Crucible seeds scatter after Si Jiahui knocks out Mark Williams in World Championship thriller

Si Jiahui of China plays a shot against Mark Williams of Wales in their first round match during day four of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 at Crucible Theatre. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)Si Jiahui of China plays a shot against Mark Williams of Wales in their first round match during day four of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 at Crucible Theatre. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Si Jiahui of China plays a shot against Mark Williams of Wales in their first round match during day four of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 at Crucible Theatre. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Ronnie O’Sullivan arrives at the Cazoo World Championship on Wednesday to discover the Crucible seeds have scattered in Sheffield.

The departure of O’Sullivan’s long-time rival Mark Williams on Tuesday – beaten 10-9 by Sheffield-based Si Jiahui – means six of the world’s top 16 players have already been knocked out in the opening four days ahead of Tuesday night’s session.

Si – who trains at Victoria’s Snooker Academy, just a short walk from the Crucible – certainly looked at home in this famous theatre, knocking out three-time world champion Williams, 49, to prove his run to last year’s semi-finals was no fluke.

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The 21-year-old won the opening four frames to turn a 5-4 overnight deficit into an 8-5 lead.

Mark Williams hands his cue to a spectator during his match with Si Jiahui at the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.Mark Williams hands his cue to a spectator during his match with Si Jiahui at the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Mark Williams hands his cue to a spectator during his match with Si Jiahui at the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

And although Welshman Williams battled back to force a deciding frame, it was Si – who beat Ben Mertens and Wu Yize to qualify for the Crucible – who held his nerve with a match-winning break of 77.

Williams said: “That's one of the best breaks you will see under pressure and if he can do that more regularly then he is a future world champion. He definitely has the potential to win the world championship. Whether it's this year, who knows, it will be tough.”

Si added: “Mark missed a few chances and I went 8-5 ahead. Towards the end I wasn't as calm.

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“I always felt like the challenger, trying to take him down. I'm very happy to beat such a difficult opponent.

“I have no target at this tournament and I am trying not to feel any pressure, I'm just focussing on each shot. I know there is more attention on me this year, more people watching me and I don't want to let them down.”

The qualifiers have certainly dominated the opening round in Sheffield.

When Stuart Bingham – the 2015 world champion who has slipped to 29th in the world rankings – beat Gary Wilson 10-5 on Monday, he became the fifth qualifier to beat a top 16 player in the opening eight matches.

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There is an argument that the qualifiers – who had to come through upto four tough rounds at the nearby English Institute of Sport – arrived at the Crucible bang in form. And the first-round victims substantiates that theory.

World No 10 Wilson joined defending world champion Luca Brecel, four-time Crucible winner Mark Selby, Zhang Anda and Ali Carter in falling to clear the first hurdle.

The record for the most seeds losing in the opening round is eight, in 1980, 1992 and 2012.

Jack Lisowski, another who came through two qualifying rounds, leads Sheffield-based Ding Junhui – the world No 7 – 5-4 when they resume on Wednesday morning.

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Two seeds who looks assured of a second-round place are Kyren Wilson and Mark Allen. The world No 12 Wilson needs just two more frames for victory, when he returns on Wednesday leading Dominic Dale 8-1. Wilson impressed with a century and six further breaks of 50-plus.

Northern Ireland’s Allen was also in top form, pulling away from Robbie Williams to lead 7-2.

Their match concludes on Wednesday afternoon.

As for O’Sullivan, he has shrugged off suggestions of greatness on the eve of his bid to eclipse Stephen Hendry and become the first player to win eight world snooker titles in the modern era.

O’Sullivan is already routinely described as the best player to pick up a cue after a record-breaking career that includes eight Masters and eight UK titles within a total of 41 ranking tournament wins.

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But the 48-year-old, who starts his first round match against Welsh qualifier Jackson Page on Wednesday, has never been one to pore over the record books, and questions whether such plaudits are worth having at all.

“I don’t regard myself as the greatest of all time,” said O’Sullivan. “Statistically I suppose I am, but I’m just happy to be playing.

“I suppose as a kid I would have been desperate to be up with those guys but when you get there it’s a bit of an anti-climax – it’s not as great as you thought it would be.”

O’Sullivan, who won his first world title in 2001, currently sits on seven alongside Hendry, with Davis and Ray Reardon one behind on six wins each.

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“I’ve had a different career to them,” added O’Sullivan. “They just did it over a 10-year period while I’ve sort of gone off track for five or six years, then got myself back together, then disappeared for another three years, then got myself back together again.”

O’Sullivan added: “I love playing, I enjoy it. I get to travel where I want, take time off when I want, be my own boss. It’s those little things, and you want to win because competitiveness has always been in me.

“I’m pretty cool with what I’ve done and I’d like to keep winning more.

“Whether that makes me the greatest or not, I don’t know. It really doesn’t matter.”