World Championship Qualifiers 2010: Tremendous Tom Tops Trump

Hands up who saw Tom Ford’s landslide victory over Judd Trump coming today? Ok well I kinda did, though I had expected it to be closer! Click below for my latest report from the 2010 World Championship qualifiers from Sheffield…

Arriving at the venue at around 10:30am I headed on up to what was a very full public gallery, literally standing room only as far as I could see. Fortunately for me, the three matches that I had a particular interest in (eg Gould/Doherty/Ford), were all next to each other so from my vantage point standing at the back I could watch all three!

Ford  v Trump

First Session

By the time I arrived Tom had already taken the opening frame with Judd poised to level with breaks of 44 and 52 before some of the other matches had completed even one frame! Frame three began with a poor break-off from Judd, though having nailed the long red, Tom missed the intended cannon on another red next to the black and found himself on nothing. He was not to be deterred however, securing the frame with a very well taken 69 before taking the fourth frame on the final pink to head into the interval with a 3-1 lead.

At this point Judd had not done a great deal wrong, he had wasted chances but generally did not appear to be cueing too badly. After the mid-session interval though he began to lose his way and Tom piled on the pressure, moving 4-1 ahead thanks to two fantastic long reds.

Frame six was a significant frame, particularly as Judd managed to get in first with an excellent long pot of his own, but as he missed a simple blue on just 9, the first signs of frustration were evident as he slapped the table and walked disconsolately back to his chair fearing the worst. He was right to do so, Tom won the frame in one-visit again with a flawless 75.

The next frame again saw Judd presented with a chance after Tom missed a red from distance, but a terrible shot on the green left Tom in perfect position around the black spot. By the time he ran out of position he led by 29 points with just 25 on, though following a pot on the green by Judd, Tom misjudged a thin safety shot on the brown and leaving a free ball, presented Judd with a chance to get a foothold in the match. As he missed the nominated blue to the corner however it was beginning to become evident that it would not be Judd’s day and Tom took another frame having played an excellent snooker to force the error.

Frame eight saw Tom earn the first scoring opportunity and he went along nicely until leaving himself a very questionable plant on 27 which he missed to give Judd yet another chance. In keeping with the rest of the session however, he could not take it and Tom stretched his lead to 7-1 with a run of 55. Though a fluke came his way in the final frame of the session, Judd was in no state to make it count and Tom potted a stunning brown to ensure that he would need just two frames from the afternoon session to book his first appearance at the Crucible Theatre!

Second Session

As Judd broke off at the start of frame ten it was clear that he would need a miracle if he was to secure a return to the Crucible for the first time since 2007 and a poor safety shot soon after was not the start that he wanted. Tom could have been forgiven for being a little nervous with the winning line almost in sight but there was not a bit of it, he was thinking clearly as he held the pink spot on 23 before going into the reds on 37 to pave the way for what would become a total clearance of 120!

At the point of no return, Judd clearly decided to just let loose and have a go at everything at this stage and for a while it worked as he rifled in a great long red to start a break of 77 in frame 11 before adding 72 in the next to give himself a chance of at least reaching the mid-session interval.

Tom was always going to have a chance however and when it came in frame thirteen he made no mistake, polishing off the match in style with his second century of the match, 100 exactly.

It goes without saying that this was an excellent result for Tom and one that caps off an already excellent season which is now sure to end with him back inside the world’s top 48. While I knew going into the match that he was playing well having seen him demolish Anthony Hamilton last week however, I was highly impressed by his temperament which was rock solid from start to finish.

As his coach Steve Feeney pointed out to me, his pace around the table was ideal, quick but not rushed, and overall he looked like a completely different player to the one that I saw against Patrick Wallace and Mark Williams exactly a year ago. If he can carry that form through into the Crucible and then beyond into next season then he could really start to turn his potential into results…

For Judd though the result will be a huge disappointment and no doubt a shock, as it was the almost all of the stunned spectators today in Sheffield, many of whom I suspect had come along fully expecting him to win. Though he will remain inside the top 32 for next season, he falls to 38th on the one-year list and the season has very much been a case of one step forward, two backwards.

Whether the increased level of expectation placed upon him today as the seeded player caused him to struggle only he knows but I suspect that it may have done. Last year he came in against Stephen Lee as the unseeded player and got off to a terrific start, leading 6-2 only to falter as the winning line approached but today he missed chances from quite an early stage…

Doherty v Swail

First Session

As heavy a victory as it was for Tom however, it was not the biggest of the day as next door former world champion Ken Doherty was ruthless in his victory over Joe Swail, losing just one frame!

Again I had expected Ken to have too much for Joe, though it only takes one glance at Joe’s CV to see that he can often produce the goods when you would least expect it so there is always that element of doubt.

On my arrival Ken had already taken the opening frame, though Joe fought well in the second to level with a clearance to the pink. From there however it soon became clear that Joe was not in good touch as he failed to string together any sort of break when given the opportunity. This was demonstrated in frame three when Ken missed when leading by 65 points, Joe had an opportunity to steal it but ran out of position and missed a difficult blue to the corner to find himself 43 behind with 43 remaining before Ken smacked in a red to put the frame beyond his reach.

