Monday, 23 April 2012

Dazzling debutants

This year's World Championship is fast becoming a golden one for its debutants.

Following on from Cao Yupeng's stunning win against Mark Allen yesterday, Jamie Jones knocked out 2005 champion Shaun Murphy today and Luca Brecel has done his reputation no harm either.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Making your debut at the Crucible can be a nerve-wracking experience but this year's trio of hopefuls have grasped their chance and made the most of it.

Jones' 10-8 victory against Murphy earlier was rich reward for what has been an excellent season for the 24-year-old Welshman, who is a stand-out candidate for this year's most improved player award.

He's put his life and soul into playing on the circuit this season and deserves his success for all the hard work.

For most of the campaign he's earned plaudits in the qualifiers and the smaller PTC events for his excellent break-building ability.

But here in Sheffield and after beating John Higgins in a deciding frame at the PTC Grand Finals in Galway, he's showed us the strength of his snooker brain.

Performing in the major ranking events is about know-how as much as quality. Jones showed maturity beyond his CV against Murphy and was brave enough to take his chances when they came along.

I understand Jones works fairly closely with Terry Griffiths away from the tournament and it really shows. You can't under-estimate the benefit of having such an experienced champion fighting in your corner.

As well as a terrific player, who has secured his place in the top 32 of the world rankings ahead of next season, Jones is also an outgoing young lad who will enjoy his success, and rightly so.

He's taken his chance to show the snooker world exactly what he's made of and, for tonight at least, is a shining star of the World Championship.

Luca Brecel has reason to be proud of his Crucible debut too.

The 17-year-old Belgium wonderkid may have suffered a 10-5 defeat to Stephen Maguire but has come out of the tournament with an even further enhanced reputation.

After a rocky first four frames which saw him gift Maguire early advantage with some inexperienced shot selections, he dusted himself down and went on to showcase his great talent.

He went on to outscore the Scot in the first session despite finishing it trailing 6-3 and played some blinding snooker. He wasn't afraid to go for his balls and pulled off some frightening pots.

He played with a huge smile on his face and proved what a great natural talent he is by playing nearly a dozen shots with his left-hand and still knocking them all in.

Composed around the table and keen put on a show for the crowd, he looks on track to be a future world champion once he naturally matures his game in some other areas.

Brecel became the youngest player ever to play at the Crucible - two months younger than Stephen Hendry was on debut - and definitely got people talking with a close to textbook cue action.

Will he back? Well, Barry Hearn confirmed his wildcard today for a two-year professional card starting from next season and I'm sure he'll have gained confidence from this run.

His excellent path to the Crucible has not only shown his great talent again but also proved he's got the game when the pressure is on.

God these boys coming through are good.

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