There are three debutants at the Crucible this year.
Jamie Jones has maintained his excellent recent form. Cao Yupeng is one of a group of emerging Chinese players starting to make strides. And of course there’s young Luca Brecel, just 17 and the youngest ever Crucible competitor.
Debutants rarely do well. Consider the following list of great names for starters: Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White, Ken Doherty, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy. All of them lost in the first round on their Crucible debuts.
However, 32 Crucible debutants have won their first match, including Peter Ebdon, Mark Allen, John Parrott and Mark Williams. The last of them to do so was Liang Wenbo in 2008.
It’s nerve-wracking playing at the Crucible for everyone but particularly when it’s your first time there. You will have seen it on television and may have been to watch, but being out in the middle, getting used to the claustrophobic atmosphere generated by this Sheffield theatre-in-the-round, is something you only understand if you experience it first hand.
Doherty says he was 4-0 down on his debut before he could concentrate properly. His fellow Irishman Fergal O’Brien, however, made a century in his very first frame, still the only player to do so on debut.
Terry Griffiths of course won the title on his debut in 1979. It seems unlikely, very unlikely, that Jones, Cao or Brecel will do that. They each have a tough match in the first round.
It’s easy to say they should just enjoy it, but nobody enjoys losing, particularly by a big margin.
What each of them want, aside from obviously winning, is to acquit themselves well, to give a performance consistent with that which got them through the qualifiers.
They know there is suddenly more focus on them than there has ever been. It’s a chance to shine: exciting but also forbidding.
Quite a few promising professionals have never played at the Crucible. This trio’s qualification brings the total number to have played there since 1977 to 182, not that many really.
You never know when you’ll be back. Many players have never been back.
So good luck to our three newcomers in 2012.