THE COUNTDOWN to the Crucible has officially begun with the start of the World Championship Qualifiers today (Tuesday).
Taking place in Sheffield, more than 100 players will battle it out over the coming days to earn a place in the venue stages of the World Championship – starting on Saturday, April 19.
And the opening day has seen a mix of emphatic victories and close tension with the lower ranked players taking to the baize in their bid to reach the last 96 of snooker’s biggest competition.
Impressing the most on Day 1 was Martin O’Donnell who reached the second round after thrashing teenager Shane Castle 10-1.
O’Donnell, needing to win to keep alive his tour survival hopes, was in brilliant form as three centuries and two breaks in the 90s helped him to the second of a maximum four qualifying rounds.
Liam Highfield, Zhang Anda and Barry Pinches also enjoyed comfortable wins against Khaled Abumdas, Andrew Pagett and Hammad Miah respectively.
As well as solid victories, the opening day also saw three ties go all the well to the deciding frames.
Daniel Wells fought back from 8-3 down and then came through a deciding frame to beat Ryan Clark 10-9.
Paul Davison was forced to thwart off a strong comeback by opponent Chris Wakelin before earning a final frame victory. Davison led 7-2 going into the evening session before Wakelin won six frames on the bounce to lead 8-7. Davison responded well and went back in front at 9-8 before Wakelin levelled matters to force a decider.
And Jamie O’Neill’s relegation from the main tour was confirmed when he lost out 10-9 to Cao Xinlong.
Kyren Wilson, who reached the Shanghai Masters quarter-finals at the start of the season, defeated Christopher Norbury 10-6 and Craig Steadman came back from behind to beat Jak Jones 10-7.
Thailand’s Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon finished in impressive fashion as a century followed by a break of 90 completed a close-fought 10-8 win over Sanderson Lam.
Michael Leslie’s relegation from the main tour was also confirmed after losing 10-6 to Christopher Keogan.
The first round of qualifiers will be completed by close of play on Wednesday.
The Old Green Baize’s Player of the Day – Martin O’Donnell: With his tour place likely to come to an end, this was a great performance from O’Donnell. Three centuries, including a 139, makes him the best performer of the day. Something to build on!