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Talking the Talk

Three days have now passed in the 2013 World Championship and, as always, there have already been many talking points.

Three world champions have gone by the wayside in the last couple of days with John Higgins, Mark Williams and Peter Ebdon all suffering early 10-6 defeats.

While all three could be considered upsets of sorts in their own right, all three losses shouldn’t really come as a major shock to anyone.

Ebdon, in particular, has been a very poor player since he reached the final of the Australian Open last summer while multiple champions Higgins and Williams have endured patchy seasons to say the least.

Higgins may have produced a stunning comeback to edge Judd Trump 10-9 in a thrilling Shanghai Masters final in September but his form has dipped dramatically since then while Wales’ Williams could only manage a solitary last four berth all campaign – resulting in a significant plummet down the rankings list.

Their opponents, meanwhile, thoroughly deserved their respective triumphs.

Much has already been written about 21 year-old Michael White following his victory over countryman Williams.

While pretty much all of it has been praise, there has been a tendency already to let opinion and excitement get a little out of hand.

White has been tipped by pundits, here included, for years now to make the step up into the higher echelons of the sport but a victory over a lackluster Mark J. Williams does not immediately mean that he has made it.

Caution should be demonstrated because people should remember another Welshman who embarked on a fabulous run to the last eight in 2012 in Jamie Jones. What happened to his fortunes?

That said, it was a fantastic and assured victory for the Neath native, who is known for attacking prowess and speed around the table – which should endear him to the viewing public.

The same could not be said of Ebdon, who slogged and plodded his way through a grueling encounter with Graeme Dott.

It was a repeat of the 2006 World Championship final between the pair and, if that match was turgid, who knows what word one would use to describe their latest battle.

At one stage, Scotsman Dott looked like he might implode after surrendering a four frame lead at 6-6 but managed to regain his composure to eventually prevail with a ton at the end.

In truth, the spectacle was an entertaining affair even though there wasn’t much high quality snooker in evidence.

The contrast in temperaments was there for all to see and the clash of styles proved why snooker is also about the mind, rather than simply just being able to pot balls.

Mark Davis was John Higgins’ nemesis for a second time at a major this season, capitalizing on the four-time champion’s lack of fluency in among the balls.

The Englishman needed a decider to pip the Wizard of Wishaw in the UK Championship at York but fared much better at the Crucible with a confident 10-6 win.

Davis, along with the likes of Stuart Bingham and Barry Hawkins, has been a player who has benefited strongly from the Barry Hearn era despite now being in his 40s.

Australian Open champion Hawkins took no notice of the playboy image of Jack Lisowski to hammer the youngster 10-3 while Bingham, with Higgins out, could live up to the dark horse hype some people are labeling him with as the draw, theoretically anyway, begins to open up in his favour.

The biggest shock so far, though, is undoubtedly Mark Allen’s 10-8 loss to Mark King on Monday evening.

It is the second successive year that the Northern Irishman has been dumped out in the opening round but nobody can take anything away from his veteran opponent.

King was making his 14th appearance in Sheffield and the vast experience was telling as the Londoner appeared right at home despite only recording a handful of victories at the venue in that period.

27 year-old Allen, the World Open champion and one of the pre-tournament favourites, appeared set to withstand the stern challenge when he opened up an 8-6 advantage but breaks of 74, 89 and 81 helped King on his way to a memorable triumph.

Of the other completed scorelines from the first few days, everybody who breathes knows that Ronnie O’Sullivan’s return was a successful one while Shaun Murphy and Ricky Walden are also into the last 16.

But who knows, there could be more strange results on the cards with last year’s finalist Ali Carter only 5-4 up on Ben Woollaston and Stephen Maguire surprisingly trailing Thai debutant Dechawat Poomjaeng 5-3 overnight.

Both of those matches conclude on Tuesday while today also sees three of the major favourites for the title enter the fray.

Ding Junhui will be hoping to take advantage of Allen’s exit as he prepares to take on the resurgent Alan McManus, while world no.1 Mark Selby and International Championship victor Judd Trump take on Matt Selt and Dominic Dale respectively.

Elsewhere, the intriguing tie between two of this season’s runners-up in ranking events takes place between Matthew Stevens and Marco Fu.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.