Our preview of day 6 of the Dafabet World Championship as the second round gets underway…
Before we look at the opening last 16 matches, a reflection on the first round: We saw several close and dramatic matches amid high tension and great entertainment, but the actual quality of play has been largely poor.
There are several reasons for this: it’s the first round and everyone is nervous. The conditions have not been perfect, with bad bounces in particular causing problems. Players may be burned out after a long season and saving their best for the remainder of the tournament.
Ronnie O’Sullivan at times played well. Barry Hawkins was superb in his second session, as was Marco Fu. Alan McManus impressed and so did various others at various times, but in terms of the snooker we have seen, the Championship is yet to see fireworks.
However, these may well come as the players settle down for the best of 25 frame last 16 matches. With the first round hurdle safely negotiated, players can start to relax…a little bit.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN v JOE PERRY
(Thursday 7pm, Friday 2.30pm and Saturday 10am)
In the end O’Sullivan’s match turned into one of the least interesting of the first round, an irony given that he was the centre of attention coming into the event. He didn’t need to be at his brilliant best to see off Robin Hull and justifiably remains favourite for a sixth world title on May 5.
Perry, though, has had a very good season, probably the best of his career. Ten years ago he unexpectedly knocked out defending champion Mark Williams in the second round. Victory over O’Sullivan would rank even higher.
For Perry to win he must start well. O’Sullivan’s reputation as a great front-runner is well earned. When he gets on top of opponents he usually goes into the distance. So Perry must stay close with the Rocket early on and apply pressure. As we know, everyone feels it at the Crucible.
Even so, O’Sullivan’s serenity this season at the moment shows no sign of coming to an end. While all the drama and close finishes have been unfolding, he has quietly been practising, away from the limelight. He has a 10-2 record over Perry and the length of this match points to it being extended further.
PREDICTION: O’Sullivan 13-9
MARK SELBY v ALI CARTER
(Thursday 1pm, Friday 10am and 7pm)
This has the potential to be a cracker featuring two players who relish the spotlight and love to compete.
Carter said after beating Xiao Guodong that he had a feeling something special was going to happen for him this year. He has certainly shown his best snooker in the longer matches at the Crucible over the years and his gutsy, bustling style makes him a great player to watch, with his emotions always on show.
Selby is a different sort of character, more able to keep his emptions inside. He struggled badly before finally putting away Michael White 10-9 in the first round. We don’t know yet whether this was opening round nerves or points to the general state of his game, but it was a worry that the minute something went wrong in the match it seemed to affect him.
Selby is one of snooker’s great triers, even when not at his best, and Carter is a battler too. This could be a terrific match.
PREDICTION: Carter 13-11