“The Door” opened to welcome the senior players at the theatre of dreams
It was a very long day at the Crucible … and it produced this:
Jimmy White, Ken Doherty, Darren Morgan and Aaron Canavan all advanced to the quarter-finals of the 2020 ROKiT Phones World Seniors Snooker Championship during the tournament’s opening day at the Crucible Theatre.
Reigning champion White began his title defence with a 4-1 victory over 1986 world professional champion Joe Johnson in the evening session.
Johnson defeated White here on his way to winning last year’s Seniors Masters, and the Yorkshireman briefly threatened a replay when he claimed a scrappy first frame of the match on the pink. However, ‘The Whirlwind’ managed to relax, making a 90 break to get on the board himself before racking up further contributions of 73, 41 and 71 to run out a 4-1 victor with an impressive 92% pot success rate.
In the competition’s curtain-raiser, 1997 world professional champion Ken Doherty survived a mid-match blip and a deciding frame climax to oust fellow Irishman Rodney Goggins 4-3.
‘The Darling of Dublin’ pounced on his opponent’s nervy start to take a 2-0 lead, but looking like going one frame away from progression, an unexpected miss from Doherty seemed to turn the match. Crucible debutant Goggins – who started the frame with a 41 – finished it with a 58 clearance to open his account and settle down. The former professional from Wexford continued to grow in confidence, winning the next two frames to go one away from producing an upset.
Well known for his determination when behind – especially at this venue – Doherty bounced back with a 68 to force a decider and then crafted a gutsy match-clinching break of 48 to ultimately go through.
“For a couple of frames there I was gone. I just tried to dig myself out of it and I was delighted with the 60 break in frame six and some of the pots at the end.” said Doherty to Rob Walker after the match.
Doherty is seeking to create history later this week by becoming the first person to win the world junior, amateur, professional and seniors championships.
After enduring a slow start to his match with Northern Ireland’s Patrick Wallace, 2011 winner and a further two-time finalist Darren Morgan found his groove with a string of soul boosting breaks to come through 4-2.
The former world number eight fashioned efforts of 73, 75 (twice) and a 70 in a frame that the Welshman lost on the black despite his opponent needing penalty points. Morgan – who will face Doherty in the quarter-finals – said “from nowhere it clicked”.
The final player to book a last eight berth was 2018 winner Canavan, who once again showed his baize battling qualities to overcome Leo Fernandez in a post-midnight finish.
Having started in the afternoon but pushed into an unscheduled second session, Fernandez led the match on three occasions but the Jersey cueist pegged him back each time, assisted by breaks of 69, 53 and a match-saving break of 30 to pink in frame six to take it all the way.
Canavan then scored first in the decider with a 48, and after his rival missed a routine red later on, he held his nerve to complete a dramatic recovery and avenge his loss to Fernandez here last year.
The commentary was provided by Dennis Taylor, Mike Dunn, Peter Lines, Tony Knowles and … Rob Walker. It was the first time I heard Mike and Tony in commentary. Mike was excellent, particularly when it came to analyse the players’ shot choices. Tony has a vast knowledge of the game. Rob was everywhere with infectious enthusisasm and great professionalism.
Regarding the matches …
I really enjoyed the opening match between Ken Doherty and Rodney Goggins. It’s a cliché, but it’s a shame that there had to be a loser. Rodney’s game perfectly illustrates what the players who grew up playing on the very competitive amateur scene some 25-35 years ago have got that is lacking to most of the young players armoury nowadays: that tactical awareness and the mindset that makes a “hard match player”. It’s easy to forget that the game was only “opened” in 1991. Up to that year you had the likes of Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon playing as “amateurs” despite being better than the vast majority of pros at the time. Nowadays, the amateur scene has shrinked. Also, the constant media focus on “centuries” isn’t helping. There is more to snooker than just potting.
Jimmy White looked very nervous at the start. It’s obvious that he badly wants to defend his crown here. Will he beat the curse? He will probably need to improve to “beat” the snooker gods.
There is one thing that bitterly disappointed me: outside UK and China, the event is available via Matchroom.live, but contrary to what I expected, and to what was done for the CLS in Milton Keynes, it’s not free. Come on, Barry Hearn! The Seniors’ snooker needs and deserves to be further promoted. In the UK, it’s available to watch on the BBC. In mainland Europe there are many fans who didn’t really “live” through the 80th and early 90th of snooker and who are keen to watch and learn. Many, like me, pay to for the right to watch the BBC – via a third party – but still don’t have access to the BBC “digital plaform” nor to the BBC player. We also pay for Eurosport and its player, and now we should pay for this as well? I have seen the reactions online from fellow mainland European and they won’t.
Also well worth reading: here is the link to Nigel Slater’s interview with Jason Francis