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Crucible record falls as Ryan Day knocks out Barry Hawkins

Ryan Day celebrates his win over Barry Hawkins.

Ryan Day came from 8-5 down to beat Barry Hawkins 10-8 in the opening round of the Cazoo World Championship, a result which means that the record for the most seeded players falling at the first hurdle has been equalled.

Back in 1980, eight seeds lost their opening match, and that tally was matched in 1992, 2012 and now in 2024. And the record could yet be broken, with John Higgins just 5-4 ahead of Jamie Jones overnight, while Ronnie O’Sullivan leads Jackson Page 8-1. Defeat for either Higgins or O’Sullivan would bring the total of top-16 ranked players knocked out to nine. 

If world number one O’Sullivan gets through, he will meet Welshman Day, who is into the last 16 for the sixth time in his career. The 44-year-old hadn’t won a match at the Crucible since 2014, but finished strongly tonight as world number 15 Hawkins lost his way. Day has rarely played at his best since winning the British Open at the start of last season, but showed his battling qualities in a 10-9 win over Scott Donaldson in the final qualifying round, and again to knock out 2012 finalist Hawkins.

Momentum shift was the theme of the contest as Day took four frames in a row to lead 5-2, Hawkins won six on the spin to go 8-5 ahead, only for Day to win the last five. For Londoner Hawkins, it’s a painful end to a season which began so brightly with victory at the European Masters.

Hawkins took the first four frames today with top breaks of 92, 50 and 59 to lead 8-5. After the interval, Day hit back with 78 and 62 to close to 8-7. In frame 16, Hawkins led 33-15 when he ran out of position, and he later made a safety error which gifted Day the chance to make 68 to square the tie.

In a dramatic finish to frame 17, Hawkins trailed 39-37 when he failed to pot the final green to a top corner, then both players missed the same ball to the same pocket again. Eventually, Day converted a tremendous long pot with deep screw, gaining position on the brown which allowed him to clear for 9-8.  Early in the 18th, trailing 15-0, Hawkins played another weak safety, and Day’s mid-range red set him up for a match-winning 61.

“It has been a long time since I won a match here,” said three-time quarter-finalist Day, who is working with coach Chris Henry. “At 8-5 I wasn’t in the game, but the interval changed things. I think so many seeds have gone out because the standard is so good all the way through the top 50 and this was probably the strongest set of qualifiers ever, even though Neil Robertson didn’t make it. 

“If I play Ronnie next it will be a mountain to climb. I’ll go home for a couple of days now and hopefully be ready for it. His longevity is off the charts – to see how well he is playing at 48 gives me hope that I have a few more years left. My job will be just to focus on what I can control. I can’t wait to have a crack at him.”

Hawkins said: “I made too many mistakes, we both missed a lot of easy balls. I had the momentum at 8-5 but then lost confidence, and fair play to Ryan because he stood up. It’s a frustrating way for the season to end. The qualifiers are sharp and not scared of anything – most of them are good enough to be in the top 16.”

On the other table, four-time champion Higgins came from 3-1 down to lead 5-4 against Jones. This is a crucial match for Higgins as defeat would mean he finishes the season outside the top 16, having been ever present among the elite since 1995.

Jones, who knocked out Robertson 10-9 in the final qualifying round, started with a break of 118 and went on to lead 3-1. Scotland’s Higgins hit back to take four in a row with top runs of 57, 62 and 66. But Jones came from 38-0 down to win the last of the session with an 82 clearance. They resume on Thursday at 8pm. 

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