CRAIG STEADMAN is Crucible bound after qualifying for the final stages of the Betfred World Championship for the first time in his career on Wednesday.
Steadman, ranked 81st in the world, defeated Jamie Burnett 10-6 to advance to snooker’s theatre of dreams at the age of 32. Having turned professional 14 years ago it is the best moment of his career so far – and he can’t wait to walk into the game’s most famous arena when the TV stage starts on Saturday.
Steadman, who beat Indian Open champion Michael White in the second qualifying round, said: “I feel a bit dizzy. I’ve played pretty well all week and felt comfortable. I had a reasonable lead overnight and was trying to match him frame by frame. Then when I got to nine I don’t know what happened.
“I had a long shot and if there were no cushions on the table the red would still be rolling now, I missed it by that much. It was a really strange feeling.
“I’ve not spoken to my dad yet. He’s a lorry driver and he’s probably crashed looking at the live scoring. My mum’s probably in floods of tears. It’s the biggest stage. It’s where you want to play when you’re a young lad so it’s brilliant.
“I could do with a break, so playing on Saturday wouldn’t be ideal, but I’ll be switched on for it whoever I play and whenever I play.
“I’ve played a few times on TV but none of it will compare to playing at the Crucible. It’s taken me a long time to get there.
“I went to watch when I practised with Nick Dyson and he played Ken Doherty. I told myself I wouldn’t go again unless I was playing there but last year my sponsor wanted to go, so we went for a day. I watched about five minutes and then walked out and sat in the players’ lounge. As a snooker player, it’s not nice to sit there watching when you could be there yourself. You have to earn your right to be there and I’ve done that now.
“Everyone is improving because of all the events. When I turned pro there were six tournaments and you wouldn’t see a top pro or a venue unless you won four matches. With the new structure, you’re in the mix with all the players from round one, so it’s less daunting when you play them.
“I’ve heard the horror stories about the Crucible, walking down the stairs and your legs start crumbling. We’ll see what happens, I’m just pleased to get there.
“I would have liked to have got there when I was 18 and had a full head of hair and was better looking, but it is what it is.”
Mark Davis defeated 1997 world champion Ken Doherty 10-3 to become the first qualifier through this year.
Davis did all the damage in the first session by building an 8-1 lead. “I’d have felt a lot more relaxed and focused at 6-3 or even 5-4 but at 8-1 there was only one way to go,” he said. “I was a bit twitchy, a bit nervy, thinking about what could happen, if I could lose from there. So I was happy to get it done.”
Matthew Stevens, runner-up in the World Championship in 2000 and 2005, qualified with a 10-5 defeat of twice semi-finalist Joe Swail.
Stevens’s fellow Welshman Ryan Day secured a tenth Crucible appearance with a 10-6 defeat of Jak Jones. A third Welshman, 2012 quarter-finalist Jamie Jones, joined them in qualifying by beating Adam Duffy 10-8, thus denying the Sheffield amateur the chance to become the first player from the city to play at the Crucible.
2006 world champion Graeme Dott beat Yu Delu 10-7 to set up a 16th Crucible berth, having missed out on final round of qualifying last year.
Photographs by Monique Limbos