RETURNING to the hallowed Crucible Theatre will be the be-all and end-all for Leeds’s David Grace in future seasons after the 31-year-old suffered a 10-6 loss to Kyren Wilson in his first Betfred World Championships match.
The Yorkshireman trailed 5-4 after Saturday’s afternoon session in Sheffield and struck a century as he attempted to topple the 14th-seed yesterday.
Three straight frames from Wilson, in response to Grace’s 104 clearance, were enough to book his place in the second round though, where he will face either Stuart Bingham or Peter Ebdon.
Despite the loss, Grace said his appetite for playing on the big stage has only grown after receiving a warm home welcome in the first round at the World Championships, in Sheffield.
“They’re a fantastic snooker crowd, they appreciate every player that comes here,” he said.
“I had never missed it before, but now I’ve played here, it’s going to be the make or break. It was fantastic, nobody wants to get an absolute dusting.
“I at least made a game of it until he pulled away at the end there, but it was unbelievable to play here.
“When the crowd makes that first roar it’s an absolutely unbelievable noise. The other good run I had was in York so I had a swell of support there and hopefully I won a few fans there who are here this week.
“It’s nice to be supported. I try to enjoy the game and do my best for the crowd.
“The first year I came here it was the 2003 world final and I bumped into Tony Drago in the street and he shook my hand – I couldn’t believe it. I never thought I would play here at that stage.”
Grace, a semi-finalist at the 2015 UK Championships, in York, reached the main draw at the Crucible for the first time after beating Thailand’s Akani Songsermsawad 10-3 in the third round of qualifying.
Despite trailing Wilson 5-2 at one stage, he won the final two frames of his first session at snooker’s most prestigious venue to trail by just one heading into yesterday. Like much of the match, the second session was a cagey affair before Grace struck his first Crucible century in frame 13 to reduce the deficit to just one frame at 7-6.
But Wilson, a quarter-finalist here last year, used all his experience to wrap up the next three frames, which featured a break of 93, and left Grace ruing his lack of ruthless finishing.
“I tried my hardest, but I don’t think I was clinical enough. I seemed to get in first in a lot of frames, getting to 20 and then missing a bad one and he was mopping up,” he added.
“He was a lot more clinical and it seemed like every time he got a chance to win the frame he was putting it to bed. I felt like I was cueing well and I was enjoying it, I wasn’t expecting to miss the balls I missed, it was shocking some of the easy ones I was missing.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan accused the snooker authorities of bullying and intimidating him in a breathtaking outburst.
The 41-year-old five-time Crucible champion pointed the finger at World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn and his board.
He revealed the extent of his distress at receiving a letter from the sport’s disciplinary panel after he criticised a referee and photographer during January’s Masters. Hearn last week criticised O’Sullivan, saying his recent behaviour in media interviews was “embarrassing”.
O’Sullivan has deliberately and repeatedly given curt answers to questions he has faced after matches, while in an ITV interview at the World Grand Prix in February he gave a series of responses in a robotic voice.
This time O’Sullivan struck back, and said: “I phoned Barry up four weeks ago and I said, ‘Look Barry, I’m done with all you and your board of people’. I’ve got a very good friend of mine who said, ‘Just let my lawyers deal with it’.
“I won’t get involved with it because I’m not being bullied, I’m not having people doing that to me ever again.
“I like Barry, but I’m not being intimidated or bullied any more.”
O’Sullivan was speaking after launching his 25th Crucible campaign by beating Wallsend’s Gary Wilson 10-7.
Watch the Snooker World Championship Live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player, with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.