It was tough, it was gritty and at times, it was downright ugly. But as Ding Junhui finally found a way to beat plucky German Masters champion Martin Gould in the first round of the World Championship here at the Crucible yesterday, it’s unlikely he’ll care a jot.
On paper, this was another shock at the home of snooker - Ding arrived at the Crucible through the qualifiers, Gould is No.12 in the world - but this was always going to be a severe test for the 34-year-0ld Gould, known as the ‘Pinner Potter’ and looking every inch as if he was born to be a professional snooker player.
Their battle, resuming yesterday afternoon, threatened to become a war of attrition and so it proved. On the adjacent Crucible table, Joe Perry was doing battle with Kyren Wilson and threatened briefly to register the first 147 of this year’s tournament, ending prematurely in the 80s.
At the same time, Ding and Gould were locked at 1-1. Points, that is, rather than frames.
There were moments of real quality from two class players, of course, and Gould opened up an 8-6 lead over the former world No.1, who somehow lost a frame after Gould needed three snookers.
But Ding is a mentally tough animal these days and stormed back to reach the second round, where he’ll face Judd Trump or Liang Wenbo. Wilson hit back to take a 5-4 lead over Perry into today’s final session.
n This columnist had the honour of sharing the Crucible press box last night with colleague Marcus Schofield, a snooker fanatic who attended the World Championship year after year since he was a young boy.
After being introduced by his late grandma, Marcus caught the bug and promised her that he’d keep going after she passed.
“My overriding memory from going to matches as a child is just how small everything is compared to watching it on television,” Marcus said.
“I also remember the players smoking and the smoke drifting into the crowd. It was something you couldn’t miss, especially when you were proudly sat on the front row!”
Sport is all about these kinds of stories, of dedication and loyalty.
Like many others will have, Marcus grew up with snooker at the Crucible; and maybe, just maybe, his grandma is still watching on from afar.