World Championship 2006

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Steady Drizzler immerses Rocket, Nugget and Parrott

Simon Hattenstone
Wednesday May 3, 2006
The Guardian

As I may have mentioned before, I am in love with Ronnie O'Sullivan. As is my mother. And father. Even my lady friend, who would rather spend an evening reading Mein Kampf than watch a frame of snooker, has a soft spot for him. And how does he thank us? He only gets himself in a tangle with his tips and gets stuffed in the semis of what we in the know call the "worlds".

Everybody's depressed. You only need glance at Hazel Irvine and Steve "The Nugget" Davis and John Parrott, who never quite did enough to earn himself a nickname, to know they're feeling blue. There they are, supposedly tempting us to sacrifice our May Day Monday to the glories of the baize, and what do they tell us? Only that the first day has been the worst start to a final ever; that Peter "Ever So Slow" Ebdon is now officially petrified; that Graeme "The Drizzler" Dott is walking it despite playing rubbish.
The trouble with snooker is that there's only one interesting player - Ronnie. I'm not saying that just because I ghosted his autobiography (though it is a significant factor). It's because he breaks down on screen, he plays with unequalled elegance, his family have considerable form and you never know what he's going to do next with his hair. Or his tip. When the Beeb saw the way things were working out in the semi, they should have done the honourable thing and bunged The Drizzler a few grand to lose. If only for the sake of viewing figures.

Dull players are not the only problem with snooker. It might be easy on the eye, but it is a monumentally boring game that goes on for ever. Take me and Maltesers. I'm brilliant at catching them in my mouth from a great height, but I would never consider turning it into a 17-day TV marathon, even though it has the basic attributes of a spectator sport: balls dropping in holes, or not.

So I promise myself, for the sake of my sanity, and out of loyalty to The Rocket, that I will not watch the final. But, of course, I do. The Drizzler is beating Ever So Slow 15-7. As anticipated, it's turned into one of the great snooker drearathons. The BBC shows us a montage of caricaturists drawing snooker players, the wicketkeeping legend Jack Russell painting the Crucible and a makeover for Parrott, desperately trying to buy our interest. Zzzzzzzzzz.

Then something strange happens. Something particular to snooker, and rather magical. Ever So wins frame after frame after frame, and is suddenly within two of The Drizzler. Even though I don't care for either of them, I have stomach cramps. At times they play dreadfully and it's mesmerising, just as good as Ronnie stroking his way to another maximum. At times, there are mini spurts of brilliance.

Ever So has turned into a heroic battler while The Drizzler provides the ultimate portrait of the snooker player cracking up. His hair is receding by the minute, his acne proliferating by the second. He shuts his eyes to blank out his despair. And before we know it, it's gone midnight, we are into our 18th day, this is the longest Crucible final ever, and it's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? all over again. Only more epic.

One frame lasts an hour and 14 minutes (Ronnie has managed a maximum in five minutes), and I can't turn away. "It doesn't matter what time it finishes, this is war to the death," says The Nugget. John Dott, The Drizzler's dad, turns away from the action.
Then the comeback. A magnificent clearance of 68 when he's dead and buried. The Drizzler raises his cue and screams "COME ON!" like Eddie Cochran on helium. Hazel and The Nugget use words like "resilient" and "dogged" and call him "the little man with the big heart". Our own Clive Everton, who has seen every final for the past two millennia, has come over all biblical "Dott has gone through the valley of doubt and come out the other side."

At 1am The Drizzler screams one last time. It's not quite Dennis Taylor v The Nugget or Stephen Hendry v Jimmy White, but it's enough to give you heart trouble. The Drizzler has his first trophy after 12 years as a professional, and it's only the world!
"2006 is the year Dott," says Hazel. The Nuggett is loving it. "Old school snooker," he says, "not big break after big break, but engrossing for it."

The Drizzler lifts his trophy. "I thought it was slipping away. I was absolutely gone," he squeaks, like a man who just hitched a lift with a horseman of the apocalypse. And all the time he's gulping in air, just to make sure he still knows how to. Wonderful. Ronnie, for a few hours I forgot to miss you.

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Crucible highs and lows

By Saj Chowdhury
BBC Sport in Sheffield

It's been a rollercoaster ride of drama and emotion at this year's World Snooker Championship.
So we asked celebrities, fans and our users to pick out their highs, lows and their most memorable moments from the last two weeks at The Crucible.

Dennis Taylor, BBC commentator, at The Crucible:
High: Marco Fu's comeback was incredible and a great high point. We could have had Fu as the first overseas world champion since Cliff Thorburn.

Low: The tip fiasco involving O'Sullivan. Ronnie should have been focusing on trying to break Stephen Hendry's record of seven titles, instead of letting something like a tip problem get in the way. I think it was all psychological.

Memorable moment: When Marco kept potting the blue and coming off the top cushion on his way to a 50 break, I said to Terry Griffiths in the commentary box, "You should bring out a video called 'How To Clear-Up With Nothing On'."

Obviously, I didn't mean playing snooker with no clothes on, but neither one of us could keep a straight face after that.

Simon Hickman, from Dudley, at The Crucible:
High: For me it was watching Nigel Bond beat Stephen Hendry on a re-spotted black. It was very exciting and unexpected because I expected Hendry to beat him easily.

Low: It was disappointing to see Ronnie O'Sullivan go out without putting up much of a fight. I think he should have tried harder to win. On some occasions he conceded when he needed just one snooker.

Memorable moment: It was seeing Peter Ebdon crying. I've never witnessed that before. It seemed a bit weird but also nice to see because it meant so much to him.

Q-double-T-P from the 606 messageboards:
High: Bond beating Hendry on the re-spotted black.

Low: When Ebdon started giving away frame after frame against Fu, I felt as if I was more lost than he was. I'm not what you would call an emotional fan, but I fill with anxiety during the matches featuring the teams or players I support.

Memorable moment: The relief I felt when Ebdon crossed the finish line against Fu. I stopped watching for a couple of minutes. I didn't even see Ebdon cry.

Alex Ananstasiou, aged 14, Derby, at The Crucible:
High: Watching Ryan Day chip the ball over the pink made me laugh. And O'Sullivan's 140 was pretty special too.

Low: Ebdon reaching the final. He's too slow. I want to enjoy someone pot balls, not watch someone take half an hour to make a break.

Memorable moment: Watching John Parrott miss an easy pink off the spot. I played John in Derby and I scored 34 against him. He also made a 146 against my mate last November.

Sonny Varma, from Nottingham, at The Crucible:
High: Ebdon getting through to the final because I'm a big fan of his and he's a nice guy. I don't care that he upset a few people with his tactical play in the first session against Fu.

Low: Ronnie not getting through to the final. I was hoping for an Ebdon v O'Sullivan final. It would have been nice to see Ronnie making centuries and giving Peter a good match. Of course, Peter would have won 18-17.

Memorable moment: For me, it was when Shaun Murphy went out at the hands of Ebdon. The fact he was champion, and the fact it was Peter who beat him, made it very memorable.

Wildsnooker_loopy from the 606 messageboards:
High: Seeing Ebdon play his heart out during the match against Fu.

Low: Ronnie not performing at his best. It was also disappointing to see John Higgins and Hendry go out.

Memorable moment: Watching the surprised look of the young lad who was given a cue by O'Sullivan. It was also nice to see Ebdon clapping Murphy out of arena after beating him.

Former England cricketer Jack Russell painting The Crucible stage:
High: I got a real big kick painting the trophy in my picture. It's just like a little miniature in the bigger picture. I just wanted to get it right, so I was chuffed with the outcome.

Low: It was a shame to see Jimmy go out. I would have loved to have seen him go a long way. He also could have been in the picture I'm painting.

Memorable moment: To watch Ronnie go from one extreme to another. At one stage he was playing like the Rolls-Royce of snooker, then he became frustrated and annoyed. To watch him do that in a short space of time was interesting.

Schedule and results of matches

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Below is the format and times of play for the World Championship 2006 at the Crucible from April 15 to May 1 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006
10 - 10:00 - Graeme Dott x John Parrott (Peter Williamson - 9 frames) 7-2
1 - 10:00 - Shaun Murphy x James Wattana (Jan Verhaas - 9 frames) 6-3
13 - 14:30 - John Higgins x Mark Selby (Terry Camilleri - 9 frames) 3-6
2 - 14:30 - Steve Davis x Andy Hicks (Alan Chamberlain - 9 frames) 6-2
11 - 19:00 - Stephen Lee x Alistair Carter (Colin Humphries - 9 frames) 6-3
1 – 19:00 – Shaun Murphy x James Wattana (Jan Verhaas - 10 frames) 10-4

Sunday, April 16, 2006
6 - 10:00 - Ken Doherty x Barry Hawkins (Simon Smith - 9 frames) 8-1
10 – 10:00 – Graeme Dott x John Parrott (Pete Williamson - 10 frames) 10-3
8 - 14:30 - Stephen Maguire x Mark King (Terry Camilleri - 9 frames) 6-3
11 – 14:30 – Stephen Lee x Alistair Carter (Colin Humphries - 10 frames) 10-8
2 – 19:00 – Steve Davis x Andy Hicks (Alan Chamberlain - 10 frames) 10-4
13 – 19:00 – John Higgins x Mark Selby (Terry Camilleri - 10 frames) 4-10

Monday, April 17, 2006
12 - 10:00 - Paul Hunter x Neil Robertson (Alan Chamberlain - 9 frames) 2-7
6 – 10:00 – Ken Doherty x Barry Hawkins (Simon Smith - 10 frames) 10-1
14 - 14:30 - Mark Williams x Anthony Hamilton (Eirian Williams - 9 frames) 8-1
8 – 14:30 – Stephen Maguire x Mark King (Terry Camilleri - 10 frames) 10-6
5 - 19:00 - Matthew Stevens x Joe Swail (Johan Oomen - 9 frames) 6-3
12 – 19:00 – Paul Hunter x Neil Robertson (Alan Chamberlain - 10 frames) 5-10

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
7 - 10:00 - Alan McManus x Marco Fu (Pete Williamson - 9 frames) 3-4
14 – 10:00 – Mark Williams x Anthony Hamilton (Eirian Williams - 10 frames) 10-1
16 - 14:30 - Ronnie O’Sullivan x Dave Harold (Jan Verhaas - 9 frames) 7-2
5 – 14:30 – Matthew Stevens x Joe Swail (Johan Oomen - 10 frames) 10-5
9 - 19:00 - Stephen Hendry x Nigel Bond (Colin Humphries - 9 frames) 3-6
7 – 19:00 – Alan McManus x Marco Fu (Pete Williamson - 10 frames) 3-10

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
4 - 10:00 - Peter Ebdon x Michael Holt (Johan Oomen - 9 frames) 5-4
16 – 10:00 – Ronnie O’Sullivan x Dave Harold (Jan Verhaas - 10 frames) 10-4 :-)))
3 - 14:30 - Jimmy White x David Gray (Eirian Williams - 9 frames) 3-6
9 – 14:30 – Stephen Hendry x Nigel Bond (Colin Humphries - 10 frames) 9-10
15 - 19:00 - Joe Perry x Ryan Day (Simon Smith - 9 frames) 2-7
4 – 19:00 – Peter Ebdon x Michael Holt (Johan Oomen - 10 frames) 10-8

Thursday, April 20, 2006
3 – 14:00 – Jimmy White x David Gray (Johan Oomen - 10 frames) 5-10
22 – 14:00 – Stephen Lee x Neil Robertson (Pete Williamson - 8 frames) 2-6
17 – 19:00 - Shaun Murphy x Steve Davis (Alan Chamberlain - 8 frames) 6-2
15 – 19:00 – Joe Perry x Ryan Day (Simon Smith - 10 frames) 3-10

Friday, April 21, 2006
20 – 10:00 – Marco Fu x Stephen Maguire (Erian Williams - 8 frames) 6-2
22 – 10:00 – Stephen Lee x Neil Robertson (Pete Williamson - 8 frames) 6-10
17 – 14:30 – Shaun Murphy x Steve Davis (Alan Chamberlain - 8 frames) 11-5
23 – 14:30 – Mark Selby x Mark Williams (Jan Verhaas - 8 frames) 3-5
20 – 19:00 – Marco Fu x Stephen Maguire (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 12-4
22 – 19:00 – Stephen Lee x Neil Robertson (Pete Williamson - 9 frames) 9-13

Saturday, April 22, 2006
17 – 10:00 – Shaun Murphy x Steve Davis (Alan Chamberlain - 9 frames) 13-7
23 – 10:00 – Mark Selby x Mark Williams (Jan Verhaas - 8 frames) 5-11
20 – 14:30 – Marco Fu x Stephen Maguire (Eirian Williams - 9 frames) 13-4
21 – 14:30 – Nigel Bond x Graeme Dott (Terry Camilleri - 8 frames) 3-5
19 – 19:00 – Matthew Stevens x Ken Doherty (Johan Oomen - 8 frames) 4-4
23 – 19:00 – Mark Selby x Mark Williams (Jan Verhaas - 9 frames) 8-13

Sunday, April 23, 2006
18 – 14:00 – David Gray x Peter Ebdon (Jan Verhaas - 8 frames) 2-6
24 – 14:00 – Ryan Day x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 4-4
19 – 19:00 – Matthew Stevens x Ken Doherty (Johan Oomen - 8 frames) 8-8
21 – 19:00 – Nigel Bond x Graeme Dott (Terry Camilleri - 8 frames) 6-10

Monday, April 24, 2006
18 – 10:00 - David Gray x Peter Ebdon (Jan Verhaas - 8 frames) 2-13
24 – 10:00 - Ryan Day x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 9-7 :-((
19 – 14:30 - Matthew Stevens x Ken Doherty (Johan Oomen - 9 frames) 8-13
21 – 14:30 - Nigel Bond x Graeme Dott (Terry Camilleri - 9 frames) 9-13
18 – 19:00 - David Gray x Peter Ebdon (Jan Verhaas - 9 frames) finished in the morning session
24 – 19:00 - Ryan Day x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams - 9 frames) 10-13 :-))))

Tuesday, April 25, 2006
QF2 – 10:00 – Ken Doherty x Marco Fu (Terry Camilleri - 8 frames) 3-5
QF3 – 10:00 – Graeme Dott x Neil Robertson (Alan Chamberlain - 8 frames) 5-3
QF1 – 14:30 – Shaun Murphy x Peter Ebdon (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 1-7
QF4 – 14:30 – Mark Williams x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Jan Verhaas - 8 frames) 4-4
QF2 – 19:00 - Ken Doherty x Marco Fu (Terry Camilleri - 8 frames) 8-8
QF3 – 19:00 - Graeme Dott x Neil Robertson (Alan Chamberlain - 8 frames) 10-6

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
QF1 – 10:00 - Shaun Murphy x Peter Ebdon (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 6-10
QF3 – 10:00 - Graeme Dott x Neil Robertson (Alan Chamberlain - 9 frames) 13-12
QF2 – 14:30 - Ken Doherty x Marco Fu (Terry Camilleri - 9 frames) 10-13
QF4 – 14:30 - Mark Williams x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Jan Verhaas - 8 frames) 6-10
QF1 – 19:00 - Shaun Murphy x Peter Ebdon (Eirian Williams - 9 frames) 7-13
QF4 – 19:00 - Mark Williams x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Jan Verhaas - 9 frames) 11-13

Thursday, April 27, 2006
SF1 – 14:00 – Peter Ebdon x Marco Fu (Johan Oomen - 8 frames) 4-4
SF2 – 19:00 – Graeme Dott x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 3-5

Friday, April 28, 2006
SF1 – 10:00 - Peter Ebdon x Marco Fu (Johan Oomen - 8 frames) 9-7
SF2 – 14:30 - Graeme Dott x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 8-8
SF1 – 19:00 - Peter Ebdon x Marco Fu (Johan Oomen - 8 frames) 15-9

Saturday, April 29, 2006
SF2 – 10:00 - Graeme Dott x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams - 8 frames) 16-8 :-((
SF1 – 14:30 - Peter Ebdon x Marco Fu (Johan Oomen - 9 frames) 17-16
SF2 – 19:00 - Graeme Dott x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams - 9 frames) 17-11 :-(((

Sunday, April 30, 2006
Final – 15:00 – Jan Verhaas - 8 frames - Peter Ebdon x Graeme Dott - 2-4
Final – 20:00 – Jan Verhaas - 8 frames - Peter Ebdon x Graeme Dott - 5-11

Monday, May 1, 2006
Final – 15:00 – Jan Verhaas - 8 frames - Peter Ebdon x Graeme Dott - 7-15
Final – 19:00 – Jan Verhaas - 11 frames - Peter Ebdon x Graeme Dott - 14-18

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GOLDEN GRAEME WANTS TO BE A SERIAL WINNER

02 May 2006 02:40:00
Graeme Dott hopes that his landmark victory in the 888.com World Snooker Championship will be the spark for more success.

