Stephen Hendry's essential problem is that he wants to play like Stephen Hendry, or rather the imperious Hendry of the 1990s.

His approach to the game is the same, but he is no longer playing it well enough and so many of the players who have copied him are now playing it better.

One of them is Mark Selby, who turned on the style last night to open a 7-1 first session lead.

Victory with a session to spare is a distinct possibility this afternoon. This would obviously not improve Hendry's chances of carrying on as a member of the circuit but I hope he takes a few weeks to assess the situation.

The first session of Ronnie O'Sullivan v Shaun Murphy failed to live up to the billing. It was all a little subdued, Murphy in particular, and O'Sullivan played well enough to open a 6-2 lead.

Clearly O'Sullivan is focused and playing with discipline, happy to dig in for the long haul.

We are still to see how he reacts if put under the sort of pressure Selby managed to apply in the quarter-finals last year.

Murphy needs a vast improvement today to stay with him, otherwise Ronnie will be in the last eight once again.

Nobody thinks Rory McLeod will beat John Higgins, just as nobody thought Steve Davis would beat him last year.

McLeod is an awkward, obdurate player who makes things difficult but Higgins has the temperament - and obviously the class - to deal with all this over such a long distance.

Ding Junhui has never been in the World Championship quarter-finals. It's all very well pointing to who has beaten him in the second round but if this pattern continues then it suggests he has a problem with the Crucible.

Stuart Bingham is no pushover. His confidence has grown this season with all the snooker he has played. The test for him will be if it goes close and the pressure descends.

Two brilliant, close finishes yesterday. Wee Dotty did it again when he beat Ali Carter 13-11 with a fine clearance in the last frame.

Graeme Dott is a Crucible form horse. Crucially, he seems to play his best snooker while bang under pressure.

You can only admire this tenacity but he doesn't just do it through pluck: we know he has the game to win the title because he did so five years ago.

The conclusion of the Mark Allen-Barry Hawkins clash was fascinating viewing.

Allen led 12-9 but Hawkins saved his best snooker for the end of the match and made three big breaks to force a decider.

Alas, he only had one shot in the last - a bungled break-off that saw the cue ball catch the blue.

Allen could have made a 147 but got a kick on the 12th black, leaving the next red awkward.

Still, it was a gutsy way to finish after all that was thrown at him and yet another slice of drama from what is boiling up to be a vintage championship.

Meanwhile, Judd Trump moves on serenely. The lad is having the time of his life, enjoying every minute.

In time he'll come to learn about Crucible pressure. Right now, it's all good fun.

Today marks the halfway point of the tournament. Some of these guys will be playing every day for the next nine if they are to win the title as the fight for the most prized trophy in snooker intensifies.


Betty Logan said...

Up until now Ding has had top 8 draws in the second round, but this time he has a qualifier, so no excuses this time around. Ding is in the easiest half of the draw and also the easiest quarter (from his point of view) so it's make or break for him this year. You can argue there would be no shame in going out to Selby, but at the Crucible you would put Selby behind Higgins, an in-form Ronnie, Williams, Murphy and Dott so there are plenty of tougher quarter-final draws out there.

Judd Trump would have stood a better chance against Ali Carter who he would have got chances against. Trump so far has been getting plenty of chances — and fair play to him, he's taking them — but he won't get anything for free from Dott. I suspect Dott will contain and dismantle his game, meaning Trump will be coming back to Earth faster than Yuri Gagarin. I've really enjoyed watching him though, and if he were to make the final it would at least be entertaining (unless Rory McLeod by some miracle comes through the bottom half).

Anonymous said...

if john virgo doesnt slide from outside ronnies backside soon we will have to send the search party out for him

Anonymous said...

Imagine watching slowcoach Selby and past it Hendry at the crucible, when Ronnie is on the other side of the partition.
Pure torture.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather watch Selby/Hendry any day of the week.

Anonymous said...

yeah 4.31 :rolleyes:
ronnie played shit compared to selby

Anonymous said...

If only Selby would retire. Before the final session! I want Hendry to prevail but the final frame was brutal, almost humiliating.

Damn you Mark Selby. Find someone else to break records against.

Dave H said...

Can't believe the stick Mark Selby gets: he makes six centuries - a Crucible record - and then wins a frame having needed four snookers

Great performance!

Anonymous said...

Dave i for one cant stand the way selby plays the game its pure torture and its easy look good past a demoralised Hendry

Anonymous said...

Selby will probably win this year the tournament suits his style of play

Dave H said...

It's not easy to make centuries, certainly not six of them

Also, anyone who watched the session knows Hendry wasn't demoralised - he was trying as hard as ever

Betty Logan said...

Trouble is Dave, with Selby six centuries feels like six centuries!

Anonymous said...

well said dave
hendry played quite well
selby played excellent
as a hendry fan i wasnt pleased at the score, but the match was fantastic snooker.
far better than the snoozer between the spotlight kid and smurf.

4cue said...

Even rory mcleod grew a beard watching selby today. Sean Murphy's cue action is being tested today, think he takes over the "rolls royce" title from stephen lee, and well deserved. I think selby, ronnie and ebdon have it wrong, no point doing all that running, pile on the pounds and have a bit of weight behind the shot, it really makes a difference.

147 said...

