Day three from Sheffield and as has been the norm so far this year, it has so far been another dark and gloomy day as far as the weather is concerned. Hopefully the action will be brighter on the table as the much-anticipated clash between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Peter Ebdon gets underway this afternoon…
Arriving at the venue at around 9:30am, much of the talk unsurprisingly still surrounds the aftermath of the match between Mark Allen and Cao Yupeng, in particular the alleged push shot which you can now watch for yourself here.
For those unsure of what exactly a ‘push” shot is, the rule is defined in the official rules of snooker as follows:
19. Push Stroke
A push stroke is made when the tip of the cue remains in contact with the cue-ball:
(a) after the cue-ball has commenced its forward motion; or
(b) as the cue-ball makes contact with an object ball except, where the cue-ball and an object ball are almost touching, it shall not be deemed a push stroke if the cue-ball hits a very fine edge of the object ball.
In other news, Barry Hearn is due to make an appearance at the venue later this afternoon and it will be interesting to see what surprises he has up his sleeve for us all in the media centre, not to mention his view on Mark’s comments, assuming he is asked about those.
Back on the table, Stephen Maguire and Luca Brecel are back underway and after dropping the opening frame of the morning, it looks as though Stephen has re-asserted himself on the match by taking the next two frames, the second of which with a century break. At the time of writing he is currently in amongst the balls with a chance for 9-4 and surely closing in on a place in the last 16.
Over on table two meanwhile, Matthew Stevens has started strongly against Marco Fu by establishing an early 2-0 lead, interestingly sporting what looks to be a new blue-backed waistcoat for the first time.
Fun and games in the media centre now as Hazel Irvine does a bit of filming for the BBC right next to me. Thinking now that I really should have brought a PSB banner to the party! I’m sure nobody would mind a bit of subtle plugging?
Meanwhile in the background, Stephen Maguire is in the balls with a chance to finish off a match that at 6-4, looked as though it might become closer than he might have envisaged at 4-0 yesterday. Another match that has progressed to 4-0 is that between Matthew Stevens and Marco Fu, the Welshman moving clear as Marco struggles with a pot success percentage of just 72% early on.
Maguire has duly dished to complete a 10-5 victory and was in a relaxed mood as he spoke to the assembled press:
“Obviously it was important to try and get off to a good start and put him under the cosh a little bit, but once he started to let his cue go, he just didn’t look like he was going to miss. I was glad the interval came at 6-3 because it was starting to get a bit scary out there.”
“He definitely had his chances, I missed a few when the balls were sitting well and I gave him a few more chances than I would have liked to have given him. Luckily for me he missed a couple of big shots when the balls were sitting really pretty and I think that made the difference in the end.”
“I am just trying to think about the next match, I am not even thinking about titles or anything just now, I never really do to be honest. I know I will have to improve 80% to have a chance in the next match and that I have got a few days now to do that so I can hit the practice table and see where I go from there.”
“Everything irritates me about the game when I lose, simple as that. I think that this is my ninth time here, so I think I should have done better. It’s not just a case of having the game or having the talent to win it, you have got to go out there and it’s a long haul, there are a lot of great players out there so try not to think about it too much. But there is still time left.”
Stephen also spoke at length about his opponent and was full of praise for Luca:
“It was a draw that was good, not because it was his first time there, but because of all the publicity which he deserves. It was exciting to be playing him in the first round.”
“He’s a potting machine isn’t he? He’s one of the fastest players that I’ve seen and fearless.
“I’ve seen Luca a few years ago when we had the World Series tournaments and Luca was in them. I think he was only about three year old then and he was making 50 and 60 breaks but obviously it’s there to see, the talent is there and I just think it is a matter of time. It probably won’t be that long before he is competing for tournaments.”
“Somebody said he had to get to the semis to stay on the tour. I just hope that World Snooker don’t make the mistake of letting him fall off because it would be a travesty for the game. It’s a no brainer really [a wildcard for Luca] on the tour next year with all the experience that he has gained from this tournament alone, the matches that he won to get here, it’s fantastic. The youngest ever to be at the Crucible and he looks like a nice kid as well. I hope I don’t draw him in the World [Championship] next year.”
Shortly before Stephen came into the media room, Luca had also spoken about the match and despite defeat, was smiling and obviously just thrilled to be here. As translated by coach Chris Henry, he admitted that playing at the Crucible was a ‘bit special’ and different from everywhere else that he had played.
He also added that he was disappointed because he could play so much better (as we all saw during his four qualifying matches), but he was keen to stress that next year and the future will be a different story.
The attention now turns to next year as of course Luca has not actually qualified for the main tour as of right, having finished outside of the top 64 and too low on the PTC Order of Merit to retain his place via that route.
As Maguire indicates above, it would be a poor move not to find a way somehow to give Luca a place on the tour some somehow and though he indicated that nobody had yet contacted him about a wildcard, I am sure that we will see him back on the tour next season one way or another.
Following the press conferences we emerged from the interview area to see that Matthew Stevens was on the verge of establishing a 7-0 lead against Hong Kong’s Marco Fu, three away from what would have been only the second ever whitewash at the venue.
