It was an extrordinary day at the Crucible as the ROKiT Phones.com 2020 World Seniors Snooker Championship concluded.
Jimmy White defended his title – the first ever player to defend a World title at the Crucible – beating Stephen Hendry in the semi-finals, Ken Doherty in the Final … and beating the infamous Crucible “Curse”.
Here are the reports by WPBSA:
Defending champion Jimmy White and Ken Doherty will contest the final of the 2020 ROKiT Phones World Seniors Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre this evening.
The pair will meet over the best of nine frames for the £15,000 first prize and a lucrative spot at the Champion of Champions after coming through their respective semi-finals during this afternoon’s session.
Over 32 years on since their first meeting here, White and Stephen Hendry added a new chapter to their legendary Crucible rivalry, and for the first time it was the Englishman that bested his nemesis at the one-table set-up in Sheffield.
After an edgy start White took the opener on the colours but a 64 break from Hendry – consisting of eight reds and blacks at the start of the second frame – helped him settle down and level.
The ever-popular Londoner then compiled efforts of 37 and 39 to move back ahead before a scintillating contribution of 130 – the highest of this year’s tournament so far – in the fourth frame put him one away from progression.
White looked like getting the job done in the next when on a break of 52, but after misjudging a tight pot on a red, Hendry later pounced with a typical match-saving 43. However, this would only prove to be a stay of execution for the seven-times world professional champion as runs of 36 and 55 got White over the line as a 4-2 winner.
“I played really well. It’s great to see Stephen practising and playing well again; he will be a big part of the seniors in the next five or six years. He’ll be back for revenge, no doubt.” White said after the game.
‘The Whirlwind’ is looking to become the first player in history to retain this title and win it for a third time in total.
Doherty is also on course to create a piece of snooker history as he aims to become a world champion in four different categories throughout his illustrious career.
In all-Irish affair between two practice partners, ‘The Darling of Dublin’ also put in a classy performance, producing a string of breaks as he overcame UK Seniors champion Michael Judge 4-1.
The 1997 world professional champion made breaks of 46 and 47 to go one up, but the former world number 24 squared it with the aid of a 49 in the next.
However, Doherty largely froze out his opponent for the remainder of the match, racking up further runs of 60, 80 and 57 to triumph with change to spare.
Speaking after the game Doherty said “I’m delighted to get through. I was delighted with how I played when I was in and amongst the balls. I scored pretty good, I felt very calm.”
“I’m just so excited to be in the final; Jimmy is a hero of mine, he’s a great mate of mine, it will be a pleasure and an honour to play him in the final of a world seniors here at the Crucible. It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s a dream come true.”
Stephen Hendry didn’t play quite as well as he did yesterday, but he will have a lot of positives to take from this event. He’s still got it.
Jimmy White became the first player in history to successfully defend the ROKiT Phones World Seniors Snooker Championship after he conjured up an astonishing comeback to oust Ken Doherty 5-4 in an epic final at the Crucible Theatre.
‘The Whirlwind’ pockets a £15,000 first prize and a coveted place in the Champion of Champions later this year. Having initially won the title in 2010, this is a record-extending third time he has captured the ultimate prize on the seniors circuit.
Hopes of retaining the trophy looked all but over for White and his adoring legion of fans during the first half of what would be an unforgettable night of action in Sheffield.
Aiming to create history himself by adding a seniors crown to the junior, amateur and professional world championships he has collected during his illustrious career, Doherty appeared to be coasting to victory before the mid-session interval.
It was one-way traffic from the Irishman, who capitalised on his opponent’s inability to settle down by compiling breaks of 93, 46, 44 and 56 to take a 4-0 lead into the break and move just one away from glory. However, as is so often the case, the interval swung the match dramatically.
White refused to relinquish his title; a run of 42 in frame five got him on the board, and he continued to grow in confidence as he halved the original deficit with a decisive 44 in the next.
Momentum had visibly shifted and the unlikely recovery continued in a dramatic seventh frame. Both players had glorious opportunities to claim it on the colours – White missed a blue into the corner pocket, whereas Doherty failed to pot a tricky match ball pink with the rest after he misjudged his position from the blue. The reigning champion subsequently kept his nerve to sink the remaining two balls and get back within one.
With the tension rising, an unsteady Doherty broke down from a good position on a break of 32 in frame seven and White punished with a counter-attacking effort of 79 to force it all the way. The Englishman – who has painful memories of deciding frame defeats at the Crucible Theatre – then completed the seismic recovery in style with a break of 85.
Speaking after the match to BBC Sport’s Rob Walker, White said: “Once I got that frame [fifth] I settled a bit. I didn’t really get going but towards the end I felt really good because I’m playing well in practice so I know that my form’s there.”
“Luckily enough for me Ken missed a couple of balls which would have wrapped the match up. It’s a fantastic win; I’m a bit gutted for Ken because I’ve been here miles in front and got beat. This is a great win for me being 4-0 down.”
Contemplating what might have been, Doherty graciously said: “It completely changed after the interval. I missed a good few chances and Jimmy started to comeback, he played really well.”
“It’s a bit heartbreaking because it would have been nice to get my hands on the trophy but that’s snooker – it can be a great sport; it can be very cruel at times.”
Ken came on twitter later admitting that he felt devastated and that it will take some time for him to get over what happened there.
It was a fantastic event. Jason Francis and the team behind him deserve immense credit, not just for this event, but for how well they managed to develop the Seniors snooker tour and to give it real credibility. The quality was there for all to see – and enjoy – this week. This tour is not about a bunch of retired snooker players knocking a few balls around, it a real Tour, and it means an awful lot for the players involved in it.
In general the BBC coverage was excellent, Rob Walker in particular was fantastic … BUT they did it AGAIN (*): they pulled the snooker off just as the Final’s decider was to start, to show highlights of women golf. One event was happening LIVE and heading to a dramatic conclusion, the other was “past” and watching those highlights half an hour later wouldn’t have changed much for anyone interested in it.
all images by Andy Chubb
(*) They had pulled the snooker off in 2013, just as Ronnie, defending champion and coming back after a year off, was about to finish his first round match. Barry Hearn wasn’t impressed.