We wondered how Judd Trump would cope with having a bad session at the Betfred.com World Championship and he coped extremely well as a much better performance last night left his semi-final against Ding Junhui poised at 12-12.

These long matches are effectively a series of matches, played over four sessions. Trump got over his disappointing display in the morning by producing some stunning shot-making in the evening.

This has been an absorbing, at times enthralling contest between two young stars of the game. For once, it's almost as if the semi-finals aren't long enough. I could watch plenty more of this one.

John Higgins, as usual, dug deep into his deep reservoir of reserves to stay with Mark Williams, who at 9-5 yesterday looked set to take complete control of their semi-final.

Williams produced some excellent snooker and could have led 10-5 but Higgins made a trademark pressure clearance and then won the last to trail only 9-7.

Both semi-finals look set to be close today, which is good for the tournament but not neccessarily for the players, who still have a two-day final to come.

But that's the test provided by the World Championship: it's a battle to be the last man standing.

And today looks set to be the most dramatic of the Crucible marathon so far.



For those of you – and there are far more than the media would have you believe – with little or no interest in the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Betfred.com World Championship offers a respite.

There’s not much pomp and ceremony at the Crucible but there is a chance to be part of snooker history.

For Judd Trump and Ding Junhui, there is a chance to become world champion for the first time.

I was wondering yesterday if it would finally dawn on Trump just what he is involved in, or rather whether he would be overawed by it.

Well, he wasn’t. He knocked in some terrific balls and at times seemed to be channelling the great Alex Higgins in some of his shot-making.

Trump leads 5-3. Ding was unhappy with his own performance and needed the session to end but, of course, these are long matches and he is quite capable of turning it on.

Ding could do with a good start this morning, though. You feel he needs to win the session to clip Trump’s wings.

Mark Williams proved that snooker isn’t all about big breaks as he took a 5-3 lead over John Higgins last night.

Williams, at his best, has a big match temperament, responding to the importance of the occasion. Like all the greats of the game he relishes the pressure and doesn't fear the winning line.

But then the same can be said of Higgins and this match has the potential to be very close indeed.

Long before I was working in snooker I thought the semi-finals were too long but I do also agree with Shaun Murphy, who in an interview for Eurosport said that the format of the World Championship shouldn’t change because every champion in the modern age has had to pass the same test (give or take the odd frame here and there).

The attention of much of the world may be diverted elsewhere this morning but that test is what sorts out the greats from the also-rans and it remains as fascinating as ever.



So the one table stage of the Betfred.com World Championship is here and, to trot out the old cliche, this is where the Crucible comes into its own.

Here's another fact that bears repetition: the players have so far won 36 frames apiece. They still need to win another 35 to become champion.

It's a fascinating line-up featuring two great former champions and two young pretenders to the throne.

Judd Trump carried on in the same merciless style he has displayed all through the tournament as he put Graeme Dott to the sword yesterday.

Dott made a good point when he said the test for Trump will be what happens if he has a bad session, how he handles something going against him.

But of course there's no guarantee that he will. Whatever happens, he's been a breath of fresh (h)air and has built up a fanbase who have loved his entertaining brand of snooker.

I thought Ding showed real fighting qualities yesterday against Mark Selby. Ding played the better safety during the second session and stopped Selby going on the attack.

Selby came back at him last night but could not finish the job and suggestions that Ding can't handle the Crucible pressure must surely now be a thing of the past.

He beat Trump in the qualifiers of the 2005 UK Championship, a tournament he went on to win, but Trump has now come of age so this could be close.

Trump is the youngest Crucible semi-finalist since Ronnie O'Sullivan, 20, reached that stage in 1996.

Mark Williams is now guaranteed to be world no.1 at the start of next season, returning to top spot after a gap of seven years.

He has played superbly so far but I still reckon he can go up a couple of gears if required.

The Welshman beat John Higgins in the Crucible semi-finals in 1999 and 2000, as I posted about here.

Higgins hasn't played at the very top of his game but produced a much better performance last night to see off O'Sullivan.

Much has been made of the fluke he got in the last frame - and he was lucky - but he was let off the hook in the afternoon.

O'Sullivan simply missed too many and made unforced errors. He said afterwards that he played like an amateur. He didn't. He is still good enough to beat 95% of the players.

The problem is the other 5%. O'Sullivan has lost some of the fear factor as his game has failed to fire. The example of Williams, though, tells him that he can get it back if he wants to.

So the stage is set for the denouement of this great event featuring a fantastic foursome. Ding v Trump, Williams v Higgins: the title is still wide open.



I thought Graeme Dott did well last night to pull back the last three frames. Many other players would have let their heads drop after the onslaught from Judd Trump but, after a little frustration, Dott stuck to his task.

OK, so he's 11-5 down and unlikely to win but at least he fought hard and has given himself an outside chance - nothing more - of turning it round.

Trump, though, continues to impress and is clearly enjoying the whole experience. He possibly believes a shot-clock has been introduced for the Crucible judging by his pace of play.

Snooker won't always be this much fun so I hope he carries on having the time of his life for as long as he can.

Mark Williams once again demonstrated how good he is at forcing himself into frames and how adept he is at winning scrappy frames as he opened an 11-5 lead over Mark Allen.

The Northern Irishman seemed to be in first in most of the frames but wasn't making enough and Williams was knocking in all sorts to force his way back into them.

Williams finished off with two centuries for good measure. Allen has won two deciders so far but is surely too far back to win another.

The remaining two quarter-finals are much closer. Ding Junhui leads Mark Selby 5-3 while John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan are poised at 4-4.

A couple of close finishes tonight would make great TV viewing, though wouldn't do much for the nerves of those involved.



The Masters will end its long association with Wembley when it moves across London to Alexendra Palace next year.

The Masters was staged at Wembley Conference Centre for 28 years before the building was closed in 2006.

Wembley Arena then took over hosting duties and although it was the stage for some great snooker, it was never felt to be as atmospheric as the old Conference Centre.

The move also suits the sponsors, Ladbrokes, who are also sponsoring the PDC World Darts Championship staged at Alexndra Palace a few days before the start of the Masters.

I find it hard to be nostalgic about Wembley Arena but I think it's right to keep the game's premier invitation tournament in London.

Another tournament on the move is the UK Championship, which transfers from Telford back to the Barbican Centre in York.

This building closed in 2007 but has re-opened and World Snooker have decided to re-establish it as the UK's home.

York is a lovely place, particularly just before Christmas. There is more going on there than in Telford.

However, the fanbase will have to be built up again after a five year absence.


So a great night at the Crucible has left us with eight men left standing in the Betfred.com World Championship.

I'm sure you all saw the drama unfold last night so let's press on with the quarter-finals, every one of which has the potential to be a classic...

Dott once again demonstrated his fearlessness under pressure in putting away Ali Carter while Trump played his entertaining attacking game to great effect against Martin Gould.

Trump has the advantage of being young and therefore having no Crucible war wounds, no mental scars that will cause doubts to creep in.

He is enjoying himself - palpably - and will doubtless continue in the same vein today.

But Dott is a Crucible form horse; a former champion whose game suits these long matches where psychology can be just as important as form.

That experience may well prove to be the vital ingredient over their three sessions.

"If you keep playing like that you'll win it," said Stephen Hendry to Mark Selby after he was beaten 13-4 by the Leicester Jester.

Selby certainly played superbly, scoring heavily and making the most of virtually every chance. His advantage over Ding is that the Chinese expended considerable mental energy last night in fighting back against Stuart Bingham.

But Ding has cleared a little Crucible hurdle by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in his career and, while he may not relax as such, he has at least proved he can handle the pressure in Sheffield.

Selby has not won a major title this season but is clearly cueing beautifully. The real key to this match will be how Ding responds to his late night drama. He needs to punish any Selby mistakes.

It seems an age since these two won their respective second round matches. Williams has coasted through so far while Allen has had to survive two deciders.

Williams remains a joy to watch when in full flow. He makes the game look ridiculously easy, as if it's no effort, but of course the effort has been put in throughout the season and he has played some great stuff all year.

Allen is a fighter but he surely can't afford to go too far behind to Williams. The Northern Irishman needs to play his best stuff from the start, try and treat each session as a separate match. His intensity and will to win are among his best assets and he has to use them.

Williams needs to be put under pressure, otherwise he will surely continue his canter towards the final.

What is there left to say about these two? They first played at the Crucible 15 years ago, met in the final ten years ago and are still each capable of brilliance.

For Higgins, the second round was a chore. He got weighed down by Rory McLeod but it'll be a different match against O'Sullivan, who stuttered a little before putting away Shaun Murphy.

O'Sullivan's mood in Sheffield has been good and his discipline has been strong. He has treated the game with the respect it deserves and got the reward.

There are few players he respects as much as Higgins and the feeling is mutual. What a match this could be.

In close, O'Sullivan looks as good as ever but his long game isn't quite firing on all cylinders and this may be a factor.

Higgins's all round game is terrific and he clearly has the stomach for the fight but he hasn't yet played the sort of world beating snooker that suggests he is going to steamroller anyone.

