Crucible Diary 2014: Day Seven

cruciblefoyerDay seven at the Crucible proved to be an intriguing one on the baize, as Ronnie O’Sullivan fought to reduce his deficit to Joe Perry, while we learned the identity of the first quarter-finalist at the 2014 World Championship….

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Arriving at the Crucible late morning, in progress were the matches between Mark Selby and Ali Carter, as well as Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden who got underway in a repeat of their semi-final here last season.

As I arrived at the venue, Ricky Walden found himself 3-0 behind, but dug in well to come out of the session level at 4-4. With Barry having recorded a high break of just 44, with a pot success rate of 83%, it did not have the look of a classic on paper, with the second session to come later in the evening.

Having not ventured into the actual arena for a couple of days however, the lure of the press room banter and free drinks having proven too great, I made a point of taking up a position in the arena for the start of the afternoon session. I had intended to pop in to watch the second session between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Joe Perry, but with those seats already taken opted to sit on table two, though with a decent view of most of both tables also.

I have not been in for every session this week, but the atmosphere for today’s afternoon session was the best that I have heard so far this year, with both Alan McManus and Ken Doherty enjoying their moment back in the spotlight, while of course Ronnie O’Sullivan would get a great reception in a library.

Indeed with the two-time defending champion trailing overnight, the crowd on that side of the curtain quickly set their stall out as to who they wanted to win and as he opened the session with a big break, it looked as though they might get their way with the comeback that they were looking for.


Credit though to Joe Perry, who perhaps did not get the credit he deserved yesterday for a very strong performance against an out of sorts O’Sullivan, but today continued to apply pressure and keep his nose in front in the match. Perhaps the most impressive moment in the match for me was when having seen O’Sullivan steal frame 13 immediately after the interval to close to 6-7, Perry immediately hit back to claim the next two and show that he was able to respond to such set-backs.

Perhaps Joe’s only regret will be that he was unable to take the final frame of the session to extend his lead to 10-6, as he did have chances to do so. Only tomorrow will we know how crucial that will prove to be, but whatever happens, for me it can only be a good thing to see Ronnie put under a bit of pressure and to see somebody stand up to him on the table.

Meanwhile over on table two the going was somewhat slower, Ken Doherty taking a protracted opening frame, before Alan McManus, who was clearly the heavier scorer of the two on the day, took the next four to move into an early lead. Credit to Ken though, who just as was the case in his previous matches against Dechawat Poomjaeng and Stuart Bingham in this tournament, recovered from a slow start to stay in touch at the end of the session, one behind at 4-3.

Having adjourned for food, I headed back into the arena to watch at least some of the start of the final session between Ali Carter and Mark Selby, the latter having taken a 9-7 lead from the morning session. As was the case in the afternoon however, I was denied a place on the desired media bench, but instead managed to snare a chair up next to Leo Scullion up on the marker’s desk on table one.


During the past few days I have been working on a blog that I hope to bring you soon, discussing some of the things during matches that those of you at home do not see here at the Crucible and one of those jobs is that of the marker, who in short operates the scoreboard that keeps the arena and livescores online right up to date.

It was the first time that I had sat there and although it is literally only right behind where I have been sat for the rest of the tournament so far, it definitely gave a different feeling, the elevation helping me to see the action on both tables. Another quirk was that during the session, I could hear every word of John Virgo’s commentary echoing down the tunnel from the commentary box, something that I had not noticed to that extent before.

On the table, it was a slow start from Selby and Carter, as they completed two frames in the time that it had taken Walden and Hawkins on table one to reach the mid-session interval, but as can often be the case in the close frames, it was Selby who came out on top, extending his lead to 11-7.

Over on table one, the action was much improved on the morning, Ricky Walden in particular looking particularly fluent, as he claimed three of the first four frames of the evening to move 8-5 ahead. Ricky is one of those players who is not someone who I would immediately look to watch, but every time I see him seems to play brilliantly, such as against Kyren Wilson and Michael Holt here during the past couple of years.

