An enthralling first day's play at the williamhill.com UK Championship proved that snooker can still do what television sport is supposed to: provide great entertainment.

The quality of snooker was high, there was plenty of drama and, just as importantly, it was packed out at the Barbican Centre in York.

The UK Championship was always well attended at York and I'm sure it would have been for best of 17s, but it's equally true to say that the best of 11s, though hard to swallow for diehard snooker fans, did not put the general public off. Today is a sell-out.

The first two matches went the distance. Ding Junhui fluked the final pink to beat Mark Davis 6-5, harsh on the Sussex professional but he was man enough to admit afterwards that he had missed his chance to win 6-4 and also missed a straight blue with a chance to clear in the decider.

Similarly, Rory McLeod missed the black off its spot with a good opportunity to beat John Higgins in their decider and was later another victim of a fluke as the defending champion scraped through.

It seems that after all the PTCs the top players have come to York focused for a really big event and that was certainly the case for Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson, each serene in making progress against Matt Selt and Tom Ford respectively.

Matthew Stevens made breaks of 140 and 136 while Stephen Maguire played good, hard match snooker and potted some vital pressure balls to see off Stephen Hendry.

It looked as if the five times champion might pull it out the fire after rallying from 3-1 down to 3-3 but the odd shot here and there lets Hendry down these days.

Today's big match pits Ronnie O'Sullivan against his boyhood hero, Steve Davis, who hasn't beaten him for 13 years.

Li Yan, the unknown quantity having qualified in his first season, faces Shaun Murphy, the 2008 champion.

And there's a very interesting start as Mark Selby, the world no.1, meets Ryan Day.

Some great snooker ahead, then, and what undoubtedly adds to it is the atmosphere. When people want more calling out and noise they are ignoring the power of reverential silence. It is forbidding and adds to the pressure, reminding players that they are out on their own.

When punctuated by bursts of applause, the odd gasp and even an embarrassed cough or two it ramps up the dramatic tension.

But there was one incident yesterday that reminded everyone that for all the various points of view and petty squabbles in snooker, it really is just a game.

Marcus Campbell had travelled for years to tournaments with his friend, Martin, who died suddenly yesterday in the tournament hotel.

To his credit, Marcus still played but his mind was obviously not on snooker. My condolences go to him.


Betty Logan said...

I thought the standard was workman-like personally, from the top players. Ding and Higgins could have just as easily have been knocked out, which I doubt they would have been over a best-of-17 format, and that is where the truth lies; the UK is highly regarded because more often than not it allows the big names to play themselves into contention. It could have cost them, since the event could have seen the departure of the world champion and China's top draw on the first day. The sell-out crowds are a mixed blessing, because it's good for snooker but no doubt the powers that be will see it as vindication for the changed format, even though it is most likely down to the change of venue. The Barbican was always full whenever I went, and youthful too with it drawing an audience from the university. The move to Telford was insane, and lessons can and should be learned from the York venue: York is small, everywhere is in walking distance, and places like York with large student populations are natural venues for snooker tournaments.

The Blog said...

I prefer events with the wall between the two matches. Doesn't feel quite the same with both matches in clear view.

It's a minor change, but not sure it was necessary.

TazMania said...

The partition is necessary it allowes value for money to spectators and also means spectators on the other side as dennis taylor pointed out realised another match is going on so they did not make as much noise as they would with the partition when the game they were watching finished.

Players should already be used to seeing other games as this is how tables are situated in clubs with many games going on around.

Betty Logan said...

I think it does detract from the atmosphere by making it feel more clubby.