Crucible Diary 2013: Quarter-Finals Blog

As the World Championship prepares to enter its final phase, today sees the quarter-finals played to a conclusion, as the identities of the last four players remaining at this year’s tournament are revealed.

Click below for updates throughout the day, with quotes from the players and my thoughts on the matches…

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Barry Hawkins 13-7 Ding Junhui

Through to his first Crucible semi-final is Barry Hawkins, who from 9-7 won four consecutive frames to upset Chinese number one Ding Junhui in today’s morning session.

Producing a very solid display of matchplay snooker, frustrating his more illustrious opponent in much the same way as he had Jack Lisowski and Mark Selby before him, Barry won the first two frames of the day relatively quickly, before taking advantage of a missed brown from Ding, fluking the pink up into the yellow pocket, to move one away from victory and all but put the match to bed.

On paper, with the likes of Selby, Mark Allen and Neil Robertson already eliminated, some were saying that this could be Ding’s best chance to make it to the final, but to those within the game, this match always had the look of a banana skin about it. Hawkins might not be the most spectacular player on the tour, but from the opening day this tournament, his safety has been right up there with the best on show in Sheffield and has given him the chances that he has needed to progress.

First into the press room post-match was Ding, who confirmed a suspicion at the venue that he struggles to play his best snooker here in the morning sessions, as well as explaining that he would like some help from another experienced player if he is to win here going forwards:

“I am not disappointed, I can relax now that it is over. I can’t wait until the new season starts.”

“Morning sessions, I can’t sleep at the night, not really well. Sometimes you keep something back that happened in the day, it keeps all the way in your mind. It’s hard to change.”

“Some players have help from older, experienced players. I haven’t got anyone to help me, everything is to myself. I like to listen, they can tell me something that I am doing bad, because they know and that would be a big help for me.”

“That is quite good experience to learn, maybe I will learn one day”

“It was not an easy chance to get to final, anyone can play. Barry play his own game, he never changes speed to play any shots, he just takes his chances and makes a big score every frame. His safety good, leave him a lot of chances to take,

“I always keep fighting but the match is long, you sometimes need to be strong. That is experience, need to learn what to do every session, what to change, because it’s different every day. You cannot play the same every day.”

“I haven’t got a break. Last season I only got one week off from last season to start of new season. I lost a few first round matches. I really need a holiday without everything, a break for a day.”

“It’s not hard for English players but it is hard for me because I have to go back to China, they never do that.”

“I don’t have a choice, just play.”

One player who has benefited from a mentor figure in recent times is Barry Hawkins and after some delay, he followed Ding into the press room and was understandably thrilled to be through to the one-table set-up here for the first time. Selected quotes as follows:

“I am a bit speechless to be honest. A bit calmer than I expected, especially in that last frame when I was making a break there, I felt pretty good. I was pleased with the way that I felt there to get over the line especially. I can’t believe it, it hasn’t sunk in yet at all.”

“It means absolutely everything, I have been trying so hard, for so long, trying to make some sort of breakthrough and I managed to do it this season, Australia obviously and I have been pretty consistent for most of it, but to come here and get to the one table set-up is like a dream come true really.”

“You have so many doubts for so long, you just think that you are never going to do anything really so to win in Australia was absolutely brilliant and gave me the self-belief that I needed really.”

“I’ve been working with Terry and that is thanks to On Q Promotions and Paul Mount, I would never have met Terry but for them, so a massive thanks to them.”

“I don’t give up now, maybe years ago I used to throw the towel in a bit early or let things bother me a bit too much, if I made a mistake I would let it get to me and it would just knock my confidence completely. Nowadays I can put that out of my mind a lot quicker and just concentrate on the next shot.”

“It’s going to be an unbelievable feeling, obviously I will be so nervous, I’m going to be bricking it to be fair. I’m looking forward to it, it’s what we all play for. I’ve never experienced it before. It’s going to be a really proud moment for me and everybody back home.”

Judd Trump 13-12 Shaun Murphy

Second man through to this year’s semi-finals was 2011 runner-up Judd Trump, who survived an epic Crucible quarter-final with Shaun Murphy this afternoon.

Resuming at 8-8, having at one staged trailed 8-3 yesterday, Judd found himself in some trouble early on, before getting himself out of it with one of the best reds down the cushion that you could ever wish to see, dominating the safety exchanges thereafter to lead 9-8.

