From the sublime to the ridiculous: The opening weekend of the Snooker World Championship
Gary Wilson produced an outstanding final frame finale (photo: Getty Images)

From the sublime to the ridiculous: The opening weekend of the Snooker World Championship

The first eight players have secured their places in the last 16.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

Snooker is well renowned for being one of the most unpredictable sports around and the World Championship is often a hotbed of surprise results, particularly in the opening set of matches.

However, only one of the first eight players to progress to the second round came through qualification - although a couple of players ran their top sixteen counterparts much closer than others...

History created

That solitary surprise result came through Gary Wilson who had previously only reached the Crucible once, losing in his maiden contest two years ago.

His match with Luca Brecel was tight throughout the entire two sessions but the Belgian seemed to have all the momentum going into the final frame decider after recovering from 9-7 behind.

Brecel held the lead on the balls for much of the thrilling 19th frame after a re-rack but Wilson's mental strength was quite incredible to witness. With clusters all around the table, Wilson showed expert safety skills to continuously get himself out of trouble. Gradually, the world number 32 chipped away at Brecel and eventually forced the vital error.

Yet the remaining balls were far from easy to clear up, underpinned by an incredible double on the final red that also nudged the brown into play. It was a deciding frame that lasted over 79 minutes, the longest in Crucible history.

Maguire and Selby survive scares

On the parallel table, another cracking crescendo was unfolding. Stephen Maguire, playing in his 16th consecutive World Championship, appeared to be on the verge of defeat to Tian Pengfei, 8-5 and then 9-7 behind.

Maguire knows how to get across the line with five ranking titles to his name, albeit four of them were over a decade ago. Yet with six defeats in his last eight Crucible matches, there must have been a fear of a sixth first round defeat in his last seven.

But a narrow 17th frame victory, by as little as three points after a flukey final blue, was followed by breaks of 75 and 51 as the Scotsman edged his way into the last 16.

Elsewhere, former world number one and world champion Mark Selby also had to call upon his experience to survive a scare against another Chinese hopeful, Zhao Xintong.

Selby, who has only reached one tournament final all season, found himself 5-1 down before finally taking the lead in the contest during frame 13. From there, he accelerated away to win 10-7 but will know he has to improve when he meets Wilson in the next round.

Murphy and Robertson impress

Yet at the other end of the spectrum there were some astonishing margins of victory not often seen at the Crucible. Shaun Murphy has not gone past the second round since reaching the final in 2015 but an opening frame break of 138, the highest of the tournament thus far, put Chinese youngster Luo Honghao, the lowest ranked player in the competition, to the sword.

Murphy blitzed around the table with an average shot time of 20 seconds, securing only the second whitewash in Crucible history - the last one taking place 27 years ago. Whilst Murphy made four centuries, Luo failed to pot in five frames, returning the fewest amount of points scored in a Crucible match at just 89.

However, that record was also under threat with Neil Robertson cruising his way past Michael Georgiou. By frame nine, the Cypriot found himself 8-0 down with only 73 points to his name. The 2017-18 Shoot-Out champion did manage to avoid a whitewash in frame eleven but eventually succumbed to a huge 10-1 defeat.

Robertson faces Murphy in the next round.

Crucible regulars safely through

Elsewhere, reigning champion Mark Williams edged himself across the line after defeating Martin Gould 10-7, albeit dropping his advantage from 9-4 to 9-7 towards the end of the contest.

Fellow Crucible legend John Higgins, the losing finalist last year, eased past Mark Davis by the same scoreline, producing two breaks over 130 in the process.

Ding Junhui, without a tournament win all season, is looking to restore some form and also produced three centuries on his way to defeating Anthony McGill in another 10-7 result.

Now onto the rest of the week where world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan finds himself 5-4 down to amateur James Cahill...

 

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