Higgins has won their last couple of meetings and, on form this season, should be the slight favourite but when players of this quality clash the formbook goes out of the window. It's the sort of match where you could see them both raising their games.



Stephen Hendry has always struck me as being rather shy. We are still to find out if he is also retiring.

His 13-4 defeat to Mark Selby today had the feeling of being the end of an era. If he does carry on - and he is yet to fully decide - there is certainly no guarantee he will be back at the Crucible next year.

The discussion over his top 16 place is something of a red herring because he has already declared he won't be playing in the PTCs next season, so he will fall out soon enough under the new ranking system.

I can't see this golf lover forsaking the fairways of Gleneagles for the practice table during the summer with any great enthusiasm as the new season makes an early start.

He doesn't need to slog round small tournaments and qualifiers when he knows, deep down, that his game is not going to return to the heights it hit in the 1990s.

So the end is nigh, if it hasn't already arrived.

Hendry is probably a little nonplussed by the fuss being made. For Stephen, it was never about the acclaim or even the records, just about winning.

He decided at an early age that he would be the best there ever was and set about making that into a reality.

Hendry has struggled for consistent form in recent seasons but can walk away with his head held high.

"Hendry is the greatest snooker player of all time, no doubt. Trust me I have played them all," was Ronnie O'Sullivan's view on Twitter, a gracious and heartfelt tribute to a rival.

Hendry, though, does not just want to turn up at tournaments to be applauded. That isn't him.

It's telling that he considers his greatest performance at the Crucible not to be his first world title or even his seventh, not his comeback against Jimmy White in 1992 or deciding frame win in 1994, but his 18-5 demolition of White in 1993.

Hendry won without mercy or sympathy the way all great champions in any sport do.

Retirement is a difficult decision, particularly as he is only 42. Terry Griffiths is the only top player to retire while still high in the rankings.

Terry did so in 1996 after dropping out of the top 16 but entered the World Championship the following year and qualified before losing 10-9 to a young Mark Williams.

With the new ranking system that option isn't really realistic for Hendry. I'm sure he would shy away from a sympathy wildcard at the Masters or any notion of receiving the kind of send off most will feel he deserves.

In his own head he doesn't need it: he proved he was the best on the table and that is enough for him.


It was April 22nd, 1986 when Stephen Hendry first walked into the Crucible arena. Today could very well be the last time he walks out.

In between he has taken snooker forward in terms of the way it is played and set down a series of achievements which mark him out as the greatest player who ever lived.

He finds himself 12-4 down overnight to Mark Selby, one of the many young players who grew up watching Hendry and now play his game better than the seven times world champion himself.

Selby even set a record of his own yesterday by becoming the first player to compile six centuries in a single match at the Crucible.

Then he won the last frame of the afternoon having needed four snookers.

Not everyone would have played on but, in fact, the colours were ideally positioned to at least give it a go.

With one red on, it's actually two snookers and a free ball, although Selby eventually got five snookers as well as giving away six points himself.

Laughably, he was accused by some of being unsporting for doing this.

Hendry for one would have been embarrassed to be merely handed a frame out of sympathy. He never showed any of his opponents any when he was destroying them.

I expect Hendry to delay any decision about retirement until after the tournament is over. Even so, he is by no means guaranteed an automatic place at the Crucible next year.

John Higgins clawed his way into a 10-5 overnight lead over Rory McLeod.

There's no doubt McLeod was trying hard. Yes, he was really trying.

Class shone through in the end, though, but Higgins has expended far more mental energy than he would have liked just to reach the quarter-finals if he does indeed come through today.

Tonight's session could be a cracker with both matches poised at 9-7.

That's the lead Stuart Bingham holds over Ding Junhui. I was impressed with Bingham's attitude last night. He came out attacking, playing positively and going for his shots and, as Ding faltered, he opened an 8-4 lead.

The dreaded interval allowed just enough time for a few doubts to creep in and suddenly he only led 8-6 and trailed 61-0 in the next.

But a superb 72 clearance to the pink gave him the frame and though Ding won the last, the match is still in the balance.

The final session will be as much a test of nerve as a test of skill. Bingham has to try and remain positive if he is to cause an upset.

Ronnie O'Sullivan's 9-5 advantage over Shaun Murphy was reduced to 9-7 by the end of their second session.

This match is bubbling up nicely and may well come properly to life this evening...13-12 has a certain ring to it.

On a final point, it is Paul Hunter day in the CueZone in Sheffield today, commemorating Paul's life and the good work of the Paul Hunter Foundation set up in his name.

Paul's father, Alan, and daughter, Evie Rose, will be in attendance.



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.



Had the draw worked out differently, Shaun Murphy v Ronnie O’Sullivan could have been the Betfred.com World Championship final but these two former champions are in fact meeting in the second round.

It is a tantalising clash of personalities. Both players are outspoken and attract almost as much comment for their opinions as their performances.

Each has played snooker regularly since boyhood and gone on to triumph at the Crucible.

While Murphy’s love of snooker has not wavered, O’Sullivan has of course struggled to retain his affection for the game amid the whirl of real life events.

But he appears to be in much better shape after consulting Dr Steve Peters, a psychiatrist, ahead of the tournament.

The key to the match could be the extent to which Murphy can put O’Sullivan under pressure. This will be the real test of his game as Dominic Dale failed to exert much in the first round.

Ali Carter couldn’t quite put Graeme Dott away yesterday, losing three successive black ball frames to trail 5-3 before producing a much better second session performance to lead 8-6.

True to form, though, battler Dott dug in to make it 8-8 and set up a fascinating final session this afternoon.

Judd Trump needs just two more frames to see off Martin Gould, who went for a risky double on the re-spotted black in their 13th frame.

In missing it and leaving it in the jaws, the match turned away from him and Trump eased away to 11-5.

Judd is clearly loving every minute of his Crucible experience. And why not? He does not have the baggage of many other players, or the mental scars accumulated over the years at Sheffield.

He is only 21 and so if he doesn’t win it this year there will be plenty more opportunities in the future. This makes him very dangerous and a live outsider for the title.

Mark Allen didn’t seem quite right against Barry Hawkins, who played solidly in claiming a 5-3 first session lead.

When Mark Selby played Stephen Hendry at the same stage last year the first session was close before Selby pulled away.

Logic dictates something similar will happen this year, although logic and snooker don’t always go together.



It seems unlikely to be a long Good Friday for Mark Williams, who resumes 7-1 up on Jamie Cope and is therefore able to wrap up victory with a session to spare this morning.

Cope is a fine talent but seems to let frustration get to him early when things aren't going his way.

This is a best of 25 so even at 5-1 down he had a chance of winning. 7-1 down to Williams, though, and it'll be a tall order but still not impossible.

Possibly the toughest second round match to call is Ali Carter v Graeme Dott, two players evenly matched, although Dott has been in three Crucible finals and, of course, won the title.

Carter blew away Dave Harold. Dott responded well when Mark King came from 7-3 down to trail him just 7-6.

I think this will be a good match and most likely close. They are two strong competitors who wear their hearts on their sleeve and are capable of producing high quality snooker under pressure.

Speaking of which, Judd Trump v Martin Gould lived up to its billing with an entertaining first session which Trump shaded 5-3.

These two are attacking, entertaining and get on with it.

The same can be said for Mark Allen, who is back in action following his emotional comeback against Matthew Stevens.

Allen, who has always struck me as a big occasion player, unafraid of the big stage, faces Barry Hawkins, who held off Stephen Maguire in the first round.

Apparently there's a glut of bank holidays coming up. With the above as well as O'Sullivan v Murphy, Selby v Hendry plus Higgins and Ding also in action, the extended weekend could be a green baize bonanza.



So an eventful Sheffield Wednesday gives way to Thursday and the start of the second round.

Over three sessions, I would expect Mark Williams to have too much for Jamie Cope, although we shouldn’t forget just how well Cope played at that stage against John Higgins two years ago.

Judd Trump v Martin Gould should be great entertainment: two attacking, exciting players who go for their shots.

Gould never wavered against Marco Fu and THAT red will linger long in the Crucible memory this year.

Higgins maintained his mightily impressive season by racking up three centuries against Stephen Lee, he of the exotic coiffure, and leads 6-3 overnight.

Mark Selby wasn’t at all impressive, indeed was edgy and made numerous errors, but still leads Jimmy Robertson 8-1.

I can well imagine people watching this and assuming Robertson is simply no good. Obviously this is nonsense. He beat Tony Drago and Ken Doherty to qualify.

But like so many of the other 178 players to have played at the Crucible he found the Sheffield theatre-in-the-round to be an intimidating arena.

With little TV experience under his belt – in fact only one frame in the Shootout – he froze and Selby, though well below par, picked him off. I suspect when Selby is pressured he will step it up as the tournament goes on.

Well done to Rory McLeod for finally reaching the last 16 of a world ranking event with his 10-6 defeat of Ricky Walden.

This was a slow match and, in Walden’s words, ‘painful’ at times. He is right that snooker would be in poor shape if every match were like this but you still have to credit McLeod’s application.

Nevertheless, it was absurd of him to suggest Walden dragged him down. They were both slow, but McLeod is naturally slow.

