Welsh Open 2018 – Last 64

Yesterday was a very strange day in Cardiff, with a lot of good snooker played on the main table and a host of unexpected results as top seeds tumbled. Indeed Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Ali Carter, Neil Robertson, Anthony McGill, Stephen Maguire, Luca Brecel and Mark Selby all went home yesterday.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker

Morning session

Ding Junhui and Judd Trump both suffered surprise exits in the second round of the ManBetX Welsh Open, beaten 4-1 by Liam Highfield and Noppon Saengkham respectively.

China’s Ding reached the final of the World Grand Prix last week, but he failed to get beyond the last 64 in Cardiff as world number 69 Highfield went through to a meeting with Chris Wakelin. Stoke’s Highfield won the opening frame with a break of 62, and after Ding had levelled, he took the next three on the colours.

“It’s always a good win to take a big scalp,” said Highfield. “I’m not one to be scared of the top players because I know that my game in practice can be as good as theirs.”

Highfield, age 27, suffers from Crohn’s Disease and missed two tournaments at the start of the season while receiving treatment in hospital for several weeks. “When I came out in September my goal was just to be healthy in time for the UK Championship,” he said. “I managed to recover quicker than expected and got to the quarter-finals of the Indian Open. It’s something that is always on my mind and it puts snooker into perspective, having sat in hospital for a month.

“I have spoken to Ali Carter (who also has Crohn’s) a few times and it’s good to see that someone who has similar problems can still be an elite player. Sometimes you feel as if you have a handicap but Ali has been a top player for a long time while dealing with it so there is no excuse for me.”

Trump’s defeat to Thailand’s Saengkham followed recent reverses against Michael White in the first round of the World Grand Prix and to Jak Jones in the China Open qualifiers. Breaks of 98 and 80 helped world number 58 Saengkham earn a meeting with Craig Steadman.

Last year’s beaten finalist Trump said: “I got what I deserved, I played terrible in both of my games here. This is one of the tournaments I wanted to do well at, so it’s disappointing to lose. I tried until the end today but the confidence just wasn’t there.”

Afternoon and evening sessions

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s hot streak continued as he thrashed Graeme Dott 4-0 to reach the last 32 of the ManBetX Welsh Open in Cardiff.

O’Sullivan’s World Grand Prix triumph last Sunday was his fourth ranking title of the season, and one more would match the record of five held by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui and Mark Selby.

Today’s match – a repeat of the 2004 World Championship final – could have had a different outcome as Dott had chances in every frame, but the Scot failed to capitalise and O’Sullivan ran out an easy winner with top breaks of 106 (his 60th century of the season) and 69. He now meets David Grace.

O’Sullivan emphasised that an improved diet this season is one of the key reasons behind his recent success. He said: “I have always been into my health, fitness and running. Because of injuries I started to put a bit of weight on so I decided to work with a nutritionist. The benefit of that was feeling good in myself and having more energy. I take my diet more seriously now than I have ever done. I have massively changed my diet, learned about it and educated myself.

Home favourite Mark Williams kept up his hopes of winning a third ranking title of the season as he beat India’s Aditya Mehta 4-3. Williams led 2-0 with breaks of 79 and 106 before losing a marathon 76-minute third frame. The black became trapped behind a cluster of reds over one corner pocket and a long safety tussle ensued, finally resolved when Williams accidentally knocked the black in. Mehta then took a 3-2 lead before Williams won the last two frames with 89 and 75.

I should have given up the third frame a lot earlier and just carried on with the next one,” said Cwm cueman Williams. “I don’t want to be in a frame like that again, ever. There was nothing we could do, we could have been there all night. I played well at the start of the match and in the last two frames. I have had such a good season that the pressure is off me.

The only other Welshman in the third round is Matthew Stevens, who beat Scott Donaldson 4-2. Williams added: “We haven’t had much to cheer about at this event for a long time now. Hopefully Matthew can have a good run as well, but it seems to be only me trying to get to the later stages. I don’t know why that is, but I can’t fly the flag forever.”