As it happened however, Marco snatched the last of the session to ensure that while he will have his work cut out tonight as the action resumes, he will not be beaten to nil.
The afternoon session saw the start of the match between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Peter Ebdon, one keenly anticipated and in the early stages at least, certainly lived up to the hype.
As they do during each day of the tournament, our sponsors Betfred.com stage a competition in the media centre which today involved answers to six questions, the first of which asked whether the opening frame would last for under/over 29 minutes.
All but two people in here opted for under and as the frame came down to a re-spotted black, it looked as if we would be right as Ebdon left O’Sullivan in with what looked to be an easy pot. To everybody’s surprise however, Ronnie then missed the black, much to the relief of the sponsors who took great delight in binning our slips as the clock ticked over 29 minutes.
As it turned out, it didn’t matter for Ronnie as he subsequently potted it later in the frame, on his way to establishing a dominant 7-2 lead by the end of the session. In truth I did not see much of the action as from 3pm, World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn arrived at the venue to make a series of announcements to the assembled media, details of which you can find here.
While I was typing up the quotes however, it was hard not to become transfixed by the conclusion of the match involving Shaun Murphy and Jamie Jones, which Shaun Murphy lead both 6-4 and 7-6, only to see the tables turn as the Welsh qualifier won the next three frames to lead 9-7.
A big moment came in frame 16 as Jamie missed a straight-forward red under pressure when in with a chance to seal the match, allowing Shaun to clear to the pink to take the match to another frame.
It was not to be enough though as an exuberant Jones secured victory in the next, despite a scare having gone in-off the brown having previously celebrated ‘victory’ with a clenched fist.
Jamie told the press after the match:
“I have just never felt any pressure like that in my life. I started off yesterday, struggled to settle down until the end of the session and today it was a bit of a mixed bag as well. I was playing some great shots and missing some easy ones. I’ve just never played an occasion like that in my life.”
“I got myself in a position twice from potting great balls and opening the pack up and I missed two reds like that. But I think that the Crucible does things like that to you. I potted the long red and I was giving it all the fist pumping and then I went in-off. I didn’t know what to think at the end or where I was!”
“I had a look round a couple of days ago and I just couldn’t wait to get out there and play. Then I got out there and struggled to settle down a bit but I think that for my Crucible début I think I played pretty good.”
“It was a funny old game, I don’t think Shaun played his best and I missed a few balls as well, but to come out winning, I’d take a win any day you know.”
“It’s amazing to be the first Welshman through with the likes of Matthew and Mark, I’m just so proud.”
“If he had established a decent lead on me he quite possibly could have got away from me, but he missed a few balls as, I missed balls throughout the whole game. I was just so patchy, I was making a ton and then the next minute I was missing a ball like that, I can’t really explain why, maybe it is just my début here and I didn’t really settle down.”
“I done an interview before the tournament and I was saying that if I had won it wouldn’t have been a shock to me. It will definitely be a big shock to the public but I know how well I have been playing. I knew that if I went out there and just played the game tough and scored well, I knew I could win there.”
“I’m just happy to be here to be honest, I was going out there to enjoy the experience and to come out a winner is fantastic.”
As is always the case, Shaun Murphy was incredibly gracious in defeat, naturally disappointed but not taking anything away from Jamie in the slightest. Shaun said:
“It was a fantastic game, I really enjoyed it. It sounds funny saying that having got beat but I thought that it was really high quality, Jamie held himself really, really well. He didn’t play like a débutante to me, he did a lot better than I did on my début, all credit to him.”
“I thought I played well, I had no real complaints about my game, I have certainly played a lot worse and won before but I can only heap praise on Jamie, I thought he played well and based on that I thought he deserved to win.”
“There was an obvious wobble in the penultimate frame where he missed the red from right behind it and I did think that with experience on my side and all of that, if I had a chance in the last frame then I would have took it and in the decider who knows. But that chance never came and in the end he took the balls very, very well.”
“It’s certainly not how I saw the tournament going and what I had planned and not what I have spent hours and hours practising for, but that’s life and that’s sport. I will dust myself down, have a bit of a break and come back next year.”
“I’ve had a good season, another season where I have won a tournament, I am in the winner’s enclosure again with the Brazilian Masters. I have been probably one of the most consistent players of the season and I think that as it stands I have gone up the rankings, so I can only count it as a success.”
While disappointed for Shaun, I am really pleased for Jamie who has always come across as a very nice guy when I have seen him and following a fantastic season for him, fully deserves his place in the last 16. Up to 29th in the provisional rankings and becoming more and more confident all of the time in front of the cameras, we are going to be seeing a lot more of the Welshman in the future.
On a personal level, I always find it extra special too to see qualifiers like Jamie come through and make an impact at this stage of a major tournament, particularly having seen and spoken to them during qualifying, indeed Jamie actually signed me in one day at the qualifiers last week which is always going to go down with me!
Next up for Jamie will be either Stephen Lee or Andrew Higginson, who at the time of writing are currently locked at 1-1 in their first-round match, while Matthew Stevens has moved just one frame from victory against Marco Fu at 9-2, a great scoreline given Marco’s experience and quality.