Top players fell like flies in the first round in Belfast. Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham, Anthony McGill and Marco Fu all made an early exit. So, with Ding not entering, that’s 9 of the top 16 already out in the first round.
Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:
Defending champion Mark Williams defeated Alfie Burden 4-2 to avoid joining a raft of big names to fall by the wayside on day one of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
Welshman Williams secured a dramatic victory last year here at the Belfast Waterfront, defeating young Chinese sensation Yan Bingtao 9-8 in the final to claim his first ranking title since 2011. That sparked an incredible season, which saw Williams go on to win his third World Championship title at the Crucible in May.
The 22-time ranking event winner Williams made breaks of 91, 69 and 91 on his way to booking a place in the last 64, where he will face an enticing clash with four-time ranking event winner Ali Carter.
Williams said: “It is just about winning in the first round. I had three one-visit frames, which is alright in a best of seven. The bits in between were scrappy, but I am still in so hopefully I can improve.
“It is just nice to come here to try to defend a title. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that for ages. It is going to be very difficult. To win an event with best of seven matches two years on the trot is nearly impossible, but I will try my best and see how far I can get.”
Elsewhere there were numerous shock first round exits. Among them was Northern Ireland’s top star Mark Allen, who was defeated 4-1 by world number 90 Niu Zhuang.
Masters champion Allen has been in great form and came into this week off the back of recently claiming the International Championship title in Daqing and reaching the semi-finals at last week’s Champion of Champions.
However, Niu stopped the Pistol in his tracks this afternoon. He composed breaks of 122 and 71 on his way to the win. Afterwards Allen admitted that he finds the additional pressure of playing in front of his home crowd hard to deal with.
Allen said: “I am probably putting myself under too much pressure to play well for the wrong reasons. Being a snooker player you have to be quite selfish and play for yourself all year round. Coming here I try and play for the fans. I try to win for the fans and I want to win the tournament for them.”
Rory McLeod defeated four-time World Champion John Higgins for the first time in his career, progressing thanks to a 4-2 victory.
McLeod had lost all six of their previous meetings, but the world number 61 managed to overturn the odds and secure a shock win.
BetVictor English Open champion Stuart Bingham’s hopes of claiming the £1 million bonus attached to winning all four Home Nations Events were ended with a 4-2 loss against Peter Lines. While Lee Walker overcame last week’s Champion of Champions runner-up Kyren Wilson 4-3.
World number five Judd Trump defeated Matthew Selt 4-2 on day two of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast, to book a last 64 meeting with Stuart Carrington.
Trump suffered a difficult defeat at last week’s Champion of Champions, where he was beaten 6-1 by world number nine Kyren Wilson in their group three final.
The eight-time ranking event winner has now lost his last four matches to Wilson, who bowed out of this week’s event yesterday evening against Lee Walker. After today’s match, Trump stoked the rivalry between himself and Wilson when asked by Eurosport about the social media response to that result.
Trump said: “People are obviously saying that Kyren is the next up and coming star, but he is nearly my age and he has won nowhere near the amount that I have won. I think his personality and mine clash a little bit. People are looking for rivals going forward and we are probably going to be that.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan put on a stunning display as he swept past Iran’s Soheil Vahedi 4-0 in just under 45 minutes.
The Rocket claimed the first frame with a break of 86, before sensationally storming to three consecutive century runs of 111, 116 and 108 to secure the win.
“I scored well once I got in, but I missed a few balls,” said O’Sullivan. “He had some chances, missed them and let me off the hook really. Once I get left in around the balls, then I am pretty reliable in that area.”
World number one Mark Selby was a 4-1 victor against Anthony Hamilton, as he booked his last 64 spot.
The Jester from Leicester compiled breaks of 85 and 122 on the way to the win. He will now face Jimmy Robertson tomorrow.
Triple Crown winner Neil Robertson came through a high quality encounter with world number 40 Ben Woollaston 4–3.
The Australian trailed 3-1 to Leicester’s Woollaston. However, breaks of 85 and 67 helped him to overturn the deficit and come through in a deciding frame.
2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy suffered a shock exit after losing 4-2 at the hands of Sam Baird. While Jack Lisowski demolished Hossein Vafaei 4-0.
Eurosport, as usual, produces great coverage:
Here are the previews on the opening day
Now onto some specific matches
Mark Allen went out first round and, sitting in his chair, all match he looked very nervous, red in the face and uneasy. He’s definitely putting himself under excessive pressure when playing at home and this, once again, was his undoing. The worrying part for Mark is that it seems to get worse over time, not better.
After his defeat Kyren Wilson shared this on social media:
Kyren is right of course, and I can’t understand why it wasn’t possible with Liang Wenbo withdrawal leaving a table free in the first session on day 2. Ok, it would have been only streamed – but so was Kyren’s match anyway – and in the morning. But at least Kyren would have got another night’s sleep, maybe a more relaxed travel as well. At a very minimum Kyren should have been offered that choice.
Judd’s comments on his “rivalry” with Kyren are showing that in fact he’s concerned about where he stands, rather than confidence about it. Kyren in about 3 years younger than him, but turned pro 5 years later than him. And, true, his record is nowhere near Judd’s, but not everyone develops at the same pace and there is no denial that in the last two years, Kyren has looked the more solid of the two, particularly regarding the mental side of the sport.