Page made three centuries and seven more breaks over 50
Jackson Page proved himself an authentic star in the making with the best win of his career so far as he beat former finalist Barry Hawkins 10-7 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.
On his Crucible debut, 20-year-old Page finished the match in the style of a seasoned champion by making back-to-back centuries to win the last two frames. World number nine Hawkins, runner-up in 2013, becomes the first seed to be knocked out of this year’s event, and it’s the first time since 2010 that he has failed to reach the second round.
Page’s potential was first recognised in 2017 when, competing as a 15-year-old schoolboy, he reached the third round of the Welsh Open. Like many leading amateurs, he struggled with the huge step up to the professional tour, and dropped off the circuit at the end of last season. But he bounced back immediately through Q School and has shown more maturity in his game this term.
The 20-year-old from Cwm is now enjoying the best month of his life on the baize, having won four matches in the qualifying rounds just to make it to the Crucible, before his tremendous win over three-time ranking event winner Hawkins.
Page could face his mentor and practice partner Mark Williams in the last 16, if the the three-time champion can convert a 7-2 lead over Michael White into a second round spot on Monday. So calm did Page look in the closing stages tonight that he seems to have absorbed Williams’ unflappable temperament.
Through to the last 16 of a ranking event for the fifth time in his career, world number 90 Page is already guaranteed a career high pay day of £30,000.
Hawkins trailed 6-3 going into the concluding session but got the start he needed by taking the first two frames for 6-5. He led 49-5 in the 12th when he missed a difficult red to a centre pocket, then sat in his chair as Page knocked in a long red and made an excellent 54 clearance. Hawkins dominated the 13th to close to 7-6 at the interval.
Londoner Hawkins trailed 44-27 in frame 14 when he missed a tough pot on the last red to a top corner, leaving his opponent the chance to clear and double his lead. A run of 59 saw Hawkins close to 8-7, but he failed to score a point in the last two frames. Marvellous total clearances of 128 and 135 saw Page into the second round.
“I couldn’t have asked for a much better debut,” said Page. “When I get my mind in the zone, the scoreline and everything else is irrelevant, I’m just trying to take what’s there on the table. It got a bit edgy out there tonight but I made a great century break to go 9-7 up and then another century to win it. The break to go 9-7 I felt slightly nervous, but overall I felt pretty cool.
“I played great in the qualifying, it all leads up to this really, and I’m going to try and keep it going. I was focused on the match but it was hard not to take glances around the place. I just enjoyed it all. It’s about time I had a good run in a tournament – it would be great if it was this one. Everyone in my corner, Mark Williams, Mark Skinner my sponsor, family, friends – I cannot thank them all enough.”
Asked about the prospect of taking on Williams, Page added: “I suppose it’s fitting if I do take Mark on next. It’s going to be fun. We’re still going to be friends afterwards so the scoreline is irrelevant. It’s going to be a good fight and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. Mark is a very good mentor – he sets a great example. It’s good to learn off him.”
Hawkins said: “The way he finished in the last two frames was very classy. I thought he might feel the pressure but he looked as if it didn’t bother him at all. He has come through the qualifiers and he looked sharp – much sharper than me. The seeds are under pressure in the first round. Mark Williams has been saying for years how good Jackson is and I think we saw that today.”