Neil Robertson joined Judd Trump and Ding Junhui as the big-name casualties on day three, despite making three centuries. After five frames Robertson led 3-2 and had a 100% pot success rate having fired runs of 100, 100 and 130. But world number 100 Burns, who earlier had breaks of 85 and 106, took the last two frames with 75 and 47.

Preston’s Burns said: “It’s very pleasing to beat one of the best players in the world and play that well. I don’t play on the TV tables too often so it’s nice to get out there and perform well.”

World number one Mark Selby was also knocked out, losing 4-3 to Liang Wenbo in a match which finished at 1.10am.

Defending champion Stuart Bingham ended the hopes of Welsh 16-year-old Jackson Page, winning 4-2 with top breaks of 77, 92 and 65.

Kyren Wilson showed his break building skills in a 4-0 win over Rory McLeod, rattling in 100, 85 and 136, while John Higgins also top scored with 136 as he won a tartan tussle against Stephen Maguire 4-1.

Masters champion Mark Allen made a 116 in a 4-1 win over Soheil Vahedi  while Ben Woollaston edged out Anthony McGill 4-3 despite being hauled back from 3-0 to 3-3.

The last 32 and last 16 will be played on Thursday, click here for the match schedule.

Judd Trumps defeat to Noppon Saengkham came to absolutely no surprise to me. But I’m pleased to read his quotes post-match. It’s clear that he isn’t in a good place, but at least he isn’t in deny about the problem anymore, which is the first step towards finding a solution. Judd has been over-hyped since he was a child, he’s got expectations piled on him by others as well as by himself, he’s hit a brick wall. Some blame his management. I’m not buying that, it was the same when he was managed by his own family. His manager Django Fung is the one who convinced Ronnie to see Steve Peters, I don’t see why he wouldn’t try his best to help Judd to regain his confidence and form. After all in both interest.

The match between Neil Robertson and Ian Burns was quite extraordinary: Neil finished the match with 99% pot success, he missed only one ball all match, he made three centuries … and lost. Ian Burns was excellent, and in my opinion the cleverer player out there, which ultimately won him the match.

The 76 minutes frame between Mark Williams and Aditya Mehta sparked a lot of discussions, both in te commentary box and on twitter. The situation was such that Williams had next to no chance to win it, but he carried on, and on … and on. Philip Studd in commentary was stating that this was ridiculous and that the referee should do something about it. But what could Maike Kesseler possibly do, supposing she would have wanted to? Mark Williams needed snookers, so Aditya was never going to accept a re-rack. At a point, Philip Studd asked for Ronnie’s opinion, which was that this was going nowhere, wasn’t great for the crowd, and that people leaving the arena wasn’t good, hence Williams should give up the frame. Now indeed people were leaving the arena, but this may have simply been because it was getting late, and with winter weather disrupting transport, they wouldn’t risk to stay longer. On twitter a few people branding themselves “true snooker fans” and “anoraks” were claiming this was compelling, the best frame ever (or about) and that those who doidn’t appreciate know nothing about the real beauty of snooker. Myself I found it interesting for about half an hour, after that, it was clear that it was going nowhere and it became tiresome. I also thought that Williams, should he lose it, may pay the price in the next frame(s) and he actually did lose the next frame and looked all at sea in that one. But he regrouped to win the next, credits to him. BUT, as you can read above, himself with a hinsight, thought that he should have given it up and moved forward. Common sense. And all this meant that Higgins and Maguire, who were supposed to play on table one, were put on a a side table, with no television coverage. I would not be surprised if it transpired that this did affect Maguire, more than Higgins, and had an impact on the result of that match.

Being in Greece with a two hours time difference, it was midnight before the Selby match even started. So I can’t comment on it. The only thing I can say is that for what I saw of Liang in the previous round, he is coming back to form again.

As for the Ronnie v Dott match, it’s quite extraordinary that Dott, who was playing really well, was denied even a single frame. Ronne may not care about winning or losing, but when at the table the competitive beast within awakes, that’s for sure!

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for these images

and a short excerpt of Ronnie’s post-match on ES