The Pocket Dynamo, pictured with wife Elaine, became the third Scot to lift the famous trophy at the Crucible after an marathon 18-14 victory over Peter Ebdon tonight.

"To win the World Championship as my first title is a dream come true," said the 28-year-old from Larkhall. "I hope I’ll get some recognition now and I hope this will be the first of many titles.

"Mentally and physically I was drained. It was like an endurance test," admitted Dott. "I just thought it was slipping away. Peter played fantastic snooker to come back like he did.

"Every player wants to win this title, so it’s a fantastic feeling. I thought everything was going great when I started the final session at 15-7, you can’t get much more of a lead.

"It’s unbelievably hard to stay positive. I knew I was playing too slowly and too negative, so I decided to change something.

"I made the best clearance of my life to go 17-14 ahead. That was the hardest match I’ve ever played."

Crucible runner-up two years ago, Dott battled for nearly 14 hours and was involved in the longest frame in Crucible history on the way to a long overdue triumph.

"It was so tough out there. Peter proved what a champion he is to come back like he did and I just kept twitching.

"I was sat in my chair and I didn’t think I could make 30. I washed my face, sped up my play, I was trying anything to give myself a chance.

"I didn’t fancy it if he came back at me because I was so tired. I tried everything to feel upbeat.

"Thankfully everything just clicked into place for those last two frames. I don’t know what I’ve done if I’d have lost, I would have been devastated. I’m just delighted to have won."

Rangers fan Dott now plans to parade his new piece of silverware in front of a packed house at Ibrox in the final game of the season.

"I’ll definitely take the trophy to Ibrox, that’s the first thing I’m going to do when I’m back," revealed a jubilant Dott.

"Rangers are playing Hearts on the last day of the season, so that would be perfect if I could parade the trophy."

Ebdon, who looked at one stage as though he was going to upset Dott with one of the best comebacks of all time, paid tribute to his conqueror and said: "I think he’ll be a great world champion. He deserves it.

"Graeme outplayed me over three sessions. He’s tough, resilient and dogged. He’s got all the qualities of a world champion.

"The clearance he made to 17-14 is what being a world champion is all about. If I’d have got back to 16-15 I would have fancied my chances, but I made too many mistakes.

"The first couple of sessions were really tough and he made it really scrappy. But he deserves to be world champion. At the end of the day I left myself a little bit too much to do.
"I still believed I could win and felt good out there, but I had an embarrassing day on Sunday and had a relentless run of the balls against me.

"In 2002 when I was world champion my safety was as good as any other part of my game.

"But I think we were both tired and although I put myself in with a good chance, Graeme deserved to win."

GRAEME DOTT 17 RONNIE O'SULLIVAN 11

29 Apr 2006 22:07:00
Post match press conference comments as Dott downs the Rocket...

Ronnie O’Sullivan quotes
Q The damage was done in the third session
A The way Graeme played tonight, if I could have found another gear I still fancied my chances. At 16-8 I thought it was all over but when he came out and started missing ball after ball then you never know. I know what’s it’s like when you start missing because I’ve been there myself. But the damage was done in the first three sessions, I was pretty awful the whole match and I deserved to lose. I wouldn’t expect to win with that performance.

Q You started knocking balls in for fun tonight
A You shouldn’t get too excited and say I was playing top quality snooker, anyone who knows anything about snooker knows that my cue ball control wasn’t the best. I must have had 3 or 4 chances in every frame. At this level you need to get in and make 70s and 80s and I wasn’t doing that. I needed to be winning frames in one visit to have a chance. He made me look good tonight but if he had played as he had done in the previous sessions I would have only won one frame tonight.

Q What did you pout your poor form down to?
A Missed to many balls, never got in, didn’t make enough breaks. My safety was bad and my long ball potting was awful. That’s not to take anything away from Graeme because he beat me comfortably. I just wasn’t good enough. I am human being and I can’t just switch it on when I need it most.

Q It was a nice gesture when you gave your cue away to someone in the crowd
A Well I need a new cue so I’m hoping John Parris has seen that. He’s got two pieces of wood which he reckons are good wood. I’ve been asking him for about two years so he’ll call me when he’s ready. But now I’ve got rid of that it’s saying ‘come on John get lively, I need a cue for the new season!’ It was something nice for the kid to have. I don’t know who he was, I just wanted to give it to a young lad. He’s come to the snooker to enjoy it so I thought it would be a nice gift.

Q How did the tip incident affect you?
A I had about seven tips on in the week before coming here and another eight while I’ve been here. Thankfully the one I put on tonight ok. The one I put on yesterday wasn’t right which was unfortunate. I was tough out there tonight. I really enjoyed the game, I really enjoyed the tournament. 888.com put on a great show. We love coming to Sheffield and I’ll be back again.

Q Did you think after beating Williams that this was your tournament?
A I’m experienced enough to know that you can only win one match at a time. I knew it would be hard and I wasn’t able to make any inroads. I’m sure it will be a great final between Peter and Graeme. I will be a tough battle and one that the viewers will really enjoy. I’ll be glued to it. They are both playing well. I came to this event feeling confident and I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to perform in this match. But it’s been a great experience, a great tournament. All of the players want to thanks 888.com and the Association has done a great job in getting them on board.

Graeme Dott quotes
Q: Was the third session was the back-breaker?
A: I would have just been delighted going into the final session at 12-12. That was really the game plan at the start because I just wanted to give myself a chance. So to win all eight frames was huge.

Q: Even with that massive lead, were you a bit worried he would comeback?
A: It's the last thing you want to see when you're 16-8 up. Marco Fu showed that in the other semi-final. I've never been in that position when I've been so far ahead. The last person you want to be cueing well and coming back is Ronnie. But I played pretty poor tonight. I didn't play many good shots at all.

Q: But were you confident you had a big enough lead?
A: Don't get me wrong, I knew it was coming [the win]. I was a bit shaky and not feeling great out there, but I was sure I would end up winning.

Q: A lot was said yesterday about the problems with Ronnie's tip, did that break at 7-7 break your concentration?
A: The only thing I was unhappy about was the way he did it. I've won a good frame to go 7-7 and I wanted to play. It certainly did break my momentum.

Q: Did that wind you up even more?
A: It did a little bit. I'm not going to be controversial, but the only thing I'll say is that he should have done it differently. He could have at least said to me that his tip had come off.

Q: Could you believe how badly he played this afternoon because he could barely string a break together?
A: I could to be honest. I thought he played like that in patches against Ryan Day and against Mark Williams. I think I put him under a lot of pressure. It was me playing really well. Every time I got in I played really well. My safety was better than his, so I could understand why he missed. I think he missed because I made him miss. I don't think it was entirely because he was all over the place. If I was 13-8 down to Ronnie I'd probably miss. It's pressure.

Q: You put him under pressure then?
A: I thought I put him under pressure and that's why he missed balls. I thought this morning I played really, really well. I played really solid match snooker.

Q: Do you think people should take you a bit more seriously because you're often overshadowed by the other top Scottish players?
A: I've been saying this for ages. It's literally impossible to fluke your way to a world final. It can't be done. Any player knows that. To get their once ok, but to get their twice you certainly have to be very good. It's a fantastic achievement and I know that. I really want to win it now.

Q: How important will the experience be of playing in the final two years ago be?
A: It's massive. Being there will help, it will help me. I'm certainly not going to get overrawed by the occasion.

Q: Does it annoy you don't get the credit you deserve?
A: It annoys me, but I've been getting it for ages.

Q: It should be a good final with Peter?
A: Peter's been playing great. It should be a good game. Peter is favourite because he's won tournaments before. He's won the world title, but I'm happy being the underdog.

DOTT SHOCKS ROCKET

29 Apr 2006 21:23:00
Graeme Dott completed a stunning victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan to set up a final clash with Peter Ebdon at the 888.com World Snooker Championship.
Pocket Dynamo Dott is just one win away from the trophy and a £200,000 winners’ cheque as he escaped a bout of nerves to sink world No 1 O’Sullivan at the Crucible tonight.

The 2004 runner-up fired his way to a 17-11 semi-final victory, but revealed he had been "shaky" after the Rocket hit back to win three frames on the spin.

O’Sullivan had two breaks of 60 and a 43 run to reduce his arrears, but Scot Dott was not to beaten and held his nerve to win a black ball decider in the 28th frame.

The Essex man had chances to pull another one back and force a mid-session interval, but when he over-cut a tough long black, his dreams of a third world title were over.
Dott had virtually won the match in the third session earlier today when, amazingly, he won all eight frames to go 16-8 up.

"I was a bit shaky at the end because I’ve never been in that position before, but I always fancied my chances of winning," revealed the Glaswegian.

"I put him under a lot of pressure earlier today and I thought I played really well, some solid match snooker. He missed because I made him miss.

"I knew I wouldn’t be scared to beat him and in the end I’ve won convincingly."

And Dott is optimistic about his chances of winning his first ranking event title. The Larkhall potter added: "I’m not going to get overawed by the occasion. I really want to win it now.

"I won’t be giving Peter an inch. He’s favourite to win it because he’s won tournaments, but I’m feeling really confident."

O’Sullivan, who handed his cue to a young lad in the crowd after the match, admitted he was not good enough to have beaten Dott.

He said: "I knew if I found another gear from somewhere, then I could come back, but at 16-8 I thought it was all over.

"The damage had been done by then. I needed to be winning frames in one visit tonight and I just didn’t do that. Graeme made me look good and he deserved to win.

"At the end of the day I just missed too many balls. I never scored and he beat me comfortably."

As for giving his cue away, he added: "I need a new cue so I decided to give it away to a young lad in the crowd. It was a little gift for him."

PETER EBDON 17 MARCO FU 16

29 Apr 2006 20:14:00
Post match press conference comments as Ebdon triumphs in epic semi-final...

Marco Fu quotes
Q You so nearly made a great come back
A Yes, I did everything I could except win it. It’s great because I went out there and enjoyed myself. I needed to win 8-1 which is a tall order against Peter especially the way he was playing yesterday, it was virtually impossible. I got off to a good start, I won a scrappy first frame and that set me on the way. I made some good breaks, played fluently and got Peter under pressure. I really enjoyed it, the way I played snooker, it’s the way I always want to play the game. To do that on a big occasion felt great.

Q The momentum was with you going into the last frame
A Yes, but give credit to Peter. I missed a pink but after that I didn’t do much wrong. I played a good safety and he potted a tremendous red and made a winning clearance. I’m not sure how many people in the world would have been able to do that but Peter is one of them. You just have to shake his hand and say well played.

Q Did you believe you could win it?
A When I won the first four frames today I believed I could. Peter was jabbing a little bit and he was under pressure, but it was not to be.

Q What did Terry tell you before the last session?
A He just told me to go and enjoy myself and take it one frame at a time. He told me I needed to be on top of my game and hope that Peter didn’t play as well. Things were going my way and I knew I had a chance. The way I’ve played in the last 14 or 15 days I have felt that I can beat anybody, and I haven’t felt that for quite a while. It’s great to get it back so quickly because a few months ago I was struggling but the season has turned around. It surprises me and surprises Terry.

Q Do you think Peter can win it?
A Yes because mentally he is very strong and I really appreciate that. He’s so good under pressure. If he gets himself mentally prepared for the final he has a great chance. He doesn’t seem to be affected that much by the long matches. He looks fit. I think I’ve just lost to the winner.

Peter Ebdon quotes
Q There was a lot of emotion at the end
A It means so much and I’ve worked so hard. I don’t know how Marco will be feeling at the moment but every credit to him because it was an incredible performance. He showed incredible strength of character under the most extreme circumstances and adversity. He was truly magnificent and I take my hat off to him. He held himself together and played his best snooker under pressure. It was awesome. It was the most tenacious I’ve seen him. He’s come on leaps and bounds and his safety was absolutely superb. He hardly missed a long ball. We had a horrible first session where the balls ran more unkindly than I’ve ever seen them in 20 years of playing snooker.

Q Were you pleased to hold yourself together?
A I missed a couple of balls I wouldn’t usually miss, and normally I’m at my best under pressure. It was a bit extreme. But I’m usually 15-9 down not 15-9 up! I’ve worked so hard and when I really needed to I produced one of the best and most important breaks under pressure of my entire career. I took a horrible red on to start it across the table, dropping it in with enough place to cannon the red away from the black. It could have gone wrong and under the circumstances I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d hit it full ball. I’m very proud of that performance. Especially that break in the last frame, it was massive.

Q Was it hard not to think at 15-9 that it was all over?
A The flights had already been booked for my (4) children to come over from Dubai, so you can imagine how I would have felt if I had lost. I’d like to think that I’ve got a big heart but it certainly would have been broken if I had lost that match, I promise you. I’ve not seen the children for 6 weeks so it will be brilliant to see them anyway but I think I would have been a broken man.

Q Do you expect to play Graeme Dott in the final?
A I’m just looking forward to it. You never know what’s going to happen in this game, my match proved that. I’m well prepared and I can relax and enjoy it. There will be a lot of pressure because we will both want to win really badly. It will be a tough battle. It could have all gone horribly wrong so I’m just pleased I’m there.

Q Did the first session and the reaction of the crowd affect you?
A It was just a tough session for both of us. The way I played in the second session I would have been 11-5 or 10-6 up against a lot of players. That shows how tough he was to beat. I was thinking ‘I’m sure I played really well there and I’m only 9-7 up.’ The clearance that he made to go 9-7 was awesome. I was a bit unlucky to lose position but the blue that he knocked in during that clearance was unbelievable. I needed that like a hole in the head at the time. I’m proud for his father and his family because the performance he put up was incredible.

Q Are you surprised how well you have done here?
A You can take my performances in beat-of-nines with a pinch of salt and this has been a tough season because we’ve not had a lot of match practice. But coming here and having a bit of experience, I didn’t think that the in-form players would necessarily be favourites because it’s an event in itself. I always like to get myself spot on for it and perhaps the players in form are under a bit more pressure because there’s more expectancy. I knew I had a very good chance and I’ve got stronger with every match. I don’t tend to do much press before the tournament, I’d rather let the media talk to the other players. If I slip through unnoticed and get to the final, that’s nice. I’m hitting the ball well and scoring heavily, my safety has been ok.

Q You could be favourite which you have not been in your two previous finals
A The first time I played Stephen Hendry in 1996 I didn’t have enough experience and he didn’t have to play that well to beat me. The second time, I knew I had the experience and I believed in my heart that I would win no matter what he threw at me. And I actually believe that I’m a better player now.

