By Charlie Bennett, Sportsbeat
Anfield may be 106 miles from the Crucible Theatre but Ricky Walden admitted it was at the front of his mind during his Betfred World Snooker Championship win against Luca Brecel.
The 35-year-old potter who lives in Bagillt in Flintshire but was born in Chester is a keen Liverpool fan and was in a hurry to wrap up his first-round win against Brecel in Sheffield so he could dash back to his hotel and watch the Reds’ 5-2 demolition of Roma in the Champions League.
Walden was not perfect in the second session but did enough get over the line, knocking out the Belgian 10-6 to reach the second round for just the third time in his career.
With a 92% pot success rate, Walden proved he will be a danger to the favourites and could face world number four Judd Trump in the next round.
“I was thinking about the Liverpool game, it got me through,” he said.
“I played well in most of the game to be honest, I lost my way towards the end and it got a bit scrappy but overall I am very pleased.
“Once you have come through qualifying, you are match sharp and it is not an ideal position to be in to qualify but once you come through your game feels okay.”
Walden burst out of the blocks when the match started on Monday, winning the first two frames in under 20 minutes.
Brecel – the world number 13 – hit back on a re-spotted black in the third frame before Walden flexed his muscle with breaks of 105 and 90 to move 4-1 up.
He led 6-3 overnight and started positively again on Tuesday with another century, this time 123.
The match then became scrappy as Brecel fought his way back but Walden got over the line for a morale-boosting win.
“I have been playing well in practice to be honest, I have been scoring heavily and I am more used to that in practice lately,” Walden said.
“I lost my way at the back end of the game but in general having that strong form on the table is only beneficiary for me.
“Because I played decent in the first session, I had a gap so was able to make errors and get away with it really.
“It gets out there sometimes. There is definitely Crucible pressure but your mind goes elsewhere. I am just pleased to scrap and come through it.”
Watch the snooker World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.