As well as Joe’s profligacy when in amongst the balls however, what was absolutely apparent was that right now Ken’s safety play is as good as it has ever been and on a different level to anything else I have seen in Sheffield this week. This was demonstrated perfectly in frame five when down to the final red, Ken played a superb shot to snooker Joe who missed, left a free ball and could only watch as Ken made 12 to move 4-1 ahead. Incidentally to demonstrate how quickly Tom Ford was racking up the frames, he was already 7-1 up at this stage!

4-1 soon became 5-1 as Ken began to run away with proceedings and another frame went the 1997 champion’s way thanks in part to a run of 49. Joe had a chance to get one back in the eighth but having potted a red into a centre-pocket saw the cue ball head in-off into the green pocket. Ken then duly closed the session with a break of 74, one that could have been a century but for a narrowly missed penultimate red.

Second Session

Ken’s start to the second session proved to be somewhat bittersweet as although he extended his lead to 9-1, he was cruelly denied the opportunity of recording his first competitive 147 break with a horrible kick on 81. Although the red still went in and he had a shot on the subsequent black, he was horribly hampered and could not sink it.

The following frame proved to be much closer as it came to a long safety duel on the colours. Having seen Ken miss a few attempts from distance, Joe looked like he would get a frame back as he eventually potted the pink, but unfortunately for him the white stopped in just about the worst place possible leaving possible pots into three pockets, none of them easy. After some thought he opted to try and cut it back into the right-centre, but typifying his day he was to both miss it and leave it on for a grateful Ken to knock in and in the process secure a spot at the Crucible Theatre next month. I watched the closing frames with Ken’s long-term coach and he was incredibly nervous, but delighted all the same once that black went in!

Nothing against Joe but as a Ken fan I must admit that I was delighted to see him win and even more so to see him looking like his old self again, full of confidence and ready to give most players a game. Both his performance today and that against Jimmy White in the previous round could not have been more different from that a year ago when he was frankly terrible in losing to Gerard Greene and was reportedly considering retirement as a result.

How far is he from his very best? On this week’s evidence his safety game remains world class and in amongst the balls he looked very solid too. There is though room for improvement as far as his long-game is concerned as he missed several in both matches and stronger opponents will punish him at the venue stages. Still though, it is fair to say that Ken is back and he will move back inside the top 32 next season as he looks to continue his revival.

One small footnote to the match before I forget, it was interesting that at the interval Gary Wilkinson (I think it was him anyway), was in the arena and playing several shots from around the pink spot into the left-centre, something repeated by Ken at the close of the first session. At the time I was confused as to why they were doing this but was informed later by Ken’s coach that there was a suspicion that they were using a ‘light white’, though the decision was taken not to change this.

The Rest

Concentrating on the above two matches as I did, I found myself dipping in and out of the other matches so will cover them under this header.

Martin Gould looked very much back to where he was a year ago against Nigel Bond today as he raced into a 4-0 lead and never really looked back. The key to this was undoubtedly the marathon second frame which he eventually took by potting brown, blue and pink, before adding frames three and four with a top run of 114.

As the score moved on to 5-1 it looked like it might be another runaway match but full credit to Nigel, he showed his experience and responded in style with breaks of 129 and 43 to get back to 5-3. Had he been able to take the final frame of the session then who knows what might have happened but Gould gave Nigel a taste of his own medicine with another break of 129 to give himself a 6-3 interval lead. Under the circumstances it was a fine break and although he ran out of position a couple of times, his recovery pots were top drawer.

In truth I saw little of the second session but Martin proved to be too strong for Nigel and booked a place at the Crucible for the second successive year. Having spoken to him at length on Friday I am pleased to see him doing well again after a tough season and armed with the experience of last year, he could be a tough one to crack for his potential top 16 opponent.

The next match to finish was that between David Morris and Michael Holt, though I saw very little of this. The key frame appeared to be the 15th however as they battled over the final pink for a long time before Holt drilled it in much to the delight of his very vocal fans. David could still force a re-spot if he could make the black but as he messed up his safety shot, the shouts of “Go on then Michael put it away” were duly answered by Holt who secured a 9-6 lead and effectively the win right there. This was confirmed in frame sixteen as he clenched his fist and shouted “yes!” as the winning balls went in and exchanged a warm handshake with Morris when the break was at an end.

Last but not least was the match between Ian McCulloch and Barry Hawkins which was to put it mildly, a real grind! I love snooker as much as most people but it was a draining match to watch and I only caught the last few frames. Trailing 9-7 Ian looked as though he might just steal the next to close to within one but as he rolled a red down the cushion and saw it stay over the pocket it became clear that it would not be his day and a relieved Hawkins booked his place at the Crucible.

From what I saw Barry looked to be in reasonable form, particularly his long-game which was very good, but Ian was excruciatingly slow and looked full of the same self-doubt that I commented on a year ago. Hopefully he will be able to find some form next season as at his best he is a very useful player…