ROCKET'S TITLE HOPES IN TATTERS

29 Apr 2006 13:22:00
In one of the most astonishing sessions in Crucible history, Graeme Dott won all eight frames to leave himself on the brink of the final of the 888.com World Snooker Championship.

The form Ronnie O’Sullivan showed in beating Mark Williams in the quarter-finals has deserted him and he looks certain to be heading down the M1 back to Chigwell tonight. He trails 16-8 and is just one frame away from defeat.

Problems with his cue tip - he has tried around 20 different tips over the past fortnight - have contributed to his struggle as his dreams of a third world title have slipped away.

The 30-year-old, who will lose his world No 1 ranking to Stephen Hendry unless he makes an unlikely comeback against Dott tonight, missed a host of simple pots in this morning’s session.

Dott, by contrast, played text-book match snooker and fully capitalised as his opponent’s frustration mounted.

The Pocket Dynamo took the first frame today with a superb break of 92 to go 9-8 up. The next was a fragmented affair lasting over 40 minutes and when Dott won it on the colours, O’Sullivan’s resistance began to crumble.

The Glaswegian reeled off the next three frames with runs of 86, 49 and 47 to lead 13-8.

O’Sullivan might have snatched a life-line in frame 22 when he fluked the last red, but he jawed a tough brown to a centre pocket and Dott potted yellow and green to win it.

Contributions of 40 and 53 - the latter started by an outrageous fluke - gave him the last two and extended his run of consecutive frames to nine.

It’s the third time in O’Sullivan’s career that he has lost all eight frames in a session at the Crucible - he was white-washed by John Parrott in 1994 and John Higgins in 1998.

World No 13 Dott now seems sure to reach his second world final - and to gain revenge on O’Sullivan for his 18-8 defeat in 2004. The match resumes at 7pm.

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FINAL BERTH WOULD GIVE ROCKET NO 1

28 Apr 2006 16:08:00
Six players began the 888.com World Snooker Championship with a chance to take the official world No 1 ranking...now there are only two who could hold the coveted top slot.

John Higgins, Ken Doherty, Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire have all seen their hopes of taking pole position fall by the wayside.

Stephen Hendry, despite his first round exit to Nigel Bond, still leads the provisional rankings. But Ronnie O'Sullivan will overtake him if he beats Graeme Dott in the semis to reach the Crucible final.

The Rocket has had a poor season in ranking events by his standards. He started well by reaching the final of the Grand Prix in October, but subsequently did not win a ranking match until he beat Dave Harold in the first round at Sheffield.

However, the early exits of his rivals have given him the chance the retain his top dog status. O'Sullivan has been world No 1 for the past two seasons.

DOM'S DIARY

27 Apr 2006 20:59:00
Worldsnooker.com diarist Dominic Dale looks forward to the 888.com World Snooker Championship semi-finals.

"I've had a couple of days off from my commentating role for Eurosport, I'll be back in the box on Saturday," says the player known as the Spaceman.

"But I've been watching all the action on television and really enjoying it.

"The match between Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson was a cracker. Neil made a great fight back from 12-8 to 12-12, but it's funny how the pressure swings the other way in that situation.

"Graeme knew his lead was gone and he had to start again, but in a funny way that sometimes takes the weight off your shoulders and it's often the case that the player whose lead has disappeared wins the deciding frame.

"Mark Williams against Ronnie O'Sullivan last night was such a high quality contest. It was a shame for Mark to lose but he's had a very good second half to the season and he's nearly back to his best. I'm sure he can't wait for next season to start, he'll be a real contender.

"Deep down he'll be pleased to have brought the best out of Ronnie. He just made one mistake at 11-11 when he missed a difficult black and Ronnie made a fantastic clearance. He'd been sitting in his chair for a long time but he was still there mentally.

"Graeme Dott will pose a different type of challenge to Ronnie, he has a lot of hidden tenacity as he showed when he punched the air after sinking the winning ball against Robertson.

"But even if Graeme gets a decent lead he'll find it tough - just as he did in the 2004 final when he led 5-0 but lost 18-8.

"When he gets into top gear, Ronnie can make it look so easy and run away with it. He knows he has a really great chance to win his third world title.

"The other semi-final could be very close. Marco Fu has been very consistent so far and I've been impressed by his attitude. This is unchartered territory for him but he has a very calm temperament and he's such a solid all-round player.

"Peter Ebdon has been there before and will be absolutely determined to make it through. I think it will go 17-15 either way.

"It's great to see Marco back to his best because he's a very nice guy and it's also good to see the overseas players doing well.

"He's been doing a lot of work with Terry Griffiths and that has given him a real inner belief that the changes he has made have transformed his game.

"Finally, I notice World Snooker have announced today a new five-year deal with Eurosport. That's important news for the growth of the sport accross Europe."

O'SULLIVAN STAMPS HIS CLASS ON CRUCIBLE CRACKER

26 Apr 2006 23:03:00
Ronnie O'Sullivan triumphed in an outstanding match against Mark Williams to reach the semi-finals of the 888.com World Snooker Championship.

It was treat for the capacity Crucible crowd as two of snooker’s greatest ever players, both gunning for a third world title, battled it out for the right to meet Graeme Dott in the last four.

The Rocket’s nerve and skill were streched to the limit by a tremendous fight back from Williams in the final session.

The Welshman came from 10-6 down to level at 11-11 and looked to be edging ahead when he got among the balls in frame 23. But he broke down on 37 and his opponent showed true genius with a break of 90 to steal it.

The world No 1 started the next with a 43 and sealed a 13-11 victory after Williams had missed a difficult thin cut with four reds remaining.

O’Sullivan has had a poor season by his standards but is now justifying his reputation as pre-tournament favourite and has been slashed to 4/11 odds-on to lift the famous trophy on Monday night.

Champion in 2001 and 2004, the 30-year-old from Chigwell must first overcome a gritty competitor in Dott. He has beaten the Pocket Dynamo ten times in 12 meetings, including 18-8 in the final two years ago.

He paid tribute to Williams after coming through what he described as one of the most testing matches of his career.

"Mark’s the hardest opponent I’ve ever faced. With other players there are major weaknesses, but where it matters in bottle and character, he has those in abundance," said the ambidextrous potter.

"I didn’t expect to win but now that I have it’s a great confidence booster."

O’Sullivan opened tonight’s session with a break of 55 before an accidental double-hit, which he immediately admitted to referee Jan Verhaas. Williams hit back to win the frame on the black then added the next with a 41 for 10-8.

The Cardiff player should have won the 19th but played a poor safety on the last red, leading by 35 points. O’Sullivan cleared up to force a respot then knocked the black in after another safety error from his opponent.

That did not rattle Williams as he swept through the next three frames with 43, 78 and 46, O’Sullivan scoring just 36 points in those three.

But just as the momentum seemed to be swinging in favour of the left-hander, his missed black at 11-11 proved decisive.

"That’s why he’s world No 1 because he can make clearances like that," said Williams. "I think I had him on the rack tonight but that break was superb."

O'SULLIVAN INTO HIS STRIDE

27 Apr 2006 22:46:00
Ronnie O'Sullivan established an early 5-3 lead over Graeme Dott in their 888.com World Snooker Championship semi-final.

The Rocket took four frames on the spin from 2-1 down, though Dott kept his deficit to just two frames by snatching the last of the session.

O'Sullivan is chasing his third world title having lifted the trophy in 2001 and again in 2004 when he beat Dott 18-8 in the final.

Showing no signs of fatigue after his marathon clash with Neil Robertson in the quarters, Pocket Dynamo Dott was off to a flying start with a break of 121 in the opening frame.
World No 1 O'Sullivan levelled then the Glaswegian took the third with a 68.

The Essex man slipped up a gear and rolled in breaks of 61, 66 and 63 to win three consecutive frames, then added frame seven with a 47 to go 5-2 up.

He led 44-2 in the eighth before missing a straight-forward pink to a baulk corner and Dott took full advantage with an excellent 70 clearance.

They return at 2.30pm tomorrow for the second session of the best-of-33 clash.

MARCO FU 13 KEN DOHERTY 10

26 Apr 2006 21:45:00
Post match press conference comments as Fu makes the semi-finals...
Marco Fu quotes

Q: Marco you took your chances very well...
A: Yes...and the frame I won to go 10-10 was massive. I should have lost that frame and the frame before I threw it away. Ken needed snookers and he got them. The next frame it looked like he was going to steal another one. But the interval came at the right time for me and I managed to compose myself a little but more. I came out really strong and mentally I was really prepared. I was prepared for it to go right down to the wire, but thankfully it didn't. I played really well in the last three frames.

Q: Do you feel fatigued after such a long match?
A: Yes, but although Ken's a very good safety player, he's also a great break-builder and I didn't expect frames to go on that long. I kept my patience and played good safety in crucial frames like Ken, which is satisfying.

Q: Did you play sexy snooker then?
A: Yes....attractive (wearing a big smile). It didn't look like it, but I tried.

Q: Is it beyond your expectations to have reached the semi-finals?
A: I came here with only one goal before the tournament - to enjoy my snooker. I haven't really done that for the last year or two years, I've been struggling. Since I've started working with Terry (Griffiths) I've found my interest again. I've improved a lot since I've been working with him and things are looking really well at the moment. I've been working hard and it looks like it's been paying off. Winning tournaments is great, but I've still got a lot of snooker matches left in my career and so winning isn’t the most important thing.

Q: How does it feel to be only the second Asian player to have reached a World Championship semi-final?
A: It's great. I think Ding (Junhui) won the UK Championship, and he's been a great inspiration to me because we're good friends and it's nice to see him do so well, especially so quickly. I would like to be a part of it (snooker success from Asian players). The game is becoming more popular and I'd like to do what James Wattana did when he was at his prime. China's doing really well at the moment and hopefully I can do well.

Q: Is snooker not popular in Thailand?
A: It's going in the right direction, but it's not great at the moment. It's still tough to find sponsors, but it's nice that I have a chance to help change that.

Q: How long have you been working with Terry Griffiths?
A: Just before the UK Championship in York, about November time.

Q: What have you worked on?
A: We've worked on certain things and cue-action. I've changed the way I grip, but it's minor things which, if they come together, could be major. I'm playing well now. Five or six months ago I was struggling to make a 50 break, but things have changed.

Q: You said when you came here you were just looking to enjoy it, but now that you're in the semis has that changed?
A: Not really. I'm not here to win the tournament. I'm probably the only one (greeted with laughter from the assembled press). I'm just here to enjoy my snooker. I'm not going to change anything. Hopefully now and in my career I'm going to stick with this type of attitude.

Q: Have you taken the pressure off yourself by playing like this?
A: Yeah, a little bit. I wasn't really under pressure coming here. I had nothing to lose and everyone had written me off, which is natural because I'd been struggling. Somebody might be saying I'm playing well, but nobody is saying I can win it.

Q: Are you going to be surprised if you find yourself in the final?
A: Not really. The way I'm playing anything can happen. I'm just taken every match as it comes.

Q: How are you spending your time during matches. Are you practising more?
A: Not really. I do a lot of practice before coming over, but at the venue I try to relax myself. The last thing I want to do is over-practice. I always looking forward to playing and I don't want to be flat and stale going into the match.

Ken Doherty

Q: How do you feel?
A: Yeah, gutted. Absolutely gutted. I blew it to be honest. I had my chances, so I can't grumble. It's very disappointing when you play like that after playing so well against Matthew [Stevens, in the last round]. But that's the way the game is sometimes and every day is different. I had my chances, but he played well. Tactically he played well, but when he got in he made good breaks.

Q: What do you think went wrong for you Ken?
A: I lost a lot of silly frames which I should have won, particularly in the early frames. Sometimes those frames come back to haunt you. I should have been a few frames ahead, then your’e a few frames behind and even when I got ahead he came back. I have to take my hat off and say he played well. When you get your chances you've really got to take them, but I didn't do it today or yesterday as I'd have liked.

Q: You seemed to have a resigned smile on your face. You seemed to take it on the chin?
A: You have to. You have to be gracious in defeat as well as victory. As I say, he played better than me over the two days. He certainly scored a lot heavier than me. But the two chances in the last two frames, the brown and the blue, were my two chances. And when I missed them I blew it basically.

Q: It looked as if in the last two frames that the belief you usually have to win in difficult positions wasn't there today?
A: No, I think it's always there, but I came a little bit awkward on that brown and instead of punching it maybe I just dragged it in. I just missed it and I felt it was a big chance. I suppose when you lose those frames you put yourself under pressure. It builds up out there. It means more out there than any other tournament. I think the brown and blue will stick out in my mind than any other frames.

Q: What do you think your chances are of coming back here and winning it [the world title] again?
A: To be honest I've probably a couple more years, but as you get older it gets a bit harder. I'll definitely be back next year. I always said that you can't win the World Championship after your 40. I'll be 37 in September, so I've probably got two more years to try and win it. I'll be back for it. I still think I'm good enough to win it

Q: Is there anything at all from this match which you might look at before coming back to this championship next year, maybe improve your chances?
A: It may sound a bit strange, but some of the frames went too tactical. He played a lot of containing, negative safety shots instead of the straightforward safety shots the other guys would play. And although I can play good safety myself, when I got ahead I should have tried to open it up and put more pressure on him.

Q: Do you think Marco can win it?
A: Whoever is in the semi-final can win it, of course. He's going to have to play just as well, if not better. But he's certainly making enough breaks to beat anybody. Shaun Murphy went and destroyed everyone from nowhere last year, so he could do it himself.

Q: What are you doing during the summer Ken?
A: I'm going to India on holiday and will be chilling out. I'll be watching some of the World Cup and playing some golf.

GRAEME DOTT 13 NEIL ROBERTSON 12

26 Apr 2006 17:20:00
Post match press conference comments as Dott edges into semis

Graeme Dott quotes
Q: You punched the air at the end, can you explain your feelings?
A: It’s never a smart thing to do to punch the air before you’ve actually won the match! I just couldn’t help it. I thought I might miss the brown. It was just relief, I couldn’t really not do it. I just prayed he wasn’t going to get a snooker. The first session was perfect, then half way through the second session I didn’t feel comfortable so I did some work with my coach Del and worked something out. I clicked and finished the session 10-6 up. Then I went 12-8 up and I knew I would get a chance to win even though Neil is probably the best potter in the world. I did get one chance (in frame 22) but missed frame ball down the cushion. That was the only chance I got, it wasn’t as if I was getting chances but suffering from clincher’s disease. He just played fantastically well. If I’d lost the match I would have been devastated, but not at the way I played, because I didn’t have many chances from 12-8 up.

Q Were you surprised when he didn’t put you back in on the yellow in the last frame?
A I couldn’t believe it. I actually thought he was taking so long time to keep me away from the table, then he was going to put me back. It was a hard safety I had and I wasn’t looking forward to the ball going back so I don’t understand his reasoning. I wouldn’t have thought it was inexperience the way he played. His potting was unbelievable.

Q Is it fair to say you got out of jail?
A I got out of jail in the last frame. It was a really good game with two different styles. Everything was working. You can’t play in the open because Neil will just glove you. It’s hard to do what I was doing. It’s not easy to make frames scrappy, there’s an art to it, especially when your opponent is potting like that.
Q are you starting to think about the final
A Yes, I’m in the semis now and I’m playing well. But I’ll just take it one game at a time and not get excited about it. I’m confident in my own technique and I’m trusting it. I couldn’t have been put under more pressure in the last frame but I still played a good frame.

