Swail upset at Crucible table

Snooker’s authorities came under fire again today when Joe Swail described the table as an “absolute joke” after losing to Matthew Stevens in the first round of the 888.com World Championship.

Snooker’s authorities came under fire again today when Joe Swail described the table as an “absolute joke” after losing to Matthew Stevens in the first round of the 888.com World Championship.

Swail was beaten 10-5 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in a match that featured many ‘kicks’ for both players and was convinced the table had prevented him from producing his best form.

It is another blow for the World Snooker Association, who have also been attacked recently for the current state of the game by Stevens, former champion Alex Higgins and leading manager Ian Doyle.

“There’s only one thing that sums up the match and that’s the table,” said 36-year-old Swail, a two-time World Championship semi-finalist.

“I’ve been a professional for 15 years and it’s about time they got it sorted out. There was a ‘kick’ every other shot and balls were rolling off into the middle pocket.

“The standard out there is high enough without having to worry about things like that and it’s very frustrating.

“I’m absolutely disgusted with the table. When you’re on a break and trying to win a frame the last thing you want to worry about is getting a ‘kick’. It’s an absolute joke.

“People have looked at it but they can’t find the answer and it’s getting worse. It’s very difficult to take in.

“I complained during the match and everyone knows I’m not usually one to complain. But we are playing for a living and it makes a fool of you sometimes.”

The Ulsterman stressed, however, that his outburst was not meant to detract from Stevens’ performance, which included three century breaks.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Matthew,” added the world number 39. “He was under a lot of pressure to keep his place in the top 16 and got the result he needed.”

Stevens agreed with his opponent to an extent but largely resisted the opportunity to put the boot into the governing body again.

“There were loads of ‘kicks’, every fifth or sixth shot it seemed, and it was frustrating,” said the Welshman. “But it’s the same for both players and there’s nothing you can do apart from get on with it.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has not won a match since losing the Masters final to John Higgins in January, is set to end his dismal run after hitting form with a vengeance against Dave Harold.

‘The Rocket’ compiled two centuries including a 139, the highest of the tournament so far, in opening a 7-2 lead, Harold taking the last two frames of the session to avert the chance of a whitewash.

Earlier, Mark Williams needed less than half an hour to polish off Anthony Hamilton and reach the second round.

The Welshman, winner of the title in 2000 and 2003, led 8-1 overnight and the two frames he required to progress came swiftly.

“It’s an excellent start for me,” said the 31-year-old from Cardiff, who will next face Mark Selby, conqueror of John Higgins.

Hamilton was full of praise for Williams, whom he would like to see reach the latter stages.

“You can’t give a four-frame start to Mark and at 6-1 I knew in my heart it was over,” said the 34-year-old from Nottingham.

“But it’s good to see Mark playing well because he’s been away too long. He’s the calmest man on the planet and I love to watch him play.

“I hope he does well and it will be a good match if he meets Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals.”

The other morning match was a predictably dour struggle and the first session had to be ended two frames early due to the slow play with Hong Kong’s Marco Fu leading 4-3 against Alan McManus.

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