Wednesday, 25 April 2012


The Crucible madness continued today as more seeded players fell like flies.

World number one Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and former champion Graeme Dott all endured World Championship horror shows, dumped out by lower-ranked qualifiers.

That takes the total number of seeded players knocked out in round one to eight, which is a joint record with the number beaten at the same stage 20 years ago in 1992.

Before I dissect today's defeated seeds, it's worth considering why we're seeing so many falling by the wayside.

In general, I think the qualifiers have really profited from securing their path to the tournament just a week before the big kick-off. Every qualifier has looked match sharp and high on momentum while their top 16 opponents have taken time to settle having last played at the China Open.

Picture by Monique Limbos
This isn't the only reason, of course.

The new ranking system has sharpened up the game of all the players and seen some lower down the pecking pecking order playing as good as ever

We've said before that the Crucible can be an unforgiving place to play snooker when things aren't going your way and Dott found this out more than anyone.

He lost 10-1 to Joe Perry and it could well have been a whitewash. By his own admission, he was absolutely awful, playing the worst snooker he has at the venue, and possibly of his entire professional career.

Graeme has been a little off-colour all season but you can usually rely on him delivering in Sheffield. His performance here was so bad I can't help but feel he may be one of the most vulnerable top 16 players at start of next season.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Selby didn't fare much better. He fell to a 10-3 defeat against Barry Hawkins. This surprise defeat of the world number one obviously has a lot to do with poor preparation for the tournament. Selby has been limited in practice by a neck injury and despite assuring fans he was ready, he clearly wasn't and struggled badly.

Then there was Ding. He suffered arguably the biggest disappointment. After leading Ryan Day 9-6, he lost four frames on the trot en route to defeat. The pressure completely got the better of him and his game fell apart.

His performance a year ago at the Crucible suggested he was acquiring more bottle but this was like the Chinese star of old with his temperament not withstanding the test.

His frustrations were highlighted when he took a wild swipe at the Crucible crowd in his post-match press conference. He said the table and the fans were both "rubbish" in an out-of-character press chat.

It's been a decent season for Ding but like many this will finish it on a low. He needs to take a break and come back stronger next time.

Day five ends with many snooker fans left dumbfounded by the wreckage of the tournament so far.

The form book has gone way out of the window and the tournament is fast becoming all about the qualifiers grabbing their chances with both hands.

At the moment, it's shock after shock.

It's hard to predict what might happen next...

But you won't want to miss it.

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