World Seniors Day 1

By Elliott West

The Crucible opens its door again for the World Seniors with all players hungry for the title and having the opportunity to play in the Champion of Champions. A valiant effort to stage in these testing times.

I was here last here year with the players and I can’t praise enough this tournament. It is of course tinged with sadness as since I lost my good friend Willie Thorne this June whom I spent many hours with at this esteemed venue last August.

Like a vintage wine it wasn’t long before the action started to flow. The opening match pitched former World Champion, Ken Doherty against Rodney Goggins. In what was a nervy start by both players, Goggins should have been the underdog. At first he missed several simple shots by putting too much side on the cue ball but it wasn’t long before the tide changed and Ken began to struggle with his cueing. At 2-2, it was all to play for but Goggins looked very settled as he took three frames in a row to make it 3-2.
Doherty found his feet though and managed to shake off the mistakes from the previous frames and proved why he was the 1997 World Champion, taking the match to a decider. As in any deciding frame, one player just needs a chance on this table that was the same one used for the World Championship final. A safety battle ensued but it was Ken who won the match after Goggins lost it on a tricky brown. Tough going for Ken but he proved his worth in the end with a 4-3 victory.

In the second match of the afternoon, Leo Fernandez was up against Aaron Canavan, a former World Seniors champion. Leo is a very attacking player and I was very impressed by his performance when I watched him last year. Reminds me a lot of Tony Drago with his attacking play and demon long potting.
Fernandez got in first and built up a 31 break, putting Aaron in a difficult snooker behind the green. A miss left a free ball but Leo was unable to capitalise first. However his next opportunity led to a comfortable lead and it was enough to clinch the first frame.
The next frame was dominated by Fernandez but he broke down after he lost position. Canavan seized the opportunity and managed to win the frame despite missing an elementary red for a possible century break. This took the match to 1-1
Both players then disputed the state of the table when part of the cloth was spotted coming away from the baulk cushion. However play continued despite the drama. Leo struggled to get clinch the frame with a 55 lead. A demon snooker left Canavan with a headache, missing the yellow three times but in the end it was Fernandez who won the frame after a long and drawn out frame. Aaron bounced back to make it 2-2 after a steal preventing him from going down 3-1. Fernandez pulled one back to make it 3-2 but due to the length of the match there was a twist but play having to be stopped and having to be brought to a finish after the evening matches. When they eventually came back, Aaron Canavan won the match, 4-3.

*Photograph courtesy of World Snooker

In the evening play, two great players were up against each with a mouthwatering clash between Joe Johnson and Jimmy White. Joe got in first after both players showed nerves but Johnson made just 20. Joe managed to get back in though with a tremendous first red and later went on the win the first frame on the pink. Jimmy matched his opponent by taking the second frame with a 90 break that began with a tremendous long red.
In the third frame, started where he left off in the previous frame with an impressive 73 break with just one chance in the balls. A slip up with a loose safety on the green by Joe Johnson meant White was also to fire on all cylinders again but he broke down on 41. With the majority of the reds on the cushion, Jimmy started to motor, opening the balls and picking them off to take the frame with a 91% pot success.
On to the next, White split the bunch at the earliest opportunity but missed a sitter of a blue. Johnson couldn’t capitalise snatching at a red and it was Jimmy who made the winning break to win the match, 4-1. Unfortunately Joe didn’t get going and was frozen out for most of the match. An impressive win by Jimmy and puts him in good stead in his campaign to retain the title.

In what should have been the last match of the night, my pal Darren Morgan was up against Patrick Wallace who hadn’t been to the Crucible for 19 years. With Darren sporting a red glove to combat the humidity of the table and Wallace matching him with a black glove, Wallace got in first but only made 29. Patrick got in again and was able to take the first frame with a “ touch of genius from brown to blue “ as Rob Walker stated in the commentary. Darren was really struggling at this early stage.
On to the next frame and it was clear neither player had settled. Both players had their chances but neither could capitalise on their opponent. Darren Morgan managed to seal the frame on the last remaining colours to draw the match to 1-1.
This was a match that definitely was going to be a slow burner with Morgan starting to get into his stride and produced a more fluid break and the best performance so far in the match. A 73 break won the frame for the Welshman to take a 2-1 lead. Back in the groove, Darren looked like he was going to take the next frame with 70 points. However several fouls left Patrick with a chance to win the frame and left Morgan reeling to make it 2-2. A painful way to lose a frame.
Morgan managed to put the last frame out of his memory after Wallace broke down in the balls. Darren clinched the frame with a 75 break to go one away from a meeting with Ken Doherty. Morgan then prevented a decider by taking frame and match with a 4-2 win.