Snooker: Dark horse Ricky thrives on low profile

Ricky Walden plays a shot in his semi-final against Barry Hawkins during the Betfair World Championships at the Crucible, Sheffield. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Ricky Walden plays a shot in his semi-final against Barry Hawkins during the Betfair World Championships at the Crucible, Sheffield. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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Ricky Walden is happy being this year’s Betfair.com World Championship “unknown” man. Well, at least until the Crucible final where he hopes to shine.

The Chester potter has quietly gone about his business in reaching the semi-finals of snooker’s showpiece event here in Sheffield while all the hype has been on Ronnie O’Sullivan’s clash with Judd Trump.

And the world No 14 took a step closer reaching the final yesterday when he returned 6-2 up on opponent Barry Hawkins and ended the day with a slender 9-7 lead.

Hawkins someone managed to win the second session of their best-of-33 frame match despite a top break of 47, but Walden won the last frame of the evening with a break of 53 to keep his nose in front.

“I have really welcomed coming through the draw under the radar, I’m the dark horse of the tournament,” revealed Walden.

“All the fuss has been about Ronnie, Judd and all the big seeds going out, and that’s fine by me.

“It has helped me, all the hype is elsewhere. Funnily enough I have been playing the same days as Ronnie quite a lot, so I could just get on with it almost unnoticed.

“I’m not one of these players that has a problem with that, it’s right – he is different class. But it has helped me at this tournament where I didn’t have a good record before.”

Meanwhile, World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn is cracking down on toilet breaks to avoid gamesmanship in the game.

Hearn has grown tired of snooker’s top stars wandering off mid frame to go to the loo. Former world champion Graeme Dott criticised Peter Ebdon for prolonged toilet breaks at this year’s 17-day event. And Hearn is getting tough having scrapped unlimited rest room visits in place of a maximum of two pit-stops per session of any match next season.

“There’s no compromise,” revealed Hearn. “It’s unacceptable to have any break during a frame because it looks like gamesmanship.

“Anyone with prostate problems has my sympathy. I am 65 next birthday but I cannot believe the number of toilet breaks these players take and it’s got to stop.”

O’Sullivan returns today with a healthy 14-10 lead over Trump ahead of the final session of their best-off-33 semi-final showdown. He needs just three more frames.

Today’s semi-finals: 10am – Walden v Hawkins – max of 8 frames; 2.30pm – O’Sullivan v Trump – max of 9 frames, plays to a finish; 7pm – Walden v Hawkins.