Saturday, 7 April 2012

The long road to the Crucible

The World Championship qualifiers really get down to business today with the start of the last 96 round.

For the players in action here, they're four wins away from a place at theatre of dreams. A long hard slog lies ahead of them but completing journey isn't beyond them.

Andrew Paggett came all the way through the pack last season and Zhang Anda also did it a year earlier.The qualifiers are renowned for being a rocky road and that will be no different this year.

The standard of player in every round is excellent with the mix of playing styles at both ends of the scale. Matches here are played across two sessions with 10 the target to progress. These longer matches make for compulsive viewing with the games like a story with a start, a middle and an end.

The players face a real test as they bid to qualify for the Crucible, which is a big deal for every player.

While some of the younger tour players are bidding to realise a dream to play at the sport's greatest venue for the very first time, there are also the older professionals who have been there and done it before but are desperate for more.

Stephen Hendry is the great seven-time world champion of the Crucible and has played at the game's show piece event for the last 26 seasons in succession. He'll want to keep that great record going and will view his one qualifying match of the season.

Jimmy White and Steve Davis have both played their part in a colourful story of the Crucible history. They need two wins each to return to Sheffield and get back to the special place.

Peter Ebdon needs one win to return a decade after winning his world title. Fresh from victory at the China Open, he'll be on a high and knows how to scrap through the tension.

There are plenty of plots just like these waiting to be played out. The matches are being played in Sheffield just a few miles down the road from the Crucible but getting there would be massive.

Many players will be disappointed but, for 16, there's a place at the holy grail of snooker waiting for them.

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