Frosty reception for Williams in Sheffield25/04/2012 - 21:47:59
Mark Williams has enjoyed glory nights in the Crucible but this afternoon was an occasion where he had to grin and bear the fury of the Sheffield crowd.
The Welshman’s foul-mouthed criticism of snooker’s flagship venue on the eve of the Betfred.com World Championship angered not only his paymasters but also the paying public, and when Williams walked out to play Liu Chuang his entrance was met with a chorus of booing.
The 37-year-old was targeted by a large number of spectators inside the famous venue, and wore a chastened look as he stepped down on to the theatre floor.
It was hard to think of an occasion where a player has had such a reception.
Shaun Murphy, who sprung to fame as an adopted son of nearby Rotherham, had to cope with abuse from a very small minority during the 2009 championship, at a time when he was going through a divorce. Two people were thrown out on that occasion.
But Williams upset many for whom the Crucible means so much, and to describe it last Friday, on the eve of the tournament, as a “s**t hole”, was practically asking for trouble. He also said he wanted the tournament to move to China.
His Twitter remarks – described as “absolute lunacy” by World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn – are sure to see Williams fined.
But the real punishment is the damage to his reputation.
A good quarter of the audience expressed their disgust when Williams strode out.
Referee Olivier Marteel even had to hush the crowd to allow the player introductions to continue.
It was far from a welcome back for the champion of 2000 and 2003 who has expressed regret about his remarks but will not be allowed to forget them easily.
Once at the table Williams built a 6-3 lead against 21-year-old Chinese player Liu, with breaks of 72 and 111 in the closing two frames of the session putting the Ebbw Vale potter in charge.
While Williams took a stride towards a second round meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump limped over the line against Wales’ Dominic Dale, winning 10-7.
Last year’s runner-up later explained that he almost threw in the towel on his campaign before it had even started.
Pulling out of the tournament was among the thoughts that whirred through the 22-year-old Bristolian’s mind as he was physically sick repeatedly yesterday morning, minutes before the start of his opening match.
Trump has been suffering with apparent food poisoning since eating a chicken dish.
“It started on Monday night, about an hour after I ate,” he said.
“And then I woke up sweating in the middle of the night, and I was being sick at eight in the morning, until half past nine.”
His match began at 10am, and when asked how close he came to pulling out, Trump said: “The closest I’ve ever been in a professional tournament.
“If it was a smaller event I maybe wouldn’t have played.”
Perhaps the most predictable first round defeat for a world number one arrived tonight when Mark
Selby lost 10-3 to Dartford’s Barry Hawkins.
Selby, from Leicester, came to Sheffield with little practice behind him after suffering a neck problem which caused him to pull out of the China Open last month.
Selby said: “I was trying my best out there but there were certain shots I couldn’t physically play. I didn’t have the strength and the power.
“I’m happy that I managed to play because 10 days ago I was looking at pulling out.”
Ding Junhui’s hopes of becoming China’s first world champion this year were dashed after he relinquished a 9-6 lead to lose 10-9 against Wales’ Ryan Day.
Ding accused fans of disrupting his concentration, although it appeared the player who reached last year’s semi-finals only had himself to blame.
Ding said: “I don’t think I played well. I don’t think the table’s right. I don’t think the fans are right. All rubbish. Rubbish fans.
“I was concentrating on the game and they kept shouting out. How can they do that?”
World number 35 Day, who will take on Mark Allen’s conqueror Cao Yupeng in the second round, was inspired by thoughts of his daughters, Francesca and Lauren, as he made a match-winning pressure clearance to the pink of 64.
“I was concentrating on breathing properly and I was thinking about winning it,” Day said.
“From 9-6 down the inspiration I used was my daughters, so all the way through clearing up, I was thinking, ’Don’t miss, don’t miss, don’t miss’.
“My brother mentioned it to me a while ago, and it’s such an easy tool to try to motivate yourself.”
It was another good day for the qualifiers, with eight seeds now eliminated, matching the most to have gone at the first round stage. Eight also went in 1992.
World number nine Graeme Dott slumped to a 10-1 defeat against one of those qualifiers, Joe Perry.
The 34-year-old Scot, who won the 2006 world title, said: “If there was ever a nightmare in snooker, that was it.
“I don’t feel I can turn it around just now. I feel as if I need to chuck it if I’m playing as bad as that.
“I’m sure I’ll come back and play okay again, but I’ve no idea why I played as bad as that.
“I just wanted out. I couldn’t pot a ball, I couldn’t hit the white. If you told me to hit the white in the last frame I’d have probably missed it.”
Perry, ranked 26th, said: “It is the worst I have ever seen Graeme play.”
Cambridgeshire cueman Perry, 37, goes on to play Glaswegian Stephen Maguire in the last 16.
::The eight seeds already out are: Stuart Bingham, Graeme Dott, Shaun Murphy, Stephen Lee, Martin Gould, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen, Mark Selby.
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