Mark Selby reaches Crucible second round with battling victory over Neath’s Jamie Jones
Having sat out recent tournaments in Gibraltar and Turkey, it was inevitable Selby would take time to settle, but he had Jones to thank for missing a number of chances to make the match much tighter.
Turning a 6-3 advantage after the morning session into an 8-3 lead upon their resumption in the evening, Selby proceeded to toil as Jones clawed his way back into contention at 8-6.
But Selby responded by showing the kind of battling qualities that have earned him four world titles, with a 137 clearance that also marked his 100th career century in the tournament.
Jones once again reduced the deficit but Selby got the better of a number of visits in the next, seizing on a costly in-off by his opponent to finally complete a gruelling victory.
Afterwards Selby admitted: “It was quite emotional going back out there today.
“The result was irrelevant as long as I went out and tried to enjoy it and smiled a little bit, and that’s what happened. The main thing for me at the moment is just getting better.
“When it got to 9-7 I could see that he fancied the job. But I sat in my chair and thought, if he comes back and beats me 10-9, I’ll still have enjoyed that. The time I stop enjoying it is when I hang up my cue.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan swatted aside an early scare to establish a 6-3 lead over David Gilbert in the opening session of their first-round clash, which concludes on Sunday.
O’Sullivan, seeking to match Stephen Hendry’s modern record of seven world crowns, lost the first three frames to the 2019 semi-finalist but responded with two centuries to move into a dominant position.
Gilbert was the toughest possible first-round draw for O’Sullivan, who warned on Friday of “carnage” among the seeds in the early stages of this year’s competition due to the quality of those who have come through qualifying.
And it looked like the 46-year-old could become the most prominent victim as breaks of 56 and 94 helped Gilbert ease into a 3-0 advantage, before a 122 by O’Sullivan set him back on track before the mid-session interval.
O’Sullivan stepped up the pace after the break and Gilbert began to wilt under the pressure, producing a series of errors which the favourite characteristically exploited.
When Gilbert left a red dangling over the pocket in the seventh frame, O’Sullivan responded with a 104 clearance to move in front for the first time, and a missed black off its spot in the next yielded another half-century and a 5-3 lead.
Any hopes Gilbert had of clawing back the overnight deficit ended with another missed red in the final frame of the session. O’Sullivan duly responding with a 54 which proved enough to take him four more frames from a place in the second round.
Ebbw Vale’s, Jackson Page, at 20 the youngest player in this year’s main draw, established a 6-3 overnight lead over former finalist Barry Hawkins.
Page scored six half-centuries, including a break of 102 in the eighth frame, and it could have been worse for Hawkins, who got the snooker he required to win the final frame of the day.
UK champion Zhao Xintong was in cruise control, hitting two centuries and four further half-centuries as he established a 7-2 lead over Jamie Clarke, while Stephen Maguire leads Shaun Murphy 6-3.
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