Friday, 11 March 2011

Next stop the Worlds

It's been wall-to-wall snooker this week at the Sheffield Academy.

There's been plenty of thrills and spills and now just one hurdle remains for the qualifying hopefuls to make it to the Crucible.

Tension will notch up a gear when the final round kicks off on Saturday.

But there were some pretty intense matches for the players who had to win to make it there.

Here's how 16 player outside of the top 32 got there...

There was only one match everyone was talking about before the penultimate round of qualifiers, and it was the same story after.

Six-time world champion Steve Davis was pitted against the new kid on the block, Jack Lisowski.

After a corker of a match, the Nugget's experience eventually told as he edged him out 10-9 in a classic encounter.

Young Jack wasn't even born for Davis' most recent Crucible title, but he knows all about the legend, and found out how tough he is to beat still after seeing his 6-3 first session lead eroded as they raced to the flag. Davis would love to get back to Sheffield, but Stephen Lee stands in his way.

It was big news too when Jimmy White's Crucible hopes came crashing to an end earlier this week in a decider against Liu Chuang.

The 21-year-old built on this big scalp beating Tom Ford 10-8 to earn a match with Ryan Day. The Welshman will have to be on his guard.

Fellow Asian Liu Song has enjoyed a good run this week as well.

Wins over Michael Judge, Adrian Gunnell and most impressively Mark Joyce means he now faces a showdown with Joe Perry to make it to Sheffield.

David Gilbert was another among the surprise packages. An impressive 10-6 win against Peter Lines built on his wins over David Morris and Barry Pinches means he'll face Judd Trump in the final round.

The tie of the round though saw Mike Dunn earn a match against former top 16 man Mark King.

Dunn broke the heart of amateur Sam Baird, ending his fairytale story on the final black in the final frame to record a dramatic 10-9 win.

Brave Baird had already beaten Colin Mitchell, Neil Selman, Reanne Evans, Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon and Alfie Burden to get this far but the long road just proved too much as he ran out of steam to cross the line. The 22-year-old, who has been a professional before, has shown the snooker world what a good player he is though.

Shanghai Masters Jamie Burnett crushed the dreams of another player too. He beat James Wattana 10-8, which knocked the former world number five off the professional. Burnett won't be complaining as he goes on to face out of form Liang Wenbo next.

Rory McLeod continued his good season beating Kyren Wilson 10-3 to set up a clash with Mark Davis. Wilson won plenty of plaudits for beating Joe Swail 10-6 in the previous round, but was brought back down to earth by McLeod, who proved he's more than just a scrapper.

It was equally as straightforward for Robert Milkins as he emerged a 10-4 victor against Joe Jogia. Martin Gould should make him work harder next. Fergal O'Brien beat Paul Davision by the same scoreline and has Matthew Stevens to look forwward to.

Anthony Hamilton did need to count on all his grafting powers though to beat a determined Michael White 10-7 and advance to meet Barry Hawkins.

Hamilton has been having a small rough patch of late. That will will do his confidence wonders.

Another man who enjoyed a big boost this week was fellow Nottinghamshire man Michael Holt. With his father's sickness off the table this season, he's really struggled to produce on the baize but well enough to come and watch his son this week, Holty produced a hard fought 10-8 win before lifting his cue to the crowd in admiration. Dominic Dale awaits.

Talented Jimmy Robertson could be worth watching out for. Two wins at the expense of Xiao Guodong and Tony Drago means he's lined up to face Ken Doherty.

Elsewhere, plenty of matches went the whole hog last night too. Matthew Selt staged an impressive comeback recovering from 9-7 down to beat Patrick Wallace and book a match against Marcus Campbell.

Nigel Bond and Andrew Pagett didn't have the time to finish off their match in the afternoon. They resumed after the evening session locked at 8-8. Despite Bond nicking the first, the Welshman took the next two to progress to face Andrew Higginson.

The final frame ended up being a real epic. Pagett snatched it with two snookers needed.

Dave Harold was the other deciding frame winner beating Jamie Jones, while Alan McManus left one to spare with a 10-8 win over Stuart Pettman.

Full final qualifying round draw:

Mark Davis v Rory McLeod
Joe Perry v Liu Song
Liang Wenbo v Jamie Burnett
Mark King v Mike Dunn
Dominic Dale v Michael Holt
Martin Gould v Robert Milkins
Ryan Day v Liu Chuang
Judd Trump v David Gilbert
Ken Doherty v Jimmy Robertson
Matthew Stevens v Fergal O'Brien
Marcus Campbell v Matthew Selt
Barry Hawkins v Anthony Hamilton
Stephen Lee v Steve Davis
Gerard Greene v Dave Harold
Stuart Bingham v Alan McManus
Andrew Higginson vAndrew Pagett

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