The first week of the World Championship has lived up to the expectation of pure Crucible magic. We have been treated to shock exits, quality play from qualifiers, comebacks, eccentric footwear and even tartan pants (thank you Alan McManus). What’s more, the upsets so far have proven the depth of talent in the game and that, arguably, increased competition is improving the general standard and thankfully as a result, the entertainment value for the fans.
Ding Junhui, having won an unprecedented five ranking tournaments this season, fell in the first round to Crucible debutant Michael Wasley in a late-night epic. The match came down to Ding needing one snooker in the final frame with just pink and black on the table. Remaining calm, Wasley prevailed 10-9 having come back from 6-3 down. The debutant was a shadow of himself against Dominic Dale in next round with the Welshman prevailing 10-4 to advance to the quarterfinals against last year’s beaten finalist Barry Hawkins for the first time since 2000.
Another first round final frame decider included Stephen Maguire’s shock exit at the hands of Ryan Day. Shaun Murphy had a very lucky first round escape against Jamie Cope and drastically improved his performance to beat Marco Fu 13-9. The 2005 champion now faces Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter final. Joe Perry had The Rocket in trouble in the second round, but sports psychologist Dr. Steve Peters came to his rescue overnight as he demonstrated his improved temperament to came back to win 13-11.
Irishman and 1997 champion Ken Doherty triumphed over an, albeit, off-form Stuart Bingham. Nevertheless, qualifier Doherty did well to come back from 4-5 down overnight to win 10-6. A resurgent Alan McManus, having beaten John Higgins in the first round, ended Doherty’s quest 13-8. He plays Mark Selby in their quarterfinal.
Mark Allen was level-pegging with world number one Neil Robertson in their second round encounter before the Australian ran away with the final session to move into the quarterfinals 13-7. Robertson is on quest to hit one hundred century breaks in one season, which will be one of the most remarkable achievements in snooker’s modern game.
Judd Trump, however, did not hesitate in pointing out that hitting all those centuries doesn’t necessarily win you tournaments. The comment came ahead of his highly anticipated quarterfinal clash with Robertson.
Stephen Hendry has announced that he will return to the baize next season thanks to a new wild-card system. The seven time World Champion has been highly critical of the standard of play at the Crucible so far, even stating ‘it’s snooker, but not as I know it’. Fair enough, there have many appalling misses with Walden and Wilson coming close to setting a new record for the duration for a frame.
Let’s get one thing straight here. If I watch a tennis match and each game is won on unforced errors, then of course it is abysmal viewing. However, misses in snooker are part of the excitement, the lure and the drama that makes this sport the extraordinary beast that it is. Moreover, as Ding Junhui will tell you, just because you’re 15 points behind with 13 remaining, doesn’t mean you just offer the handshake.
The snooker of today is very much alive and full of character and characters. It’s just different to the nostalgia of 1980’s snooker, which is of course very special and something to be treasured. However, with great respect to the heroes of the past, the players of 2014 are more professional and focused than ever before and this revolution demands the utmost respect from us enthusiasts if we are to justifiably call ourselves so.
Tina McCarthy, Pundit Arena.