BARRY Hawkins handed out some more Crucible misery to Ricky Walden on Saturday as last year’s finalist reached the quarter-finals with a 13-11 win.
The 35-year-old Hawkins won eight frames on the spin against Walden in their Dafabet World Championship semi-final 12 months ago and he mounted another stirring comeback this time from 9-5 adrift.
By the end Hawkins had won eight of the last 10 frames after struggling badly himself in the second session of a see-saw encounter – and world No10 Walden was left cutting a demoralised figure.
World No4 Hawkins’ preparation has looked spot-on, having won the shorter-format PTC Grand Finals in Preston and then withdrawn from the China Open to be right for Sheffield.
But this was another big blow for the 31-year-old from Chester who had looked magnificent in the second session at times but still has huge issues with inconsistency.
Hawkins said: “It was another very tough match and I am not sure how much more I can take at this place, grinding matches out like that.
“Ricky and I just seem to bring the worst out of each other and it was an absolute battle towards the end, making difficult shots for myself. Hopefully I can play my best snooker next time.
“At 9-5 down I was gone but I just knuckled down, won the last two on Friday and I was delighted to be 9-7 down. Then today he started to miss a few.
“When someone is coming back at you after you have had a big lead it is not a nice place sometimes, and from 10-10 I thought I had a good chance.
“Ricky was gutted, but took it like a gentleman. I am sure he was fuming and must hate me! There will be a bit of abuse the next time we go out for a drink.”
Hawkins will now play the winner of Michael Wasley’s match against Dominic Dale.
Walden said: “It was a tough game and I was patchy all the way through, a bit like my season – but I fell apart today, my technique didn’t hold up and I let Barry off the hook because he was poor too early on.
“I was getting angry and frustrated but that was almost trying to change things, snap out of it and get myself going as a last throw of the dice.
“What is disappointing is the way I have lost in both Crucible games. I had a burst in both games but never kicked on.
“My long game today was terrible – and I just have to find something to cling to. Maybe I question myself more than others do, and getting too deep into why. When Ronnie O’Sullivan butchers a long ball he forgets about it and gets on with the next one.
“It is something I am working on, and hopefully it will come.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos