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Crucible Diary 2013: Day Seven

Day Seven at the Crucible as we would learn our first (and possibly second if Michael White can win six frames today), quarter-finalists at the 2013 World Championship. Click below for my usual thoughts and observations from Sheffield…

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Arriving at the Crucible bright and relatively early for the inaugural ‘Ladies Day’, the morning session saw the continuation of the match between Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott, as well as the start of the last 16 match between Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins.

Following a hectic day, with the exit of Australia’s Neil Robertson and the continuation of what I have now dubbed as ‘The Poomjaeng Show’ following the continued antics of cult hero Dechawat Poomjaeng against Michael White yesterday, I first set about tidying up my Day Six piece, before putting together my first photo gallery from the week so far.

Indeed much of the chat around the venue was still about Poomjaeng, whose behaviour, which included a bizarre ‘celebration’ having become only the third player ever to have conceded a frame at the Crucible under the ‘three misses’ rule, proved divisive, certainly on Twitter.

For me, while Dechawat has been a breath of fresh air and it is brilliant that everybody has been talking about someone other than Ronnie O’Sullivan for the past few days, I think it is probably fair to say that his conduct during the opening session of his match with White did not help his own cause. Appearing to be playing up to the crowd, particularly after what was a memorable walk-on, I cannot help but wonder whether the scoreline might have been closer than 8-1 had he been more restrained, though of course we will never know.

That said, I was hugely impressed with the performance of White, who did a thoroughly professional and proper job out there in difficult circumstances.

That said, the circumstances were more difficult still for 2006 champion Graeme Dott this morning, as somewhat bizarrely he appeared to visibly suffer from static electric shocks, something that opponent Shaun Murphy said that he could hear from his chair. The shocks did not appear to affect his performance early on as he took the opening two frames of the session to close to 4-6, before Murphy took the third and Graeme told Assistant Tournament Director Martin Clark in no uncertain terms that he would not carry on, suggesting that the floor was to be watered as this is something that he had experienced before at some stage.

An early mid-session interval was hastily decided upon and a sprinkling of water on the table duly did the trick, Graeme later telling the press that this all but solved the problem. This was something mirrored in his performance, as he won four of the next five frames to level at 8-8 at the close of play.

Following a trip around the Winter Gardens and noticing that the drawsheet up in there had Neil Robertson’s highest break of the week as being 132 (not 143), for some reason, I headed into the arena for the first time today to watch the latest instalment of Dechawat Poomjaeng’s Crucible adventure.

For those who have not been to the venue, I decided to record the afternoon walk-ons from my vantage point in the media seating, which you can see here at YouTube. Somewhat more muted than that yesterday evening from Poomjaeng, this is something that would be reflected in his performance, as he appeared to be more serious and focused on the match.

Still though, White continued to be the superior player and took the opening three frames of the session, to extend his lead to 10-2. Needing just three of the remaining four in order to win the match with a session to spare, Michael duly delivered to become the first man through to the quarter-finals in 2013 and continue his own fairytale run this week. Make no mistake, Michael is a player of some promise and has every chance of progressing further this week, with either Ricky Walden or Robert Milkins lying in wait next week.

Over on table one meanwhile, Judd Trump hit three tons on his way to a 6-2 lead against 2006 semi-finalist Marco Fu. With the pressure off him to some degree, Judd looks to be back to his something like his 2011 best and will take some stopping tonight.

Following a brief trip out between sessions, I headed back into the Crucible Arena for the conclusion of the match between Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott, finely balanced at 8-8 and with all to play for. As marker Colin Humphries brought out a glass of coke into the media row, I was about to say that I was very impressed with the service before he reminded me that it would be for referee Brendan Moore!

On a more serious note, the first four frames were shared, Shaun looking the heavier scorer, while Graeme looked to be the stronger in the tactical frames, reminding me of his victory against Ali Carter at the same stage of this tournament back in 2011.

The crucial period of the match would follow after the interval, as Shaun Murphy eventually won an hour-long 21st frame on a re-spotted black, as Graeme got his initial shot all wrong having lost the toss. As Shaun told us after the match, the frame always had the look of a re-spot, even from the early stages as there was a particularly amusing exchange between the players and referee Brendan Moore, as he struggled to get the cue ball and green back to the exact position that they were in following Shaun’s first miss.

While most of the banter was caught on camera, perhaps the funniest part was not, as Brendan’s face when looking up at marker Colin Humphries following Shaun’s second miss was an absolute picture. As with the rest of the match however, the exchange was played in a great spirit, a credit to both players given the fact that it came at a crucial point in what would be a pivotal frame in the match.

With both players leaving the arena at the conclusion of the frame, there was room for further incident as referee Brendan Moore called for quiet up in the back few rows as a spectator seemed to be calling out while there was another match in progress. Unfortunately, the spectator, who appeared to be unhappy with somebody stood up in front of him, obstructing his view, chose to swear back and he was promptly ejected from the arena by Frank and the man known to some around the venue as ‘security man Mark’, who is a real character backstage.

Back on the baize, frame 22 would prove to be another tense affair, Shaun eventually taking it on the pink to lead 12-10 and open up a two-frame lead at a crucial stage of the match. Having lost a number of the scrappy frames, it was fairly telling that Shaun was able to take these two and despite the threat of a comeback from Graeme who took the next, decisive in his eventual 13-11 victory.

