Crucible Diary 2013: Day Five

Day five at the Crucible and Judd Trump has wasted little time in booking his place in the last 16, claiming the four frames that he needed this morning against Dominic Dale to progress…

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12:46 – On a morning which sees Ding Junhui and Judd Trump play their last 32 matches to a finish, following an untypically good night’s sleep at the Travelodge, I headed over to the Crucible to catch up on the latest scores.

All of the talk though is still of the antics of Dechawat Poomjaeng, with his exploits leading to a series of ‘Poomjaeng facts’ tweets on Twitter, as the Thai hero continues to gain notoriety, in a good way!

Back on the table, having split the opening couple of frames, it was not long before Judd was able to get the frames that he needed in order to seal his place in the next round, though not before Dominic Dale was able to reach 96 in pursuit of a first career maximum break here at the Crucible. With two reds on the right-hand side cushion, it was always going to be a tough ask and eventually he missed the third to last red up into the yellow pocket.

As he came into the press room, Judd was in good spirits, looking noticeably more relaxed and at ease with himself than a year ago, when of course he was suffering from food poisoning and had been installed as pre-tournament favourite with the bookmakers.

The highlight for me came when he was asked whether he had seen Ronnie O’Sullivan’s first-round match and he replied simply that he had been watching Poomjaeng instead. A nice way to deflect that particular question I thought!

Other quotes from Judd included:

“It was good, I felt really comfortable out there, relaxed, no pressure and I think it showed. The first four frames were a bit edgy but after that it was a good standard, a lot of big breaks and some good safety.”

“I was a little bit unlucky in China with my tip, otherwise I felt like I could probably have won that. I had to change my tip before the PTC Finals and that messed up my preparation really. I did nothing wrong in China against Jack so I know I’m playing well but you have just got to be patient. Sometimes other people just play better on the day.”

“I like playing over the longer distance so it can give me a chance to get into the game more and if I do have a bad session it is easier to get back.”

Elsewhere, Alan McManus made a strong start against Chinese number one Ding Junhui to win the opening three frames of the session and close to 7-5, before the 2011 semi-finalist took the next two to move one away from the last 16. Frame 14 in particular looked to be a significant one, as Alan failed to escape from a devilish snooker on six occasions and would ultimately lose the frame from it.

Back in the media centre, there was good news as the Crucible took in a delivery of fresh biscuits for all of the journalists and bloggers in here, while Dominic Dale then arrived to talk through his defeat to Judd from his perspective.

Shortly afterwards, Ding Junhui completed a 10-5 victory against Alan McManus and came into the press room to give his thoughts on the match. Interestingly, Ding spoke of his bad memories of the second round here at the World Championship, having lost at that stage of the competition on a number of occasions previously.

As seems to be the case with everyone today, Ding was also asked for his thoughts on Dechawat Poomjaeng, describing the Thai as ‘crazy’ and stating that he would not be surprised if he were able to win the tournament.

Ding asked about how he deals with the pressure from China:

“Not really at Crucible, when I play in the UK, not really feel that. Sometimes it is just not feeling good and not concentrating then not hitting the cue ball nicely, that’s why I’m missing balls.”

“I don’t know if I can do better or not, just trying to learn by experience. Alan have twice experience of me. I know I have to learn quickly.”

“I don’t know, every year is good at the first round, but second round is different, I lose many time second round, that’s bad memories for me. I come to win the title.”

On Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng:

“He’s a strong player, his mind is very strong, he likes to fight every ball, you can see him play slowly and concentrate very hard on very ball. I don’t know how he can do that. He’s crazy, he’s a funny guy! He’s crazy any time!”

“It’s not a surprise if he wins the title.”

With Ding then giving an interview to the Chinese reporters present, Scotland’s Alan McManus was forced to give an impromptu press conference stood at the back of the media centre, again giving good value and offering his thoughts on the topical issues of the moment, saying that in his view a shot clock would devalue this tournament.

As I headed back to my desk, 1979 world champion Terry Griffiths said hello to me, joking (I think), that it was bloody ridiculous that I had managed to get two weeks off work and said that it was no wonder that the country was falling apart. Terry is someone that I have in mind for a Twitter Q&A like I had with Clive Everton the other day, so do let me know if you would have any questions for the Welsh legend.

Next up today we have the conclusion of the match between Marco Fu and Matthew Stevens, the latter needing a big turnaround against the 2006 semi-finalist if he is to embark upon another run here, while title contender Neil Robertson gets his campaign up and running with a clash against Robert Milkins.

17:34 – Deep into the afternoon session now, Matthew Stevens is on the comeback trail against Marco Fu, having reduced the deficit from 4-9 to 7-9 at the time of writing. Can the Welshman do what Ken Doherty couldn’t quite manage in qualifying last week and win six frames in a row to make it through to the next round?

Meanwhile over on table two, Neil Robertson has started well, setting a new target for the high break prize (and infamous golden cue bonus), with a run of 143, leading 5-3 with one more frame to play this session.

