Crucible Diary 2010: Davis and Dott march onwards

Pre-tournament I had backed the vast majority of the seeded players to progress but today both Mark Davis and Graeme Dott took the total number of qualifiers to move into the last 16 to four with victories over Ryan Day and Peter Ebdon respectively, the latter now losing his top 16 place as a result…

I arrived at the Crucible Theatre this morning to see a morning session which began on a slightly sombre note as the players were introduced to no music at the request of Ding Junhui due to the day being designated as a national day of mourning in China for those who lost their lives in the recent earthquake over there.

On the table though Ding was able to give the Chinese fans something to celebrate as he required little more than 30 minutes to take the two frames that he needed to complete a comprehensive victory over Preston’s Stuart Pettman who was understandably demoralised after his torrid opening session yesterday. It was a shame to see him struggle so badly out there because having seen him demolish Stuart Bingham to qualify a little over a month ago, I know how good a player he really is but this was certainly another match at the Crucible to forget for him.

As far as Ding is concerned it was tough to read too much into his form as in truth he was not pushed, but he looked to be solid enough when in amongst the balls and will be pleased to finally win a match here with relative ease for the first time in his career.

With that match finishing quickly, the dividing curtain was soon raised so that we could watch the match between Ryan Day and the improving Mark Davis to a conclusion. Pre-match I had expected Day to come through despite his indifferent form this season and as he took the first two frames of the morning to lead 6-5 it looked like he might start to break away.

Mark however is an experienced player and although he did show signs of vulnerability during the middle part of the session, was able to regroup and edge back in front at 7-6 at the interval. Ryan was beginning to knock in more and more of the long balls though and having pulled himself back to 7-7 continued to look the stronger of the two players and like he may begin to take control of the match.

It was not to be however as having split the next two, Ryan began to noticeably struggle and Davis took full advantage with breaks of 56 and 62 to take the last two frames and book his place in the last 16 for the first time at this tournament since 1995! The conclusion to the match was a strange one as Ryan played on for snookers whilst needing several but did not appear to be putting too much thought into his shots and ultimately went out with something of a whimper. Down to at best 11th in the rankings now,  it has been a season to forget for the Welshman.

For Mark though it is an excellent result which gives him a few more ranking points but more importantly a lot of confidence having beaten someone as good as Ryan in front of the cameras at the Crucible. Mark Allen next will be a tougher task altogether I feel but I am sure that he will make the match competitive nonetheless.

Following the match I headed out for a breather ahead of the afternoon session and was able to bump into Paul and Sarah Mount of On-Q Promotions who manage the likes of Stephen Lee, Gerard Greene and Barry Hawkins at the moment. I also had a good chat with Martin Gould about the things to do in Sheffield (or lack of), and also met the infamous John Parris although I did not realise until after he had gone and Martin had pointed it out.

Speaking of Stephen Lee, I spent the afternoon watching the opening session of his match between Stephen Maguire, a tough one to call on paper given the pedigree of both players. While Scot Maguire did not look to be quite at his best though, Lee was very poor early on and was fortunate in some ways to take the fourth frame to keep himself in touch at the mid-session interval. He did manage to improve significantly after the break with a marvellous run of 127 to equal the tournament high break and get himself back into the match but he could not repeat this form on a consistent basis and eventually finished up 6-3 behind heading into tomorrow.

Between that session and the evening’s play I managed to meet up with Vicky from Sina Snooker over in China who has helped me with photographs on occasion and very kindly let me have a copy of the media guide. Soon though it was time to go in and watch as Peter Ebdon had a mountain to climb against Graeme Dott if he were to come through and retain his top 16 status with an unlikely comeback.

Early on the signs looked good as the 2002 champion was much improved from the previous evening and took the first two frames to claw back to 7-4. The crucial frame however was to be the third of the session, though I cannot mention this without highlighting something that those of you watching in the UK on the red button will have noticed.

For this session I was sat on the front row with Ryan and his dad Mark who were both wearing t-shirts specially made for the tournament. Listening to the commentary on my earpiece, I heard John Virgo reading from Mark’s “World Snooker Championship at the Crucible” t-shirt before co-commentator Willie Thorne mentioned Ryan’s t-shirt which had his website address on and asked what the ‘147’ on it meant.

Hearing what was being said, I told Ryan that he was being mentioned on the TV and Willie then said that perhaps the gentleman (ie me) next to him could help out and he asked if he had made a 147 break. I rather nervously shook my head before Willie said “how about a 47 break”. I shook my head again and Willie replied “not even a 47 break!”

Unfortunately though our five seconds of fame were to be rather in vain as after 30 minutes the frame was re-racked so the likelihood would be that the frame would never be broadcast again! It was interesting to hear referee Pete Williamson ask Ebdon if he would be happy to re-rack, which he said yes, while Graeme who had a 39 point lead at the time was insisting that he was trying to open things up.

Although Graeme could not get his wish, eventually he was able to take the frame anyway and with an 8-4 lead was always going to be difficult to catch. Peter tried his hardest but the quality was not the best with the cushions proving to be something of a handful and eventually Graeme got over the line 10-5 to keep his hopes of a top 16 place alive and end Ebdon’s long unbroken spell in the process. I will post in more detail about this soon.

Post-match I hung around for a while with some of the other regulars before heading home at around 1am, though not before bumping into Gerard Greene’s dad at a takeaway!