Snooker returned to Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre on Thursday with the start of the highly-anticipated ROKiT Phones.com World Seniors Snooker Championship.
Barely three months have past since Judd Trump’s memorable victory at the home of snooker back in May but this week sees a mix of former greats and top amateur qualifiers aged over-40 return to the baize for this season’s premier prize on the ROKiT Phones.com World Seniors Snooker Tour.
The day began with four preliminary round matches which saw the 20-player field whittled down to 16, before the first-round action began in earnest later in the day.
First to book his place in the quarter-finals was Thai legend James Wattana, who recorded whitewash victories against Egypt’s Mohamed Abdelkader and 1986 world champion Joe Johnson on day one. Still competing on the main tour having been awarded an invitational tour card, Wattana’s match sharpness showed as he hit breaks of 113, 58 and 57 during the day, allied to a key clearance from green to black to seal victory against Johnson in the evening.
The former world number three now awaits Chinese qualifier Chen Gang, who also came through two matches today with wins against Tony Knowles and former world champion Cliff Thorburn to reach the last eight.
Earlier in the day there were also victories in the preliminary round for Tony Drago and Darren Morgan, who came through against Dene O’Kane and Willie Thorne respectively to progress to the last 16 stage.
For Drago, who was competing at the Crucible for the first time since 2005, there was a hard-fought 3-2 win against New Zealander O’Kane in the opening session of the day with a top break of 71 to set up a mouthwatering clash with seven-time world professional champion Stephen Hendry on Friday afternoon.
Welshman Darren Morgan meanwhile, one of the most active amateur players competing in the tournament, enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 success against Willie Thorne with a high break of 74 in the final frame. Next up for the former world number eight will be a contest against 1991 world champion John Parrott, a repeat of their 1994 Crucible quarter-final, won 13-11 by Morgan.
The action continues on Friday as the quarter-final line-up will be decided in Sheffield.