Neil Robertson quotes
Q Why didn’t you replace the white in the last frame?
A I had to decide whether to play the shot myself or let him play it. It’s a shot he plays really well. There was an opportunity to get a snooker behind the blue if I had got a good yellow. I was about 2mm away from putting him in a lot of trouble. I tried to hit it a bit on the thick side to avoid hitting it thin and putting the yellow over the corner pocket. Even when I got the double kiss I thought I was going to snooker him behind the blue, but the white just kept rolling. Obviously I’m very disappointed because I thought I was the better player throughout the match. He nicked six or seven frames at least. He’s very good at it. Last night someone said that my body language wasn’t very good, it wasn’t how it usually was, I was huffing and puffing around the table. I was getting into his zone of trying to keep it scrappy and taking a long time over safety. Towards the end of last night and today I tried to concentrate on my own game, the game I wanted to play. I tried to dictate the match, though he still nicked a couple of frames. Today my body language was really good and I knew I was going to get on a roll. I was confident I could steam-roller him and I was doing that. I only realised what I had to do towards the end of the match, otherwise I would have been here talking about a semi-final berth.

Q Was there just too much for you to do?
A At 12-8 I had to win the last five. But to go from 10-6 to 12-8 was unbelievable, I should have won all four of those frames. I kept playing my own game because I knew I could get in first every frame. If you look at the video you’ll see that I was potting the first red in at least 80 per cent of the frames. Unfortunately I wasn’t scoring heavily enough in the first two sessions. I was a bit slow around the table, otherwise I would have fancied doing it quite comfortably.

Q It’s always tough against Graeme.
A yes, he got to the final two years ago and beat the likes of John Higgins and Matthew Stevens. You can definitely under-estimate him. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Tactically he’s absolutely brilliant, he’s up there with Ken Doherty and Steve Davis. On the colours he’s fantastic and he can score among the balls.

PETER EBDON 13 SHAUN MURPHY 7

26 Apr 2006 23:57:00
Post match press conference reaction as Ebdon knocks out the defending champion...

Shaun Murphy quotes
Q It must have been nice to leave the arena to a great round of applause
A Yes it was. It was nice that they cheered me out. Being the local lad I think they got behind me. I’ve had great support all year, especially here. I’ll be back.

Q How do you feel?
A I’m absolutely gutted, I came here to win the tournament. I’ve not done that and I’m very disappointed. It’s quite an emotional day, not all in a bad way. Being world champion is not the easiest job in the world, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it and next year that will be someone else’s job. I think I’m going to finish the season in the top 5 and next season I’ll have a great opportunity to come in with very little on my shoulders and hopefully I’ll be able to go about my business under the radar.

Q Why do you think it’s so hard to defend the title?
A I can speak from experience now. Everything that goes with being world champion, everything you have to do and the commitments that come your way which you’d be silly not to fulfil – you spend a lot of time away from the table. All my life I’ve spend five or six hours at the snooker table working on my game. I came to Sheffield trying to be as sharp as I can but I’ve not been able to be as sharp as I was last year. It’s ironic that my last shot wasn’t a bad safety or a tactical mistake as it has been in previous matches but a missed pot. That’s not really one of my weaknesses but all through this tournament I’ve not scored and today it’s cost me.

Q You just couldn’t get going yesterday
A No. If you take the first seven frames out of the equation it’s a different match. But you can’t take the first seven frames out. It’s over three sessions and they all count. Those seven frames will haunt me for a few weeks because without that I could have gone through. I just went out there and tried to do the same things I’d done in the first two matches. Against Peter that just wasn’t good enough. Against James Wattana and Steve Davis I got through quite easily, my mistakes weren’t punished. But Ebdon is my tip out of the last four because he’s playing very good snooker. His safety is exemplary and he doesn’t miss any easy balls. For my money he’d be the winner. He’s at the top of his game and mine just wasn’t good enough. It got better today but I started too badly and at this level you can’t afford to do that.

Q Your potting won you the title last year but it wasn’t there this time
A Last year I potted everyone off the table but this time I only made two centuries in three long matches. That’s unheard of for me. I don’t have any answers as to why that is. My safety game has been really good, I’ve worked hard on that. That got me through to the quarters but it wasn’t enough.

Q Will you watch the rest of the tournament?
A Definitely, it’s the World Championship. It’s our biggest festival of snooker and I love snooker to bits. I only live 15 minutes away so I’ll probably come and watch, I’ll take advantage of my player’s pass! I’ll be here for the semis and probably for the final as well.

Peter Ebdon quotes
Q It was a very sporting gesture to clap Shaun out of the arena
A He’s been a brilliant world champion and I just said to him at the end that I really appreciate everything he’s done for snooker over the past year. The efforts that he’s gone to, to promote snooker over the past year have been exceptional so I just wanted to thank him for doing an outstanding job.

Q Will that be an inspiration to you if you win it?
A Well it would be lovely. One match at a time

Q It was hard going today
A Yes it was tough. I knew this morning that Shaun was going to throw everything at me, including the kitchen sink. It was a performance you would expect from the world champion. I won a massive frame to go 10-6 and held myself together under pressure. To be 9-7, I would still have had a lead but he would have been fancying it a bit. I did all the damage in the first session which is unusual for me. It makes a nice change. At 9-7 he would still have had a good chance. I don’t know any other top player who goes for as many balls as he does and that makes him exciting to watch, that’s what made him world champion last year. He was here for 17 days, he beat the top players and blew everybody away. He plays very entertaining and exciting snooker.

Q How do you mean when he you say he has promoted the game?
A He’s put himself around, he’s been on radio programmes, cookery programmes, promoting snooker. Not many people would have gone out of their way to do that. He’s obviously enjoyed it and he deserves that because he’s earned it. He’s been an outstanding world champion.

Q What about your 147 attempt?
A What a nightmare. The red that I missed into the green pocket – I was trying to swing the white around the angles with a touch of left hand side but the blue and the brown were in the way. I had to play the shot in a manner I wouldn’t normally play it. I played it a bit quickly which I wouldn’t normally do and missed it thick. It was a bad miss really but there you go.

Q Were you starting to think about the money?
A No I was thinking about potting the red!

Q Was that your best performance since you won the World Championship?
A I was solid. I’m better prepared for this tournament than any other tournament in my career. I really have worked hard. It’s been really tough being away from Deborah and the children but that’s what I felt I needed to do. I’ve had great practice at the Academy with James Wattana, Ken Doherty and Ronnie O’Sullivan. I’d like to give a special mention to Lewis Roberts whose father is a cue maker and came to practise with me when I had no one else to practise with. I think I made a maximum against him! It’s really helped sharpen me up. I’ve worked really hard on my fitness too and I’m enjoying my snooker. I wanted to leave something for Sheffield because the in-form players don’t necessarily come through. They may have taken a lot out of themselves during the season. I deliberately try to peak at Sheffield and hopefully I’m coming into form at the right time.

Q Do you believe you can win it?
A That’s a pre-requisite, the belief has got to come first. I believe I deserve it because I’ve worked hard enough. It would be lovely but I’ve got a very tough semi-final. Marco has played really well to beat Ken and Ken’s one of the best match-players we’ve ever seen. He must be on top form.

Q Why is it so hard to defend this title?
A It’s tough! You’ve got to beat top class players. If Shaun had beaten me he would have had another tough match and then another one in the final. It takes a lot out of you which is why we place so much importance on fitness. Ronnie looks like a greyhound. He’s a great inspiration to me. He’s so dedicated, I wish I could be that fit.

Q How hard is the travelling?
A It’s very tough. We moved to Dubai because we thought it was the right thing for the family and we live a fabulous lifestyle. Most of my training is at the Academy, I practice 6 to 8 hours a day, swim a mile a day and I’m careful about what I eat. I’m just trying to be as professional as I can.

RONNIE O'SULLIVAN 13 MARK WILLIAMS 11

27 Apr 2006 01:16:00
Post match press conference comments as the Rocket gathers pace...

Mark Williams quotes
Q What did you say to him afterwards?
A I just said well played. I came back at him and put him under loads of pressure. At 11-11 I had a chance to go 12-11 up. I was a bit unlucky to leave him a red but he made an excellent clearance. You’ve got to take your hat off for that break. I don’t think there’s any other player who could have made that break because I kept him off the table for a long time. That’s why he’s world No 1 because he can make clearances like that. I think I had him on the rack tonight but that break was superb.

Q Is your return to form a consolation?
A I can’t grumble about that match. It was an excellent match, there were a lot of breaks. He played really well throughout and I still could have had him in the end. It was a fantastic match to be involved in. I came out on the wrong side but I can’t grumble because I played well myself. I tried my best and with a bit more run of the ball it could have gone my way.

Q Is he the favourite now?
A Yes, I think I’ve just lost to the winner. No disrespect to anyone else but once he gets among the balls he looks so confident. Even when he’s potting them and you are sitting down you enjoy watching him play because he’s so fluent and smooth. You can’t do much about it. He doesn’t look like missing when he gets in. If he plays anything like that you can’t see him being beaten.
Ronnie O’Sullivan quotes

Q You were really tested
A He’s the hardest opponent I’ve ever faced. With other players there are major weaknesses but where it matters in bottle and character, Mark has that in abundance. He never once let up on me. At 10-6 I made a mistake and it affected me. I lost my way and I started jabbing at the white and I couldn’t make 10. I knew I had to hang in there and to nick one of those frames was massive. Mentally and physically my game had gone. At the interval I got on the practice table and spoke to Ray Reardon and I was able to get it right. From 11-9 I did very little wrong. I might have missed a couple of pots but nothing easy. I was kept off the table so much, he put so much pressure on me. Every time I left him a long ball, no matter how hard it was I knew he was going to get it. Then he either rolled me up or made 60. He looked so comfortable out there, he was taking me out of my space and that’s what he’s good at. I didn’t expect to win. I’m surprised.

Q He said it was a pleasure to watch you play
A There’s a mutual respect there. For character and self-belief and toughness under pressure, he’s a class act. He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen, up there with Hendry and Higgins. That’s nice of Mark to say that. It’s sad there has to be a loser. He played a great part in the game and deserves a pat on the back even if it doesn’t make him feel any better.

Q Do you think you can win it?
A That match was a great confidence builder. It’s a great event, 888.com have helped put on a fantastic tournament and Sheffield produces a great atmosphere. There’s some tense stuff out there and it’s great to still be in the tournament.

Q Does your support make you feel good?
A The crowd gave both of us tremendous support and appreciated our play. All of snooker’s characters over the years have built up a following and I just happen to have mine. I’m grateful and appreciative. At the end of my career I’ll be able to look back and say I’ve entertained a lot of people. They come to watch me and they enjoy watching me. I get taken aback by some of the things they say. The most important thing is when I hear other players speaking about me. Ken Doherty, John Parrott and Steve Davis have all had nice things to say about me. It means a lot. I think ‘why me?' because there are so many other great players. Snooker is the greatest game on Earth and I’m really pleased to be involved here and excited to have got this far.

Q Are you surprised to be playing Graeme Dott in the semis?
A I was just so involved in the match tonight that I didn’t have a chance to think about it. Your mind can wander and that’s when you have to call on your experience and realise it’s not over until you are out of the arena. At no stage did I think I had it in the bag. It was a difficult night.
I’m here for the 888.com World Championship, this is a big event for them, a big event for me, I’m excited to be playing in it and I just want to give 100 per cent for everyone involved in snooker. I think we should just enjoy this 888.com World Championship and really have some fun over the next five days. Thanks very much!

ROCKET BLASTS THROUGH AS DAY BREAKS

24 Apr 2006 22:40:00
Ronnie O'Sullivan was in the pink after an amazing error from Ryan Day proved decisive at the 888.com World Snooker Championship.

O’Sullivan was under threat of a shock exit when he trailed 9-8 and his opponent had a golden chance to pull two frames clear in the best-of-25 clash.

But Day suffered a miscue at the pivotal moment of the 18th frame, jumping the cue ball over a seemingly unmissable free-ball pink when he led 60-46 and needed just a few more pots to go 10-8 ahead.

O’Sullivan seized his chance to level at 9-9 and that proved the turning point as the Rocket powered through 13-10 to book an intriguing quarter-final clash with Mark Williams.

"That shot was massive," said two-times champion O’Sullivan. "Ryan was unlucky to miscue. I needed to pounce and I managed to do that."

Day, competing in the second round at the Crucible for the first time, had a chance in the first frame tonight but missed the yellow as he attempted to get position on the last red on a break of 58. O’Sullivan laid a snooker then cleared up.

After levelling at 9-9, the world No 1 from Chigwell stepped up a gear and rattled in breaks of 68, 49, 51 and 64 to take a 12-9 lead.

Day, the 26-year-old from Pontycymmer, pulled one back before O’Sullivan completed victory with a quick fire 75.

O’Sullivan is likely to start slight favourite against Williams having won 15 of their 23 previous meetings, despite showing signs of vulnerability against Day.

RONNIE O'SULLIVAN 13 RYAN DAY 10

24 Apr 2006 23:32:00
Post match press conference comments as O'Sullivan survives Day's challenge...

Ronnie O'Sullivan quotes
Q: The match was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests
A: It was a tough game. He’s a very good player and it could have gone either way. Maybe I’m lucky to be through. He had the best of it in the first two sessions. The way he was playing you had to make him favourite tonight. I just had to hope that the occasions would get to him. When you’ve got experience of playing here you know it’s never over because strange things happen at the Crucible. He had his chances to win he just wasn’t able to finish me off.

Q: Do you think the occasion did get to him?
A: If you ask any snooker player, the Crucible is an intimidating place and it gets to everyone. Steve Davis missed that black (in 1985). It can play tricks with your mind. Ryan is a great player, otherwise he wouldn’t be here. In the back of my mind I thought if I gave him chances he would clear up. Tonight it just didn’t happen to him so thankfully I was able to get through. You have to stick in there.

Q: Do you think this match will do you a power of good for the tournament.
A: It was a tough game and I came through it so I feel ok. I enjoyed the occasion and the atmosphere. I didn’t want to lose, I want to be here for at least a few more days. Hopefully it will stand me in good stead.

Q: Did you change your cue tip?
A: Yes, I had two in that match, but I’ve had about 14 in the last two weeks, trying to find the right one.

Q: Can you put your finger on why your form has slipped in the last few months?
A: I’m just pleased to have found some form here and won a couple of matches. Whether my form is good enough to win the tournament, only time will tell.

Q: Will you be determined to beat Mark Williams because there’s a bit of history between you?
A: We actually get on really well. We’re friendly. He’s a good lad and it’s good to see him back playing well. When you see great players struggling you feel for them. I need to up my game a bit because he’s playing well. I need to be near my best to have a chance of beating him.

Ryan Day quotes
Q: Is it fair to say you had some bad luck out there?
A: No, I started off quite well. In the first frame I had a 50-odd break and didn't quite play a positional shot as I'd have liked. I responded well in the next with a good break, had the frame at my mercy and miscued. After that I was just reminding myself it was 9-each, I was still in the match big-style and I felt great.

Q: Probably a daft question Ryan, but why miscue?
A: I heard someone say earlier that it was because I looped the cue almost as I was cueing the ball, but I felt that had nothing to do with it. The dome of the tip got a big hard and it wasn't really taking the chalk. The specific part of the tip which hit the cue ball didn't have a lot of chalk on it, so hence the miscue.

Q: You also missed a black in similar circumstances?
A: It's not the first time it's happened this week. It's happened on the practice table as well. I've tried to break the tip up a little bit, but unfortunately the tip has gone a little bit hard and I miscued three times in the match. I haven't miscued three times in the last three seasons.

Q: What's your overriding feeling of the match?
A: I'm gutted. I'm gutted because I played exceptionally well, the match was there to be won and I haven't so I'm very disappointed.

Q: You gave him a bloody nose though?
A: Yeah, but at the moment I can't really take a lot from that. I'm here to win the tournament. I was four matches away and to have lost the match is disappointing.