I have heard a few complaints about the speed of the match and I am not sure how it came across on TV, but certainly being there in the arena, the tension was so high and the action proved to be absolutely absorbing. Certainly for me, it was the perfect illustration of why shot clocks have no place in ranking event snooker.

It was fascinating to watch the contrasting styles of the players, Shaun externally at least remaining calm and focused, while Graeme, as he always does, wore his heart on his sleeve and let all of his emotions out, particularly on that re-spotted black.

As I said earlier, the match was played in a terrific spirit and Graeme was keen to praise his opponent post-match:

“It was a good game to be involved in, there was a lot of good tactical play and it was all played at a good pace.”

“I played well this afternoon. I felt ok in the first session but I just kept missing unbelievably easy balls, I must have missed about four blacks off the spot. I got exactly what I deserved out of the session losing 6-2. I’ve done well to come back because you don’t win many matches if you lose a session 6-2 at the Crucible. I gave myself a chance but I just came up short.”

“A lot of people are going to look at the re-spotted black but the only thing that annoys me is when I was 10-9 and I was in the balls and I got a kick rolling the blue through. That for me was the turning point because I was on 27, I only had to roll the blue through and never went through far enough and I had to play a different red. I was feeling I was getting on top at that stage, missed the red and Shaun cleared up. From 10-10 the frames could have gone either way but that’s the way it goes.”

“I think Shaun played well tonight, he was stronger than me, cued better and probably deserved to win.”

On the static shocks:

“I had it before maybe ten years ago playing Mark King in the quarter-finals in Ireland and I got the same thing and they watered the carpet and I’d never heard of it, so that’s why I told them that you need to water the carpet. It was every shot and if it wasn’t the big ones, it was little ones but the big ones were quite sore. They wanted me to play the frame and then they were going to do it after that but I refused because it’s not fair if you are getting a shot everything you touch the table.”

“It was fine after that, I got the occasional one but nothing that bad so it was fine.”

On his improved form here at the Crucible.

“I went to see my old coach Del Hill, he sorted me out after China and I’ve changed a few things for this tournament and it was clearly working. I was cueing ok, I was cueing better than I have been doing all year. You know you are doing ok if you are pushing Shaun all the way because he’s a class act.”

On Shaun’s chances this week:

“I think Shaun has got a really good chance on the basis that the top half of the draw has probably got all of the attacking players and I think Shaun is a little bit like me and doesn’t like playing a lot of the tactical players, he seems to struggle. Mark Selby seems to have the voodoo sign over him and Neil Robertson is the same. He’s not got any of them so I think he’s got a great chance.”

Shaun meanwhile was delighted to be through:

“In life I really do try and simplify everything and just in snooker it never seems to work out that way for me. I am good friends with Willie Thorne and he always gives me a bit of stick about it, ‘why do don’t you ever win a match straightforward and easy.’ I don’t know, I try my best!”

“I am obviously relieved because it went very close. Even at 6-2 up I knew that he was going to have a run at me because he’s that type of player. He’s one of the most consistent players here at the Crucible, he knows what it takes. He wouldn’t have been bothered about being behind and he came out this morning and beat me 6-2, 8-8 going into tonight, it couldn’t have been better poised. I’m just over the moon to come through.”

“It’s fantastic, it really is great fun, that’s the whole point of practising and playing the game. That’s the whole point of being a snooker player, for those moments right there. Through a career, you win some and you lose some. I’ve lost my fair share of late night Crucible dramas over the last few years and it was nice to come through that battle.”

“Very, very rarely do you see somebody just walk through the draw here at the Crucible over two weeks, wins every session and doesn’t really get put under any pressure. It is interesting to just watch people, how they come through scenarios like that. While you do put all of these hours of practice in, you cannot simulate feelings like that so to come through that early is very pleasing.”

“I’ve been very lucky with the draw actually, I went home between the first round and the second round, I’m going home after today and I can watch everybody else twitch up. A couple of nights in my own bed, things like that do make a big difference.”

On Graeme’s static shocks:

“I could hear the crack, funnily enough I have experienced it myself but I didn’t really understand watering the carpet. I didn’t understand that, I thought that water and electricity was bad! I don’t get it, I don’t know. I’ve never seen a man out there spraying the carpet, I thought it was weird!”

On Dechawat Poomjaeng:

“Poomjaeng is the man of the tournament isn’t he? He’s like a character out of James Bond, I don’t know which one, he’s like Oddjob or something. What a character. Love him or hate him, he gets people talking about the game, he’s what snooker needs, people say there are no characters in the game. Have half an hour with him!”

On that dramatic frame 20:

“It was a frame that I felt always had the look of a re-spot, it always had the look of a black-ball, nail-biting, didn’t know which way it was going to go. When I didn’t get on the blue properly, anywhere but where I finished and I could have got to the pink. It just had re-spot written all over it. He completely mis-hit his shot which I was over the moon to see and then just relieved when I potted the black, but still a long way to go then.”

On the run of Michael White this year:

“To come here and beat somebody like Mark Williams on his début was massive. When I made my début here I played Stephen Hendry and I was that nervous that I missed my glass pouring the water in it.

“I think I got beat 10-4 and just got completely overawed by him, the place and everything. For him to come here and play Mark Williams, twice-winner and win, and win well, was very, very impressive. And then with Poomjaeng, how he has gone on, dealt with everything that goes on around that and deal with that in the way that he did was very impressive.”