Snooker - Doherty struggles to dismiss Dyson threat
KEN DOHERTY, the player of the year so far, is safely through to the last 16 of the £1.5m Embassy World Championship here last night but only after staving off a spirited recovery from Nick Dyson, the lowest ranked qualifier.
Doherty, winner of the Regal Welsh Open in January, the Thailand Masters last month and runner-up in the Scottish Open eight days ago, was expected to breeze past world No 114 Dyson, a former Manchester City prospect who turned to snooker after a knee injury.
In the end, though, Doherty was mightily relieved to carve out a 10-7 victory after being required to hold his nerve under mounting pressure as Dyson stubbornly refused to wave the white flag.
"Nick is a much better player than his ranking suggests so I'm delighted to get this out of the way," said Doherty, the champion here in 1997 and beaten finalist the following year. "The first round's always quite a nervy affair but now I can get my teeth into the tournament.
"He played really well and I knew he'd come out tonight firing on all cylinders. He'd frighten anybody because he doesn't hold back. Anyway its sometimes good to get a tough test. It gets you a kick up the backside and stops you being too casual.
"I certainly didn't take him for granted.
"I'm feeling confident, I've had a great run of results and I'm really looking forward to the next round."
When Doherty raced into a 6-1 lead yesterday he seemed to be heading for an untroubled victory.
But Dyson stole frame eight on the black, after Doherty had twice wobbled it in the jaws, and the underdog went into the concluding session with a glimmer of hope trailing just 6-3.
Doherty afforded himself more breathing space with a last red to black clearance in the tenth frame for 7-3 and by potting green to pink in the 14th he moved into a virtually unassailable 9-5 advantage.
Still, Dyson kept plugging away and at 9-7 a shock result was not out of the question
But Doherty responded to the impending crisis and finished with a flourish by putting together a stylish 116 break to cross the line.
This has been the finest season of Michael Judge's pro-career so far, but the Dubliner will not be satisfied unless he marks his Crucible debut with at least one win and sets up an all-Irish clash with Doherty.
The world No 46, who beat Jimmy White in the final qualifying round last month, has the chance to put the icing on the cake here this morning by claiming another notable scalp.
Judge leads John Parrott, the 1991 world and UK champion, 5-4 entering their final session, but what will happen next to the resident captain of 'A Question of Sport' is anyone's guess.
At one stage Judge looked set to take the contest by the scruff of the neck as he forged into a 4-0 lead. Parrott, a first round loser in the game's premier event only once since 1984, was on the ropes.
Defying the conventional wisdom that previous Crucible experience is essential for success, Judge stole a 44 minute first frame on the blue before freezing out Parrott in the following two with assured breaks of 79 and 52.
After the mid-session interval Parrott underlined his credentials as a tenacious fighter by winning four of the next five frames. One in particular will haunt Judge if he goes on to lose.
On a 62 break in the seventh, Judge was on course to move 5-2 ahead, but he missed a vital late red and Parrott cleared up to snatch it on the black. At session's end, Judge was left requiring five of the remaining ten frames to provide the opposition for Doherty in the last 16 and earn at least £20,000.
Parrott, battling to stay in the game's elite top 16 for a 15th consecutive season, is guaranteed to make life difficult.
Fergal O'Brien, also in the Irish side which reached the final of January's Nations Cup, enters the fray today against Englishman Mark King.