World Snooker Championship 2013 - Walden and Bingham to make quarter-final debuts
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Englishmen Ricky Walden and Stuart Bingham have both been on the tour since the 1990's and have both won major tournaments, but neither have progressed past the second round of the Betfair World Snooker Championship in their careers.
That all changed today on day ten at the Crucible as they performed brilliantly to see off the dangerous qualifiers Rob Milkins & Mark Davis respectively.
Walden added his second ranking event title to his cv, the Wuxi Classic, at the start of the year. But the 30-year-old just couldn't maintain the momentum and only appeared in two further quarterfinals for the rest of the 2012/2013 campaign.
After a convincing 10-1 win over Michael Holt in the first round he came up against Rob Milkins who is also in the best form of his career. It started off well for Walden who made breaks of 60, 76, 63 & 76 as well as winning several crucial close frames to take a 9-3.
Gloucester's Milkins made top runs of 71 & 76 to fight back and reduce the deficit to only one behind at 11-10, before former Shanghai Masters champion Walden made tidy breaks of 79 & 86 in winning his last two frames to see out the match a 13-11 winner.
"I am delighted to get through because Rob put me under all sorts of pressure tonight," said Walden, "I thought it was going to go to a decider but thankfully I nicked the last frame.
"If you are in the quarter-finals then you have got a great chance. I am feeling pretty decent out there so I think it is only a matter of who settles better. I am relaxed out there and I am enjoying every moment and hopefully I can keep progressing."
Walden will no doubt fancy his chances to make it through to the semi-finals as he takes on the only qualifier left in the draw, world no.40 Crucible debutant Michael White.
Essex cueman Bingham will also be thrilled to have made the quarter-finals of the Betfair World Snooker Championship on his seventh attempt at the Crucible, after dominating the scoring to see off fellow journeyman Mark Davis 13-10
Althought the match started off a tense affair between the pair, ending 4-4 at the end of the first session then 8-8 after the next one, it was the Premier League champion that exploded out of the box tonight, making breaks of 77 and 70 to go 10-8 up.
The twice six-reds world champion Davis won the next two with a top run of 58 but just couldn't keep up with his higher ranked opponent and Bingham finished the match in style with breaks of 111 & 57 to win the last three in the row to come through in relative comfort.
"It was long old battle and a tough couple of days," said Bingham. "I played well in bits and very poor in other bits. I just couldn't pull away. I feared another second round exit but I had my little spurt at the right time at 10-10.
"This is my 29th tournament and I've entered them all this season. I just love the game and love playing. We've had three weeks off before this and I've been in the gym working with a personal trainer and I feel great at the moment.
Bingham will need to keep fit as next up for him it's a tough test against defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan who beat Ali Carter for the second year in a row at the Crucible, this time by a 13-8 scoreline.
German Masters champion Carter kept within touching distance of the rocket througout the match, but from 9-7, O'Sullivan blasted in to orbit, recording fantastic breaks of 88, 106 and a 89 to clinch the last frame.
Many will now be making O'Sullivan favourite to be the first person to defend a world title since Stephen Hendry in the 90's with the amount of top players leaving the draw early and by his consistancy shown over the two matches he has played so far.
"It was another tough match and I was just pleased to have got through," said four-times champion O'Sullivan, "Anyone who says they're never uncomfortable out there is lying. Even last year there were quite a few times during the tournament where I thought it was slipping away from me but you just have to stick in there.
"I feel more burnt out now than I did last year. Last year the game was coming so easy to me that I could've played another 17 days after winning. I understand why people are saying it but I only believe burnout comes when the game becomes difficult."
Even with all the shocks we have had in the first ten days of the championship we are now down to the last eight players and only one of them (Michael White) is a qualifier, which goes to show as usual the cream usually rises to the top towards the end of the big events. Here is the draw for the quarter-finals of the Betfair World Snooker Championship:
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Stuart Bingham
Shaun Murphy v Judd Trump
Ricky Walden v Michael White
Ding Junhui v Barry Hawkins
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn also announced a new event known as the "Champion of Champions" that will be staged in Coventry next season. It will feature the last 16 winners of major events so a strong field will be guaranteed, check out Dave Hendon's blog for more info.
Today's Betfair World Snooker Championship report was sponsored by PJN SPORTS, the UK's number 1 supplier for snooker and pool equipment. Visit them at www.pjnsports.co.uk for all the latest deals and offers.