Judd was in first again in the following frame with a long red, but a missed black when going into the reds opened the door for Shaun to respond immediately with a total clearance of 128.

The high standard continued in the next, Judd making an initial break of 59, before a missed red allowed Shaun back to clear with 70 and hit the front at 10-9. Back though came Trump, immediately drawing level with a break of 77 to complete a high standard first four frames of the session.

On their resumption, it was Murphy in first, taking advantage of a long red which Judd left from his break-off shot in every frame of the day, before the 2005 champion missed a red to right-centre to allow Judd back in to steal it.

The following frame however would prove more dramatic still, as both players exhibited clear signs of nerves that had not appeared to be present prior to the interval, Murphy eventually taking it on the black, displaying a rare sign of emotion as he clenched his fist leaving the arena.

Given the drama of that frame, Judd’s response was telling, as he rattled in a long red and hit a break of 90 in under seven minutes to lead 12-11, before Shaun responded in kind with 88 of his own to force an inevitable decider.

As is often the case, the final frame would prove to be a scrappy, cagey affair, with the black running safe early in the frame and though it was Murphy who looked to have the upper hand initially, it was Trump who would eventually come through the winner, to book his place in his second World Championship semi-final.

While Judd was otherwise engaged with the BBC, Murphy soon came into the press area to offer his thoughts on the match and a potential semi-final between Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan:

“Very, very disappointed to lose but that is one of the best matches that I have ever played to be honest. I didn’t really have a clear cut chance to win in the last frame. That’s snooker, that’s our sport and I am really proud of the way that I played through the whole tournament, how I have gone about things, my preparation was fantastic and if I continue playing like that, good things to come.”

“He just played unbelievable from 8-3. I lost five or six on the bounce, I actually felt that I played better last night, than in the morning, I was happier with my game in the session that I lost 2-6. From 8-4 I felt that he came out and won those frames, not that I lost it.”

“It was a classic match and I’m obviously biased but I think that will go down as one of the matches of the tournament. It’s certainly up there against what I have seen this week. It was a really good match and just a shame that I came out on the wrong side of it!”

“I think that it is probably the match that everybody wanted to see. It’s a shame it’s not the final really. If it is O’Sullivan he plays, it will be an explosion.”

Soon afterwards, a confident Judd told the press (selected quotes):

“I am really pleased to be into the semi-final but it was only one game, obviously a tough game coming from whatever I was behind, so I was really pleased. A lot of people wrote me off but my friends, family, management believed me, I believed in myself, so just really proud to come back.”

“At 6-2 I was playing bad and I had to get out of there. I wasn’t cueing very well and was timing the ball badly, so I went away, had a sleep for a couple of hours and came back a different person and felt as though I was going to play well. The last two sessions I felt really good out there.”

“I was happy but it’s still only one game and I am here to win the tournament and nothing less than that will do for me.”

“I think that Ronnie has kinda had an easy route through and he’s a massive favourite so I am just going to go out and enjoy it. There is only a certain amount of players who have the self-belief to beat Ronnie, to scare him and I think that I’m one of them.”

“just by the players that he has played really, Marcus give him no trouble and he has never lost to Ali, I think he has got a mentality that he wouldn’t really lose to Stuart. I’ve got a good record against Ronnie, I’ve beaten him more times than he has beat me so hopefully I can go out and scare him.”

“From what I have heard from my brother, he hasn’t really played that well, a lot of people are just scared of him.”

“I think it’s one of those games where everyone is going to expect fireworks and maybe it won’t quite happen like that. I think it’s going to be a little bit cagey and the first couple of frames will be very important because Ronnie is such a good front-runner, but I’ve got the belief to come back.”

“Personally I don’t think that Ronnie can play a lot better than Shaun did in spells and to me that was one of my toughest matches for a while that I have come out a winner, so just happy with my fighting abilities.”

“He’s a very good player, I think at his best people think he’s the best but in my opinion, my best is just as good as his, but I need to prove it. He has proved it time and time again whereas I haven’t. I’ve still got a lot to show and if I can achieve what he has achieved in the game then I will be a happy man.”

“I think that people are just scared of the name to be honest. People mention Ronnie and it’s like ‘oh my God I’ve got Ronnie, I can’t win’. For me this is the big stage, this is where I want to be. Just to prove people wrong. I’m not scared of the name.”

