What have we learned from the opening sessions of the Dafabet World Championship quarter-finals today?
We’ve learned that Ronnie O’Sullivan can put his opponents under pressure even when he’s not playing well. Shaun Murphy looked superb as he bossed the first two and a half frames but his failure to kill off the third, which O’Sullivan won after needing a snooker on the brown, turned the match.
O’Sullivan’s highest break to the interval was just 37 but he got in at 2-2 and then started to play better, eventually finishing with breaks of 94 and 136 to lead 6-2 overnight.
Murphy, though, must feel that he let him off the hook. O’Sullivan has an aura that only the greatest sportsmen possess: it can cause doubts to fester in the minds of other players, even when they are playing well, as Murphy was.
O’Sullivan is the best front-runner in the game and now he’s got to 6-2 will be hard to catch. Certainly Murphy needs a strong start on Wednesday morning.
We also learned that one good performance in a Crucible session does not a world champion make. Neil Robertson was in imperious form on Monday against Mark Allen but fell strangely flat against Judd Trump, who will carry a 6-2 lead into Wednesday.
We learned too that Trump is getting better with every round. He was shaky against Tom Ford, solid against Ryan Day and, so far against Robertson, has been impressive, making two centuries.
We learned as well that Barry Hawkins, who resumed tonight with a 6-2 lead over Dominic Dale, has developed into a quietly effective match player at the top level.
And we were reminded of something we already knew: that Alan McManus is a fine tactician. He drew Mark Selby into a dogfight in their first session, which was hauled off a frame early with Selby leading 4-3.
Selby has so often before put his opponents through great difficulty, earning the nickname ‘The Torturer’ from O’Sullivan, but today McManus bossed the show for long periods, with Selby relieved to get out of the Crucible arena with a lead.
It could be a late finish tonight, which is bad news for both players in this match as the final session will be in the morning.
It’s a big night for Dale while O’Sullivan and Trump will sleep well before the semi-final line-up is decided tomorrow.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.