Walden’s error was getting dragged into his opponent’s pace of play and not imposing himself on the match: you can’t slow it down when you’re sat in your chair.

High drama last night was provided by Mark Allen, who came from 9-6 down to beat Matthew Stevens 10-9.

He was watched in the decider by his young daughter, Lauren, and kissed her at the end some 29 years after another Northern Irishman, the late, great Alex Higgins, beckoned for his baby daughter, also Lauren, to join him in the immediate aftermath of his world title victory.

Stevens, I’m afraid, felt the pressure. He simply has too much mental scar tissue at the Crucible, too many close matches lost from ahead. It was impossible to shut all that out of his mind.

We’ve only had five days of play but clearly the Crucible remains a heady cauldron of dreams but also an unremitting chamber of nightmares.



Just as not much was expected of Ronnie O'Sullivan, many feel John Higgins is the man to beat at the Crucible.

But O'Sullivan silenced the doubters - at least for now - with a superb display against Dominic Dale. Can Higgins now deliver against Stephen Lee?

Higgins played Lee on his TV comeback at this season's UK Championshjip last December. He began with two centuries, they both played well and the Scot won 9-6.

Like O'Sullivan, Higgins is aiming to win the Betfred.com World Championship for a fourth time. He's had a great season, winning five titles, and so is clearly going to take some stopping...if he continues in the same vein.

The good news for Ronnie fans is that their man is not only playing well but, for the moment at least, feeling good in himself. Shaun Murphy, and possibly Higgins in the quarters, will provide a sterner challenge than Dale managed and how O'Sullivan deals with the pressure he is put under will be key.

But it's not like he hasn't dealt with it before at the Crucible.

Marco Fu leads Martin Gould 6-3 overnight. Fu is a hard player to predict. He either seems to play great or pretty average. Gould went for everything, which is how he plays, but they need to start going in if he's to repeat his win over Fu at the same stage last year.

Rory McLeod has never been to the last 16 of a ranking event. It could take a long time if he is to do so today.

McLeod is level at 4-4 with Ricky Walden. They were pulled off a frame early yesterday and could need a third session to finish the match if it goes close.

Peter Ebdon was very unlucky to suffer a kick when nicely in to make it 9-9 with Stuart Bingham last night but the truth is he had let the match slip from 8-6 up.

Matthew Stevens and Mark Allen served up an entertaining, highly sporting nine frames and we hope for more of the same tonight.

Graeme Dott started to play well from 2-2 to 6-2 over Mark King, although the Essex man did win the last of the afternoon.

Mark Selby has been extremely well backed for success. He plays Jimmy Robertson, a debutant also making his first appearance in the final stages of a ranking event.

Victory for Robertson would be one of the Crucible's biggest ever shocks. To stand any chance he surely needs to settle early, and that's easier said than done at the theatre of both dreams and nightmares.



Two snooker legends lit up the Betfred.com World Championship yesterday.

Ronnie O'Sullivan turned on the style to take a 7-2 lead over Dominic Dale while Stephen Hendry scraped over the line 10-9 against Joe Perry after a very edgy decider.

All eyes were on O'Sullivan after a fractious season and a build-up which included a threat to withdraw from the tournament.

The good news for his many fans was that he arrived in Sheffield last Thursday determined to dig in and work hard prior to the event. He prepared well and at times played superbly.

Several times in his career O'Sullivan has bounced back from controversy and won a title.

For instance, following his infamous walk-out against Hendry at the 2006 UK Championship he immediately won the Masters.

After his lewd behaviour at a China Open press conference three years ago he landed a third world title.

Maybe he feels he has a point to prove. O'Sullivan certainly gave his supporters hope...but he needs to keep it going against Shaun Murphy and possibly John Higgins in what remains a very difficult draw.

O'Sullivan has often said he is pondering retirement and, of course, nothing has ever come of it but Hendry is genuinely considering hanging up his cue.

He may need to win one more match to stay in the top 16 but has already decided not to enter the PTCs next season and this is likely to cost him his spot among the elite at some point in the near future.

I know Stephen loves winning above mere playing but it would be a great shame to lose him from the circuit at the age of just 42.

Hats off to Barry Hawkins for withstanding a fine comeback from Stephen Maguire, who recovered from 6-2 down before Hawkins won 10-9.

This isn't necessarily a huge shock but it was Hawkins's first win at the Crucible in six visits to Sheffield and I'm sure a source of huge satisfaction for him.

Up today are Marco Fu against Martin Gould, re-running a first round match from last year which Gould won 10-9.

Mark Allen, who is thankfully receiving the treatment he needs for depression, faces a rejuvenated Matthew Stevens in one of the first round's most intriguing matches.

Graeme Dott, a Crucible form horse having appeared in three finals there, starts out against Mark King.

But all eyes will be on O'Sullivan again, not just for how he plays but for what he says after what should now be a routine victory.



Barry Hearn was at the Crucible today to unveil a raft of announcements for the 2011/12 season.

As revealed on this blog last month, there will a ranking event staged in Australia in July.

This will immediately follow the World Cup in Bangkok, which will be a biannual event.

There will be eight seeded teams - Australia, China, England, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - from a field of 24. The winning team receives a cheque for $200,000.

There will be a new format for the Premier League next season as it becomes a World Snooker event.

In order that any player can qualify, the ten man field will be filled based on tournaments won.

Therefore, confirmed are defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, Championship League winner Matthew Stevens plus ranking event winners Ali Carter, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump.

Ding Junhui qualifies as Masters champion and if one of the above wins the World Championship, Jimmy White will get a call up as world seniors champion.

Sky Sports will screen the Shootout, won this season by Nigel Bond, for the next three years having broadcast a World Snooker event for the first time for seven years in January.

Hearn also revealed talks are underway with Paul Mount to stage some PTCs and/or qualifiers at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester rather than having them all in Sheffield, which would mean access for spectators.

Prize money on the circuit will rise above £6m and there looks like there will be 10-11 ranking tournaments, plus the new Brazilian Masters.

Hearn also wants players to come forward to record a new version of the Chas 'n' Dave 'classic' Snooker Loopy, which reached no.6 in the chart 25 years ago.

The mind boggles, frankly, as to who would want to take part in this...but we will see.

So there will be plenty of snooker next season and plenty of reasons to be optimistic in this new era for the game.


Stephen Hendry was overall pretty solid in taking a 6-3 lead over Joe Perry in their first round match at the Betfred.com World Championship yesterday.

There were mistakes but his two centuries - taking his tally at the Crucible to 123 - were proof that his game is still there. His challenge in Sheffield will be sustaining it over long enough periods.

Hendry had a lot of support from the crowd, who respect him for his unparalleled record of achievement.

Indeed, he was very popular when he first came on the scene a quarter of a century ago as a young, attacking, exciting player - a little like Judd Trump now.

This being Britain, he ended up being booed now and again for being too successful but there was a warmth to the audience reaction to his match yesterday and I'd expect that to continue this afternoon.

Humility was not high on Ronnie O'Sullivan's list of priorities in an interview with yesterday's Daily Star on Sunday, in which he claimed: "I've done more for snooker than anybody else has ever done in the game."

The soap opera rolls into town today where, as ever, what happens on the table will be more important than the endless talk off it.

O'Sullivan has had a poor season but has never lost to Dominic Dale, has been practising hard and is quite capable of finding form and blowing the Welshman away.

I expect moments of brilliance from snooker's greatest ever natural talent. The test, for the whole tournament, will come in finding some consistency and knuckling down to compete when his game isn't firing on all cylinders.

Shaun Murphy says he is looking forward to playing O'Sullivan in the second round after a superb display to hammer Marcus Campbell 10-1.

Murphy is one of a number of players who have played so much snooker this season that they are fully sharp for the World Championship.

Mark Williams, a 10-5 winner over Ryan Day, and Ali Carter, who beat Dave Harold 10-3, are two others.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for Andrew Pagett. His match against Jamie Cope was by no means a classic but he fought back well from 9-5 down to trail only 9-7 and had the pink for 9-8 before this happened.

And the lights duly went out on his challenge.



Mandy Fisher, who founded the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association 30 years ago, has resigned as its chair.

Fisher, 49, began the women's circuit in 1981 but told players and officials at the recent World Championship: “I have done all that I am capable of doing for the ladies game and I will not be standing for re-election.

"I don’t want it to fold and I don’t want it to fail. I just feel I can’t do any more than I’ve done.”

Fisher's commitment to the women's game has been one of the main reasons it has survived this long.

World champion herself in 1984, she oversaw a transformation in fortunes in the late 80s/early 90s in which women's snooker gained television coverage.

One of Fisher’s great personal memories is the run up to her 1991 World Championship quarter-final clash with Allison Fisher on the day her second son Matthew was due.

She was corralled by Barry Hearn, now World Snooker chairman, into parading in front of the press in Hyde Park wearing carpet slippers and a maternity dress.

She also helped get the women's game taken under the wing of the WPBSA in 1997, which meant their major finals were played at venues such as the Crucible during the main professional events.