Q: Did you think you threw the match away or he won it?
A: It's hard to say I threw the match away because things didn't go for me. That's the game. Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn't.

Q: Did you really feel you had him rocking?
A: Yeah. I thought the match was there to be taken. I put him under pressure in the first two sessions. I was just looking to get off to a good start, which I did do, but it was a bitter blow missing the pink. Missing the pink was a massive turning point.

Q: Do you think he'll go on to win it?
A: I know he's playing Mark next and Mark’s absolutely flying. I've been practising a lot with him coming into this tournament. The win in China has given him lots of confidence and I think personally O'Sullivan will have to play well.

GRAEME DOTT 13 NIGEL BOND 9

24 Apr 2006 21:06:00
Post match press conference comments as the Pocket Dynamo makes it through...
Nigel Bond quotes

Q: Do you feel you could have come back if you'd have nicked another frame or two?
A: Yes. The way I started off today, that's the best I've felt through the match really. I felt I was cueing really well today. I missed a yellow and he cleared up and I should have won three of the four frames from the first session. But it wasn't to be and disappointed really. Obviously, beating Stephen [Hendry] in the first round I thought I'd given myself a great chance.

Q: Graeme's been to the final here before....
A: He seems to save his best snooker for Sheffield. The last few years he's always saved his best snooker for here. We both missed a few balls during the match, but I probably missed them at more crucial times than him. But it's just disappointing.

Graeme Dott quotes

Q: Are you pleased with the way you played, or did Nigel make it tougher than you expected?
A: I knew it was always going to be tough - and I knew it wasn't going to be a pretty match. We both have similar games, but it's better to watch two potters playing each other than two tactical players who don't want to give anything away. I knew the winner was going to be who was best at the tactical side. It was always going to be a hard slog.

Q: Do you think you are finding the form which saw you get to the final a couple of years ago?
A: No, not really. I just play my own game and try and sneak up on the outside. I prefer to get through unnoticed. Any time I've felt under a bit of pressure I felt responded.

Q: What's it like been changing clubs?
A: It took me a bit of time to settle in because I wasn't the number one player, but I'm very happy there. I'm practising with John Higgins, which is great. I've been practising on my own for a number of years, so it's been nice to practice with John.

Q: What will your match against Neil be like?
A: I'm sure it will be a different match against Neil. He goes for his shots and I'm sure it will be an open match. My game's in good shape. It's not up to me to cement my name, I just want to sneak up on the outside now that some of the big names are out and reach the semi-finals or final. I'm playing very well and happy. There's no easy game, though. I've got to the job.

Q: Are you proud to be the last Scottish player in the tournament?
A: I'm proud to be the last Scot in it. I'd have liked some of the others to be here, but hopefully I can do Scotland proud.

KEN DOHERTY 13 MATTHEW STEVENS 8

24 Apr 2006 20:52:00
Post match press conference comments as the Dubliner knocks out last year's runner-up...

Ken Doherty quotes
Q You must have been surprised to win the match so easily
A Absolutely, especially after missing that black last night (at 8-7). A lot of people were probably writing me off but once I got the first frame on the board today it settled me down and erased the nightmare of the black the previous night. I knew I was playing well. The match was close, it was too-and-fro, a very competitive game. But after the first frame today I settled into my stride and got the confidence and momentum I needed. Every time I got in after that I was expecting to clear up. This is the World Championship, it’s what you work for and it’s great that all those hours have paid off. That gives me the confidence to go out and play like that against a very tough opponent.

Q And you’ve got another tough opponent next
A Marco played very well against Stephen Maguire. Anyone in the quarter-finals deserves to be there and has a chance to win the tournament. Marco can beat anyone on his day. You can’t worry about your opponent, you’ve just got to try to play your own game. I’m delighted to get over this match and looking forward to playing the table tomorrow. You treat every player with the same respect, no matter who they are.

Q Were you worried when he kept coming back at you?
A Yes, I kept getting a few frames ahead, but Matthew’s a very good player and he loves playing here. He’s got a great record here. In the longer frame matches you don’t really worry when you go a few frames behind. It’s great to play well again.

Q Your provisional ranking shows you’re competing at the very top again.
A This time last year, if I’d lost my first match I was out of the top 16. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’ve got a lot of good people around me. There’s a lot of hours and sacrifices that people don’t see. It can be difficult, it’s a lot of time away from your family. But when you win matches like this you realise it’s worthwhile. I know a lot of people in Ireland will be shouting for me today.

Q Was there a moment when you thought you might not win another title?
A Yes, sometimes when you get down that low you need to believe in yourself and you need the people around you to tell you that you can still do it.

Q Did you sleep well last night?
A Not really, would you if you had missed that black?! It was probably worse than the black I missed for a 147 (at the Masters in 2000). I don’t know how I missed the one last night but these things happen. But thankfully it didn’t weigh me down.
Matthew Stevens quotes

Q It was a tough match for you
A Ken played well all the way through the match. He wasn’t making big breaks but he kept me under a lot of pressure. Early on he nicked a few frames when I had a chance to go in front. Then today I didn’t get a look in, he played fantastic snooker.

Q At 8-8 you must have felt confident
A Yes, I felt good all the way through the match and I didn’t do that much wrong. But he played the better snooker. I was always playing catch-up. He’s a very good match player, he goes 40 or 50 in front then makes the table difficult for you. He thoroughly deserved to win and good luck to him.

Q Is he playing well enough to win it?
A Definitely, he’s got the all round game and he only missed four or five balls in the match. He played more or less flawless snooker even though he wasn’t making big breaks.

Q You were under pressure with your top 16 place at the start
A Yes that was added pressure but I won my first match and that got me in so I felt relaxed against Ken. I don’t think I played badly at all but one or two frames here and there made the difference.

PETER EBDON 13 DAVID GRAY 2

24 Apr 2006 18:26:00
Post match press conference comments as Ebdon moves into the quarters..
David Gray quotes

Q: You must be disappointed David, didn't look as if you got going out there?
A: I didn't play from start to finish. I didn't get much form either. A couple of frames I could have pulled the match back in the early part of the session, but I lost the re-spot and every time I got in the balls I had a kick just when I thought I was going to get a bit of rhythm going. It was one of those nightmare games really.

Q: Did Peter play well and put you under pressure?
A: He played well and put me under pressure in the early part of the match, but I just gave so many chances to Peter. He was never really under pressure himself.

Q: Anything you can take from your Crucible experience this year?
A: I felt like I was cueing better towards the end of the season in the last couple of tournaments, which I can build on for next season I suppose. But I've had a nightmare year really. It's just a shame that's it's finished on a bad note. Hopefully I can get my game together for next season.

Q: Are you going to put your cue away for a while now?
A: I don't think I'm going to have much time off this year to be honest. I had a big break off last year and I think that affected my game a lot. I'm not going to bother having as much off next year.

Peter Ebdon quotes

Q: You must be pleased with that performance?
A: It's always nice to win.

Q: Peter, is this turning into most open Championship for years?
A: I don't know to be honest. I've not really focused or concentrated on any of the other matches. I've not been watching any of the games and couldn't tell you who was left in to be honest. I've just got a job to do and I’m focused on every individual match. I'm very pleased with my preparation and feel as well prepared as I've ever done. Things are good. I think the longer matches suit me and I'm enjoying it out there. My focus was better in the last session and I feel that if I do get tested in the tournament, I've put the work in and will respond. So, I'm enjoying it. I love this tournament and love this venue. Just one match at a time.

Q: Do you think you've been tested so far?
A: Yeah, Michael Holt played really well to come back at me at 8-4 [in the last round] and came back 8-8. Fortunately my concentration went up a gear at 8-8 and I found what I needed to win 10-8. You can't always rely on that, but it was nice to be able to do that.

Q: Given how happy you are with your preparation, should the other guys [players] be worried?
A: I'm sure they're concentrating on their own game just as much as I am, so I'm sure they're not unduly worried. I can do nothing more than the person I'm playing. That's just the way I look it.

Q: A quarter-final next, you've got Shaun [Murphy]. What's your record against him?
A: Well, he played extremely well to beat from 12-12 at the Crucible last year [in the semis] when I thought I was a strong favourite. All credit to him. He played some amazing snooker. I justifiably gave him the praise after that match which he thoroughly deserved because he played magnificent snooker. He's going to be very tough to beat. He's an exceptional world champion and done an awful lot to promote the game in the last year. Not everybody would have done that and he really has made a wonderful effort for snooker. Every credit to him. He's enjoying being world champion so much that he's really putting himself out there.

Q: Do you see any comparisons with yourself there Peter. You said you would try and do that when you won it?
A: I did try and it would be nice to have the opportunity again.

Q: How did you find the table?
A: I was a missing a few a shots, but I thought the table was beautiful with the new cloth they put on. It was very similar to the cloths which we prepare on.

Q: Shaun Murphy said the tables were slower, but it was up to the players to adapt. What's your view?
A: This is the World Championship and you would hope the conditions would be right. Shaun's entitled to his opinion, but he's right that you do have to adapt. Hopefully I did to win my first match. I think these conditions are much more conducive to good quality snooker

Q: Shaun has become 'a favourite son' with all he's done for snooker. Are you going to have any sympathy on him?
A: Are you serious?! I'm a professional, I'm here to win. We're all professionals, we're all here to win the tournament. March on as far as I'm concerned. One match at a time.

MARK WILLIAMS 13 MARK SELBY 7

22 Apr 2006 22:57:00
Post match press conference comments as Williams makes the quarter-finals...

Mark Selby quotes
Q How do you think you played?
A Scrappy in patches. I had a few chances early on. If I’d taken those it might have been a different game. But throughout the match Mark was the better player. He deserved to win and he scored well.

Q You must still be happy with your Championship
A Yes, I’d never won a match at the Crucible before so to beat John Higgins, who’s been the man in form this season, then to give Mark a good run – I’m chuffed to bits. Hopefully it’s the start of things to come.

Q Did you feel you only got going too late?
A I let myself down in the second session – I needed to win that session to have a good chance.

Q But you’ve gained a lot of confidence
A Yes, this tournament’s on BBC so I’ve proved to a lot of people that I can play.

Q If Ronnie gets through do you think Mark can beat him?
A He’s playing well enough, it depends which Ronnie turns up. It will be a good game.

Mark Williams quotes
Q Are you pleased with the result?
A Yes, very pleased. He came back at me well tonight and put me under a bit of pressure. I’m happy with the way I held myself together at the end and got over the line. I knew at 11-5 that I wasn’t home and dry, I had a feeling he would come out and put some pressure on me.

Q How do your feel you played?
A I didn’t play as well as I did in my first match but overall I played solid stuff and put a lot of pressure on him. A lot of scrappy frames could have gone the other way so it could have been a lot closer. I managed to nick quite a few of those which I’ve not been doing. That turned the match in my favour.

Q It’s been a real transformation in your form in the last few weeks
A Yes, it wasn’t long ago that I was in danger of dropping out of the top 32. Now I’m back in the top 16 and pushing for a top eight spot. If you’d asked 100 people a couple of months ago, 99 of them would have said I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. And I’m still in the quarter-finals of the world. I’ve put a lot of work in and my confidence has gone up every match I’ve won.

Q It looks like you might play Ronnie next and you’ve not played him that often recently
A That’s because I keep getting knocked out in the first round! Obviously I’d like to see Ryan win because he’s a good friend of mine. But if you want to win the World Championship you have to come up against the best and beat the best, and Ronnie is the best.

MARCO FU 13 STEPHEN MAGUIRE 4

22 Apr 2006 17:27:00
Post match press conference comments as Fu races into the quarters...

Stephen Maguire quotes
Q You must be very disappointed
A It’s never nice to lose, especially 13-4. I’m quite relieved that at least I didn’t lose with a session to spare, it could easily have been. All credit to Marco, that’s probably the best he’s played for a couple of seasons, so good luck to him.

Q Were you surprised at how well he played?
A No because I practise with him and even three or four years ago he was different class, he was tipped as world champion. He’s had a bit of a lack of confidence this season because he’s lost a few first round matches. But he can play better than he did today so he can do a bit of damage.

Q Were you aware that he committed a foul in the last frame last night (Fu accidentally touched the blue with his cue in potting a red)?
A I did see it but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure. Sometimes you see things that aren’t there. It’s up to the referee to see it. Even if I was 100 per cent sure I’m not sure what I would do. It didn’t make a difference. He didn’t know obviously, Marco’s straight as a die, he would have said so straight away if had noticed.

Q Are you looking forward to next season?
A I took this season for granted. Last summer I put on too much weight and it’s pay back time, that cost me a season. I dropped down the rankings and I’m not happy about that either. I’m supposed to going forward all the time and it’s a backwards step. I really want to get back to where I was a couple of years ago fitness wise. I’ve had to get a new waistcoat made so there’s something wrong there. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, I don’t want to be a fat world champion!

Marco Fu quotes
Q You must be very happy with your performance
A Yes, my form started to turn around at the UK when I nearly beat Ken Doherty. You just need a win to prove to everyone that you can do it. I hadn’t beaten Stephen in practice for five or six years, he usually gives me a hard time so it’s nice to change that.

Q You’ve been working with Terry Griffiths.
A Yes, we’ve been working on a few things including how I grip the cue, the bridge and the approach to the shot. They are just minor things but when you put them together it makes a major difference. That’s really helped. I was really struggling before, it seemed like other players only had to show up to beat me. The way I was cueing I thought there was no way back so that’s why I went to Terry and now I am heading in the right direction. I’ve been with Terry since November.

Q Did you notice the foul last night?
A No, I didn’t notice until I read it on teletext last night. If I had done I would have definitely owned up. Snooker players are very sporting and we are proud of that. If I knew I’d fouled I would admit it straight away no matter what was at stake.

Q Your confidence must be very high.
A Yes, to beat the world No 3 13-4 when I didn’t have a good record against him before is perfect for me. I just want to enjoy myself in matches. My goal this season was to enjoy every moment and to play at the Crucible and enjoy it is great. I want to enjoy it every time I go out to play here because you never know when it’s going to be your last time.

Q For a long time you were Asia’s top players, then Ding came along. Have you been inspired by his success?
A Yes, China is very strong now and there are a lot of good players coming through. I’m very proud to be one of those. I hope I can do as well as Ding, he was a big inspiration to me when he won the UK because he’s from China but he’s been successful over here and he’s only 18. If he can do it, I can do it too.

SHAUN MURPHY 13 STEVE DAVIS 7

22 Apr 2006 14:38:00
Post match press conference comments as the defending champion wins his seventh consecutive match at the Crucible.

Shaun Murphy quotes
Q Did you feel there was more expectation on you playing Steve this year?
A Not really because I think everyone still regards Steve very highly and I don’t expect everyone to be on my side when I’m playing him as he is a legend. He walks out, gets a great reception and everyone wants to see him to play well and that includes me! He’s still the bloke I look up to and it’s nice to watch him fizz the white round the table and do things that are very clever. They look innocuous but they are actually really clever and it’s nice to watch him up close. Fortunately for me he doesn’t finish frames off like he used to and I’m thought other quarter-finals.

Q Are you over your virus now Shaun?
A Just about. My throat is really sore but it is not giving me as much trouble as it was doing. Through the first match it was a real struggle but after a few early nights and some medication and hopefully by the quarters I’ll be fully recovered.

Q Will the cloth change allow you to build a rhythm?
A The cloth will be changed on Saturday for the quarter-finals and then all the tables will be dismantled and a new one put it for the semi-finals. It won’t give anyone an advantage, as it will be the same for everyone. A new cloth will won’t make much difference to how players are throughout the tournament, it’ll just mean that maybe it’ll be a little bit like we’re used to at most other events. I have been amazed at how much has been said about the cloth. I don’t know whether players have forgotten how to adapt but maybe if the cloth’s a bit slower, they should hit the ball a bit harder. However, the pockets are small so if you hit the ball a bit harder you have to be more accurate and some shots don’t go in like they would do normally. I can’t believe how many players have complained about table speeds when we all grew up playing on different club tables and some tables I’ve played on around the world have been horrific but you just have to adapt.

