THE FINAL qualifying round of the Dafabet World Championship features an intriguing collection of players including former champions, well established campaigners and six potential Crucible debutants.
The final round will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday with 16 players advancing to the televised stage to play the top 16 seeds when the event gets underway on Saturday.
Peter Ebdon, along with Mark Williams, Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott, is one of four former winners taking part in this round. Ebdon has played at the Crucible in every one of his previous 22 years on the circuit, a proud record he will maintain if he beats Finland’s Robin Hull.
For Hull, it would mark an incredible return if he could qualify for the Crucible, where he competed in 2002, the year Ebdon won the title. Not long afterwards he began to suffer from a virus so debilitating that he could no longer walk in a straight line. Having joined the world’s top 32 he tumbled down the rankings after being forced to miss tournaments while undergoing medical treatment.
Hull was later also diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and resigned from the tour in 2008, before returning this season after winning the European amateur title.
Williams, world champion in 2000 and 2003, must beat the vastly experienced Alan McManus if he is to return to the Crucible.
Doherty, the 1997 champion, is up against Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng, whose eccentricity endeared him to many on his Crucible debut last year.
Dott, the 2006 winner, will face Kyren Wilson, one of five players trying to reach the televised phase of the sport’s greatest event for the first time.
Wilson was a quarter-finalist in the Shanghai Masters last September and has reached the final qualifying round with 10-3 victories over Rod Lawler and Alfie Burden.
Michael Wasley (pictured), another potential debutant, must first beat a player he knows well, his fellow Gloucester cueist Robert Milkins, who last year knocked out Neil Robertson in the first round.
Stuart Carrington is the reigning English amateur champion, a tournament which predates the World Championship by 11 years having begun in 1916. The Grimsby pro will earn a Crucible debut if he can beat Ryan Day.
Li Yan must beat his fellow Chinese Xiao Guodong if he is to earn a maiden appearance at the home of snooker. Xiao is also attempting to qualify for the first time.
The final potential debutant is Robbie Williams, who is up against the experienced Fergal O’Brien.
Whoever comes through, by playing the qualifiers so close to the main event the players who make it through will have form, momentum and match fitness going to the Crucible, so some of the seeds are bound to fall.
There are certainly some players to be avoided, chief among them being Martin Gould, who has so far scored heavily and lost only two frames in his previous two qualifying matches. His match against Liang Wenbo could be a classic.
Jamie Jones, having recovered from 9-4 down to beat Joel Walker in the second qualifying round, faces Michael Holt.
Jones was a quarter-finalist in 2012 and his fellow young Welshman, Michael White, reached the same stage in 2013. If White is to qualify again he must beat Matt Selt, who made his debut last year.
The draw for the first round will be made on Thursday.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.