Here’s our preview of the second round matches in the Dafabet World Championship getting underway on Friday at the Crucible…
BARRY HAWKINS v RICKY WALDEN
(Friday 10 and 7pm and Saturday 2.30pm)
This is a repeat of last year’s semi-final, which Walden felt he should have won. Having led 12-8 he was beaten 17-14.
The pair reached the second round in markedly different ways. After a slow start, Hawkins was very impressive in pulling away to win eight successive frames against Dave Gilbert. Walden, though, desperately struggled to finish off Kyren Wilson before finally doing so by winning a 74 minute grind to come through 10-7.
Well that’s the first round for you. It’s a little bit like surviving the first few fences of the Grand National: if you can you have a reasonable expectation that you can go all the way.
Walden’s problem is that he blows hot and cold, whereas Hawkins is more consistent. Plus, the Kent man has recently won the £100,000 first prize in the Players Championship and so is coming in full of confidence. This is a much needed commodity at the Crucible and could tip the balance in his favour.
PREDICTION: Hawkins 13-8
KEN DOHERTY v ALAN McMANUS
(Friday 2.30pm and Saturday 10am and 7pm)
The oldest two players at the Crucible clash cues and it’s as hard a match to call as it was when they first played each other in the World Championship 20 years ago in 1994.
Doherty and McManus may be veterans but they have each looked after themselves. They’re not hell-raisers and have lived properly, remaining committed to the rigours of the snooker circuit despite media work and the inevitable trappings of lives well remunerated by the green baize.
Doherty started slowly against Stuart Bingham and was there for the taking early on, but Bingham could not take advantage and the 1997 world champion grew in confidence and started to play well.
By contrast, McManus began superbly against John Higgins but struggled a little towards the end as the tension came on and Higgins began to recover.
Objectively, McManus played the better of the two but they are now playing each other. They know every inch of one another’s game and a battle of the old school is surely going to ensue.
In ’94, Doherty won 13-11. McManus prevailed by the same score in 2005. Another decade on and it seems likely to be close again.
PREDICTION: McManus 13-10.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.