The WPBSA subsidy was cut in 2003 and the women's game continues now at a lower level, even though it attracts an international field. Reanne Evans won just £1,000 for retaining her world title last week.

Fisher will remain as president of the WLBSA. Her role as chairman will pass to Brian Harvey, who has represented England at billiards.

“It wasn’t always easy but Mandy’s heart was always in the right place and she worked tirelessly for little reward," said former WLBSA secretary and tournament director Jane O'Neill.

“There were always the knockers and detractors and plenty with ‘bright ideas’, but no one ever came close to achieving better than Mandy.

“Who can replace her? She shouldn’t go unless Barry Hearn is taking over."


What a great start to the Betfred.com World Championship as the Neil Robertson-Judd Trump match lived up to its billing.

Yes there were mistakes on both sides but that only added to the drama and tension as, once again, the longer matches meant plenty of time for the momentum to shift.

There’s nothing like the Crucible for this. And there’s nothing like the Crucible for making players even with iron temperaments like Robertson feel the pressure.

So Robertson is out and the so-called ‘Crucible curse’ claims another victim. He becomes the fifth first time defending champion to lose his first match the following year.

And Trump is through. Make no mistake, this boy is a star. He missed a couple of frame balls himself but in the last he saw a chance to win and went for it full-blooded. Judd will have plenty of support for the rest of the tournament.

Andrew Pagett certainly made an impression yesterday with his attire and played well to lead Jamie Cope 4-2 but trails 5-4 coming back today and may struggle to play as well again.

Dave Harold staved off the whitewash by winning the last of the session to trail Ali Carter 8-1 but it’s a miserable weekend for the potter: he can’t even go and watch his beloved Stoke City in the FA Cup semi-finals.

Mark Williams ambled around the table apparently without a care in the world as he built a 6-3 lead over Ryan Day.

Marcus Campbell is a frame away from an unwanted place in the history books. The only Crucible whitewash came in 1992 when John Parrott beat Eddie Charlton 10-0. Campbell trails Shaun Murphy 9-0.

Starting out today for his 26th successive Crucible campaign is the greatest of them all, Stephen Hendry.

Nobody has played more, or won more, matches at the Sheffield theatre than the 41 year-old Scot.

But this year’s World Championship could conceivably be his last. If he fails to beat Joe Perry he will lose his top 16 place and be plunged into the qualifiers.

Hendry could regain his place by next year but I can’t see the sterile qualifying set up inspiring him, which is why a strong Crucible performance this year is a must for the seven times world champion.



“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” – so wrote William Shakespeare in Henry IV, part two.

Wearing the crown at the Crucible is Neil Robertson, who starts the defence of his Betfred.com World Championship title against Judd Trump this morning.

Steve Davis, a kind of bard of the baize, summed up the pressure of being defending champion thus: “The first shock hasn’t happened yet. It could be you.”

Robertson has coped very well under pressure throughout his career, not least at the Crucible last year.

But he knows – because everyone has told him, many times – that no first time champion has made a successful title defence.

He also knows that Trump is in the form of his life, having just won the China Open.

Trump is not only full of confidence but also now knows how to win: by playing an all round game which mixes his fierce attacking skills with some astute tactical play. Robertson learned the same game and has used it to deadly effect himself in recent years.

Let’s hope the match is a cracker to launch what seems sure to be a great World Championship.

There’s been so much snooker played this season that many players are going to Sheffield in superb form and, unless for some reason the conditions are bad, the standard should be extremely high.

Also in action this morning is Andrew Pagett, one of two debutants, who plays Jamie Cope. How will he take to the Crucible surroundings? Will he freeze completely or just enjoy himself?

I think Ali Carter could go a long way in this tournament but he needs to retain his patience against the obdurate Dave Harold, a seasoned campaigner who can make life very difficult. They play their opening session this afternoon.

Shaun Murphy, one of the favourites this year, meets Marcus Campbell in their first session tonight.

Another favourite, Mark Williams, faces his fellow Welshman Ryan Day. They may be rivals on the table but are good friends off it and last week took their respective families on a caravan holiday in Porthcawl, North Wales.

So three really interesting sessions ahead of us and 17 days of twists and turns, joy and despair, elation and meltdowns to come before we discover who will be crowned 2011 world champion.

It’s been a fascinating season full of innovation - a new ranking event will be announced today - but there’s nothing like the long matches at the claustrophobic Crucible. For snooker fans this is the highlight of the year.

There’s been so much build up, excitement and anticipation around this year’s World Championship.

Now, in the words not of Shakespeare but MC Rob Walker, let’s finally get the boys on the baize...



110sport, one of snooker’s oldest management stables, is thought to be on the brink of collapse after a bank guarantee of £100,000 was recalled, placing the company in provisional liquidation.

The management arm of the Scottish company had been placed into liquidation last month.

It has emerged that Lee Doyle, the chairman and a 110sport director, resigned from the board several weeks ago.

A statement is expected next week confirming that the entire company is in liquidation. It is believed players are owed money they may now never receive.

In a letter to shareholders, the remaining 110sport board said: “The Clydesdale Bank took the decision on Friday April 8th to call up a cross guarantee which was in place to support 110sport Management (in liquidation) and removed from the company £100,000. At a meeting on Monday of this week the board urged the bank to reconsider as the board considered there to be sufficient alternative security in place to cover the liabilities to the bank. The bank declined to alter its position.

“The impact on the company in the short term of the bank’s decision has been catastrophic.

“The board reviewed the cash flow position and took account of all aspects of potential for the company but has come to the decision that the company cannot go forward without an immediate cash injection.

“With no prospect of this occurring, the need to protect stakeholders and despite the best efforts of the board the decision has been taken to seek the appointment of Ken Patullo, Begbie Traynor, as provisional liquidator for the company.”

It was clear recently that the company had major problems when 110sport players starting asking tournament organisers to pay them directly rather than through the stable.

The company was established as CueMasters in the 1980s by Ian Doyle, under whose guidance Stephen Hendry made a rapid rise to the top.

The stable included many top players over the years, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Williams as well as its current clients such as Hendry, Ali Carter and Ken Doherty.

Doyle fought many political battles with the WPBSA but by the time CueMasters had become TSN in 1999 they attempted to work with the governing body, offering to sponsor tournaments in return for internet rights.

TSN and its backers became so disillusioned with the WPBSA’s generally negative attitude that they took the bombshell decision to launch their own circuit.

For several months, a battle was fought by both sides to persuade players to play on either circuit but the WPBSA survived through the support of the BBC.

TSN became 110sport and again Doyle tried to take the game forward by introducing Altium and its investment in 2002 but this was rejected by the players.

Doyle gradually took a step backwards before retiring and handing the reins over to his son, Lee.

His attitude was to work with the WPBSA and he thus joined their board. This was an understandable position to take after all the infighting but I became concerned about his judgement when I heard him staunchly defending the Rodney Walker regime on BBC Radio 5 Live in 2009.

110sport’s venture into pay-per-view internet streaming of the qualifiers turned out to be a costly endeavour, which ended very quickly after it began.

Doyle chose not to support Barry Hearn when he was elected WPBSA chairman, a decision that has led directly to the demise of 110sport.

Hearn offered Doyle a slice of the commercial action when he attempted to take control of snooker’s commercial rights but Doyle instead backed a bid by John Davison, formerly of Altium, which was thin on detail. Davison did not even attend the crunch WPBSA EGM to debate the matter.

Even after Hearn won the day, Doyle still aligned himself with the old guard and tried to requisition an EGM to remove new WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson and his board.

At last year’s WPBSA AGM Doyle received only six votes.

Now out in the cold as snooker finally goes forward, 110sport has struggled to obtain new investment.

I’m sorry for Ian Doyle, who built the company from scratch, and for John Carroll, who has long managed the company’s affairs on the road, looking after players’ various whims.

But the main sympathy should be reserved for any players unable to recover money they are owed.

As if there wasn’t enough pressure at the Betfred.com World Championship, they have all this to worry about as well.


Trifling matters such as work, family and the real world should not be any impediment to enjoying the Betfred.com World Championship.

For those of you not lucky enough to have tickets for the Crucible there are many ways to follow the action.

The BBC is host broadcaster, as it has been for every Sheffield marathon. Hazel Irvine and Rishi Persad once again present its coverage with Steve Davis and John Parrott offering punditry and commentary from Willie Thorne, Dennis Taylor, John Virgo, Ken Doherty, Neal Foulds, Terry Griffiths and (for the first three days) Clive Everton.

There is daily coverage on BBC2 and it’s all live on the red button, although only one table is available on Freeview.

The matches are also live on the BBC website for those of you who live in the UK and this site will have news and features throughout the event.

Eurosport offers live coverage of both tables on both channels for much of the championship.

Joining the usual commentary team will be Alan ‘Angles’ McManus and Phil ‘Statto’ Yates.

All the matches can be watched live on the Eurosport Player and the Eurosport website will have plenty of news coverage and reaction.

The World Championship will also be screened live in China and various other outposts.

The internet has done much to add to the experience. Worldsnooker.com is the place to go for the official view, with match reports and player quotes, while Sporting Life will carry Press Association coverage.