Evidently then, Judd was not afraid to let the world know that he is not scared by the prospect of facing Ronnie O’Sullivan and it will be fascinating to see how that match unfolds. I expect that this sort of press conference will upset a few people reading this, indeed there is often a fine line between confidence and arrogance of course, but to some extent I do feel that Judd was only saying what a lot of people are thinking, so fair play to him for being honest.

Every credit though to Shaun too though, who I thought conducted himself impeccably during the match today. Indeed there was one moment late in the decider where with all looking lost, he managed to escape from a snooker and just walked over to us guys in the media seats and smiled, when most would have struggled to do that given the scoreline.

Clapping the crowd as he left the arena, he certainly lived up to Rob Walker’s introduction of him being a class act, on and off the baize and having produced some brilliant snooker to defeat Martin Gould in the opening round, has arguably since played in two of the best matches of the tournament.

Ronnie O’Sullivan 13-4 Stuart Bingham

Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan continued his march to a fifth world title here at the Crucible with a 13-4 victory against Stuart Bingham this evening, although the damage was largely done during a dominant opening session yesterday.

Indeed yesterday’s performance has many onlookers in something of a trance as O’Sullivan won frame after frame in one visit, though Stuart was left to rue the easy starters that he had left to allow his opponent to get to the table:

“I’m gutted at losing the match. During the first session he was unbelievable, but I think that the longest shot that he had to get in was about four-foot. Other than the first frame where I played a bad safety shot, I had first chance in every frame, so it’s disappointing from my point of view. But when he did get in, he didn’t miss, so it is obviously hard and every frame that went past it got harder and harder.”

“It was obviously all of the Ronnie hype, so a little bit of pressure I suppose, but the season I’ve had, if someone would have said that I would get to five quarter-finals or whatever it is, two finals, three wins and I’m up to number six in the world, then it’s not bad.”

“It’s just disappointing obviously the way I have performed here really. I don’t think that I have performed that great. Obviously my last match with Mark Davis and the first round with Sam Baird, obviously it was his first World Championship, so maybe I wasn’t pushed as hard. But my safety game was good and I’ve got to the quarter-finals with my B-game really so I’m happy.”

Meanwhile as Ronnie came into the press area, attention soon switched onto the subject as his future, as the four-time champion explained that this may be the last time that we see him at a major tournament going forward:

“It’s nice to be in the semi-finals but I had that year out and I didn’t really miss snooker to be honest. But I missed having something to do, to be fair I was struggling for a bit of money.”

”I’ll be honest, I still owe the school money for my children’s school fees, I haven’t paid the last two or three terms, so in some ways I have come back to see if I could re-ignite the fire, see if I was missing anything. I’ve realised that I haven’t really, I don’t miss snooker one bit, but obviously I needed a bit of money and I was so bored.”

“I’ve had two months preparing for this, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I’ve made a little bit of money now so I can go and pay the school fees now for the next two years, but really I don’t think snooker is for me.”

“This could be my last proper major event. I still might play in a few PTCs if I get really bored and want to get my cue out of the case for a bit of fun, but as far as playing top, competitive and putting my heart and soul into snooker, I don’t think that’s what I want to do anymore, but I had to give it a go. I needed some money quick and it wasn’t coming in.”

“I think it’s about time that I looked for something else, I might play in a few PTC events. You never know with the way that the game is changing all the time, Barry Hearn is always changing formats, seedings and it might suit me to play in the odd little event but as far as putting my life into it, it’s not going to work for me.”

“Last year was one final push, but having had that year out, I didn’t miss snooker. It has been tough for me, I have had a taste of not playing and I don’t want to put my life and soul into it, but at the time i needed a bit of cash and the only way I know how to do that is to play some snooker and I have signed a contract with someone to say that I will play in ten events, so I will play in a few PTCs and enough events to fulfil my contract.”

”Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be out there trying my nuts off, I’m a competitor and I hate losing. I will fight to the death. I will be up for it, I will be giving everything. They’ll have to scrape me off the table.

“I’ve got five days to go potentially, it could possibly be three, and if I can’t get through that then something is seriously wrong. The light at the end of the tunnel is it doesn’t have to go on any longer.