Q You’ve not made many breaks over 60 this year.
A I’m just not playing quite as well as I was last year. Having said that my tactical game has really come on this season. I’ve outmanoeuvred James Wattana and Steve Davis, so I’m pleased with my first two rounds work. No one beats the Nugget without knowing their way round the table. We’ve both put each other in difficult positions and if I can get someone like him in trouble then eventually I’ll find my potting boots. I think I’ve lost them at home somewhere! Sooner or later I will find them and when I do, if I keep playing safe this well then the other players could be in trouble.

Q Do you think some of the other players have used the table as an excuse?
A I find it so strange that snooker players seem to think that when turning up at an event the tables should be the same every time. I don’t where that comes from – it doesn’t happen in any other sport. When you grow up playing on tables in junior tournaments they change from week to week and learning to adapt to a slower or faster table is a skill like screwing the white back. The hand marks people refer to were there in the past. Its not a problem, it just highlights the players who can adapt but I don’t tend to roll many shots anyway – they all seem to crack in the back of the pocket. If they start making the pockets of glass then I’m in trouble!

Steve Davis quotes
Q You won a few more frames against Shaun than you did last year
A He played astonishingly well last year and it would be unfair to judge him against that performance. The conditions are quite difficult. I think they’re going to change the cloth. It was dampish as well and that’s not the cloth’s fault, it’s been raining for a few days. It’s unusual for the Crucible to be damp. If there’s moisture in the air, that gets into the cloth and makes the pockets smaller. I was disappointed in the way I started off the first two sessions, and especially disappointed in the way I lost the fifth frame, I threw it away and that hurt me quite a lot. From looking like 3-2, it was 4-1. I wouldn’t say I didn’t recover but I struggled after that. I came out for the second session and for the first two frames played like a dog, and it was uphill from that point. But I enjoyed it.

Q How do you rate Murphy’s chances?
A You can’t predict what’s going to happen. I can’t believe some of the results. It’s just on the day. On his day he’s a brilliant player so he can win it. He’s struggling with a bit of a cold so he’s not 100 per cent. If they put another cloth on then you’ll start to see who’s playing well, if they adapt quickly to the conditions. He’s not without a chance. But don’t write anyone off. I commentated on Marco Fu’s match against Alan McManus and he didn’t seem to be playing that well and I thought there’s no way he’ll beat Stephen Maguire. But now he’s 12-4 up. You just can’t say who’s going to play well. It’s very open. There are players who would have more of a problem winning it than others, but if you get on a roll in a tournament the buoyancy of it all can push a player to greater things.

Q You’re guaranteed to be back here next season
A yes, I’ve had a good season. It’s not been a great one but it’s been productive, especially getting to the final of the UK. I shall go out tonight and celebrate my season because I’ve not gone down the rungs. In fact I’ve gone up a few rungs. Other players have struggled so I’m in good company. I might even hang on in the top 16 until I’m 50. I haven’t got many ambitions left so I found that one in the bottom of the box! It’s nice to be playing ok, I’ve had my moments and I’m enjoying it more. I’m looking forward to next season. I’d like to get off to a good start in the matches a bit more, that’s one thing that gets harder as you get older. Jimmy White was saying the same thing. You just have to accept those type of things, maybe you have to be fitter so I’ll be on the cycling machine.

NEIL ROBERTSON 13 STEPHEN LEE 9

21 Apr 2006 23:34:00
Post match press conference comments as the Aussie makes the quarters...

Neil Robertson quotes
Q. I can see a smile there?
A. Yes I’m very happy, obviously.

Q. How do you think you played?
A. The first session set a pretty big standard, a new level for me. I think that’s the best I’ve played over a 5-6 frame period. I played absolutely fantastic and the last two I still played pretty well. I kept pulling away and Stephen kept coming back, it was a fantastic match. I was quite thankful to have that lead early on, because it could have gone all the way.

Q. This is the first time there’s been an Australian in the quarter finals since 1983.
A. Yes, so I read, Eddie Charlton. Well this is a pretty proud moment for me. I made the quarters in the UK and to make the quarters in the world, it’s a pretty handy season. I’m well into the Top 16 now. I don’t know if I’ve got an outside chance of the top eight even. Everything’s looking good. I’m playing pretty well. If I can sustain that sort of level I think I can do pretty well.

Q. Did you ever see Eddie Charlton play?
A. I never actually met him. So I only saw him play on TV. It was pretty disappointing never to meet him. I was living in Melbourne and he lived in Sydney. It was sad when he passed away.

Q. How many supporters did you have out there?
A. I’ve got a really good mate up from Cambridge and for the quarters there’ll be more. I’ll make sure they’re here. It really helps. But I’m getting support from the crowd in general. I get a pretty good reception, probably due to the way I’m playing, aggressive and good to watch when I’m playing well. I was going to bring my dad over but it was a bit too late, but he’ll be here, for sure, next year.

Q. What’s the state of snooker in Australia at the moment, are there any good players?
A. There is one player who could have a pretty big impact over the next couple of years. He’s coming over to Cambridge to live with me. He’s a bit raw, but he’s got a massive amount of natural talent. I think he could be really good. His name is Vinnie Calabrese. Good luck spelling that one! (Calabrese is the Australian Under 21 champion). Australia is all about winners. I’ve done a few interviews. If I won there’d be a lot of coverage. It would take someone like me to win a big tournament to get the game noticed back home. They are starting to notice me a bit now. I think Quinten [Hann] had the opportunity to go on a few shows. He knocked them back, I don’t know why! I’m just trying to do the best I can, to raise the profile and doing it proud and get the publicity for the good reasons, not so much the bad! I’m just loving it all at the moment.

Q. If you won here you’d pay us back for the Ashes?
A. Yeah. If I won here and then Australia crush you 4-0 in the next series…!

Q. Did you surprise yourself a bit in this match, did you know you could play as well as you did?
A. After the UK, I made the quarters there. I was playing well but my positional play was diabolical. I think that could have cost me the tournament. When I played Ding I was getting chances, losing position, then eventually missing. So I spoke to Terry Griffiths and said I was embarrassed about my cue ball control. He gave me a few things to try and I’ve been working really hard the past couple of months. Now it’s starting to come together. It’s a lot easier to win frames and matches when you have control than taking every shot from ten feet away.

Q. Stephen Lee said he’d like to see you play under a little more pressure?
A. I thought that was funny. In Malta I had a few drinks with him and he didn’t stop telling me how well I deliver the cue through the ball. Then I see this interview saying he’s heard I’ve got a good action. I beat him 9-4 in the UK so he must have seen it, unless he was doing a Ronnie with the towel over his head. I think I’ve done pretty well.

Stephen Lee quotes
Q How would you sum up your performance?
A. There was a 100 break between a load of rubbish. I’d have a 100, feel alright for 5 minutes, then I didn’t feel right for a few frames. My safety let me down. You can’t leave him with his hand on the table. He looked good, he took advantage of it. But he’s a good player, definitely.

Q. There was no problem with your scoring?
A. I was just in bits and pieces. I tried to attack him but I didn’t put any pressure on him. My safety wasn’t good enough throughout the match. It was disappointing. I felt I could score, but he kept getting in first most times and I made a mess of a few frames. He was being allowed to take the long balls on. He was getting in first. He’s a good player, I’ve got to say he’s better than I thought. I didn’t play well in York, and he played alright there and he’s played well again over the past couple of days.

RYAN DAY 10 JOE PERRY 3

20 Apr 2006 22:34:00
Post-match press conference comments as Day strides into round two...
Ryan Day quotes

Q It was very comfortable for you
A Yes, Joe made a 97 in the first frame but I played well for the next four or five frames. I was solid and I took the chances Joe gave me to get a nice lead. I kept him under pressure from there and did what I had to.

Q How do you feel about playing Ronnie?
A Obviously if I had the choice I wouldn’t choose to be playing him but it’s a match I will look forward to. We’ve played once before, I lost 5-4 to him in Scotland (at the Players Championship.) He can steam-roller you but if I can get off to a good start I’ll see how it goes.

Q Would you like to have been tested more?
A No. I’m quite happy! Joe didn’t play as he can and he missed a few. But I felt I had more to give. Every time I had to make a clearance I did. In the last frame I had a really difficult clearance and I was really focussed on making sure the match finished there and then.

Q There are a lot of parallels between yourself and Shaun Murphy.
A Yes. Ronnie is a tough test next but I’m not here to make up the numbers. Maybe I’ll be lifting the cup come May 1. I have the belief that one day I’ll have the opportunity to win the world championship. I suppose the fact that Shaun won it also inspired me.

Joe Perry quotes

Q Was there anything wrong with the table?
A No, I thought the table played OK. I heard some of the comments from the other players but I was surprised how fast it was. It was a pretty good table.

Q How disappointed are you by your performance?
A I’m absolutely gutted. I don’t know if you can practise too hard for an event. I came here full of confidence and Barry Hawkins and Neil Robertson will vouch for how well I’ve been playing for the last fortnight. But I left it all on the practice table. I got off to a decent enough start with a 90 break in the first frame. I had a chance in almost every frame last night and you can’t afford to miss pots. Ryan got more and more confident the more I was missing. It was all my own doing.

Q How far can Ryan do?
A He’s a very good player with a modern game, he goes for his shots and scores when he gets in. It’s hard for me to give a fair opinion because I didn’t test him at all, I made life easy for him. It could have been different if I’d punished his mistakes. He took his chances far better than I did. He’s one of many, everyone’s good!

PETER EBDON 10 MICHAEL HOLT 8

20 Apr 2006
Post match press conference comments as Ebdon survives Holt's challenge...
Peter Ebdon quotes

Take nothing away from Michael, he made it very tough for me and came back strong. I struggled. I put a lot of hard work in for this tournament, I’ve probably worked harder than ever and I came here in really good form. Physically I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.

Q Michael has a lot of ability
A Yes, loads, and he’s a really nice lad. The way he is around the table sometimes, you can’t take that the wrong way. If you don’t know him you might do that but you shouldn’t because he’s a nice bloke and a fantastic player. That’s a really good win for me because he came back at me strongly and asked a few questions. At 8-8 I felt the best I had done in the match, I was calm composed and focussed, I felt great. That’s just the way I want to be feeling although I’d rather it didn’t take me until 8-8 to get to that point.

Q Do you think that match will help you in the rest of the tournament?
A Without a doubt, the one thing we’ve been lacking this season is match practice and I certainly got some there. I’m just relieved to win. I’m looking forward to getting home to practise for a couple of days now and to my wife Deborah coming back here with me.

Michael Holt quotes

Q Did you fancy it when you came back?
A I felt as if I couldn’t pot a ball all day, so I’m pleased to shown a bit of character to have come back whereas before I would have just given up. I had a couple of chances towards the end, there was a lot of pressure out there. I can take some positives, I battled and battled and nearly did it. But at the end of the day I just wasn’t playing well enough. My long balls were no good, anything over six foot I was nowhere near. I just came up a bit short.

Q How frustrated were you?
A I think I was quite good. I can’t feel any worse than I did all day. Some times you just feel as if you can’t pot a ball, I just felt really bad. I was seeing things like I do sometimes. It’s great if you are playing well at the Crucible and awful if you’re not. Peter’s a great player, he’s very professional and he showed his class in the end.

Q How would you sum up your season?
A I played some good stuff but I could have done better. I’m disappointed to lose in the first round here because I felt I could have some damage.

NIGEL BOND 10 STEPHEN HENDRY 9

19 Apr 2006
Post-match reaction from Bond's amazing victory...
Stephen Hendry quotes
Q The manner in which you lost was cruel
A I suppose

Q Where does this defeat rank in your career?
A Along with the rest

Nigel Bond quotes
Q You must be shell-shocked
A I’m almost speechless. It was just one of those amazing Crucible matches that crop up every now and again. I’m delighted to on the winning side. Stephen’s given me a few pastings here over the years so I thought it was a bit of pay back.

Q Did you think you’d blown it when you went in-off.
A I didn’t want to play the black with screw, although really that was the shot. But I was shaking so I just hit it plain ball. As soon as I hit it I knew it was going to go in, it was bang on line. The first shot on the respot I was a bit lucky, I got a double kiss and left it on the bottom rail. But after that I played a good respot.

Q The frame you lost at 7-3 gave him a chance to get back into the match
A Yes, obviously I went in-off in the end but before that I should have played a red into the black. He got back into it after that.

Q Did you think you’d thrown your chance away.
A I did a little bit, obviously I was thinking I should have been 8-3 up and I went in at the interval 7-6. But I told myself that I was still in front. He was a bit unfortunate towards the end, He had a few bad kicks. He knocked a red in and gave me the chance to get back to 8-8. But it probably evened itself out over the match

Q Was the tension mounting towards the end?
A Yes, but I felt in great shape. I can handle it.

Q Were you surprised at how Stephen missed yesterday?
A We both missed a lot of balls. I didn’t expect that from him and when he does that you have to capitalise.

Q Have you ever played in a more exciting match?
A Probably the British Open final against John Higgins in ’96. This is up there with the great matches I’ve won, although it’s not quite the same as winning a tournament. Look at what Steve Davis is doing and he’s 48. I’m still competing with the young players coming through and on my day I can beat anybody. There’s nothing better than winning a match like that and I’ll just carry on. I’ll put myself up there with anybody when I’m on my game. Over the last two years I’ve struggled, I dropped out of the top 32. (Coach) Big Del has been an inspiration. I had a technical flaw and he sorted that out. He’s a great motivator and helped with my self-belief.

Q Was there a time when you thought you might quit the game.
A It did knock me back when I dropped out of the top 32 but what else am I going to do?! It took me a couple of seasons to get back and now I’m well in. I haven’t qualified for the Crucible in the last couple of years. You do wonder whether you’ve played your last year at Sheffield but you just have to keep punching away.

Q What were you thinking at 9-8 down
A At 8-7 was the hardest point because I’d lost five frames on the spin. In the last frame I felt good, I was getting through the ball well. I just tried to concentrate on the balls.

ROCKET IN THE MOOD

19 Apr 2006
A focussed and determined Ronnie O'Sullivan easily progressed to the last 16 of the 888.com World Snooker Championship.
Amazingly, it was the Rocket’s first win in ranking event since he reached the final of the Grand Prix in October.

It was been a poor season for the 30-year-old from Chigwell by his standards and he is likely to lose his world No 1 ranking unless he wins this tournament.

But O’Sullivan remains the bookmakers’ favourite to life the famous trophy at the Crucible come May 1.

He has been reunited with coach and mentor Ray Reardon this week and his game looks in fine shape, his sharpness no doubt boosted by practice sessions with Peter Ebdon last week.

He stated after the match that the wrist injury which undoubtedly contributed to his first round defeats in Newport and Beijing is not affecting his cueing.

O’Sullivan, world champion in 2001 and 2004, continues his bid for a third world title against Joe Perry or Ryan Day on Sunday.

Most of the damage against Harold was done yesterday when the ambidextrous potter raced into a 7-0 lead, ending the session 7-2 up. He won the first two frames today with a top break of 100, his third century of the match.

Stoke potter Harold pulled back to 9-4 with runs of 94 and 49 but O’Sullivan finished the tie in the first frame after the interval with a smooth 88. It was his tenth victory over Harold in as many meetings.

Meanwhile, 2002 champion Peter Ebdon was hauled back from 4-0 to 5-4 by Nottingham's Michael Holt.
Wellinborough's Ebdon was off to a flying start with breaks of 43, 95, 87 and 66. The Hitman got back to 4-2 with 45 and 102 then nicked the next on the pink.