Eventually Walden would come out of the session with a 9-7 lead, Hawkins taking the last two to keep himself in the match.

I had left following the mid-session interval however, a decision that I almost came to regret as Carter looked to be in with a brilliant chance of making a 147 during the very next frame on table two, something that I know was not lost upon fellow blogger Snookerbacker, after he memorably left the arena immediately before Stephen Hendry’s 147 here in 2012, while I had remained seated.


The frame would turn into a nightmare for Carter however, as he first had to play a blue, before eventually breaking down and allowing Selby back to the table to clear brilliantly with 69 to move just one away from victory at 12-7.

Though Mark was to make hard work of getting over the line, he eventually managed to get the job done and reach the quarter-finals here in Sheffield for the first time in three years with a 12-9 win.

Both players soon came into the press area, Ali first up:

“It was a story of the match for me, I couldn’t quite get level pegging with him. I think he has played very well there to be honest, I don’t think he has played as well as that for quite a few months.

“It’s tough out there, he played some great safety, he’s just so hard to beat, he doesn’t give you anything. You don’t expect anyone to at this level but he plays a lot of negative shots – not negative, but a lot of containing safety shots, where you feel like you would be there all day if you just carry on playing containing safety shots. But you have obviously got to try and win and that’s what he does and that’s what works well for him.

“It was just a bitty game really, a lot of scrappy frames. Disappointing obviously, but I’ll be back next year. His safety was absolutely granite, his safety was very, very good. He’s a great player, a great winner, but he can be very difficult to play against, because he freezes you out a lot and plays a lot of containing safety shots. Like just rolling up to balls all the time and you feel like you are the one who is trying to make something happen and by making something happen, most of the time it goes wrong but that is the way that I like to play.

“Of course I fancied the job, you come here to try and win it, I have got good memories here, I’ve got a good record here But to play Mark Selby here in the second round, maybe that’s a bit unlucky, but that’s obviously the way the rankings are. I could have done with meeting him in the semis or the final really.”

Soon to follow was Selby, who as ever was in good spirits following victory and very much in control of his emotions:

“I sort of fell over the line towards the end. I played the green to get on the last red and I thought if I get into it too much I land tight on the side rail so I sort of half pulled out of the shot, then I admit I twitched the red to win the match. Then the black I missed off the spot in the next frame I just took my eye of it, it wasn’t a twitch, I felt really comfortable out there and once I missed that I thought here we go, I’m going to make it hard for myself and another decider but thankfully enough I got over the line.

“I started off the match well, 5-1 in front and then all credit to Ali, he shut me out of the next two frames and made two great breaks. Then I came out today and went 9-5 in front, played not as well as yesterday but still played solid. I didn’t give him that many chances and then same again, Ali showed his class to win the last two and still give himself half a chance. Tonight I knew I just had to keep sharing the sessions and if I done that I was going to come through on top.

“I’m going to go back home for a few days, I will probably travel home tonight, I’m only an hour down the road so go back home for a few days, sleep in my own bed for a few days which is good and come back up Monday.


On his next opponent, Mark was keen to downplay his label as favourite, understandably from my point of view as I think that he is more dangerous when he feels that he is the underdog, whether he is or not:

“I don’t mind really, as long as I go out there and play my own game I know what I am capable of. It’s going to be a tough match whoever I play, Ken obviously a former winner, Alan seems to be getting his game back over the last season and a half, so it’s going to be a tough match whoever I play.

“On paper I’ll be the favourite but sometimes that doesn’t really mean anything, if I go out there and don’t play like what I can then Ken and Alan are obviously capable of winning, so I’m just going to go back home, have a few days and then come back up focused for the quarter-final.”

It is good to see Selby into the second week of this tournament again and on today’s evidence, he will be a heavy favourite to make it back to the one-table set-up here for the first time since 2010, regardless of who makes it through to face him in the next round.

But will Ronnie O’Sullivan join him or will the tournament be blown wide open by victory for Joe Perry?