Hawkins and Maguire’s Era Comes to a Close at World Championship Qualifiers

Hawkins and Maguire's Era Comes to a Close at World Championship Qualifiers

In a thrilling day of snooker at the World Championship qualifying rounds, Jak Jones earned his Crucible debut with a 10-8 victory over former finalist Barry Hawkins. Hawkins had been a regular at snooker’s most famous venue since 2006, but Jones’ determined play saw him secure a historic victory.

Jones, hailing from Cwmbran in South Wales, fought back from 8-8 against Hawkins to take the lead with an impressive 69 clearance in frame 17. He then won the 18th frame by laying snooker on the final yellow, before dishing up from the chance that followed. Jones, who was a semi-finalist at the Gibraltar Open last season, described the victory as the biggest moment of his career so far.

Stephen Maguire, who had been on an even longer run of consecutive appearances stretching back to 2004, was beaten 10-6 by Fan Zhengyi. Both Maguire and Hawkins have dropped out of the world’s top 16 and were unable to negotiate the difficult path through the qualifying rounds in Sheffield.

In the most dramatic finish of the day, Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham edged out China’s Zhang Anda 10-9 after a battle on the final black. A loose safety from Zhang handed Saengkham a chance at a mid-range black, and he slammed it into a baulk corner.

Ricky Walden secured his Crucible spot after a hard-fought 10-9 victory over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in a superb match featuring four centuries and ten more breaks over 50. Walden, a Crucible semi-finalist ten years ago, had leads of 4-1, 7-5 and 9-8, but could not shake off his opponent who forced a decider. Un-Nooh then led 32-0 at 9-9 but missed a tough red to centre, and Walden punished him with an excellent 69. His attempted double on the penultimate red, when he led by 29 points, missed its target but bounced into the opposite centre pocket, and he added the black which proved enough for victory.

Other notable results included Graeme Dott’s 10-6 defeat against Matthew Selt, who is through to the Crucible for the fourth time, and Anthony McGill’s 10-6 victory over Cao Yupeng. Meanwhile, three up-and-coming Chinese players, Fan Zhengyi, Wu Yize, and Si Jiahui, all booked their Crucible debuts. Fan defeated Maguire 10-6 with a top break of 102, Si beat Jordan Brown 10-7 with a top run of 115, and Wu came from behind to beat Chris Wakelin 10-8 with top breaks of 140 and 100.

Overall, the qualifying rounds have provided some fantastic snooker and produced some exciting new talent to watch out for in the upcoming World Championship.

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