Ebdon went 5-3 up with a 79 but Holt won the last of the session with an 80 to trail by just one ahead of tonight's conclusion.

RONNIE O'SULLIVAN 10 DAVE HAROLD 4

19 Apr 2006 13:49:00
Post match press cenference as the Rocket sails into round two...

Dave Harold quotes

Q The first seven frames killed you off
A Yes, I lost the match in the first session. Ronnie’s always tough to play but at the World Championship he’s always a bit more special. The first frame was a killer. I went into the pack and knocked a red in, then he had a fluke and made a century off it. Every little flick he got for the first five or six frames I was just laughing. The top players seem to get that bit of form at just the right time. He won fair and square, I was woefully short in the end. But on another day it could have been a different match. I felt as though I was playing well, I just had one or two lapses in concentration and missed a couple of easy ball. But I enjoyed the occasion and the match. I always enjoy coming here, no matter how you play. It would have been nice to play a lower ranked player to get a bit of table time.

Q You’ve had a decent season
A I went from 21 to 67 in the world but now I’m back in the top 40 and I’ve got a great chance of getting in the top 32 next season. I’ve had a great season, winning a lot of matches at Prestatyn. I’ve struggled a bit at the venues so I need to get to a few more venues and start getting that feel back.

Q Can Ronnie win it this year?
A Obviously he’s one of the favourites. He’ll have to up his game a little bit. If I had been on my A game I could have taken him close. He’s lost a few first round matches so perhaps he came here with a bit of trepidation. Maybe he wanted to draw me because he’d beaten me nine times before. If I don’t do anything else before I retire, I want to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan!

Ronnie O’Sullivan quotes

Q Good start Ronnie?
A Yes, it was alright, it was good enough. I got a bit of confidence early on by getting out of the blocks early. He didn’t cause me too many problems.

Q You seemed to be playing very well in the first seven frames.
A I put some pressure on Dave and got into my stride. I lost it again after that and let him back into the game. I was a bit worried but having built a 7-0 lead I would have really had to go to have lost from there. I wasn’t particularly worried about losing the game but I was concerned about keeping my game at a certain level.

Q It’s good job done.
A Yes, I’m pleased. It was nice to play in the match and nice to be involved

Q Were you worried having lost your first round matches in China and Wales?
A I’m not worried now. That was then, this is now. Hopefully I can have a good run here

Q Does it still fire you up, coming to this tournament?
A I’m enjoying it at this moment. I’m pleased with the way I played and it was nice to be involved in a good game. All credit to Dave, you have to admire people who make up for what they lack in ability with grit and determination. He was always going to be a tough opponent so I’m relieved to get through. All you can do is concentrate on your own game and I was pleased with my performance. As long as I’m still in the mix that’s all that matters.

HIGGINS CRASHES OUT EARLY

Sunday 16th April 2006

Mark Selby has claimed the first prize scalp of the 2006 World Snooker Championship after scoring a shock 10-4 first-round win against seventh seed John Higgins.

Higgins won the title at the Crucible in 1998 and had been many people's tip to revisit those heights after a season that has so far seen wins in both the Grand Prix and Masters events.

But after trailing 6-3 overnight, the 30-year-old from Wishaw could find no way back against the 22-year-old Leicester player Selby.

"I just couldn't get going," Higgins later admitted.

The anticipated fightback seemed possible when Higgins started the evening session by taking the opening frame.

But Selby then showed his mettle by reeling off four frames in a row, the youngster knocking in two century breaks of 123 and 110, plus scores of 58 and 59.

"It was a funny match and I started very scrappily yesterday but Mark played great tonight," continued Higgins, who beat Selby 10-5 in the first round last year.

"I came here with high hopes after having such a good season but if someone keeps you in your seat there's not much you can do," he added.

Meanwhile Selby, who faces either Mark Williams or Anthony Hamilton in round two, said he believed that his win would not be his last this year in Sheffield.

"I believe I can go all the way now," he said. "I don't think anyone could have played as well against John as I did tonight."

Selby will be joined in the second round by Steve Davis, the six-times champion setting up a clash with defending champion Shaun Murphy after beating Andy Hicks 10-4.

"Now I'm looking forward to playing Shaun," 48-year-old Davis said. "I love the way he plays but I would love to turn him over and I fancy my chances because I will go in there and play aggressively."

Elsewhere, fourth seed Stephen Maguire goes into Monday's concluding session holding a 6-3 first-round lead over Mark King.

In the Crucible the balls are clicking again

Jimmy White is 43 years old and in the following days his kness will be shivering. Even though the snooker professional experienced it all since he got the warranty to take part at the tour in 1980.
The bloated face gives away that he didn’t spend the passed decades in a cloister: the whole sports-England knows about him liking to allow himself one and another glass of Whiskey.
In the 80s White advanced to be a star of the royal-disciplin of billard which is not only popular in the countries of Commonwealth but also becomes more and more popular in germany.
White (nickname: “Whirlwind”) bundled, like none of the other professional players, the yearning of the “working class”: he played wild and offensive, he provocated the establishment, he drunk like a dock worker, he precipitated but stood up again and all in all he won ten competitions. Six times he even was in the final found of the World Championship - and lost all those.
Noone blamed him for his failures in those decisive moments. Everyone knows about the nervousity of their hero. Before White steps out the last four steps of the “Crucible Theatre” in Sheffield and the the pink-coloured curtain will be opened, his hands are always that shaking so that someone else has to lit the last cigarette for him before the appearance.
When today the most important competition of the year starts, a competition which will determine the best professionals of the world, also the heart of the other 31 competitors will start bashing.
The Crucible, how the theatre in the center of Sheffield is called, has developed to a mysthic place of the English sports from 1977 on.
From the outside the grey concrete building isn’t that nice: the read roof needs a new coating, two letters of the name-placard already have broken out. Also the interieur of the theatre doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the modern professional sports. Only about 950 persons fit into the auditorium which is running towards the tables like a horn- there are no boxes for sponsors, and also the preparation rooms for the professionals are way too small.
In this year the prize-money is curter than the last time (the winner cashes 200.000 pounds)- longtime sponsor Embassy, a tobacco company, was forbidden to continue the engagements because of the EU-laws (new sponsor is 888.com, an online casino). And though all that everyone keeps coming back again. Here were, in the last 30 years, many snooker legends born.
To the most legendary moments belongs the „Black Pot Final” from the year 1985 when 18,5 Millions of Brits watched it on BBC.
Then, at the match between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor the last black ball adjudicated after more than 1200 potted balls who would be the World Champion. The last match, a real defensive-battle lasted itself already 68 minutes, and at the end Taylor won.
To the highlights of the last years Ronnie O’Sullivan contributed many .
“The Rocket”, as the man from London is called because of his rocket-like fast hits and because of his intuitional matches, played in 2004 in another dimension of snooker, when he detached the 7-times World Champion of the 90s, Stephen Hendry , in the half-finals with
17:4. In the last year the impatient Ronnie O’Sullivan broke down in the quarter-finals against Peter Ebdon- and in the first moment of frustration he announced a break of his carieer to cure his depressions.
In this year Ronnie O’Sullivan is at the start again, and he is one of the aspirants of the title though having suffered two first-round-loses. A real favourite is not to find yet. Neither the 23-year-old and “local hero” S.Murphy , nor any other professionals have achieved sth paramount.
In this case it will end up with matches between the established ones: Mark Williams(World Champion 2000 and 2003), John Higgins(1998), Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan(2001 and 2004).
The just 18-years-old Chinese Ding Junhui who won suprisely the UK Championship last autumn failed at the qualifications for the Crucible.
The mythic place demanded a victim - Ding, who is actually one of those having good nerves, lost in the decisive moment his nerves.

Snooker stars in silent protest

Bryn Palmer

Leading snooker players are in open revolt against their own governing body on the eve of the World Championship.

A row with tournament sponsors, the online casino 888.com, which has cost some players personal sponsorship deals has led to many boycotting the media.
The issue has further upset players already angry at a drop in prize money.
"There will be a players' uprising," Ian Doyle, chairman of management agency 110sport, told BBC Sport. "They are sick to death of the situation."
Doyle's company manages a dozen players competing at Sheffield including world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan, seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry and two other former world champions in Mark Williams and Ken Doherty.
Hendry and Williams are both set to lose £50,000-plus sponsorship deals with Betfred, and Doherty his deal with Paddy Power.
World snooker rules prevent players from sporting logos from competing companies, and 888.com has signed a deal to be associate sponsors of the Masters, Grand Prix and UK Championship as well as sponsoring the World Championship.
This follows a large reduction in prize money in a season reduced to six ranking tournaments after Embassy was forced to withdraw its backing of the sport due to the ban on tobacco advertising last year.
"We are talking about millions, not thousands," Doyle claimed.
The cut in tournaments has seen many players suffer surprise upsets in the early rounds, complaining of a lack of quality match practice.
"It doesn't seem to have hit home with the powers that be that these are the stars of the game," Doyle said.
"Every sport needs it stars and these guys are being punished mercilessly. That, to me, is an absolute scandal."
Doyle's company is contemplating legal action under European restraint of trade legislation.
"If they choose to go down that route, that is their prerogative," Rodney Walker, chairman of World Snooker, the commercial arm of the game's governing body, told BBC Sport.
"But the rules of World Snooker are absolutely crystal clear. They are only allowed to have one sponsorship patch on their waistcoats.
"For years it has been the practice that if an event was being sponsored by a tobacco company or a brewery, the players would not wear competing logos.
"This is absolutely no different but some of the players are seeking to differentiate between what has gone before and what is happening now."
Walker has already had discussions with two player agents and is due to meet representatives from 110sport next week.
"We are fully aware of the situation and it doesn't affect that many players, nor is the amount of money they are affected by as dramatic as some of them might suggest," he said.
"I am discussing the matter with 888.com and they are aware of the implications of the agreement. It is part of on-going discussions."
Walker inherited what he called a "virtually bankrupt" sport in October 2003, turning round an organisation that made losses of £ 3m in the previous four years into one which made a profit of £ 1.2m in his first year.
He anticipates "another good profit" this year, but admits players unwilling to promote the sport's showpiece tournament is "not ideal".
"It is mainly one group of players that are not not assisting in promoting the event, but thankfully there are plenty more players that are happy to do so.
"Sometimes I am at a loss to understand what the players really want.
Yes, the prize money has reduced, as indeed the income has fallen dramatically as we have lost sponsorship income from tobacco. But we are going to replace that."
Walker will announce the schedule for next season in June, when he expects there to be "more tournaments and more prize money".
"The solution to the situation is for the sport to generate more income," he added. "We are beginning to do that and in those circumstances there will be more prize money and these issues will become less relevant.
"Next year more tournaments and more prize money should begin to give the top players the income-earning potential they are seeking."
Doyle nevertheless remains sceptical of Walker's ability to fulfil his promise.
"Sir Rodney has been a great disappointment," he added. "When he took the job he promised a radical overhaul but he has not changed things one bit."

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT FOR ROCKET AND EBDON

13 Apr 2006
Ronnie O'Sullivan and Peter Ebdon can't meet until the final of the 888.com World Snooker Championship - but if they do they'll be ready for battle.

The two former world champions have been practising together ahead of snooker's biggest tournament, which starts in just two days time.

It's not a sight you would expect to see after their controversial meeting at the Crucible last year.

Ebdon, champion in 2002, knocked out title holder O'Sullivan in the quarter-finals 12 months ago, showing all of his battling qualities as he came from 8-2 down to win 13-11.

But worldsnooker.com can reveal that world No 1 O'Sullivan has been a regular this week at Ebdon's practice base, the Snooker Academy in Rushden, Northamptonshire.

Academy Director Keith Warren said: "This year, for the first time in a while, they're in opposite halves of the draw. So, they've been able to practise together.

"And there will be no psychological advantage gained unless they meet the final."

Also in attendance at the Academy are 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, twice Crucible semi-finalist Joe Swail and Thai ace James Wattana.

"They've been taking it in turns to practice together," added Warren.

The appearance of such stars has been a bonus for a number of local youngsters who signed up for the Academy's Easter coaching programme.

"They can't believe they've been practicing on a table next to the likes of Ronnie, Peter and Ken," adds Warren. "They're even having meals together!"

O'Sullivan begins his Crucible campaign against Dave Harold on Tuesday, while Ebdon faces Michael Holt on Wednesday.

RONNIE SEEKING REDEMPTION

11th April 2006

Ronnie O'Sullivan will be looking to conquer his demons at this month's World Championship in Sheffield.
The two-times world champion will arrive at the Crucible this weekend following the worst 12 months of his career.
A historic quarter-final match against Peter Ebdon in last year's World Championship saw O'Sullivan throw away a 10-6 lead to lose 13-11.
His opponent was accused of employing time-consuming tactics to stifle the world number one, preventing O'Sullivan from playing at his most fluent.
O'Sullivan, who won the world title in 2001 and in 2004, threatened to take a 12-month sabbatical following his quarter-final exit.
"I've not fallen out of love with the game, it's still my passion. It would break my heart to turn my back on it. But mentally the game is taking its toll on me," he said after his defeat.
He returned days later, but results since have shown a man not in form, and not comfortable with his game.
The provisional rankings place him in fourth, and falling.
A man who is capable of century breaks with both his left and right hands, O’Sullivan lost his last competitive match 5-0 to James Wattana in the China Open last month.
A stunned Wattana, who is outside the top 25, described his opponent as "a bit lost".
O'Sullivan has not won a match in a ranking event since last October, but fellow Essex boy Steve Davis still rates his chances as an outsider.
"I don't think there was ever any doubt that Ronnie O'Sullivan would be at Sheffield this year and that he's be a force, but the force is down to himself.
"On the day there's another great player in the opposite chair and that's the same for Ronnie and everyone else.
"But he is an enigma who could just flick the switch and see it all go right."
Ebdon's victory in Sheffield last year exposed O'Sullivan's Achilles heel: get under his skin and he looks instantly vulnerable.
Ebdon was 'in the zone' against O'Sullivan, often taking three minutes to play a shot. His tactics, whether innocent or otherwise, were successful, and he overcame a four frame deficit to progress to the semi-finals.
"Some people were very harsh," reflects Ebdon, "but I was just there doing my best, trying as hard as I can and I'll be doing exactly the same this year, I'll just be giving it everything I've got.
"I'm a professional sportsman and I'm there to win."
Ebdon is provisionally ranked 11th in the world, but believes that he can emulate his 2002 title-winning form to become World Champion for a second time.
"It was an amazing achievement, the culmination of 17 years of hard work since I started playing the game, and I honestly believe I've got at least one more World Championship win in me, so hopefully it'll be this year," said Ebdon.
"I think it's very important to get a second. It's difficult enough to win one, and there are many very, very good players out there who haven't won a word title, but to win two would be fantastic, and to win three would be amazing."
Ebdon's preparation for the competition in Sheffield that begins this weekend has involved an extensive fitness routine.
"I've been swimming a mile every day, running too, and I'm in good health. I'm sure the long matches at the World Championship will suit me."
"It's not been the greatest season for me, but I've been working very hard, practising hard on my game, and my physical fitness is coming on well."
A rematch of last year's momentous quarter-final between Ebdon and O'Sullivan would be a showdown for the title, as the two are in opposite sides of the draw and would not meet until the final on May 1.

Davis ready to unveil his winning smile again

BY MATTHEW SYED
Crucible will be a stress-free zone for former champion
The Times April 11, 2006

THERE is a dispute in modern sports psychology that has yet to be fully resolved. On the one hand is the theory that success springs from the obsessive and ruthless pursuit of excellence, where everything else in life is considered a distraction. Names such as Ivan Lendl and Nick Faldo spring to mind in this context, sportsmen who pursued their ambitions with Terminator-like blinkeredness.