I can highly recommend WWW Snooker for its wealth of information and there is also Global Snooker for news, results and comment.

I don’t have huge amounts of time for blogging during the tournament, although will post my thoughts each day, but there are, thankfully, a number of other blogs now offering news, opinion and general merriment.

Pro Snooker Blog goes from strength to strength and will be particularly useful when it comes to following the twists and turns of the rankings.

The best addition to the snooker blogosphere in the last year is Snooker Backer’s site, which offers betting tips but also irreverence and good natured discussion.

A word too for On Cue, another newish blog, and Snooker My Love, whose genuine passion for the game is a nice antidote to weary cynicism and sniping.

Forums such as The Snooker Forum and Snooker Island offer a place for discussion.

I’m sure I have forgotten various other sites, so apologies for that.

The great pity remains the paucity of player websites. There are some but I suspect fans would like rather more behind the scenes stuff from their favourite players.

The good news though is that several players are now signed up to Twitter, where there is a good snooker community also featuring commentators, officials and fans.

Among the players to follow are Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen, Mark King, Stuart Bingham, Judd Trump and, yes, Ronnie O'Sullivan.

I will be posting a few fascinating facts myself. Apparently Stephen Fry is already worried his follower count will be overtaken.

Wherever you are and however you plan to follow the World Championship, I trust you will enjoy the greatest snooker show on earth.



I hope you've enjoyed this look back at great Crucible moments. In the last of them, I consider the reigning champion...

Two events outside his control conspired to take the shine off Neil Robertson’s world title triumph last year.

The first was the News of the World expose about John Higgins and Pat Mooney. The second was the absurd scheduling that left the Australian and his opponent, Graeme Dott, dead on their feet long before the end.

It’s funny how things turn out. The News of the World have themselves since been exposed for phone hacking and after years in which we were told World Snooker could not influence session times, Barry Hearn has immediately ensured a 7pm start for the two evenings of the final.

And despite all the controversy, Robertson’s capture of the world title remains a heart warming tale. Here was a player who had to uproot himself from the other side of the world at a young age, leave his family and friends behind and, with only £500 in his pocket, attempt to make his way in the snooker world.

He did this not just through his talent but also hard work. At first he found life in the UK difficult to attune to. The climate was so inclement by Australian standards that he couldn’t get out of bed.

Not always self confident, eventually he came to feel part of the circuit and the top players came to regard him as a dangerman.

His early rawness was ironed out and what we saw at the Crucible last year was a tough, take-no-prisoners match player adeptly mixing attack and defence to claim the title.

Neil had a massive escape of course in the second round against Martin Gould, whose 11-5 lead he overturned to become 13-12 in his favour. After this he must have felt like destiny was calling.

He hasn’t had a spectacular season – first time champions often don’t – but won the World Open and was briefly world no.1.

A few off table calamities have enhanced his reputation as not being the best prepared player in the world but he has taken all of this in good part.

And Robertson doesn't complain, even though he has cause to: he sees his family only rarely. He and his partner have a young son but no family nearby to share the load. But Neil is a naturally positive person and takes all this in his stride.

The great moment of his world final came in its aftermath when he was joined in the Crucible arena by his mother, Alison, as they unfurled the Australian flag.

It was the first opportunity she had had to watch him play live as a professional. Due to his success, it looks like she will have another if, as expected, World Snooker announce a full ranking event to be staged in Australia this summer.

As Robertson pointed out to me when I interviewed him last year just as important as how you play at the Crucible is how you cope between sessions.

This is where his personality was a plus. He’s not a panicker, not a worrier. These attributes will hold him in good stead as he attempts to defend the title.

I like Neil and how he plays the game. He has the attitude of a winner. Indeed, he has won all six of his ranking tournament finals.

He doesn’t fear anyone, doesn’t regard himself as inferior to anyone and relishes the big stage.

All characteristics of the greatest names to have landed the World Championship.



“The most remarkable world final I’ve ever seen” was how Ted Lowe described the finale of the 1986 World Championship.

This was some statement considering just 12 months earlier Ted had called home Dennis Taylor’s dramatic black ball defeat of Steve Davis.

But he had a point. Whereas Taylor had already been in a world final and was among the favourites to win in 1985, Joe Johnson’s run to glory had come from nowhere.

Where specifically had Johnson come from? Answer: a time before playing professional snooker could give you a good living.

A keen player in the Yorkshire area, Joe worked for the gas board and played in the amateur ranks, eventually reaching the 1978 world amateur final, where he lost to Cliff Wilson.

Johnson did not believe there was much point turning professional but was inspired by Terry Griffiths’s title victory in 1979. If Terry could overturn the old order, why couldn’t he?

He was 27 when he took the plunge – very late by today’s standards – and there were only two pro tournaments he could enter.

He topped up his earnings with exhibitions and money matches with, among others, Steve Davis, against whom he had a very good record, something that would be crucial to his eventual Crucible triumph.

Progress on the circuit was slow but, in 1983, Johnson reached the final of the Professional Players Tournament, a ranking event, where he lost 9-8 to Tony Knowles.

Later that season he qualified for the Crucible for the first time, losing 10-1 to Dennis Taylor. He did enough the following year – including a semi-final appearance in the Mercantile Classic – to squeeze into the elite top 16 at 16.

In 1986, he did not expect much. He had a poor record against Taylor, who he was due to meet in the second round. But Taylor fell to Mike Hallett on the opening day and Johnson beat Dave Martin and then Hallett to reach the quarter-finals.

In the last eight he met Griffiths, something of an arch nemesis. Johnson found him very difficult to play and had almost always lost to the steely Welshman.

Griffiths duly overturned a 9-7 deficit to lead 11-9 at the final interval and then 12-9 a frame later before Johnson produced what remains one of the most inspirational four frame bursts seen at the Crucible.

On the attack, he made two centuries to come through 13-12 and for the first time raise the prospect of going all the way.

I know Joe is still grateful for some words of advice Griffiths gave him afterwards, not least because he must have been so disappointed to go out.

Now feeling he had nothing to lose, Johnson swept aside Knowles 16-8 in the semi-finals to set up a two-day final with Davis, who was anxious to put right what had happened the previous year against Taylor.

The way Joe saw it, all the pressure was on his opponent: he himself was guaranteed £40,000 – more money than he had ever seen before – and whatever happened it would be an experience to remember forever.

He had the crowd on his side, not just because he was an underdog but also because he was a Yorkshireman. And he knew he could beat Davis – he had done so in many of those money matches.

He wore distinctive pink shoes and seemed to represent the everyman, giving hope to all those players who dreamed of being part of such a special occasion.

Day one ended with the match tied at 8-8. Johnson sneaked 13-11 ahead going into the final session.

And though the pressure should have been on, he just seemed to enjoy himself as he coasted to an 18-12 victory, which, despite not being close, drew a television audience of just over 16m.

At 33 he was world champion. It was unexpected, remarkable as Lowe had said, and his life would change in ways he could not have imagined.

There was the good – invitations to all manner of events, the best service, being treated like a king – but also the other side of fame: newspapers rifling through his private life, constant attention and the feeling of being under siege.

His life was no longer his own and his form deteriorated rapidly. The following season was a write-off until the Crucible came round again.

Johnson wobbled in the first round, beating Eugene Hughes 10-9, but then embarked on another run to the final, beating a teenage Stephen Hendry 13-12 in the quarter-finals and Neal Foulds 16-9 in the semis.

He went into the final session against Davis trailing 14-10 but won the first three frames to suggest another improbable victory. It wasn’t to be. He was beaten 18-14 but remains the first time champion who got closest to a successful title defence.

He was by now 35 and therefore at the stage where players tend to start declining. He won another title, the 1987 Scottish Masters, but ill health played a part in him gradually slipping down the rankings.

A foot injury heralded his retirement from the circuit in 2002. Earlier this season he reunited a few old pals for the World Seniors Championship. He will be commentating on this year’s World Championship for Eurosport.

Still a popular figure in the game, he has mentored young stars such as Paul Hunter and Shaun Murphy and coaches regularly in Yorkshire.

His world title victory remains one of the great shocks not just in snooker but in any sport.

Johnson managed to play the best snooker of his life at the one time in the year when it matters most.

In a bizarre postscript, many years later when he dug out the tape of the final to show friends who had never seen it, Joe discovered that one of his children had taped over it with several editions of ‘He-Man: Masters of the Universe.’

Thankfully the BBC was able to supply a replacement for this unlikely, amiable, unassuming master of the baize.


The Daily Mail reports that Ronnie O'Sullivan has told World Snooker he is withdrawing from the Betfred.com World Championship.

However, O'Sullivan has apparently had a rethink and is consulting with a leading sports psychologist ahead of the Crucible.

According to the newspaper, O'Sullivan said: "Last week I put in a verbal withdrawal to World Snooker and told them I wasn't going to play in Sheffield. That's when it really hit me that this could be it, for five or 10 minutes my heart was pounding.

"I said if it's easier to say I'm retiring then say that. They said that's fine, but we'll give you the weekend to think about it. On Monday they called back, and talked me back into it."

