Belgium’s new young gun…
Belgian teenager Ben Mertens has become the youngest player to win a match at the World Championship in the qualifying rounds.
It comes as the 15-year-old demolished 24-year-old James Cahill, whom last year reached the Crucible and appeared as the first amateur and beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round but then lost to Stephen Maguire in the second.
Mertens joins in the records as his older compatriot Luca Brecel the Belgian Bullet was the youngest player to appear at the Crucible at the age of 17 in 2012.
The MC Phil Seymour, who does ITV4 snooker MCing, amongst other activities, commented on the win by the new Belgian teenage sensation.
He said: “At the Snooker Shootout last year, a few of us went to Parkrun on the Saturday morning. On our way back to the hotel at about 9:30 14-year-old Ben Mertens was stood outside the Watford Colosseum with his parents. He wanted to get inside so he could practice.
Seymour added: “Really pleased for him. Such a nice lad with a great attitude.”
It was a sweet victory for the young Belgian who raced into a 3 – 1 lead and then won another two after the mid-session interval at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, the home of snooker.
Cahill bounced back with a 90 break, but then a resilient and steely Mertens, mature beyond his years, held his nerve and strode over the winning line.
The cream of Devon’s Andy Hicks defeated the 12 times World Champion Reanne Evans in the first round.
14-year-old Ukrainian Julian Bolko could not beat the record now set by Ben, but fans saw a glimpse of what he could do in the EIS on the big stage.
The World Championship Qualifiers continue into day three and go on from the 21st to the 29th July. 16 players will qualify from four rounds for the sport’s main event at the Crucible from the 31st.
There will be an audience of up to 300.
Crowds play an enormous part in the drama. The suspense, the shocks, misses, tears, sweat and joy.
From this month small sporting crowds will be allowed back for a pilot test by the government, as announced by Prime minister Boris Johnson as he attempts to steer the country back to some kind of normality.
Will you be one of the lucky ones to be in there catching the drama?
The World Snooker Championships, set at the end of this month and well into August, a first, will play host to a small crowd, though it’s not yet known how many audience members will attend – yet.
Snooker led the way back in June with live sport back on TV.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, fans saw the sport snooker lead the way back for live sport in June. Snooker returned with the World Snooker Tour Championship League on June 1st behind closed doors. Other sporting events then followed suit. Snooker then staged its second event during the pandemic and lockdown, the major event the Tour Championship weeks later at the same venue in Milton Keynes.
From the 4th July, snooker clubs could technically open, but some confusion over their status led to them being opened days later than planned.
Racing, Cricket, Snooker, all trialling small crowds…
Now, in a bid to trial some normality to live sport, The Crucible will be able to host a small live crowd, along with the likes of Glorious Goodwood Racing in August.
The guidance is under the government’s stage one to five guidelines, and refers to the basic social distancing measures such as fans standing 2 metres apart if they can, and, where they cannot, standing 1 metre plus with mitigations. Presumably wearing a face-covering etc.
The strict guidance includes measures such as rigorous handwashing and sanitizers in place at the venue.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “For months, millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top class sporting event . So I am pleased that we are now able to help venues safely reopen their doors for fans.”
He added: “Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction.”
The Crucible normally holds up to 1000 people.