Crucible Diary 2012: Day Six

Day six at the Crucible and once again the clouds are out in force. One man already through to the next round however is Ali Carter, who wasted little time completing a 10-2 victory against Mark Davis this afternoon…

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As is tradition, Thursday morning saw a much-needed session off at the Crucible as the tables were re-clothed, allowing fans and media alike an extra few hours in bed. It was noticeable that a few players were complaining that the tables had been fairly heavy, so hopefully the new cloth will see the standard rise even higher.

With the session beginning at 1pm however, Ali Carter resumed at 8-1 against Mark Davis and continued to look like a different player compared to the one that we have seen at times this season, his long game appearing to be in particular good order.

Though Mark was able to pull one back, the end result was never in doubt and finishing with a terrific 132, he was in upbeat mood when talking to the assembled media:

“I’m pleased with the way I played there. Mark obviously felt under the weather but it was quite a good performance from me. I’m not getting too excited, it’s the first round, job done so yeah, kick on hopefully.”

“I have been on quite a strict exclusion diet, I’ve cut out dairy and now wheats which is difficult, I am sort of carrying a lunchbox with me when I go into restaurants and feel like a bit of an idiot but it has taken three weeks now and I am starting to feel better every day. Obviously if you are eating wheat all of your life it doesn’t get out of the system in three days, it takes three or four months, so hopefully that is something that is going to help me and hopefully I can keep feeling good.”

“I’ve practised harder for this tournament than I have for any other tournament this season, because I have felt better and I’ve felt like practising. All season I have just felt tired and I would get to the club and haven’t had the energy to walk around the table so yeah, I hope I can continue to feel good and progress in the tournament.”

“In December I was just unwell every single day, what with going away all the time and being away from home, having had a poor run of results, I just thought I had enough. I did actually talk to Jason Ferguson about taking a sabbatical for a year which is what I really wanted to do, but fortunately I have been able to stumble across this exclusion diet. It is hard to do but I have got to be disciplined and keep myself well.”

“I am under no pressure, nobody expects me to do anything, I don’t expect to do anything so I can just see how it goes. Judd has done well, he has won China, he’s riding on the crest of a wave, he plays a very open game which is all very well when it is all going well for you, but when things do turn, which they will, no player can keep a run of form up forever, we will see how he handles that. All us top players have all been on the back of some bad results from being miles in front and losing matches you should never lose, and he hasn’t had to experience that yet, so the mad balls that he goes for when he has got battle scars, that is what will show us what he is really made of.”

“Dominic at 7-7 if he could have gone up a gear could have won that game, that’s probably the difference between the top players and the lower ranked players, they haven’t got any gears when they need to find them.”

As has been the case with a number of players this year, Mark Davis revealed during his post-match interview that he was not at his best either coming into this match:

“I haven’t been feeling too good these last couple of days, I really felt rough to be honest and obviously it affects you out there when you are playing. I was struggling to see the balls at some times, it’s just horrible but at the same time Ali played well, especially after the interval he played well, he could see I was struggling a bit I suppose but you have still got to pot the balls and he played well after that and had some good breaks.”

“I’ve just had a bit of dizziness, hot and cold, a bit of aching. It’s just a bug I’ve had since Tuesday. I couldn’t wait to get here once I had won my game last week, I missed that last year so I couldn’t wait to get here. For that to happen is very disappointing to say the least.”

“It’s the way it goes sometimes, it’s hard enough out there as it is, I think I could have been out there all night and not hit a 20 breaks.”

The other match to get underway this afternoon was that between Neil Robertson and David Gilbert, which to many people’s surprise was led by Gilbert at the interval 3-1. On their resumption however Neil hit back to take the next four frames, top breaks of 131 and 106 seeing him finish the session with a 5-3 lead.

Many people’s tip for the tournament, numbers of a 93% pot success for Neil together with 74% long pot success were impressive and David faces a tough ask if he is to prevent his opponent from opening up a lead when they resume tomorrow.