O'Sullivan, who won the world title in 2001, 2004 and 2008, is due to play Dominic Dale in the first round.

He has been largely de-motivated this season, has fallen to tenth in the world rankings and has not won a match in a ranking event since last September's World Open.

The Mail reports that O'Sullivan is consulting with Dr Steve Peters, who advised the British cycling team ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

You can read the story here.



When Andrew Pagett made his television debut at the Six Reds World Championship in December 2009 the master of ceremonies forgot his name as he was making the introductions and had to dig his notes out of his pocket to find it.

So when Pagett becomes the 178th player to walk into the famous Crucible arena on Saturday morning he hopes he can, after many years of trying, make a name for himself, preferably one which will stick in the snooker public’s mind.

Pagett, a 28 year-old father of two from Blackwood, South Wales, is a complete unknown to all but diehard snooker followers.

He has never before appeared in the final stages of a ranking event but will become the 16th Welshman to play at the Crucible when he tackles Jamie Cope this week.

What a moment, then, in a career that has thus far been played out largely below the radar.

“It’s finally hit home that I’m going to be playing at the Crucible,” Pagett told me. “I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I can’t wait to get out there and give it my best.

“I’ve won a lot of tournaments as an amateur but underachieved as a professional. I’ve always known it’s been there in the locker but it’s all about clicking at the right time. The players are so good that you have to be on top of your game all the time. It’s taken me longer than I’d hoped.”

Pagett is a good friend of Mark Williams and was with him at the Crucible for his world title triumphs in 2000 and 2003. Theirs is a relationship built on wind-ups and banter, at least on the surface.

In fact, Williams is more like a big brother, relentlessly teasing him but also offering a few sage words of advice, all from the vantage point of someone who has been there and done it at the highest possible level.

“Mark said I was the worst player ever to qualify for the Crucible,” said Pagett, who will play his friend in the last 16 if they come through their respective first round matches.

“I know deep down inside that he’s proud of me. We’ve been practising hard together, and with Matthew Stevens, to get ready for Sheffield.

“If it wasn’t for Mark I never would have reached the standard I’m at now. Just watching the way he deals with everything is phenomenal. He’s the most laidback person you could ever meet.

“I can understand why people fear playing him because he looks like he doesn’t really care either way. He plays as if he’s practising. It makes him tough to play against.

“When I’m at the qualifiers I talk to him every day. He gives me bits of advice, such as what to do if I’m feeling the pressure. I’ve learned it all from him.

“I wanted to draw him in the first round and I’d love to play him in the second. He’d be under so much pressure because he certainly wouldn’t want to lose to me at the Crucible.

To get this far has been a long road. He achieved success in the Welsh amateur ranks, was a World Amateur Championship quarter-finalist and runner-up in the 2003 European Amateur Championship.

He joined the pro circuit in 2008 but won only four matches all season and was relegated.

Pagett returned this season after topping the Welsh rankings. He cites signing with Paul Mount’s OnQ stable at the start of the campaign as a significant step forward, particularly in helping him feel like a professional.

Even so, with only one century all season and no experience of playing in the final stages of a ranking tournament he is an unlikely qualifier.

No wonder, then, that Pagett has received plenty of support locally, with all and sundry wishing him well.

The pub his father frequents is opening specially at 10am to watch the first session of his match with Cope.

“Before I qualified I didn’t realise how big a deal it would be to get to the Crucible,” Pagett said.

“For the last month I’ve had loads of papers calling me for interviews and people asking for autographs.

“I had no idea it was like this. It has really hit home just how much interest there is in the World Championship.

“This is why you play the sport, to achieve success and get recognition. It comes after endless hours of practising and a lot of money spent. You keep hoping something will happen and now it has for me.”

It happened because of Pagett’s excellent run through the world qualifiers in Sheffield last month. He first beat Zhang Anda, a surprise qualifier last season, 10-6 and then Belgian Bjorn Haneveer 10-4.

But it was his 10-9 defeat of Nigel Bond in the last 64 which provided the evidence that he could handle himself under pressure. In the decider, Pagett needed two snookers on the brown, got them and won on the black. The following round saw him complete a 10-6 defeat of Andrew Higginson to qualify.

“It’s all about believing in yourself,” he said. “Beating Nigel like that proved to me that I can compete against experienced players and that I’m not just a number on the tour. I’m there by right.”

Pagett is rated a 300/1 shot for the title by the sponsors, Betfred. Such a victory would be fanciful but he doesn’t care and neither should he. The main thing is that after all the years in obscurity he is now going to be part of the unique drama that is the World Championship.

He has even selected a nickname – the Welsh Wizard – and accompanying walk-on music, ‘The Wizard’ by Black Sabbath.

For so long in Williams’s shadow, Pagett is about to have his own moment in the sun.

“I’ll just try and enjoy it and take all the positives from the experience,” he said.

“Even if I lose 10-0 I can always say I played at the Crucible.”



He may not be playing at the Crucible this year but no reminiscence about the World Championship is complete without mention of Steve Davis.

It is now 30 years since he won the world title for the first time, 30 years since his manager, Barry Hearn, barrelled across the Crucible stage and nearly knocked him over, 30 years since they cemented in the public mind a partnership that would conquer new ground for the game.

Davis first played at the Crucible in 1979. James Callaghan was still prime minister and Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

On that debut appearance, and perhaps unused to such long matches, Davis felt peckish and so had a ham sandwich delivered to the arena. These were more innocent times but he was still accused in the press of not giving the game enough respect.

Steve Davis not giving the game enough respect! Is there anyone, anywhere in the world with a deeper love for and fascination with snooker?

His other love was, of course, for winning, which he very quickly set about doing after his initial 13-11 defeat to Dennis Taylor.

In 1980, Davis beat the defending champion, Terry Griffiths, for the first of seven times at Sheffield before losing 13-9 to Alex Higgins.

By 1981 he was UK champion and an obvious world champion in the making. Davis was a shy man but part of a brash, ballsy group from Essex, led by Hearn, and the ‘Nugget’ seemed to relish being part of a team in what was, and remains, a peculiarly individual sport.

That year Davis beat Jimmy White, Higgins, Griffiths, Cliff Thorburn and, in the final, Doug Mountjoy to win his first world title.

This was a gruelling route to glory. It’s fashionable to look back at this era as being somehow low in standard. It wasn’t. These guys were hard match players still playing for a meagre living. They gave you nothing and you had to scrape them off the table.

Cloths were thicker and balls were heavier. Break building was tough and the game was full of arch tacticians.

Hearn, who had been introduced to Davis in one of his clubs in the 1970s, possessed an entrepreneurial spirit that could thrive in an era where television was putting snooker front and centre. The pair made serious money in endorsements, exhibitions and personal appearances.

But it all took its toll on Davis that first year. Exhausted, he fell 10-1 to Tony Knowles in the first round in 1982.

The titles kept coming, though. He was by now clearly the best player in the game and in 1983 swept through the field – a 13-11 defeat of Taylor in the second round his only close match – beating Thorburn 18-6 in the final with a session to spare.

In 1984 he lost a 12-4 lead over White but still beat him 18-16 in the final. Davis went into the 1985 championship as a racing certainty to land a fourth world title.

But we all know what happened in the final. And his defeat to Taylor opened up a crack in his confidence that clearly played a role the following year when Joe Johnson beat him 18-12.

Even in 1987 it was close, Johnson recovering from 14-10 down to just 14-13 before Davis won 18-14.

And in 1988 he led Griffiths 5-2 but, after being hauled back to 8-8, was fearful of another turnaround. On the morning of the last day, Davis went for an early morning walk around Sheffield to clear his head. He won 18-11.

In 1989 he blew away John Parrott 18-3, the heaviest defeat inflicted on any player at the Crucible, and stood on top of the snooker world, its imperious, all conquering top dog.

But, inside, Davis was not happy with his game and he was also aware that Stephen Hendry was biting at his heels.

As one decade ended and another began, so a new snooker era would dawn, dominated first by Hendry and then by three outstanding talents: John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Snooker had changed. The boom Davis led had created a string of talented young players, all of whom looked instinctively to attack. Standards rose and many of the old guard were simply left behind.

Back in 1981, there were 13 centuries recorded at the Crucible. Last year there were 61 – itself 22 fewer than the record.

When the 1990s began Davis was still better than almost everyone but Hendry overtook him in the rankings, White beat him in the 90 semis, John Parrott in the last four in 91 and, the following year, he was humbled in the first round by Peter Ebdon.

Even so, he was still winning titles and went into the 1994 championship knowing that if he went further than Hendry he would return to no.1 spot in the official world rankings.

They met in the semis – what a shame they never contested a Crucible final – and Davis led 9-8 before Hendry pulled away to beat him 16-9.

Davis managed one more quarter-final appearance until he was relegated from the top 16 in 2000. For two years he failed to qualify but returned in 2003.

I remember him sitting in the pressroom in Malta a couple of months before the 2005 championship, the last to be sponsored by Embassy.

He said he didn’t really practise much but that he would be putting the hours in for the World Championship, out of deference to the departing Imperial Tobacco.