Despite a few signs of nerves as Stevens threatened to close to within one frame, with the threat of the match being pulled off as the clock approached 6pm, Marco was able to get over the line to set up a clash with Judd Trump in the next round.

Marco told the press post-match:

“It was just a tough match, even at 9-4 I didn’t feel comfortable, I wasn’t playing that great, my concentration throughout the match was pretty poor. I didn’t play that bad in the first session but sometimes when I get to maybe 50-60 points, I would play a bad shot. It just kept happening and the match was kinda strange because I have been playing quite well in practice but coming here is not easy for any player so I just never really played that well today. Just lucky that I got the job done at the end.”

“I was just waiting for a chance, missing a few shots and then Matthew started to play a bit better towards the end and gave me a little bit of pressure. But I still felt comfortable but physically I wasn’t quite there today, I was tired towards the end. It was never going to be easy to close the match, but just fortunate that I got over the line at the end.”

“It’s going to be a good match [with Judd Trump], I saw a little bit of his match and he didn’t play that well either, all the players struggle a little bit in the first round so the standard is going to get better.”

While I haven’t been into the arena for this session, instead choosing to help the good and the great of the media room with random bits of trivia and sitting down and having a good look at the calendar, tonight I may head in for a bit of Selby v Selt, as the first round nears its conclusion. Can Selby improve upon a nervy showing yesterday and put the match to bed?

21:42 – The answer to my question from a couple of hours ago is yes, as Selby survived the loss of a re-racked first frame to come through a 10-4 winner against qualifier Matt Selt.

To his credit, Selt took the loss as well as I have probably ever seen anyone take a defeat, telling the press how for the first four frames yesterday he did not know where he was, but that once he settled down he really enjoyed himself.

At times this season, Selt has said that he has decided not to practice for various reasons, but following this appearance at the Crucible, he is clearly motivated to make it back to this venue as soon as he can and will waste no time in getting back onto the practice table ahead of the new season.

Matt told the press:

“I take a lot of confidence from that really, the main thing that I felt pretty comfortable out there by the end. I know obviously I got beat 10-4 and the scoreline doesn’t show that. I was 4-0 down and I didn’t really know what I was doing out there to begin with.”

“I knew it was going to take a lot of time to settle in, 4-0 was quite a long time and you can’t be giving the world number one that sort of start. But it felt good in the end and will give me the buzz I need to work hard and get back here again. In the end I really, really enjoyed it. Mark played well in the end, made a couple of errors, but take nothing away from him, he played well in the end.”

“This is the place where everyone has played, this is the home of snooker. I went out there a couple of times before to try and get used to it and I thought I would settle alright, but when you are out there in the arena, everyone is there, it is a lot different. You are basically sitting next to somebody in the crowd and it’s something that I have never experienced before, I’m glad that I have experienced and I am going to look forward to doing it again.”

“Obviously I got bashed up there 10-4 but for me that was the most enjoyable game of snooker I have ever played in my entire life. I really enjoyed being out there.”

Matt was soon followed into the press area by the world number one, who spoke about the long season and the pressure on him to win snooker’s ‘triple crown’ having already taken the UK and Masters tournaments this season:

“I didn’t play fantastic in yesterday’s session but luckily for me Matthew didn’t really settle and I managed to go five-nil up without playing great snooker. If Matthew had settled, he showed in patches what a great player he is and the scoreline could have been a lot different, but thankfully he played the way that he did to start off and I’m happy with that.”

“It’s one of them places where no matter how many times you come here, I don’t think that you can ever settle. Like yesterday, I’ve been here six or seven times and I was even nervous in the first session and I think it showed by the way we both played. It’s just a special venue.”

“It’s tough, I wouldn’t say that I feel fresh. It’s strange, the last week and a half I put the hours in but I’ve not played near as much as I would do for other tournaments because I know it’s a long 17 days and you don’t want to burn yourself out. I have been playing two or three hours here or there and then resting as such, but I cam ehere and I still felt first session and I still felt tired tonight!”

Over on table one, Stuart Bingham began his latest Crucible campaign with a match against debutant Sam Baird and will have been delighted to have emerged with a 8-1 lead, a reversal of 2012 when he trailed Stephen Hendry by the same scoreline on the opening day.

Indeed, back on that day Hendry recorded a perfect 147 break and for a while, Stuart looked well-placed to emulate that in the opening frame, before eventually having to settle for breaks of 64 and 71 on his way to the opener. From there, he extended his lead to 4-0 at the interval, a deceptive scoreline for a match that was to that point far closer than the one-sided scoreline suggested.

Take nothing away from Stuart however, he continued to hammer in the big breaks and would take four of the next five frames to leave himself just needing a couple of more from tomorrow’s final session. A difficult task for young Baird, but he did not disgrace himself tonight and will hopefully take much from the experience.

As the rest of the media head for a Chinese tonight, I have decided to retreat to my hotel and get an early night ahead of tomorrow, as the first round comes to a conclusion!