09 april 2021 publish date

Moving on to the dream goal. Qualifying for Crucible 2021

World number 82 Xu Si produced an impressive display to end seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry’s bid for a Crucible return at Betfred World Championship qualifying.

This week’s event is just 52-year-old Hendry’s second tournament back since returning to the professional circuit after nine years away from the sport. The 36-time ranking event winner had stepped away from professional snooker after the 2012 World Championship, but was offered a two-year invitational tour card at the start of this season and elected to take it up.

Hendry secured the first match win of his return against old rival Jimmy White in the opening round on Monday, scoring a 6-3 victory in the highly anticipated encounter. However, he ran into a ruthless opponent in Xu today.

The Chinese 23-year-old pounced on any of Hendry’s mistakes this evening. After trailing 1-0, he critically produced a clearance of 35 to steal the second frame on the black and immediately restore parity.

From there Xu fired in breaks of 75, 79, 51, 66 and 72 to make it six frames on the bounce and book a third round clash with compatriot Zhou Yuelong. This evening’s victory acts as a boost to Xu’s tour survival hopes.

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After the match Hendry was typically honest in assessing his performance. However, he vowed to play on and enter more events next season.

Hendry said: “I had two or three chances to go 2-0 up and from then on I didn’t offer any resistance to my opponent. He capitalised on all of my mistakes. It doesn’t matter how low a player is ranked, if you make it easy for them, they will still pot balls and win the frames.

“Hopefully with a few more competitive matches under my belt, before we come to this point next year, I’ll be able to have a bit more composure out there. Every shot seemed like a test. I was wondering if I was going to pot certain shots, that isn’t the way to think out there. You have to get on with it.

“I’ll certainly play in more events next year. If I am still not able to bring my cue action into a match situation then there is no point. The whole point is to see if I can play my natural game out there. We will give it a go next year and see what happens.”

Ukrainian professional snooker player Iulian Boiko faced Jamie Clarke in his match of the first round at 2021 World Championship qualifying. After the convincing opening win by a couple of effective approaches in the first frame, Iulian lost two frames at a stretch, ahead of tying the score 2:2 before the interval. 

Capitalising on Clarke’s mistake, Iulian won the fifth frame and led the match for the second time. However, after a sad mistake made by Iulian on a red ball, Jamie succeeded to tie 3:3 by winning the frame on the last black. Having won the next two frames, the Welshman found himself in one frame from the victory with the score 5:3. However, Iulian was not intent on surrender without fighting – with a break of 49, he cut the lead to minimum. Clarke composed the run in the next frame, but stopped at 43 points, missing once again in the match a blue ball in attempt to strike the pyramid. 15-year-old cueman from Ukraine approached the table and was ready to turn the match to a decider, but mistook bitterly on the last brown ball, which was a frame ball. After tactical fighting on the last colored Jamie Clarke began the approach with a long shot on the brown ball, and finished with victorious frame and the match win 6:4 on the last black.

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Iulian shared his impressions of his performance at the World Championship qualifiers this year: “I am very satisfied with my play. Sure, I’d like to have a better result – the victory, but the main point is the progress in my play, and I feel and see that. I’m very happy that I stay in line of main tour on the technique level, and my victories will come with experience and knowledge in the result of defeats. I will be carefully training for the next season’s start and I’m very hopeful that I will win more victories in my second year of the professional tour!”

Belgian 16-year-old Ben Mertens suffered a heartbreaking 6-5 loss at the hands of Chinese teenager Lei Peifan.

Mertens battled to establish a commanding 5-1 lead and had several chances to get over the line. However, an impressive fightback from Lei saw him earn a crucial 6-5 win. The result keeps Lei’s hopes of tour survival alive.

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Northern Irish 16-year-old Robbie McGuigan succumbed to a similarly gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to Mitchell Mann.

McGuigan showcased his talent to move 5-2 ahead. However, Mann showed his experience and reeled him in to score the win in a decider.

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Germany’s Lukas Kleckers booked his place in the second round with a 6-1 demolition of Peter Devlin. He top scored with a break of 134 and will face an intriguing second round clash with Swiss number one Alexander Ursenbacher.

Kleckers wasn’t the only German to progress, with compatriot Simon Lichtenberg producing a fine display to Russia’s Ivan Kakovskii 6-3. Lichtenberg composed breaks of 58, 93,73 and 82 on his way to victory and will play Ian Burns in round two.

Both Lichtenberg and Kleckers are bidding to make history this week and become the first German to reach the Crucible.

The article is based on WST.TV