Matthew Stevens enjoyed a 10-5 win over Ricky Walden to secure his place at the Crucible Theatre – and revealed a lack of practice boosted his game.
Stevens – the losing World Championship finalist to Mark Williams in 2000 and Shaun Murphy in 2005 – missed out on the final stages last year, but was always the dominant force against three-times ranking event winner Walden in their final qualifier at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
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The 42-year-old will be appearing at the Crucible for the 17th time after missing out last year. He led 5-4 after the afternoon session and was the dominant force when they played to a finish on Tuesday evening.
“I played pretty solid. The last time I played was the Welsh Open. I’ve had about five months off. I got my cue out two or three days before I came here,” said the Welshman, who made breaks of 65, 51, 61, 53, 61 and 54 to secure his place in Wednesday morning’s draw for the final 32.
“I entered the Championship League and didn’t feel great so I pulled out. I’ve had about nine hours practice.”
Stevens was a 6-4 winner against Ian Preece in the penultimate round of qualifying and said: “I came here with no expectations. I didn’t expect to win my first match. I was 3-1 down to Ian Preece and thought I would be getting the train back in the morning, but something clicked and I played okay today.
“I didn’t expect to win today at all. With everything that’s gone on, I didn’t think there would be a crowd in the Crucible. For me going there with no crowd, I wasn’t bothered if I won or lost.
“I’m not too bothered. I might be dangerous, you never know.”
Former Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King will also be taking his place in the final stages for the first time since 2013 after he staged a rousing recovery from trailing Ian Burns 6-3 to complete a 10-6 win.
Graeme Dott, who won the World Championship in 2006, is out after suffering a 10-6 defeat to Martin Gould, who produced runs of 55, 95, 97, 69, 127 and 87 in a high-quality encounter that saw Dott make 65, 64, 88 and 64 in falling at the final hurdle for only the second time in 20 years.
Tuesday 28 July – Final Qualifying Round
Jamie Clarke 10-7 Sunny Akani
Jordan Brown 10-6 Ryan Day
Stuart Carrington 8-10 Tom Ford
Mark King 10-6 Ian Burns
Graeme Dott 6-10 Martin Gould
Matthew Stevens 10-5 Ricky Walden
Anthony McGill 10-1 Sam Baird
Liam Highfield 7-10 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
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