he speaks incredibly softly, to the extent that the photographers were asked not to take photos so that they could hear what he was saying.

By the time he had finished speaking, the table fitters were already dismantling the table in preparation for tomorrow’s one table set-up and with that was my cue to leave. After a trip to the Graduate and a chat with the usual gang, as well as the Judd Trump entourage who I have to say are a great bunch, he is very well supported which can only help him during a week like this.

Keep following me on Twitter tomorrow for more updates and photos from the media room, while I will also have more press conference quotes for you on Saturday…