Davis duly reached the quarter-finals at the age of 47, an admirable feat in its own right but what followed last year topped it ten fold.

It wasn’t just that he beat John Higgins, it was the way he did it, playing some of the frighteningly hard snooker he employed to put so many opponents to the sword in the 1980s.

The reception he got afterwards was proof of the esteem in which he is now held as the game’s elder statesman.

It all ended against Neil Robertson and it is a great irony that the changes Davis and Hearn have introduced have hastened his decline.

The PTCs are for younger, hungrier players. Davis is sliding down the rankings and, though I suspect he will carry on, it’s hard to see his career continuing for too much longer.

Yet to update a famous Davis quote, it's all there in colour: his triumphs and his glories, the titles and the trophies. As long as people talk about snooker, they will talk about him.

At 53, it seems likely that Steve Davis has walked off the Crucible stage for the last time.

But hasn’t he left us with some wonderful memories?



It seems to me Ronnie O’Sullivan is like Macbeth. Don’t worry, I’m going to explain what I mean.

Historically, Macbeth was by far Shakespeare’s most popular play. If a theatre was running it then it was a sure sign that they were in financial trouble and desperate for an audience, hence it became regarded as unlucky to even mention its name.

Similarly, journalists hard pressed to get any sort of snooker stories in the newspapers know that they can rely on O’Sullivan’s name and profile for some column inches.

At this week’s launch of the Betfred.com World Championship he was not present. He was going to be invited but such has been his de-motivated demeanour this season that it was felt to be a bad idea.

But this didn’t stop most of the stories being about him. Regardless of his on and off table problems he remains box office, even though most of us have heard it all a million times over. I don’t blame the hacks for this. It was very likely O’Sullivan or nothing for many papers.

Ronnie’s Crucible record is a little like his career in general: the good, the bad and the ugly.

He qualified in his very first season and has not missed a year since. The first real headlines he created at the Crucible were for all the wrong reasons when he assaulted a tournament official in 1996.

He should have been thrown out of the tournament but was allowed to play, beat John Higgins in a 13-12 thriller and lost in the semi-finals to Peter Ebdon.

A year later he looked a new man: slimmed down, full of confidence, he compiled his remarkable 147 break in just five minutes, 20 seconds.

This remains an exhibition of sheer genius. Technically, it was superb and the speed at which it was constructed was testament to O’Sullivan’s instinctive brilliance for the game that no other player has matched.

But he didn’t win the title and indeed saw his contemporaries Higgins and Mark Williams get their hands on the famous old silver trophy before him.

It didn’t help that he found players playing world beating stuff against him: Higgins in the 1998 semis and Stephen Hendry at the same stage a year later. In 2000 he made five centuries in his first round match but still lost 10-9 to David Gray.

Before the 2001 final, in which O’Sullivan would play Higgins, there was a ‘parade of champions’ that – ludicrously – included Jimmy White. O’Sullivan watched his good pal, a six times runner-up, receive his ovation and resolved never to be in that position.

There was some great snooker played in that final. O’Sullivan stood up to everything Higgins threw at him and won 18-14. It was the fulfilment of a snooker destiny.

And then a year later it was more negative press, this time for his ill advised, ungracious verbal attack on Hendry shortly before their semi-final.

2003 saw O’Sullivan make a second Crucible maximum but still lose in the first round to Marco Fu.

By 2004 he was working with Ray Reardon, a master tactician but also someone with the utmost respect for the game of snooker. He instilled some discipline in O’Sullivan. It was noticeable just how much he practised ahead of that year’s championship. At all the tournaments leading into it he seemed to be working on stuff with Reardon and it paid off, he won a second world title.

Always, though, O’Sullivan was walking an uncomfortable tightrope. He loved snooker and yet he hated it. He was tormented by the fact that even playing well did not rid him of his other demons, which were, indeed still are, deep set.

This is why he has so often threatened to retire but never actually gone through with it: snooker is not the answer to his problems but neither is giving up snooker.

In 2005 he lost an infamous quarter-final to Peter Ebdon, whose go-slow tactics precipitated a full scale breakdown in the arena.

A year later he suffered another against Graeme Dott, who resolutely refused to be put off by some bizarre behaviour, including a fixation with tips and some curious mugging to one of the TV cameras.

A third 147 in 2008 led in to a third world title, although he still put a downer on it afterwards by – yet again – raising the prospect of packing in.

Last year he was out-foxed by Mark Selby. This year...who knows?

Barry Hearn, understandably, has told the media that O’Sullivan is not much good to the sport if he’s not trying or can’t be bothered.

But it would be ignorant to assume that O’Sullivan wants to be in this position. I’m sure he’d rather be happy and playing well, but life isn’t like that at the moment and that doesn’t bode well for his 19th Crucible campaign.

Having observed O’Sullivan at close quarters at the Crucible I would say he has consistently been put under far greater pressure than the rest, purely because of his pulling power.

There was one year there where he made an off colour gesture caught on camera. He was wrong to do it but the press coverage suggested he had been guilty of some great crime and he was later accused of behaving badly when he simply hadn’t – leading him to walk out of a post match press conference before it had barely begun, genuinely upset.

It’s easy to say that this is part and parcel of being a sportsman, but there’s enough pressure at the Crucible as it is without having things written about you which aren’t true.

Yes, there have been times when he hasn’t helped himself but also times when he’s been misrepresented. No wonder he sometimes can’t wait to get home, away from the whole circus.

I’m not going to comment on Ronnie’s personal issues. They are private and for him to resolve.

But clearly his focus is not on tournament snooker. He has shown nothing this season to suggest he is going to win a fourth world title.

Will the Crucible inspire him? Many will hope so.

But, as ever, the spotlight will be on him, and now perhaps more than ever he’d rather it shone somewhere else.



It’s worth remembering that the prosperity professional snooker has enjoyed for the last 30 years was preceded by some hard times.

The World Championship stopped stone dead in 1957 through lack of interest and only achieved credibility again in 1969 when it became an open event.

In the 1970s, general public interest increased thanks to the emergence of Alex Higgins. The BBC gave fans a weekly snooker fix through Pot Black and in 1978 took the landmark decision to broadcast the World Championship in its entirety.

There was still not much of a living to be made and many players preferred to remain amateur but, in 1978, Terry Griffiths, a twice English amateur champion, was accepted into the professional ranks at the age of 31 and the world of snooker would change forever.

Griffiths hailed from Llanelli in Wales and had worked as a bus conductor, insurance salesman and postman who was 25 before he started playing snooker at a serious competitive level.

His first match was in the UK Championship, where his 8-2 lead against Rex Williams was whittled away until it became a 9-8 defeat.

He headed to Sheffield the following spring hoping merely to get some sort of profile from playing in the sport’s main event.

“My ambitions were quite small,” Griffiths told Snooker Scene in 2009 when we commemorated the 30th anniversary of his Crucible triumph.

“I went to the Crucible because I would be receiving national television coverage that would offer me the opportunity to get exhibitions, because this was the only way I could earn money. There were only two tournaments to play in.

“I was drawn against Perrie Mans in the first round, which was great because he had been runner-up the previous year.

“Then the technicians threatened to strike. I had a panic attack because I thought if I lost to Perrie I wouldn’t get any TV exposure and therefore wouldn’t get any work.”

However, Griffiths did not lose to Mans, he beat him 13-8, which meant a quarter-final against one of the title favourites, Alex Higgins.

The match was a classic. Higgins led 6-2 but Griffiths recovered to 8-8 going into the final session.

At 12-12, he made a 107 break for victory and a place in the semi-finals. As a result, the notion that a first time professional could win the title got a little less unlikely.

“I thought if I could beat Alex over a long distance, which was all new to me, then I had a chance of winning the title, but no more than a chance,” Griffiths said.

“If you’re in the semi-finals you have to think you have a chance but not in my wildest dreams did I expect to win the tournament at any stage until the last day.”

To get to the last day, Griffiths had to first make it past the dogged Australian, Eddie Charlton. Their semi-final was a marathon that ground on until 1.40am.

Griffiths had led 10-4 but, exhaustion beginning to set in, lost six successive frames and trailed 11-13 and 16-17 before a break of 97 in frame 36 secured his 19-17 victory.

It was in the arena afterwards that, asked how it felt by the BBC presenter, David Vine, Griffiths uttered the immortal words, “I’m in the final now, you know.”

His genuine humility and obvious working class credentials saw the public warm to him for the final against Dennis Taylor.

He was aware, though, that tiredness may still count against him in the three day, seven session, best of 47 frames final.

“I had a spell against Eddie in the semis and against Dennis in the final where I couldn’t really stand up. I was so tired. Luckily enough I had leads when those tired spells came along,” Griffiths said.

“I’d never played that much snooker at the practice table, let alone under match conditions with all the pressure and the television lights.

“For the Charlton match we went straight through from the afternoon to evening session without any real break and I lost a string of frames but somehow managed to win the match.

“I was ahead of Dennis and he was under pressure because I was the outsider. Nobody knew me.

“But I had a tired spell and hit a brick wall. He levelled up at 15-15 and the next day I got up and thought I could win the tournament. That was the first time I’d thought about it.

