‘Players appear circumstances permitting’ it says on tickets for the Betfred World Championship, which is fortunate as they may not appear very much on Monday judging by the overnight scores.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy each need just one frame to reach the quarter-finals, holding 12-4 leads over Matthew Stevens and Joe Perry respectively. Neil Robertson is two frames away with an 11-5 advantage over Ali Carter. The match most likely to turn round sees Judd Trump leading Marco Fu 10-6.
This is no one’s fault but sport at its best is dramatic and a series of processions tend not to capture the interest of casual sports fans. That’s not to say you can’t admire the excellence on show, as when a Roger Federer demolishes someone in the early rounds at Wimbledon or when Jordan Spieth cruised to victory at the US Masters, but close, tense finishes is where the World Championship produces box office moments.
Long matches at the Crucible often do this but aside from the first few days of the first round and Saturday night’s contest between Barry Hawkins and Mark Allen, much of this year’s fare has not seen the sort of nervy finishes which captivate audiences.
One change worth considering would be to have a second round match have its final two sessions on Monday. It seems odd from a media and spectator point of view to have no finishes on Sunday. Players do not as a rule like to play back-to-back sessions but 1pm and 7pm would mean a break between them and guarantee an eight frame session in the afternoon.
The finishes on Monday could yet be very close but this all feels like the calm before the storm, which will hit when the quarter-finals start on Tuesday. The last week of the World Championship is going to feature some world class talents locking cues for the £300,000 first prize.
Let’s hope we get some close contests before the trophy is presented a week on Monday.