Here is my account on the matches I watched, yesterday, and again I can’t thank the event sponsors, Thiess-McCann, enough again for offering me this opportunity.
Liang Wenbo 4-1 Zak Surety
Although Liang obviously played well – he had breaks of 80, 50, 51 and 61 – this match felt a little flat, without any tension. Maybe it was the almost empty arena early on the day, I don’t know. Anyway, it’s fair to say that Zak wasn’t able to put his opponent under any pressure, he just missed too many balls you’d expect him to get, and Liang did what he needed doing.
Judd Trump 4-3 Ben Woollaston
This was a different proposition altogether. It was tense and hard-fought from start to finish. Both players were playing well and both had their own pressure to cope with. Ben hasn’t had the best of starts this season and could do with results, Judd was the one expected to win and he’s playing with a new cue. Until the last frame Judd was never in front: he trailed 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, but when it really mattered he came on top. Frame 6 in particular showed that he’s not just a ball-basher and a crazy potter, he has a very solid safety game when he puts his mind to it. He wanted that win badly, and he got it.
Mark Selby 4-2 Dominic Dale
Dominic is a bit of an excentric character. He’s known for wearing funny shoes and bright colors (fighting each others too), for dying his hair peroxide blond and for singing opera when he wins. He’s also a keen student of the history of cue sports and a very knowledgeable collector of cues and maces. So maybe those who had never seen him play before were a bit surprised at what they saw yesterday. The truth is that Dominic, a pro since 1992, is hard as nail at the table and quite old school too. Let’s not forget that despite never reaching the top 16, he’s twice a ranking event winner. That doesn’t happen by chance. So Dominic did give Mark Selby a serious test. Most frames were very close, hard-fought and involved a lot of good safety play. Both players had two breaks over 50. Eventually though Mark prevailed. But there is some concern for the World Champion: during the match he was looking at his tip quite often, with a worried look and after the match he came on twitter asking if there was any player in Bucharest skillful at retipping. So, in his next match, he will either have to cope with a tip he isn’t trusting or with a new one … neither will be easy.
Mark Davis 4-1 Shaun Murphy
There goes the “hot tip” of the tournament! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making fun of Shaun Murphy; Shaun might not be everyone’s cup of tea, he might at times express opinions about things that are none of his business, but he’s someone who loves his sport with a passion, always tries to promote it and has his heart in the right place. So, no, I’m making a bit of fun of the bookies and ES commentators who, “en masse”, backed him to win this tournament, mainly based on the fact that he made a brilliant 147 last week. What they overlooked is that Shaun has very recently become a father, and a first child is a huge life changer. Many players have gone through this before and struggled before finding a new balance. There was no reason for Shaun being any different, he’s certainly not the type to be an “absent father”. So struggle he did and Mark Davis, despite not showing stellar form, took full advantage. Except for frame 4, every frame was close, hard-fought, built up old fashion, small break after small break. Mark Davis won’t mind, he’s through.
Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-1 David Gilbert