“This is my last farewell, my last swansong, I’ve done 20 years, I’m happy, I’m done. I’ve had a year out and I’ve realised that I don’t miss snooker. I’ll play my ten tournaments, I’ll fulfil my contractual things, I’ll do a few exhibitions and PTC events and keep my sponsor happy.”

“I’ve no intention to come back, just to fulfil my contract and play in the odd event if I get bored. If i find something else to do, which hopefully I will, then yes you won’t see me.”

“I’ve kept cagey, I’ve kept my cards close to my chest but there’s no reason to keep them close now. I’m at the end of it, might as well just have a bit of fun now.”

When told of Judd’s comments during his earlier press conference, Ronnie replied:

”I’ve played him a few times and I’ve sensed he’s wobbled. Even he gets scared of me. If it gets close, it’s a hard place out there. I’ve played him a couple of times and I have sensed that his shot selection has changed, if you play well enough and stay with him, and peg him back, he’s not Stephen Hendry or John Higgins.“

No doubt that there will be a lot of reaction following Ronnie’s comments, indeed my Twitter feed has been inundated tonight, but for now, I hope that most of the attention will remain on what promises to be a terrific semi-final between him and Judd, rather than the almost annual discussion as to whether or not he will retire from the sport.

Ricky Walden 13-6 Michael White

The last man through to the semi-finals is Ricky Walden, who ended the run of Welshman Michael White this evening to book a last four tie with Barry Hawkins.

Ricky told the press:

“Overjoyed with that, it has been a good week so far and thrilled to be in the semi-finals. It was a bit of a patchy game really for both of us, scoring bursts and then missing a few too, you can see Michael has got loads of ability when in amongst the balls there.”

“I always back my game to be honest, I practice hard, work hard and do the right thing and then when I turn up at tournaments I expect to go all the way at every tournament, it just doesn’t seem to happen as much as I’d like. But when it does come my way I am not surprised by it but it’s obviously nice when it does come together.”

Very tough game, Bazza is a good friend of mine so it’s going to be a very good game, he has had a good tournament too so it’s one I’m looking forward to.”

“We’re both in the same position really, we’ve both had similar seasons and stuff and it’s going to be the biggest achievement so far in our careers, whoever progresses to the final, so it’s going to be a tough, tense match.”

“I came when I was a kid, one of my best pals is from Sheffield and we used to come down and watch all of the games, seen Ronnie here as a kid and it blew my mind, now I’m actually in the semi-finals so it’s exciting stuff.”

“I think we are both playing well, we’ve got slightly different games but on our game we have proved we can beat anyone in the game so it’s going to be a tough, tough game I think.”

Michael meanwhile told the press:

“I struggled a lot in the first session, I went 6-2 down and it was strange really because my timing was out on the ball, I wasn’t getting a good feeling in the balls and I didn’t feel as confident as I normally do. I went 9-3 down, still struggling, then I had a bit of a spell where I felt good and I pulled it back to 9-6 I think it was and I came awkward on a red, had to dig down on it, missed it, lost that frame. Then it was 10-6, lost the first one on the black, had a massive kick on the blue, frame ball so it was just a few things really that cost me.”

“It has been brilliant, obviously beating Mark, winning the way I did against Dechawat was brilliant for me, I really enjoyed it and I can’t wait to come back.”

“I felt the same all the way through really which was pretty relaxed and focused but it just wasn’t there playing Ricky for whatever reason. At one stage it could have looked maybe embarrassing but I was glad to get a couple of breaks this afternoon, get a few frames on the board in the end.”

“I’m up to I think 34 on your site [PSB], so yeah I’ll probably have about two weeks off, go and practice and I think the first tournament is in about four weeks I think, so off we go again!”

As I have said already this week, Michael has impressed me a lot with his performances at the Crucible this year and is a player who will no doubt be back on our screens before too long, hoping to avoid a similar experience to that of friend Jamie Jones who has struggled following his own quarter-final run last year.

It is Ricky who goes forward though and deservedly so, impressing ever since making that early 140 break against Michael Holt on the opening morning of the championship, as long ago as that now feels. His match against Barry Hawkins will be a difficult one to call, Ricky having scored the heavier this week, while Barry has looked to be the stronger in the tactical department, frustrating even the normally unflappable Mark Selby at times.

A fascinating few days await…