Crucible Diary 2011: Day One Blog

Click for the updated rankings after day one…

Oh Crucible it’s good to be back, and what a start as Judd Trump has ensured that the Crucible Curse will live on by ending the reign of defending champion Neil Robertson, winning 10-8. Click below for my thoughts from day one…

As is customary with me on the opening day, I began the morning with a travel mishap by missing my turn off on the M62 and nearly ending up in Leeds. I did however recover from that minor set-back by getting parked up at 9:55am and running for the first time in about 10 years to the Crucible and my seat for the Robertson/Trump match.

The first four frames as expected were to prove somewhat nervy, Neil understandably feeling it as the defending champion while Judd was playing at the venue for only the second time in his career. The first key moment came in frame three as Judd managed to take it on the black despite a mishap when clearing the colours, before Neil countered with a 70+ break to level matters at the interval. Even referee Jan Verhaas was nervous as at one point he put the ball marker on the table before moving a red into it, rather than putting it to the red and then moving the ball!

From there the fireworks really began, a century from each player moving the scoreline to 3-3 before Judd managed to edge two clear despite a few shots where he arguably pushed the boat out somewhat. Neil though did take the final frame of the session with another ton to keep himself well in the match.

MC Rob Walker

As those of you who follow me on Twitter will be aware, although Judd was ahead in the score, I had personally felt at the time that Neil had looked the more solid of the two and certainly the pot success statistics at the time backed this up. Judd too was playing well, but there were a couple of moments where he missed a few balls and got away with it, not to mention an incredible fluke on one red which somehow jawed twice and found its way to the green pocket!

Over on the other table, I could not see a great deal but did notice that débutante Andrew Pagett was to get off to a great start, notably taking frame four by a point having needed a snooker at one stage. Also notable was that there were serious problems with the arena scoreboard which for at least half a frame was out of action as they tried to resolve the problem. It was somewhat amusing as the PC that the application was running on was rebooted and the Windows XP loading screens were displayed in the arena!

I did have a brief chat with Andrew outside of the arena after the session and he said that this was something that possibly unsettled him a touch, but that otherwise he was happy with how he played, despite losing the last three to finish trailing Jamie Cope 5-4 overnight. He is still well in that one however.

Pagett in Pink

Following the morning session I said my hellos to some of the regulars before going in for the first session between Mark Williams and Ryan Day, on paper a mouthwatering clash.

Understandably however it was a scrappy start between the two who both missed balls, but it was Mark Williams who generally fared the better during the tighter frames and duly moved 3-1 up at the mid-session interval. This soon  became 5-1 as Ryan’s long game looked to be particularly suspect, but to his credit the two-time quarter-finalist here responded well to take two of the next three and keep himself in the match at 6-3 overnight. I would be surprised to see him come back to win but it is just about possible from that position.

The same cannot be said however for Dave Harold who despite taking the final frame of the session against Ali Carter, finds himself 8-1 down overnight. From the scoreboards it appears that Ali was very solid, while Dave struggled to get anything going at all, despite having a good luck card from the Stoke City football team on his little table. Ali though will be very happy, he is a real dark horse for this tournament and could well go far.

Michaela, Ali and Dave

The talk around the venue however was all about the final session between Neil and Judd and rightly so. Would the curse strike again?

The first frame of the evening session set the tone for a night of drama as having looked a certainty to take it, Judd cued across a straightforward pink to everybody’s surprise and Neil stepped in to clear the table and level the match at 5-5. As Neil stayed down on the table for a couple of extra seconds following the final black you could tell that he wanted to make a statement to his opponent and show how determined he was.

How would Judd react? Very well indeed was the answer as he soon took the next frame to regain his lead before going ahead in frame 12 and looking like restoring his two frame cushion from earlier.

There was however to be a twist in the tail as for the second time in the session he was to miss a frame ball, this time a cut-back black which he had to play following an underhit shot on the previous red using his right-hand. The clearance was far from straightforward for Neil but as he sunk the final black to level at 6-6 he let all of his emotions out, celebrating at the baulk end right in front of me before walking out of the arena to compose himself and perhaps give Judd a minute or two to beat himself up about his mistake.

Jan Verhaas

Neil soon added the next frame to lead 7-6 at the final mid-session interval and I have to say that at this stage I found it hard to see him losing as he just looked to be so focused and the memories of 12 months ago and his spectacular comeback against Martin Gould in particular were still fresh in my mind. Judd did look better than during the morning but surely those mistakes were going to haunt him? Interesting he also posted on Twitter during the mid-session break about his two ‘twitches’, something that sparked a bit of debate among the fans as to whether it was a good idea to relax and tweet during the break or whether it was a sign that he was not focused on the match.

Judd though was soon to answer that question emphatically as on their resumption he played for me arguably his best snooker of the match, taking the next three frames in fine style to stand just one away from a landmark victory at 9-7. Neil was to cut the gap to 9-8 by taking the next frame from behind in dramatic circumstances with the aid of a fluke but Judd was not to be denied and took the next to win 10-8.

I was extremely impressed by Judd in China as despite Mark Selby chipping away at his lead before eventually levelling at 8-8 in that final, he did not change his game and took the next two anyway to win his first major title. Today was very similar and even more impressive as despite the twitches, despite Neil doing everything in his power to hang on to him and get in front at 7-6, Judd always had an answer, continued to play his game, stay positive and eventually was to be rewarded for this. Some players could have gone into their shell or panicked, but Judd continued to go for his shots and demonstrated again that he has a fabulous temperament.

Neil meanwhile will be gutted but took the defeat well, greeting Judd warmly at the end of the match and in his defence did not play badly himself. It would be easy to look at Neil and point of weaknesses but while he did miss a few balls, he still played well and it was more Judd’s good play that was the cause of his defeat. He will be back I am sure.

In the final match meanwhile, Shaun Murphy went one better than Ali Carter by finishing with an emphatic 9-0 advantage over poor Marcus Campbell at the end of their first session. Can Shaun become only the second man to record a 10-0 whitewash at the Crucible, joining John Parrott in that elusive club?

Aside from the matches, other observations to come from the Crucible include the bizarre projection screen in the foyer outside of the arena which is impossible to actually watch, while the big screen has also moved from its usual place and there were a few other interesting points to note. More on those throughout the course of the week though.

Hopefully tomorrow will live up to today’s start. Standing ovations on day one, it can’t be bad!