“I thought, this is it, I’m either going to be champion or runner-up, and I didn’t want to be runner-up. I just had a feeling I would win and went out and played exceptionally well on the last day.

“I ended up losing a stone in weight. It seems like a short tournament now but it really was a long championship.”

And then his life changed. From the struggling newcomer he instantly gained national fame as the snooker boom began to take hold.

“Winning the World Championship set me on the road. It also turned me into a nervous wreck,” he said.

“My ambition had been to get exhibition work through appearing in the championship but it sort of backfired in a way because I hardly had a day off for a year, or so it seemed.

“My diary filled very quickly. The game was booming at that time. It had had more hours than ever before on national television and I was always going up to London to do TV and various things.

“Clubs were after me for shows as well. It was all very strange to me, from humble beginnings to all of that.”

His life changed but so too did the snooker circuit. Interest from broadcasters and sponsors meant more tournaments and an intake of players determined to emulate Griffiths’s success.

“In those days, if Ray Reardon, Alex Higgins or John Spencer didn’t win the World Championship there was a steward’s enquiry,” he said.

“Me coming along did open the doors in other people’s minds. A lot of those who turned professional after that had competed against me in the amateur game and it would have inspired them to have a go at it.

“They may not have done otherwise because in those days there was very little chance of earning a living.

“But when we drifted into the 1980s the game blossomed. There were more tournaments, more opportunities and an actual living to go with your skill. Whereas before then if you didn’t get an invitation to Pot Black you couldn’t really make enough money.”

Griffiths was one of snooker’s leading lights throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. He lost seven times at the Crucible in seven meetings with Steve Davis, who beat him 18-11 in the 1988 final.

Griffiths won the 1980 Masters at Wembley, the 1982 UK Championship, three successive Irish Masters from 1980 and attained a highest ranking of third.

His Crucible victory persuaded other talented amateurs, including Joe Johnson and Kirk Stevens, to turn professional. It proved the old order could be beaten and ushered in a new era for the game.

Griffiths is now a much respected coach. He retired in 1997 after losing 10-9 to Mark Williams.

But does he miss playing?

“There are odd times when I turn the clock back,” he said. “However, I only think that based on what I know now, what I’ve learned as a coach. I would have loved to have put that into my game when I was at my peak.

“That’s never going to happen but there’s nothing wrong in dreaming.”



Let’s make one thing clear about the Crucible ‘curse’ afflicting first time champions: there is no curse.

Are we to believe some wizened old crone, blessed in the dark arts, decided back in 1977 to cast a spell on snooker players looking to defend the world title for the first time?

Frankly, winning any tournament two years running is difficult. John Higgins successfully defended the Welsh Open title this season. Prior to that it had been six years since anyone had done similar.

Only Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry have ever defended the world title at the Crucible.

Winning the thing once is hard enough, let alone winning it twice, let alone winning it two years running.

But it is true that first time champions go into their title defence under pressure. Becoming world champion means a huge hike in profile and thus demands on a player’s time.

Personal appearances, exhibitions, media work...they all take their toll and it’s hard to say no when ready cash is being thrown your way.

So it was that Davis was signing copies of his book in a Sheffield newsagent’s just a few hours before playing Tony Knowles in the first session of their opening round match in 1982.

Davis was shattered from an intensive – though highly lucrative – year of promotional work, lost the session 8-1 and the match 10-1. Take nothing away from Knowles but Davis had nothing left.

It’s a familiar tale: Dennis Taylor fell at the first hurdle in 1985, as did Graeme Dott in 2007.

Even Hendry couldn’t buck the trend, losing out 13-11 to Steve James in the 1991 quarter-finals.

Joe Johnson came the closest of any first time champion to completing a successful defence. After a dodgy start, he reached the final in 1987 and lost out only 18-14 to Davis.

Ken Doherty lost 18-12 to John Higgins in 1998, the only other first time winner to appear in the final the following year.

Neil Robertson faces Judd Trump on day one this year. This is surely the best opening match there has ever been at the Crucible.

Davis once summed up the pressure on the defending champion in typically sagely fashion: “The first shock hasn’t happened yet and it could be you.”

In a strange way, the fact Robertson is playing Trump, who has just won the China Open, may ease the pressure on him.

If he were to lose it would not be a huge shock, unlike, for instance, if he were playing some journeyman well down the rankings.

If he loses he could always blame it on the ‘curse.’

Well, if it really is a curse then it’s a good curse to have. It means you’ve done what most players could only dream of: you’ve won the World Championship.



Stephen Hendry’s first round match against Joe Perry at this year’s Betfred.com World Championship will be his 86th at the Crucible, a record.

The stark facts are that it could also be his last.

Hendry needs a strong performance in Sheffield to keep his top 16 place. If he did drop out of the elite bracket he could of course regain it, but that’s if he has any appetite for playing in the qualifiers.

It wasn’t always like this. For a decade the Scot bestrode the world stage like the colossus he was.

You can teach technique and, to an extent, mental attitude but champions like Hendry are born and not made. There was some stubborn instinct inside him that made him determined to be the very best from a young age. Steve Davis was the same but I’m not sure anyone in the game has had it since.

By 1996 he was a six times winner of the World Championship and there were no obvious cracks appearing in his game. He won the UK Championship at the end of that year and was again a big favourite heading to Sheffield.

Hendry duly reached the final and there was no reason to suppose his era of dominance would come to an end. They always do, though, as John Major and the Tories found out a couple of days before Hendry and Ken Doherty contested the final.

Doherty was a fine player but also an intelligent one. He knew that if he played Hendry at his own game there would only be one winner and so did his best to keep him out, tie him up and generally stop him scoring.

And it worked. Hendry made five centuries and actually outpointed Doherty but lost the close frames and was beaten 18-12.

The question everyone wanted answered was whether this was a temporary blip or the signal that Hendry’s imperious reign at the top of the game was over. There were, after all, younger, hungry players of exceptional quality – John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan chief among them – who were winning titles.

The 1997/98 season was not Hendry’s best. Whispers began to grow in volume on the circuit that there may be problems, that he wasn’t the player he once was. They intensified at the Crucible when his old rival Jimmy White hammered him 10-4 in the first round.

I got the impression at that tournament that Hendry knew there was something wrong with his game but could not figure out what it was. I remember he and coach Frank Callan were relaxing in the pressroom between sessions of the White match, when Hendry trailed 8-1.

Frank turned to him and said, “the worst thing that can happen is that you can lose.” He meant it in a philosophical, worst-things-happen-at-sea kind of way but Hendry did lose, 10-4, and his manner afterwards suggested that this was indeed the worst thing that could happen to anyone.

The 1998/99 campaign began in a fashion that suggested not much had changed. Hendry’s 9-0 defeat by Marcus Campbell at the UK Championship made him face facts: something was wrong and had to be put right.

Through sheer hard work and strength of character he did put it right and would end the decade as a seven times world champion.

What was significant about his magnificent seventh is that nobody can say – at least with any credulity – that the draw opened up for him. His road to victory was possibly the toughest any champion has had to endure.

In the first round Hendry faced Paul Hunter, who had already won the Welsh Open and was very much a top player in the making.

Hendry didn’t score as heavily as usual and trailed 8-7 but managed to just raise his game enough to win 10-8.

Next up was James Wattana, not quite the player he was but still tough to beat. The Thai made two centuries and trailed just 9-7 going into the final session but did not win another frame.

The quarter-finals saw Hendry tackle Matthew Stevens, like Hunter a fast rising star who had already reached that season’s UK Championship final. Like Hunter and so many other younger players, Stevens had clearly modelled his game on Hendry’s. The challenge for the multi-world champion was to stay ahead of the pack, a little like running in front of a fast moving train.

But he did it. Hendry played a fine first session, winning it 6-2, and would secure a 13-5 victory.

And then in the semi-finals it was O’Sullivan, the flamboyant, precocious talent who was fast becoming a favourite with crowds in the wake of White’s decline.

Hendry led 6-2 but did not pot a ball in the next three frames and led only 9-7 going into Saturday.

The third session may well be the finest the Crucible has ever seen. Five centuries – three from Hendry, two from O’Sullivan, including a 134 to the pink – led Clive Everton to describe it as ‘snooker from the Gods.’

At 12-12 going into the final session Hendry needed one big effort. On a subconscious level he must have known that, with the younger talent around him, the chances to keep winning world titles were running out. That big effort was made. Hendry won five of the six remaining frames and reached the final with a 17-13 victory.

It didn’t get any easier. Mark Williams awaited, but Hendry took early control, winning the first four frames, led 10-6 after day one and won 18-11.

It was now beyond dispute: in the modern era he was the greatest. I interviewed him at the start of the following season and he said, “if I never win another title now it won’t matter.”

Of course, that very quickly went out of the window. Winning to Hendry was everything. Not dwelling on winning was one of the keys to his success.

Dwelling on losing may force him to think better of the whole thing and hang up his cue. I hope not because the standards Stephen Hendry set at the Crucible are still the ones everybody else in the game is aspiring to.