The inside track, with Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes
We’re one week into the Betfred World Snooker Championships and already we’ve seen the fastest ever match, a record number of first round centuries, two first round matches break the century break record… oh, and the first Crucible 147 in eight years.
What does the next ten days have in store? If it’s even half as good, we’re in for a treat – but I think it may be at least doubly delightful.
The second round has already served up a high-profile casualty. Despite that incredible 147 from John Higgins, it wasn’t enough for the four-time winner to get past Kurt Maflin, who came out best after a fantastic contest 13-11 and so heads through to the last eight for the first time in his career.
It was an early birthday present for the Norwegian who will have a relaxing celebration this weekend before getting back to the baize on Monday afternoon.
He said: “I’ll get one of the boys to make me a steak and watch some snooker. I won’t be doing much other than getting some rest.”
Maflin will face either Jamie Clarke or Anthony McGill, who he would have played on his only other appearance at the Crucible in 2015 if he’d come out on top of Mark Selby instead of being beaten by the odd frame in 19.
“Maybe it’s fate, maybe we’re supposed to play here,” he added. “But I don’t mind who I face – whoever gets to thirteen first wins. Let’s just play.”
Also through to the last eight is Mark Williams after the three-time winner emerged victorious in a battle of World Champions, beating 2015 hero Stuart Bingham 13-11 in a cracking contest.
It was finely poised at 8-8 overnight and they remained locked at 11-11 to effectively set up a three frame shootout – and it was the Welshman who took the next two frames to setup a clash with either Ronnie O’Sullivan, who Williams has his eyes on for sentimental reasons, or Ding Junhui.
He said: “Hand on heart I would like to play Ronnie. We’ve grown up together, played juniors together and I’ve not played him here for a while.
“I know he’s going to play out of his skin, and I’m going to have to play out of my skin – and even if I do, it may not be good enough. No one is expecting me to win if I play him. All the pressure is on him. What’s the worst that can happen? He beats me 13-0 and I go home.
“I’m definitely going to enjoy the experience because I don’t know how many more times I’ll get to play him in theatres like this.”
Saturday morning gives us a first glimpse of Kyren Wilson after his first round bye as he takes on Martin Gould. The Warrior is just one win away form a fifth consecutive Betfred World Championship quarter-final appearance, but Gould comprehensively overcame Stephen Maguire 10-3 and will be a tough nut to crack.
There is also a mouth-watering clash on the other table as the Thunder from Down Under, Neil Robertson, takes on the Crucible’s most frequent player of recent times Barry Hawkins as he makes his his tenth consecutive World Championship last 16 appearance in Sheffield.
It’s forecast for a very warm weekend on these shores, and it’s not just the weather where the temperature is set to soar as we progress towards the 2020 Betfred World Snooker Championship quarter-final line up.
If the sun’s too much this Saturday and Sunday then stay inside, switch on the box and settle down with the snooker.