Yesterday in Cardiff was extremely busy, with two rounds being played to a conclusion.
Here is Worldsnooker’s report on the last 32 (morning and afternoon)
Matthew Stevens ended Stuart Bingham’s ManBetX Welsh Open title defence with a 4-1 win at the last 32 stage in Cardiff.
Bingham beat Judd Trump in a thrilling final last year but his grip on the Ray Reardon Trophy has now slipped as Carmarthen’s Stevens goes through to face China’s Yan Bingtao.
Former Masters and UK Champion Stevens knocked in breaks of 76 and 79 as he reached the last 16 of a ranking event for the second time this season, having done so at the China Championship.
Northern Ireland Open runner-up Yan saw off Peter Ebdon 4-1 with a top break of 77.
Ronnie O’Sullivan took just 44 minutes to beat David Grace 4-0 as he stayed on course for a possible fifth ranking title of the season. He fired breaks of 96, 133, 63 and 100 in a magnificent display.
John Higgins eased to a 4-0 win over Sam Craigie with a top break of 71.
Mark Williams, the last Welsh player to win this title back in 1999, suffered a 4-2 reverse against Martin Gould. Londoner Gould made breaks of 110, 62 and 58 to set up a match with Barry Hawkins. That results boosts Gould’s hopes of jumping into the top 16 seeds for the Players Championship; he is currently in 17th place but only £500 behind Yan and £4,000 behind Graeme Dott.
Kyren Wilson came through a tough battle against James Wattana which came down to the last few balls. In the deciding frame, Wilson trapped his opponent in a snooker on the green and from the chance that followed cleared to win 4-3.
I didn’t see anything of the afternoon action, so I can’t really comment. However, it’s quite remarkable that James Wattana reached the last 32 here and did give Kyren Wilson a serious challenge. I always like to watch Wattana play, he has a nice touch, and you can see he still loves it.
Ronnie prepared for the day with a run through Cardiff – a bit of snow isn’t going to stop him – and a healthy breakfast
and this was the result
Here is Worldsnooker’s report on the last 16 (evening)
Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins set up a quarter-final meeting at the ManBetX Welsh Open as they both scored emphatic 4-0 wins on Thursday night in Cardiff.
12pm: Ian Burns v Noppon Saengkham
NB 2pm: Yan Bingtao v Barry Hawkins
7pm: Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins
7pm: Gary Wilson v Yu Delu
O’Sullivan continued his phenomenal recent form with a whitewash of Mike Dunn, needing just 50 minutes to take all four frames with top breaks of 84, 69, 117 and 67. Having won the last six frames of his World Grand Prix final against Ding Junhui and followed up with three 4-0 scorelines this week, O’Sullivan has now taken 18 consecutive frames. He is chasing his fifth ranking title of the season.
“Things are going ok, I just need to focus on my next match,” said O’Sullivan, who is tied with Higgins on a record four Welsh Open titles. “John is one of the all time greats alongside Stephen Hendry. I will need to improve slightly on what I have shown so far this week. When you play someone of John’s class, you either find it or you don’t. I’m looking forward to it. The quarter-finals onwards is the business end.”
Higgins was equally impressive as he saw off Nigel Bond with top runs of 115 and 144. His second century started with 12 reds and blacks, and though his hopes of a 147 ended when he ran out of position with two reds left, the Scot was still able to clear and set a new target for the £2,000 high break prize.
“I’m a lot happier tonight, I played a lot better,” said the Wizard of Wishaw. “It’s a bit like déjà vu to be facing Ronnie again, we seem to have played so much this season. I’m glad I played like that tonight, it will give me confidence because I’ll need to play a similar standard to give him a game. Ronnie is playing fantastic at the moment, he is at a level above everyone else. If I can come up near that level I’ve got a chance. These are massive games to play in, I love them and the crowd will be great.”
Friday’s meeting between the two snooker legends, with nine world titles and 61 ranking event wins between them, will be their sixth head to head clash this season. O’Sullivan came out on top at the Hong Kong Masters (5-4), English Open (4-3), Champion of Champions (6-0) and Shanghai Masters (6-2) before Higgins gained a measure of revenge with a 5-0 success at the Scottish Open.
China’s Yan Bingtao, runner-up at the Scottish Open, maintained his bid to win a first ranking title by scoring a 4-2 win over the last Welshman left in the event, Matthew Stevens. From 2-2, Yan won two scrappy frames to set up a match with Barry Hawkins, who beat Martin Gould 4-2 with a top break of 75.
Ian Burns reached the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the second time in his career by beating Liam Highfield 4-3. Highfield led 3-2 and 69-0 in the sixth frame, but a missed red proved costly as Burns clawed his way back, got the snooker he needed on the green and cleared for 3-3. He then took the decider with runs of 47 and 40.
Preston’s Burns now plays Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham, who scored a 4-0 win over Kyren Wilson. Saengkham, who knocked out Judd Trump earlier in the week, is also through to his second ranking quarter-final, and like Burns he will be aiming for his first semi-final.
Gary Wilson won a North-East derby against John Astley, winning 4-2 with a top break of 88. His next opponent is Yu Delu, who won a Chinese derby against Liang Wenbo by a 4-1 scoreline, his top run 64.
Again I didn’t see much of the action. Both Ronnie and Higgins were playing against players who hadn’t been on the main table, and Ronnie said in his post-match that this makes a huge difference as both the lighting and the speed of the table are completely different from what they are on the side tables. Who is on television, on the main table is decided by the tournament director and the broadcaster: to avoid any possible “conflict” the tournament director will usually base their choice on the rankings, whilst the broadcaster will look at the “box office” / audience side. Obviously, Ronnie ticks both boxes and he did indeed play all his matches on the main table, not because he gets preferential treatment but because he’s the current n°2 in the rankings.
Here is a small video of Ronnie being filmed and interviewed before his match:
MissingClip 2018 Welsh Open: preview of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – Mike Dunn match (BBC)
MissingClip 2018 Welsh Open: review of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – Mike Dunn match (BBC)
Plus the Eurosport Q&A
2018 Welsh Open: Ronnie O’Sullivan Q&A (Eurosport)
Thanks to Tai Chengzhe again for these pictures of Ronnie in action yesterday