World Championship: ‘Amazing’ debut ends in Crucible defeat for Ashley Hugill

Ashley Hugill during his match against Neil Robertson at the World Championship. Picture: PA.Ashley Hugill during his match against Neil Robertson at the World Championship. Picture: PA.
Ashley Hugill during his match against Neil Robertson at the World Championship. Picture: PA.
Yorkshire cueman Ashley Hugill is determined to make a swift return to the Crucible after his debut was cut short by Neil Robertson at the Betfred World Championship.

The 27-year-old got off to a dream start on his first appearance at the famous Sheffield theatre, leading former world Champion Robertson – who has already won the Tour Championship, Masters, English Open and Players Championship this season – 3-1 in their opening sesssion.

But Robertson, the 2010 champion, reeled off eight successive frames to lead 9-3.

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York’s Hugill – who has lived in Sheffield for the last four years and trains at the city’s Victoria’s Academy – could have been forgiven for packing up his cue, but replied with breaks of 51 and 82 to entertain a packed Crucible before Robertson secured a 10-5 win with a 109 clearance.

Sheffield-based Lyu Haotian. Picture: PASheffield-based Lyu Haotian. Picture: PA
Sheffield-based Lyu Haotian. Picture: PA

“My debut at the Crucible was obviously an amazing achievement,” said Hugill, who had to win three qualifying rounds simply to reach the Crucible stage.

“To know that I can compete with the best player in the world, at the minute.

“I held my own, I had patches where I played quite well. I know I can do it on the biggest stage.

“I played alright, I didn’t collapse, and held my own.

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“I couldn’t believe how calm I was at the start. I thought it might take me a few frames to settle down.

“Neil won the (first) frame in one visit, and I thought ‘this is alright, I can have 10 minutes to sit here, calm down and take everything in’. After that I felt great.

“I was just happy to still be in the match (after trailing the first session 6-3). He (Robertson) is the best player in the world at the minute, without a doubt.

“It was incredible. I was trying not to look into the crowd too much at first, because I felt it might over-awe me, a bit intimidating.

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“I was just trying to focus on the table. The second session, when it went to 9-3, I just thought I would take it in now and try to enjoy it a bit more.

“Without a doubt, I have to play here again.

“I was trying to stay in control of my emotions.

“When I potted my first ball, a long red and screwed back to baulk, the sound from the crowd I couldn’t believe how loud it was. I’d never experienced something so loud in such a tight arena, with so many people, it was an amazing feeling.”

Robertson was certainly wary of Hugill, making his bow in front of his adopted hometown crowd.

“He was just walking around the venue smiling to himself, he looked so comfortable, so I just thought is he going to come here and absolutely fly without a care in a world,” he said.

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“That’s how he started out. He was deserving of his 3-1 lead. I saw the footage of his family watching his last qualifying match, that was lovely to see. I hope he enjoyed playing here, It was nice to see him playing with a smile on his face.”

Hugill is one of five players in the 32-man field at the Crucible who have set-up home in Sheffield.

Ding Junhui is the most high-profile, but Hugill trains alongside Chinese trio Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong and Lyu Haotian trains at the city’s Victoria’s Academy.

Like Hugill, 24-year-old Lyu fell at the first hurdle against another world champion, losing 10-5 to 2015 winner Stuart Bingham.

He will now the face the winner of Ding, 35, or Kyren Wilson, who start their campaign on Wednesday morning.

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