World Championship Qualifiers 2010: Friday Report


Unfortunately I was not there for the morning session on Friday but nonetheless I still have a few stories to tell and photos to share as the third qualifying round of the World Championship came to a conclusion…

Arriving at the venue around mid-afternoon I found that Jimmy Michie had already completed a 10-2 demolition of David Gray, a useful result for Michie and a sickener for David who has now been relegated from the tour barring another wildcard. I am informed that Jimmy stole the first two frames of the session on the final black to make it 9-2 before winning the match in the last frame.

The second match to finish was that between Scot Marcus Campbell and Thai veteran James Wattana. Though James has been in relatively good form recently, Marcus has had a pretty good season himself and eventually proved to be too strong. The key frame was probably number six yesterday as James had a chance to level at 3-3 but could not take it and eventually finished the session 3-6 down.

The remaining two matches were much closer contests, in particular that between Robert Milkins and Mike Dunn which resumed finely poised at 5-4. Early on yesterday it looked like Robert might pull away as having shared the opening couple of frames to lead 6-5, Robert then moved 67 ahead with 67 rema

ining in frame 11. Crucially however Mike hung in there and forced a foul before eventually taking the frame to keep himself right in touch.

Ding Junhui

From there it was close all the way as the scoreline progressed to 6-6, 7-7 and then 8-8, Mike taking frame 16 with well-constructed breaks of 43 and 87. What was to follow however was the second major turning point of the session as Mike moved into the lead for the first time since Thursday’s opening session. The first good scoring opportunity during the frame fell Mike’s way but having potted a red on 21 he flicked off of another and snookered himself on the black as a result. Though he was able to play a telling safety shot and force an error from Robert, he missed a red to the left-centre to hand Milkins a golden chance to take the frame and edge back in front once again.

Having scored 20 however Robert was to miss a straightforward red and as he walked back to his chair, slamming his cue on the floor, you could sense that it would really hurt him if Mike were to clear up – which he did. This proved to be Robert’s last scoring visit as Mike duly sealed an important win with a break of 74 in frame 18 to book a last 48 tie with Stephen Lee. As I predicted Milkins to be one of the 16 players to qualify for the Crucible I must admit that I was rather surprised to see him lose this one but fair play to Mike who now lies on the cusp of a top 32 place for the first place in his career.

Not Rob’s day

The last remaining match was that between SightRightUK coached pair Mark Davis and Barry Pinches which progressed at somewhat slower pace, indeed the score seemed to stay at 8-6 for an eternity as the evening session drew ever closer. Eventually they were taken off at 9-7, though initially I had heard that they would be allowed to continue playing at the expense of Stuart Pettman and David Roe who were waiting to resume at 7-2.

In between the sessions I popped out of the arena and bumped into Ryan who was trying to complete his quest to have photos taken with all of the 96 main tour players. While waiting outside we managed to bump into several players including Rod Lawler (who said he had seen PSB!), Marcus Campbell, Andrew Higginson, Anda Zhang, Ian McCulloch, Michael Judge, David Roe, Stuart Pettman, Martin Gould and Ding Junhui, the latter presumably at the academy for a practice session.

Of those players it was particularly nice to meet Stuart who has of course been allowing me to produce extracts from his upcoming book on the site, as well as Martin Gould who chatted with us for ages about all sorts of things.

Anda Zhang

Having got some photos and food we headed in for the evening session to find that Andrew Higginson had put together an excellent comeback against Anda Zhang to trail by just one frame at 6-7 having at one point been 2-7 down. I had not seen any of the match up until this point but Anda looked to be struggling badly, obviously feeling the pressure against a far more experienced opponent who soon went into the lead at 8-7 with a well-taken run of 82.

Frame 16 however saw a second momentum switch as with the scores near enough level with just the colours remaining, Andrew managed to put Anda in an awkward snooker, the escape from which was frought with danger. In simple terms the yellow was near its spot with the white at the other end of the table, at least partially obstructed by the black.

Anda’s first attempt saw him play up and down the table but he just missed it on the left side, in truth not the side that he would want to catch it on as there would have been a very good chance of him leaving it on to the either the right-centre or the green pocket had he caught it too thick. On his second attempt it looked like he had done exactly that as he caught the red on the left side and the white headed down the table, but very fortunately he managed to somehow fluke a snooker back and Andrew understandably was left shaking his head. It was fairly obvious what was going to happen next and Higginson duly hit the yellow and left it on for Anda to clear for 8-8.

Rory at the table

Like the Milkins match it looked like this could be a key moment and so it proved as Anda added the next two frames to complete a major upset and importantly for him, book his place on the main tour for 2010/11.

Elsewhere it was a strange session, lacking the drama of the previous night as many of the players leading from the morning session pushed on and completed their victories. One of these was Rory McLeod who is looking to qualify for the Crucible for a second consecutive year and was rarely troubled by an out of form Jin Long. The Chinese player who in the second round was able to win his first match of the season rarely looked like causing an upset and despite battling hard (he played on for a long time needing five snookers to win at one point), it was never going to happen.

Also battling hard was David Roe, a man who saw his 24 year professional career ended by Preston’s Stuart Pettman. He did not go down without a fight however as he took three of the first four frames to reduce the gap to 8-4, before closing the gap further to 9-6 as Stuart began to feel the pressure. The penultimate frame in particular was a real battle which was eventually won by Roe on the black. Stuart though was always going to have a few more chances to get over the line and he did so in frame 16 with what was a very good break of 53.

Ian McCulloch

Of the remaining three matches I must admit that I fancied at least one of them to see a comeback, possibly that between David Morris and Jamie Burnett but as things transpired it did not quite turn out that way. Michael Judge looked the most likely against Mark Joyce but from 4-1 and 6-3 down against a man who played brilliantly in his first match, it was always going to be difficult.

The match with by far the biggest crowd was unsurprisingly that involving Tony Drago, but despite a century break of 107 he too never really looked like putting together a run of frames against an Ian McCulloch who looked as good as I have seen him for a couple of seasons. Barry Hawkins is a good player but if Ian can play to a similar standard then he is more than good enough to give him a run for his money. Incidentally it was great to see Tony’s reaction as Ian completed his match-winning clearance. While he must have been disappointed to lose, it did not show as he walked over to Ian applauding before putting his arm round him and presumably telling him how well he played. It was very sporting and another example (see yesterday’s report), of Tony’s positive frame of mind at the moment as far as snooker is concerned.

On course for a Crucible debut – David Morris

The final match in progress was the Morris/Burnett clash which by the end saw just me and Ryan remaining in the entire public gallery! From what I saw (and what David said to us afterwards), it was not a great standard, indeed Burnett looked to have given up during the last couple of frames, and came to a close at around 11:10pm with Morris emerging as the winner.

Having popped downstairs and had a photo with David and a chat with Barry Pinches who was called for a routine drugs test, we left for another day, thankfully at an earlier time than the previous night!

I’ll be back for the last two days on Monday and it will be interesting to see if the newly re-clothed tables will help to improve the standard a little…