Monday, 18 April 2011

The story so far...

It feels like I've been chasing my tail over the last couple of days.

Running yesterday's London Marathon means I've not been able to update the blog for a couple of days, but already there's been plenty to talk about from the Crucible.

Five players have already been sent packing.

The most notable of these was defending world champion Neil Robertson, who was given his marching orders by Judd Trump on the opening day.

The Aussie will not become the only the first-time winner to successfully defend his crown after he lost a thrilling match 10-8 to the China Open winner Trump.

While it's fair to say Robertson was not on top form, nothing should be taken away from Trump who seized his chance, especially in the latter stages of the match where his attacking prowess came to the fore.

He missed a couple of frame balls in the second session but we must remember this is still only his second appearance at the Crucible. He's definitely a star, and he now has a great chance to progress deep into the second week in Sheffield.

Four more players joined Trump in the last 16 on day two.

Shaun Murphy put in the most impressive display, defeating Marcus Campbell convincingly 10-1.

At the end of the first session, Murphy closed leading 9-0 threatening to inflict the first whitewash at the Crucible since 1992. But the Scot, who despite this defeat has had a good season, did nick one before inevitable defeat.

Murphy is many people's tip to win the title. You can never underestimate the benefit of coming comfortably through the first round. And on this evidence, he'll take some stopping. 

Ali Carter wasn't far behind in the dominance stakes. He cruised past Dave Harold 10-3, and at one stage led the match 8-0.

These two matches show while the depth of the sport is clearly improving, the top 16 players take some stopping when on song.

Also progressing was Jamie Cope. He beat Andrew Pagett 10-7 in a match were real quality went missing for large chunks. The Shotgun won't be too bothered as this win all but secures his top 16 status for the start of next season.

Pagett gave a fairly good account of himself on his Crucible debut, but did miss a golden opportunity to progress. Cope was not at his best, but Pagett missed some easy balls, which ultimately cost him victory.

Will he back? I'm sure Pagett will gain confidence from his run to Sheffield, and in qualifying, he looked excellent. Now he's earned a taste of televised action, it might inspire him to go on.

His close friend Mark Williams is one of the title favourites, and got his tournament off to good start. He beat Ryan Day 10-5 and looked every inch a possible world champion.

Elsewhere, Ding Junhui resumes today 8-1 up against Jamie Burnett and Stephen Hendry will come back leading Joe Perry 6-3.

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