On the other hand is an approach that emphasises the importance of the life-work balance and regards obsession as unhealthy and ultimately counter-productive. It is a philosophy that worked wonders for the likes of Muhammad Ali and Andre Agassi, athletes whose careers were inspired rather than undermined by the realisation that there is far more to life than sport.

Steve Davis is unusual — perhaps unique — in that he has evolved (through accident rather than design) from one psychological extreme to the other during the course of his long career. Fascinatingly, the 48-year-old remains in two minds as to which of the mentalities is the more effective.

“There is no doubt I am enjoying my snooker now more than in the 1980s,” Davis said when we met at the Royal Automobile Club in London. “Back then I found it difficult to switch off. For the two-week period before the World Championship I would be on edge and my whole life was dominated by the anticipation of the moment when I would walk out for my first match.

“Now things are completely different. I am happy just to go with the flow. In the four days leading up to this year’s event, for example, I am commentating on poker and catching a practice session whenever there is time.

“I sometimes wonder how things would have been if I could have applied a more relaxed approach when I was younger. Would it have taken the pressure off? Would it have allowed me to have been even more dominant? The thing is that, without the mental intensity, it is possible that I would not have practised as hard as I did. What I gained in composure I might have lost in terms of the edge that you sometimes need to win.”

Davis, who will combine his challenge at this year’s World Championship, which starts on Saturday, with his role as a BBC pundit, won six titles at the Crucible in Sheffield in the 1980s, but famously lost in two dramatic finals when the mounting pressure seemed to get the better of him. He squandered an 8-0 lead before losing to Dennis Taylor on the final black in 1985. Twelve months later he was beaten by Joe Johnson.

In his earlier, machine-like incarnation, Davis was a model of emotional restraint. Nowadays he is rarely seen around a snooker table without a smile or an exaggerated grimace, something he believes has transformed his popularity.

“I think people used to react against what they regarded as my aloof attitude,” he said.

“Audiences found it difficult to warm to me and would sometimes clap when I missed a shot. These days I don’t shy away from showing what I am feeling inside and people seem to like that.”
Given his remarkable performance in reaching the final of this season’s UK Championship — the second-biggest competition in the sport — Davis believes that he has an outside chance of causing an upset. “With a following wind, it has to be within the bounds of possibility,” he said. “Everyone who I beat at the UK was giving 100 per cent, so there is no reason for me to be afraid at the World Championship.”

With Ronnie O’Sullivan having had an indifferent season, the race is as open as it has been for many years. Shaun Murphy, 23, will be attempting to become the first debut winner successfully to defend his title. John Higgins, who has been in sparkling form, is tipped by many of his fellow professionals. Other strong contenders include Matthew Stevens and Stephen Hendry, the seven-times champion.

Davis starts his quest against Andy Hicks, the left-hander from Cornwall. It has been a long road for Davis from his first victory in 1981 as an intense and robotic 23-year-old. The new, more human Davis will arrive with a spring in his step and a smile. Win or lose, the ageing cue-man is going to have fun.

All eyes at the Crucible will be on the enigmatic Ronnie O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan is regarded by many as perhaps the most gifted player of all time, but a fragile temperament has often led to his downfall on the green baize.

'Rocket' Ronnie - a mere 30 years of age - has previously threatened to retire from the game and last won the World title in 2004, his second Crucible triumph.

But an on-form O'Sullivan could light up the Crucible Theatre.

He his the latest in the line of crowd pleasers, taking over the mantle of Jimmy White, successor to our own troubled genius Alex Higgins.

But it would take a very favourable sequence of results - not only his own - for O'Sullivan to cling on to his world number one status next season.

The provisional rankings have him in fourth place - and falling.

This time last year O'Sullivan headed to Sheffield with his number one ranking already secured for the 2005-06 season.

But the Rocket's brittle temperament came into play in a bruising quarter-final against the grinding Peter Ebdon, in what turned out to be more mind game than snooker game.

We know, there´s no one like Ronnie and he´s going to show us his best.

FIRST ROUND DRAW: S Murphy (Eng) v J Wattana (Tha), A McManus (Sco) v M Fu (HK), S Lee (Eng) v A Carter (Eng), R O'Sullivan (Eng) v D Harold (Eng), P Hunter (Eng) v N Robertson (Aus), S Maguire (Sco) v M King (Eng), M Williams (Wal) v A Hamilton (Eng), M Stevens (Wal) v J Swail (NI), J Perry (Eng) v R Day (Wal), K Doherty (Ire) v B Hawkins (Eng), J Higgins (Sco) v M Selby (Eng), S Davis (Eng) v A Hicks (Eng), S Hendry (Sco) v N Bond (Eng), J White (Eng) v D Gray (Eng), P Ebdon (Eng) v M Holt (Eng), G Dott (Sco) v J Parrott (Eng).

Snooker: Mark my words - Murphy

Apr 9 2006
Peter Shuttleworth, Wales on Sunday

SHAUN Murphy fears Will-power could ruin his hopes of retaining snooker's World crown.
Last year's surprise package would dearly love to extend his reign as the King of the Crucible but fears a resurgent Mark Williams is ready to steal his crown when the action begins next Saturday.
Williams is back in the groove and showing flashes of the form which saw him clinch two world titles of his own.
Williams' status as one of a handful of cuemen to have won snooker's most revered prize not once, but twice is always going to be enough to make fellow competitors wary of his abilities. But after a dip in form which coincided with Williams becoming a dad, Murphy now readily admits the Welshman is hitting his stride at just the wrong time from his perspective, at least.
"Everyone should beware," he said. "Mark Williams is back. There are only 21 players ever to win the World Championship and Mark is one of an elite few who've won it twice - so for that reason he'd always be among the favourites, no matter how he's playing, because he knows how to win on the biggest stage.
"Mark went through a stage of not practising much but I can't blame him because he wanted to spend time with his boy.
"I can sympathise.
"When I have a child, I'd want to spend every waking minute with him or her, that's the way life is. You can never have that time with your children again and as Mark was comfortable financially, he could afford to do it.
"And if I had a choice between snooker or my son, I know which I'd choose.
"Even without practice, he was playing quite well so I dread to think how he'll play now he's practising again! If Mark were to win a third World Championship this year, it could arguably be his finest hour because I imagine it'd be doubly hard to reach the top a second time.
"Mark's a truly world- class player who can pull matches out of the fire when a lesser man wouldn't even bother trying. And when Mark is not playing his A game, he still gets his results."
Williams' first World success was in an all-Welsh final with Matthew Stevens in 2000 - the first of two final defeats for Stevens which sparked his love-hate relationship with the Crucible.
As well as his two unsuccessful final appearances, Stevens has also progressed to three semi-finals and is widely-regarded as the best current player on tour not to clinch the world crown.
The 28-year-old Carmarthen potter hasn't reacted well to last year's final appearance, when he was the one to fall victim to the unfancied Murphy.
He won the Northern Ireland Masters and Pot Black Cup, the first two events of the season, but he's since been knocked out in the first round of five of this year's six tournaments.
So his pre-world form couldn't be worse but Murphy won't fall into the trap of writing him off.
The 23-year-old insists: "Matthew mounts a challenge every year.
"And he'll be world champion one day, it's almost like a done deal in my mind.
"I've known Matt since we were very young and he has always played the game like he has now; he's a great potter, a great break-builder, a scorer and a lovely lad to boot.
"I've watched our final last year over and over again and some of the shots I went for were crazy but the gamble paid off. If Matt had played someone less aggressive, he'd have the world title. His form isn't the best but, like Mark, he is suited to the longer matches.
"I've a lot of time for Matthew.
"At the after-dinner party, he had every right to be stroppy but he was a true gent."
Stevens readily admits that he accepts that there is more to life than snooker, a reality brought sharply into focus by the plight of his big snooker mate Paul Hunter, who has battled cancer.
Nevertheless, he has unfulfilled ambitions and the start of this season's World Championship odyssey sees him in the same half of the draw as old-timers Steve Davis and Jimmy White. But Williams has the toughest test.
If he beats Anthony Hamilton in the first round, he could face tournament favourite John Higgins in the second round.

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MURPHY - I'M A STRONGER PLAYER

06 Apr 2006
Shaun Murphy believes he is a better player than he was last year as he looked forward to his defence of the 888.com World Snooker Championship title.

The 23-year-old from Rotherham was back at the scene of his greatest triumph on Wednesday for the launch of snooker's most important tournament.

Last year's runner-up Matthew Stevens and rising star Barry Hawkins were also in Sheffield for the promotional day.

The players posed for photographs outside the Crucible in the 888.com Hummer, at Millennium Square and in the MacDonald Hotel.

Murphy later headed to Sheffield Hallam University to give a talk to students and answer their questions. Asked how far he expected to go in the forthcoming tournament, Murphy replied that anything less than the first prize would be a disappointment.

He told worldsnooker.com: “I’m in better form than I was last year. I’ve been working very hard with my coach Steve Prest on my safety and shot selection and I think I am a smarter player these days."

Murphy seeks to break the Curse of the Crucible by becoming the only first-time winner to successfully defend the title.

“It would be a great honour to break it,” he added. “Especially as so many great players have tried before and failed. I’m confident that I can give it a good bash, and whatever happens I will go down fighting."

He also told the Press Association: "There are new sponsors coming in and we have great links with the BBC. The time is right for more good companies to get on board and if that happens then snooker will be very big again."

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SHEFFIELD SET FOR SNOOKER BONANZA

The 888.com World Snooker Championship returns to Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on 15 April 2006, the first Championship under a new five-year agreement supported by Sheffield City Council, Yorkshire Forward and World Snooker.
29 Mar 2006

As part of the renewed relationship between the City of Sheffield and World Snooker, a state-of-the-art World Snooker Academy is being developed within the English Institute of Sport - Sheffield.

Funded by Yorkshire Forward, the 6,000 square foot Academy will be home to elite snooker players who will be coached at the facility. It will also stage qualifying rounds of key professional tournaments and act as a catalyst for the creation of a number of community and educational snooker initiatives.

The Academy development played a fundamental part in securing the World Championships in Sheffield, and further cements Sheffield's position as the home of World Snooker.
To celebrate the World Championships there is a wealth of events in Sheffield City Centre to enjoy. Tudor Square, home to the Crucible Theatre, will be turned into a snooker village in honour of the tournament and will include a Big Screen for the duration of the Championship broadcasting all the action live from the Crucible.

The square will house the innovative Snooker Experience, where people can learn more about the history, science and stars of the Sport. There will also be a five-day World Market with food and produce from around the globe to complement the World Championship.

Other activities will include a Snooker Stars and Celebrities Portrait Exhibition in the Winter Garden and the Saturday of the finals' weekend will be celebrated with a World Street Festival. Tickets for the World Snooker Championship, running 15th April to 1st May, are available at the Crucible box office on 0114 249 6006.
For more information on the World Snooker Championships visit www.sheffield.gov.uk or www.worldsnooker.com for regional tourist information contact www.yorkshirevisitor.com and to see how Yorkshire Forward is transforming Yorkshire and Humber, visit www.yorkshire-forward.com

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ROCKET PAIRED WITH VETERAN AT CRUCIBLE

World number one Ronnie O'Sullivan will be looking to better last year's quarter-final exit by opening up with a 888.com World Championship victory against Stoke's Dave Harold, his opponent still going strong at a sprightly 40 years of age.
Shaun Murphy will begin the defence of his title against Thailand's James Wattana when this year's prestigious tournament gets underway on April 15.
This year's draw has also thrown up a string of mouthwatering clashes, with seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry set to face Nigel Bond in his first round match.
The pair met each other in the 1995 world final and Hendry triumphed 18-9 after a superb display in the best-of-35 frame match.
Six-times world champion Steve Davis will play Devonian left-hander Andy Hicks, a semi-finalist in 1995.
Crowd favourite and six-times runner-up Jimmy White will play Surrey's David Gray, although a mix-up with this year's live draw saw the Whirlwind originally pitted against Nottingham's Michael Holt.
However, following a brief period of confusion it was confirmed White, who is danger of dropping out of the top 32 unless he finds some much-needed form, will play Gray in his opening match.
Meanwhile Holt, who was knocked out in the last 16 by Davis despite having led 8-2, will play last year's semi-finalist Peter Ebdon.
Holt said: "I heard the draw and was delighted I was playing Jimmy, but then I found out I was playing Peter.
"No disrespect to Peter, he's a former world champion and a great player, but I would have loved to have played Jimmy at the Crucible. That's a match you dream of as a young boy!"
Two-times winner Mark Williams, a champion in 2002 and 2003, takes on Anthony Hamilton, another Nottingham potter, while three-times Masters champion Paul Hunter plays Aussie Robertson.
Hunter has been battling with cancer and Robertson was keen to wish his opponent the best of health and is looking forward to a great match with the Yorkshireman.
"I just hope Paul's as well as he can be. I wish him the best of luck and can't wait to play him," said Robertson.
The remainder of this year's draw sees former winner Ken Doherty - who won the Malta Cup this season - play Beckenham left-hander Barry Hawkins, while Preston Grand Prix winner and Masters champion John Higgins meets Leicester's Mark Selby.
2005 UK champion Stephen Maguire plays Londoner Mark King, fellow Scot Graeme Dott meets the popular John Parrott, Welsh Open winner Stephen Lee plays Tiptree's Ali Carter, Cambridgeshire's Joe Perry meets Welshman Ryan Day, and Bearsden's Alan McManus faces Hong Kong's Marco Fu.
Full First-Round Draw
Shaun Murphy (Eng) v James Wattana (Tha)
Steve Davis (Eng) v Andy Hicks (Eng)
Jimmy White (Eng) v David Gray (Eng)
Peter Ebdon (Eng) v Michael Holt (Eng)
Matthew Stevens (Wal) v Joe Swail (NIre)
Ken Doherty (Ire) v Barry Hawkins (Eng)
Alan McManus (Sco) v Marco Fu (HKg)
Stephen Maguire (Sco) v Mark King (Eng)
Stephen Hendry (Sco) v Nigel Bond (Eng)
Graeme Dott (Sco) v John Parrott (Eng)
Stephen Lee (Eng) v Ali Carter (Eng)
Paul Hunter (Eng) v Neil Robertson (Aus)
John Higgins (Sco) v Mark Selby (Eng)
Mark Williams (Wal) v Anthony Hamilton (Eng)
Joe Perry (Eng) v Ryan Day (Wal)
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) v Dave Harold (Eng)

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WORLD LADIES CHAMPIONSHIP

Entries are now being accepted for the World Ladies Snooker Championship, which takes place from April 1 to 6.
10 Mar 2006 09:53:00
Dudley’s Reanne Evans is set to defend the title she won at the same venue last April when she beat Lynette Horsburgh 6-4 in the final.
This time there are five World events, including mixed pairs.
Maria Catalano, also from Dudley in the West Midlands, is the player in form, especially after her recent Connie Gough National success over Evans.
And Catalano could even help Ronnie O’Sullivan lift a world title before he heads to the Crucible, if he accepts her offer to partner her in the mixed pairs.
Entries are now being accepted for the five competitions. Deadline is March 25.
The tournaments are: Ladies World Champs, World Mixed Pairs, World Ladies Billiards, World Ladies Doubles and World Ladies Seniors.
The Ladies Singles World final will take place on April 5 along with the Doubles.
The Mixed Pairs is on the final day of play on April 6. The tournament begins on April 1.
For further details on entries and cost contact worldladiessnooker@ntlworld.com
Or contact Cambridge Snooker Centre, Coldhams Road on 01223 249661.

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