Sunday, 14 April 2013

Crucible qualifiers: part 3

The final line-up for the World Championship is really taking shape now.

Some more impressive performances this evening saw the number of qualifiers swell.

Here's a round-up of the next batch of players getting geared up for the Crucible...

Sam Baird

A long, hard week ends with the ultimate snooker reward for Baird. He's come through all four rounds of qualifying to reach the World Championship for the first time. He's beaten Chen Zhe 10-7, then negotiated deciders against both Peter Lines and Rory McLeod, before rounding off his great path with a 10-3 demolition of Joe Perry. Sam has a balanced and well honed all-round game but appears to be quite reliant on confidence. This week, he's got on a roll and ended with a flourish. Baird's blessed with composure beyond his years and now has the chance to show he belongs with the top professionals. When he qualified for the Welsh Open in 2012 he was unlucky not to knock out Mark Selby in round one. First and foremost he should enjoy his Crucible experience and then who knows what might happen.

Marcus Campbell

The experienced Scot has made it through to the Crucible for the third time in the last four years at the expense of young Liam Highfield, who he beat 10-4. Campbell has become a really difficult player to beat in the qualifiers over the past few seasons, but will be keen to show more of his best at the big venue. His recent trips to the Crucible have not been the most successful. He lost to Mark Williams 10-5 in 2011 and then claimed just one frame against Shaun Murphy a year later. The surroundings should be more familiar to him these days. He will be hoping to put in a much more confident display. At his best, he is a tricky matchplayer to beat.

Dominic Dale

It's a hat-trick of Crucible appearances coming up for the Spaceman. The former World Championship semi-finalist is back at the venue that matters and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time. He's played Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump in the first round for each of the past two years and, despite giving it his all, has just come up short. Dale was hitting the ball very well throughout to beat Alfie Burden 10-5, but most of the damage was done in the opening session. He scored the heavier of the two players which helped him to open up a 7-2 lead that he showed no signs of letting slip.

Robert Milkins

The Milkman will not be Mr.Popular right now. He put an end to what would have been an emotional return to the Crucible for fans' favourite Jimmy White. He ran out a fairly comfortable 10-5 winner against the Whirlwind in the end and won't be worried one bit about what the crowds think. This is the first time Milkins has reached the Crucible in eight years. His last appearance back in 2005 saw him trounced 10-1 by Mark Williams, so it's fair to say he has unfinished business. This run to the World Championship has been well on the cards this season. He's enjoyed good form and has rekindled the fear factor around his game. Milkins is a heavy scorer and great aggressor. He's been in full flow again. He's reached the Welsh Open and Wuxi Classic quarter-finals, gone to the last 16 of the World Open and China Open, as well as qualifying for the PTC Grand Finals, UK Championship, Shanghai Masters, German Masters and International Championship. He's been one of the most feared players in the qualifying stages this season and has the chance to finish strongly.

Martin Gould
There was nothing straightforward about Martin's journey to the Crucible. He had to play three sessions before eventually seeing off Rod Lawler 10-7. This was a match that produced a great clash in style and pace. Gould looked like he might lose out in the early stages but found a way and battled his way across the line. It's great to have the Pinner Potter in the draw. He is great attacking player who can light up the place and get the crowd going. He lost out to Dave Gilbert a year ago on his first appearance as a top 16 seeded player. He was quite low on confidence then and is maybe the kind of player who thrives under the pressure of being the underdog. He'll be paired with one of the top players in the world in round one and could take great motivation in the chase.

Peter Ebdon

The 2002 world champion had to stave off an attack from of the real dangermen in the qualifiers. He beat Norway's Kurt Maflin 10-8 in a hard fought contest, but has never been afraid of a good old graft. Maflin looked in great form en route to the final round, potting balls for fun and putting together some impressive breaks. But Ebdon has got his head down on the practice table in recent weeks and is looking sharp ahead of the Crucible. This will be his 22nd consecutive year playing in the World Championship.

Mark King 

King went the distance before seeing off Yu De Lu in a tight contest. He would have been hoping to make his passage easier than a 10-9 thriller, but there really is no better feeling than this kind of win. The fight will go on for King when he steps out into the arena. He's been involved in some epics down the years but has never been past the second round. He has plenty of war wounds and will make sure that whoever he comes up against will be hard pressed for the win.

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