Well said Betty i watched some of those centuries and maybe its just me but it was torturous

Anonymous said...

Two questions:
1) Why does Selby get so much stick on here? And what with the 1940s look?
2) Is Virgo ill or been ill as he... looks ill?

Tatannes said...

Selby should have conceded the last frame.
Great snooker, poor character.

Anonymous said...

Selby will bottle it as usual at the semis or final. Only problem is he will take out a load of entertaining players on the way and wreck the tournament.


Hi David. Again, a great day's snooker.

Selby .v. Hendry - A great Selby performance. A Crucible record- 6 century breaks in the match., one also from Hendry. Winning frame 16, after needing four snookers, to take a 12-4 overnight lead- CLASS. in BBC coverage today, I heard that Selby did break another record.

One of the centuries he made, was his 54th in professional tournament play , this season alone. This over takes Hendry's record of 53, in professional tournament play, in the 1994-95 season, A season in which Hendry made 5 centuries in 7 frames, and 7 centuries in the 10 frames he won, to win the 1994 U.K. Championship final, against Ken Doherty.

Murphy .v. O'Sullivan - A great second session. Murphy had to win the session, to give himself, a realistic chance. He did so, 5-3. 9-7 to O'Sullivan overnight. All to play for tommorrow.

Ding .v. Bingham - Agreat start for Bingham, a 3-0 lead. Ding responded well, 4-3. Bingham did great to steal frame 8,and a 5-3 lead.

Ding had the momentum early in session 2, 5-4. Bingham held himself togethr well to take an 8-4 lead.

Ding responded well, 8-6, threw away a 61 point lead with a danerous double on a ed, in frame 15. Bingham made a good clearance from that, to go 9-6 ahead. Ding made a great 91 break in frame 16. 9-7 to Bingham overnight. Great finish in prospect and all to play for tomorrow.

Higgins .v. McLeod - A good, but slow start. McLeod, 2-0 ahead. Higgins not playing well. Higgins responded well to lead 5-2, with great snooker all-round, to lead 5-2, before that seesion, due to time had to end, one frame early.

Tonight, McLeod won 3 of the first 4 frames, to trail 6-5. It then went to 7-5. Higgins made a great steal in frame 14. He won that on the black, for an 8-5 lead. He won frame 14 with breaks of 47, Helped by a fluke on the blue, and 8o, to lead 9-5. Frame 15, and a scrappy start, Higgins had the first chance, after a long safetf battle. He missed a simple red. McLeod needed a good response, but missed again. From there, Higgins did miss again, but was let off. Higgins,from there, did the needful to extend his lead to 10-5 over night. Again, the session ends a frame early.

Why was this?David?,As the second session of this was an evening seesion and it's not as if the next session of play was ten minutes away or something.

Higgins is a heavy favourite to make the quater final, As is Selby.

Well done to all players in today's sessions.

Chris Weitz said...

Selby is doing to Hendry what Hendry used to do to others in his prime. He is called the hoover, and although many may think he is as dull as one, he's more than getting the job done.

Andy (MySnookerStats) said...

Seems odd to me that Selby attracts criticism for doing precisely what John Higgins does - finding a way to win whatever kind of frame or match he lands up in. He's a machine - come on the Jester!

Betty Logan said...

Hendry always made his kills as quick and painless as possible, and never did he "do" what Selby did to him today. Make six centuries if that's what you want to do, but personally I felt it was brinkmanship from Selby by continuing when he needed four snookers. It was horrible to watch actually, I didn't feel comfortable watching it. He had the match won, no need to rub your opponent's nose in it like that especially when he had already mentally "turned off" from the session. It was like Hendry was a a puppy with broken legs that couldn't run away, and Selby kept kicking it.

Hendry should just go all out for maximums tomorrow until he gets knocked out, and we'll have to just hope Ding doesn't stuff both their careers!

Anonymous said...

Andy "Selby attracts criticism for doing precisely what John Higgins does" Higgins is a winner where Selby is not!

Anonymous said...

the ronnie fans (mostly) cant stand him
thats why he gets so much stick

Anonymous said...

Dave, the reason I said I wanted Selby to retire before the final session was obviously because I'm a huge Hendry fan. I'm well aware of Selby's massive achievements in this match but it is hard to enjoy when the one crashing out is your personal hero.

It's almost equivalent to enjoying Schumi's win at Imola 94 after Senna's demise. Impossible.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Selbys head vibrates everytime he's about to take a shot .... It almost looks like he's constipated or about to have a seizure or something, I'd wish he just kept his head still.

Anonymous said...

I don't really get the stick Selby gets on here, six centuries in 11 frames of a best of 25 and he's still getting stick? When's the last time O'Sullivan (or anyone else for that matter) achieved that?

urindragon said...

Selby is attracts criticism because he is the second slowest player in the tournament. Stats are impressive but the way he makes those tons is boring. I would rather watch anyone else apart from Jaffa Cake Rory.

jamie brannon said...

The Selby stick is over-the-top. He is a brillant player who is capable of being world champion.

He is not as pretty to watch as O'Sullivan or Williams and I don't think he is a colourful character. In fact, he is comes out with more cliches and empty platitudes than most.

However, he is not unfairly slow, seems an amiable chap and has the potential to assume John Higgins mantle as the best all-round player in the game.