Crucible specialist Barry Hawkins reached the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the sixth consecutive year with a 13-10 victory over rising star Lyu Haotian.
Hawkins looked in danger of a surprise defeat when China’s 20-year-old Lyu came from 8-3 down to level at 10-10. But experience told for 39-year-old Hawkins as he won the last three frames to book a meeting with Ding Junhui or Anthony McGill in the next round.
World number six Hawkins is the only player to have got to the last eight in Sheffield every year since 2013. He was runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan that year, and has since got to the semi-finals three more times, including 2017 when his run was ended by John Higgins.
After a slow start to the current season – his game affected by a family tragedy – Hawkins has shown improved form in recent weeks, reaching the final of both the Welsh Open and the China Open.
The Londoner looked to be cruising to victory at 8-3 up against Lyu, but finished the second session just 9-7 in front, and this morning Lyu started strongly with breaks of 91 and 100 to draw level at 9-9.
Hawkins regained the lead in frame 19 and in the 20th he led by 18 points with just pink and black left. But, trapped in a tough snooker, he went in-off after hitting the pink, handing Lyu the chance to pot pink and black and level at 10-10 at the interval.
World number 68 Lyu, who beat Marco Fu on his Crucible debut in the first round, also had first chance in frame 21 but could only make 46. Hawkins replied with 54, then converted an excellent pot on the penultimate red to a centre pocket, and added 23 to go 11-10 up. That proved the turning point as he fired runs of 132 and 76 in the next two frames to cross the winning line.
“I’m really pleased to win that match,” said three-time ranking event winner Hawkins. “He wouldn’t go away. I missed a couple of balls at 8-4 yesterday and he just kept potting balls. I couldn’t shake him off, it was a really good standard.
“I lost a big frame to go 10-10, and it was a horrible way to lose it. I knew the in-off was on but I didn’t want to under-swerve it and miss it on the other side. That was tough to take but I’ve got to give myself credit for coming out and winning the next three frames. I showed a little bit of bottle out there and finished off the match really well.
“There’s no better place to play than the Crucible. I’m up for it more, my focus seems to be better here. It’s a nice feeling to be able to chill out now for a couple of days, watching everyone else slog it out.
“Lyu is unbelievable. If he carries on like that he’ll go far. When he’s at the top of the game I’ll be long gone!”
Lyu said: “At 10-10 I had a good feeling but the frame after that was the key moment. My choice of safety led to a mistake and Barry played well. I had my chances but didn’t take them.
“I have done well here but my lack of experience, shot selections and safety lost me the match. I will be working on those to try and catch up.
“I was feeling fine throughout the game, not that nervous. I was feeling up for the job. I’m looking forward to coming back, it’s a great atmosphere. The crowd are really enthusiastic and different from any other event.
“I’ve had a good season, but I hope next season can be even better. I want to improve my skills and stay more competitive.”
Meanwhile, Kyren Wilson took control of his second round match with Jamie Jones, surging 11-5 ahead. Ninth seed Wilson is looking to reach the quarter-finals for the third year in a row and needs just two more frames when they resume at 7pm.
Kettering’s Wilson made a 63 clearance in the first frame today to go 6-3 up, then Welshman Jones hit back with an 80 clearance in frame ten. Wilson won the 11th and led 37-0 in the 12th when he missed a black off its spot. Jones punished him with an 83 clearance to trail just 7-5 at the interval.
Wilson made a yellow to black clearance to win a scrappy 13th frame, then pulled away to take the next three with a top run of 67.