With some time between sessions due to the earlier start and some issues with the internet here in the media centre, I decided to head out for a walk around Sheffield, only to be met with yet more heavy rain at the venue. Swiftly deciding against that plan, I headed back in and took a look at some of the head to head stats for the second round matches, notably that between John Higgins and Stephen Hendry, which stands at 21-17 to Higgins, while he has not lost to the seven-times champion in a ranking event since 2003.

Elsewhere, it has to be said this year that the atmosphere at the Crucible has not been nearly as good as last year, largely I think due to the weather which is in stark contrast to the scorcher we had in 2011. On the table however, the action has so far been excellent and that should only get better as the tournament progresses.

The evening session sees the resumption of the final first-round match between Mark Williams and Liu Chuang, the Welshman leading 6-3 following their opening nine frames yesterday afternoon. Once again Mark received a few boos when entering the arena, though the consensus seems to be that these are more ironic/panto style now rather than anything stronger than that.

I did not see a great deal of the opening session, though by all accounts Liu Chuang struggled out there and few are predicting a comeback in a match that beforehand I suspected could be quite close.

Over on table one, Stephen Maguire continues his bid for a maiden world title as he gets his last 16 match with Joe Perry underway. While Joe came through his opener against Graeme Dott 10-1, he was far from at his best during the match and will start as the underdog in this one. That said, the same was true in 2008 when Joe defeated the Scot at the quarter-final stage.

A great start for Williams, a tidy break of 72 leaving him well-placed to move four frames clear just eight minutes into his opener tonight.

As the clock hits 9:22pm, Liu Chuang is mounting a bit of a comeback against Mark Williams, taking three frames in a row to close to 6-9, while Joe Perry and Stephen Maguire have made an excellent start, Joe opening with 115 before two breaks of 101 from the Scot put him 2-1 up. Since then Stephen has moved two clear at 4-2, a pot success rate of 95% at the mid-session interval demonstrating why there are a growing number of people tipping him to come through the top half of the draw.

Mark Williams however has ended the fightback of Liu Chuang to secure a 10-6 victory against his young Chinese opponent and complete the draw for the last 16.

Mark shortly arrived for his press conference, during which there was an amusing moment as he was booed into it by a couple of mischievous members of the press pack. Following that, he told us:

“I probably should have won it a lot earlier than that, every frame he was winning I was starting to come under more pressure. At one stage I was sat in the chair thinking how many more is he going to scrape back? But I’m over the moon to scrape through.”

“I’ve already apologised to the main people that I have upset, which is the staff and the people in the Crucible. I’ve apologised and there is not much more I can do really.”

“It just come out a little bit wrong really, the two table set-up, once it goes down to one, it’s totally different.”

When asked about whether he owed last 16 opponent Ronnie O’Sullivan one and wheher he enjoyed playing Ronnie, Mark added:

“I’ve owed him one for ten years, this hopefully will be the time I beat him. If I said yeah and I haven’t beaten him for ten years I would probably be a bit of a liar really. But yeah you enjoy the occasion really, He always plays well against me, mostly when I play him. The last time he didn’t play too well against me but he still beat me. I need to play a lot better than that to have any chance.”

Trailing 4-1 and 5-2, Joe Perry will probably be fairly happy to have come out of the first session against Stephen Maguire trailing 5-3, both having played well during what was a high quality session.

And that brings to a close another day at the Crucible, and indeed the first round for another year as the last 16 are confirmed. With eight seeds through alongside eight qualifiers, it will be interesting to see whether the second round will see another round of upsets, or whether the remaining seeds will stamp their authority on the tournament from here.

As well as the continuation of the matches that got underway today, tomorrow will also see the start of the clash between John Higgins and Stephen Hendry, one that has really got everybody talking and I will definitely hope to be in the arena for.

For me, the opening session will be crucial to that match as if Higgins is able to build up a lead against the seven-times champion, I could see him going on to win comfortably. If Hendry can keep his nose in front however, then you never quite know. As Clive Everton once put it so well, there is always a sense of possibility when it comes to watching Stephen, as he proved once again on the opening day this week.

Elsewhere, the afternoon session also sees the start of the clash between Ryan Day and Cao Yupeng, one that Ryan will be favourite to take, but with little expected of him, Cao cannot be ruled out either…