Northern Ireland Open 2016 – Day 1 aboard the Titanic and a happy Ronnie wins in last 128

A number of top players are giving this one a miss – Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Ali Carter either didn’t enter or withdrew – but both last Saturday’s finalists are in Belfast and both were playing , impressively well, on day 1.

It was a bit of a mixed bag and a strange day at the Titanic: 30 matches were played and 15 were won by the lowest seeded player, which is very unusual. Here are the results:

All detailed results are on Cuetracker as usual.

Day 1 action report by Worldsnooker:

Tuesday 15 Nov 2016 12:11AM

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White will meet in a tantalising last 64 clash at the Coral Northern Ireland Open after both secured wins on day one in Belfast.

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The Rocket wasted little time in his 4-1 victory over world number 117 David John. The five-time World Champion took just under an hour to secure the win which included runs of 131, 86 and 133.  That set up a first ranking meeting with the Whirlwind since the 2010 World Open.

O’Sullivan remarked: “Jimmy’s one of my best mates on the circuit. He’s a great player. I’m just enjoying playing at the moment. It doesn’t matter who I’m against, but I haven’t played Jimmy in a long time.

“I had four or five days at home the other week practising which I think really helped. I feel like my game is coming together bit by bit, but I’m giving myself to January or February for it to come.

White secured his second round berth with a tense 4-2 defeat of Welshman Gareth Allen.

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The Whirlwind trailed 57-19 in the opener before making a classic counter clearance of 47 to go 1-0 ahead. He snatched the second frame on the final ball as well, holding his nerve to clear the colours. As the game progressed it became more tense. With White leading 3-2, both players missed chances as the balls went into tight positions. However, it was White who eventually got over the line to seal his place in the last 64.

John Higgins extended his winning streak to nine matches with a 4-0 demolition of Paul Davison. The Wizard of Wishaw’s season has burst into life over the last couple of weeks, claiming back to back titles at the inaugural China Championship and the Champion of Champions event where he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.

Higgins made contributions of 71, 70 and 107 as he made light work of the world number 92.

I’m feeling really good,” said Higgins. “I know every tournament is different but I kept playing roughly the same way that I’ve done in the last couple of tournaments so really pleasing.

“Any win against Ronnie in a final is a special occasion. That was another one. I know he didn’t play his best but it was still pleasing to win 10-7.

Luca Brecel recorded one of the best wins of his career against Shaun Murphy. The talented Belgian played some inspired snooker as he limited his opponent to just eight points throughout the match.

The 21-year-old made contributions of 83, 83, 117 and 55 to progress. Until now last year’s German Masters runner-up Brecel had struggled to find his best form in 2016/17. However, a win over Jamie Cope in the last 64 will ensure his best run of the campaign.

Here is Ronnie’s match if you wish to watch it (again):

I thoroughly enjoyed it, watching it this morning. Ronnie pulled some really outstanding shots out there, but the one thing that still worries me a bit is that he almost always leaves something from his break-off and this could cost him when he comes against the top players. However, himself was quite happy with the way he played as you can hear from this snippet on Eurosport.

 Images courtsey of Tai Chengzhe – Thanks Tai! 

I traveled most of the day, so the only match I was able to watch “live” was Jimmy White versus Gareth Allen.

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This was in total contrast with Ronnie’s match: Jimmy played some fantastic shots, but he also played some real shockers and, worryingly, his form seemed to deteriorate as the match went on. There was little consistency in Jimmy’s game. Gareth Allen was, quite simply, very poor: although at a point he had potted more balls and scored more points than Jimmy, he consistently badly missed the key shots.

Other than that I only saw a bit of John Higgins dominant performance against Paul Davison when at the Brussels airport: indeed the match was on a big screen there for all to enjoy!

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