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Decidedly Dramatic Opening in Sheffield

The first three days of the World Championship have come and gone amid a host of dramatic contests at the Crucible.

The standard of play hasn’t always been at the highest but the start of the 2014 edition in Sheffield must go down as one of the best ever.

There have been four thrilling deciding frame climaxes, two of which knocking out top seeds.

Scot Stephen Maguire was dumped at the opening hurdle for the second year in succession but his 10-9 defeat to Ryan Day didn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise.

Ding Junhui’s last frame defeat to Michael Wasley last night, though, provided the tournament with one of its biggest shocks in recent years.

The Chinese, of course, entered the championship having won five ranking event titles this season but has never boasted a good record in this tournament.

The result meant that it is the sixth time in eight appearances that Ding has failed to get beyond the second round – and his third first round loss.

The answers to why this has been a case remain on a postcard.

Ding has resided in Sheffield for many seasons now so the argument of being homesick is defunct.

The 26 year-old has been brandished with a whole pile of pressure from the media and fans alike following his record-equaling event tally this campaign but Ding has in general coped so well with the expectation people have put on him in 2013/14.

Ding didn’t play awfully against Wasley but was unable to build on the 6-3 advantage he established after the first session as his proper form deserted him.

Wasley, meanwhile, was excellent and never looked to be affected by the nerves of what was undoubtedly the biggest occasion and most impressive victory of his life.

The Englishman will be dreaming of stars now and has the potential to go even further with the prospect of either Mark Davis or Dominic Dale to come in the last 16.

Should the 24 year-old add another victory to his immense run, which began in the first of four qualifying rounds at the Ponds Forge a fortnight ago, Wasley’s unpopularity in China following this score will become global as he would knock People’s Champion Jimmy White out of the top 64 in the world rankings, resulting in the ‘Whilwind’ losing his place on the Main Tour.

Comments on that can wait for if or when that eventuality actually materialises as for now Wasley will simply be reveling in his new-found stardom.

There was almost further casualties for the higher ranked competitors as world no.3 Mark Selby also joined world no.2 Ding on the sidelines.

Selby looked to be in complete control when he led Michael White 8-4.

But neither player ever looked that comfortable around the table which allowed the Welshman, quarter-finalist in 2013, in to make a comeback.

However, in the deciding frame it was all Selby and the ‘Jester from Leicester’ once again was able to prevail in a tight finish as has been so often the case during his career so far.

Looking at the draw, the bottom half remains the side that is riddled with danger left, right and centre.

Maguire has gone out but Day is every bit as dangerous as the five-time ranking event champion.

Four-time champion John Higgins is currently in a hefty battle with friend Alan McManus and the winner takes on Irishman Ken Doherty.

The top half of the draw looks markedly weaker with Ding’s name scratched off.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s run to the final has been made that bit easier now and Shaun Murphy, who came through the weekend’s other 10-9 encounter with Jamie Cope, appears to be the 38 year-old’s largest threat.

Can anyone stop the ‘Rocket’?

You can view the full draw by clicking here

2 responses to “Decidedly Dramatic Opening in Sheffield

  1. David, but still there should be reasons for Ding’s defeat! I do not remember the score at that moment, but there was an episode when he missed an easy ball because of the mobile call from the audience. There should be tiny hints to why this has happened. I did not see that his opponent played superb snooker. On the contrary he made mistakes, as well as Ding did, but in other circumstances I am sure that Ding would have punished his opponent. Was Ding sure of winning a match at 6:3?

    • It’s a mixture of different elements – poor Crucible record, expectation after a good season, the coolness of Wasley under his own pressure in his debut at the venue. Ding will be disappointed he wasn’t more ruthless but I doubt that he was over-confident.

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