It was a day of shocks in Cardiff yesterday as top players stumbled and tumbled out. So much so that in the last 32 round, today, only six of them still stand: Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, Judd Trump, Barry Hawkins, Mark Allen and Ali Carter.
One could argue that maybe those who are safe in the top 16 already have their eyes on the Crucible and aren’t really geared up for this best of 7 affair. It could be the case for some, but then, it certainly does not explain why those chasing a top 16 place, in order to avoid the dreaded World Qualifiers in Ponds Forge, are also suffering early exits. Yet, no player between rank 12 to and included 25 in the provisional seeding list is still in the tournament.
So, what else did we get?
Ross Muir 4-0 Marco Fu
The match wasn’t on television, so it’s hard to understand what happened there. Ross Muir is a decent player, but by no means a top one and Marco had been excellent for the last two months … Any idea anyone?
Lee Walker 4-3 Neil Robertson
This one I watched and I’m still baffled. Neil lead 3-1 and the match could easily have been over as Lee had actually stolen the first frame on the last balls. Neil had looked unstoppable: he had made a 143, the current tournament highest break, a 133 and a 55 in building his lead. And then … it went scrappy. Lee Walker is a good player, with a lot of experience, he’s been around since the 90th. He’s also a coach, he’s Mark Williams coach actually. But he’s never been a top player. And yet, he won all the close frames, crucially, and finished with a brilliant 130. Stephen Hendry always speaks about winning frames in one visit bein key to winning matches: well … I wonder what he’d say about this one.
Josh Boileau 4-2 Shaun Murphy
Josh is a rookie, this is his first year as a pro. He’s not really set the scene alight until now . Again, there was only one 50+ break in the match, a 71 by Shaun. This is a very, very good result for the Irish boy but what was going on here?
Igor Figueiredo 4-2 Anthony McGill
I like the way Igor usually plays, he goes for his shots, he’s got a smile as big as himself on his face. Samba snooker? Yes, usually. But yesterday he showed how good he is tactically too. It wasn’t about big breaks, he beat Anthony at his own game: tactical thinking and properly executed safeties.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 4-1 Ryan Day
Ryan showed none of the form that brought him to last week final. “Theppy” wasn’t at his very (potting) best either, but he won convincingly, and patiently. He even stole the only frame where Ryan had a 50+ break (58). I read that he’s now working with Terry Griffiths. That could well be his best career move so far.
Of course some of the top guys did win , but it was not always plain sailing.
Mark Selby trailed Mike Dunn by 1-0 and 2-1 , before pulling away to a 4-2 win. Mark isn’t a fan of the best of 7 BTW, branding the format “a leveller” and suggesting it was the cause of this abnormal amount of upsets.
Judd Trump had to work hard to beat veteran Alex Borg from Malta by 4-2. Alex is a fantastic player on his day although his scoring power is no more what it once was. But he gave Judd a good a old school game. Judd made a 60 in the first frame and still lost it, a sign of things to come. Alex is not afraid to win in bits and pieces, no is he of messing up the table, sendng colours on the rails and picking balls one by one. He took Judd completely out of his usual game patterns and it was fascinating. Credits to Judd though, he was very patient, adapted and eventually won.