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Walden Edges Past Brecel

Ricky Walden prevailed in his clash with Belgium’s Luca Brecel 10-6 to clinch a place in the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

Walden’s Crucible run comes after a difficult couple of years for the Chester potter. He had suffered  a dip in form after struggling with a back injury. However, this season he has had an upturn in fitness after receiving an epidural steroid injection last summer. Following a solid 2017/18 campaign, former World Championship semi-finalist Walden is once again showing the extent of his talent on the sport’s biggest stage.

For the second year in a row it is a disappointing first round defeat for Brecel, who is yet to win a match at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams since making his debut in 2012 and becoming the youngest ever player to grace the Crucible aged 17. Last season he surrendered a 7-1 advantage in an agonising 10-9 defeat against Marco Fu.

Walden emerged from the first session with a healthy 6-3 advantage. He looked to be in fine touch in the break building department and fired in five contributions over 50 with a top run of 105.

He started off this afternoon’s play with the same fluidity to his game. The 35-year-old delighted the Crucible crowd with a superb 122 break to move further ahead at 7-3. However, from there the game became less open as nerves crept into play.

Both players showed signs of frustration, but it was Brecel who clawed his way back into the match when he pulled back within three at 8-5. The Belgian then took the 14th frame on the final black to make it 8-6 and turn up the heat on his opponent.

Crucially Walden then won a marathon 47-minute frame to edge one from victory and a break of 60 then saw him get over the line a 10-6 victor.

Walden said: “I played well for most of the game, just losing my way in the last few frames, but overall I’m very pleased. Once you’ve come through qualifying you’ve won three games and you’re match sharp. It’s a horrible situation to have to qualify but once you do come through it is a benefit.

“I scrapped it out in a different way today which you need to do at the Crucible because it gets a bit tough out there sometimes. There’s Crucible pressure, it’s like no other and your mind sometimes goes elsewhere so it’s a different kind of pressure and I’m pleased I scrapped it out.”

“I’m just going to work hard now. A year ago I would’ve said I’d take four weeks off but I’m not going to do that this year. I’m so in love with the game that I just want to work hard and come back stronger,” said Brecel. “It’s always exciting to play here, it’s just a pity that I couldn’t play my game. I was feeling confident in practice but it means nothing when you don’t do it on the match table.”

Mark Williams dominated the opening session of his first round match with Jimmy Robertson and requires just three more frames for the win at 7-2.

The two-time Crucible king missed out on a place at the final stages of the World Championship in 2017, but has come into this year’s event with renewed confidence. He won his first ranking title in six years at the 2017 Northern Ireland Open and backed that up with victory at the German Masters.

Williams top scored with a break of 102 today and the pair will return to play the match to a conclusion tomorrow morning at 10am.