It’s always difficult to predict what you will get from Liang Wenbo. Yesterday, we got the best. When playing like this, he’s very entertaining, he goes for his shots and I like the fact that he shows his emotions all the time. Whatever he feels, you can read it on his face.
I won’t lie, I was expecting Mark Selby to top this group, even with such short format. But he didn’t, he came third. He was overtaken, not only by Liang who won the group, but also by Joe O’Connor, who managed to get a draw against the three times World Champion and score a 143 against him for good measure. This is, for now, the tournament highest break, and, for Joe, a new personal best in professional competition. Joe is very good to watch, very composed, without being slow, and very mature in his shot selection without being negative. One of the best features about this competition is that we get to see players on the main table that we very rarely see in “normal” competitions.
I got a bit upset with the ES commentator during the Selby v O’Connor match. I think that it was Philip Studd. Every odd shot he was going about what Joe O’Connor needed to do to secure his “third” place in the group table, seemingly never even considering that, with a 143 to his name, a draw with Mark Selby would put him in a good position to actually finish second. True, this depended on Mark Selby’s result against Liang Wenbo, but anything but a win from Selby was going to put O’Connor ahead of him, and, given Liang’s performances in his first two matches, that was far from impossible. Eventually, it’s exactly what happened.
I didn’t see anything from the other group, but that one went exactly as I expected. With Matthew Stevens withdrawing, I couldn’t see anybody in this group able to challenge Gary Wilson. Gary is a very talented player, and one, I feel, who can produce a very decent level even when short of practice.
Former English Open champion Liang Wenbo produced a superb showing, as he stormed to top spot in group five at the Matchroom.Live Championship League in Milton Keynes.
Liang now moves on to the Group Winner’s phase next week, where he will form part of group D on Tuesday. He secured his progression with a fine 3-0 defeat of three-time World Champion Mark Selby in the last tie of the day.
World number 34 Liang had already emphatically made his mark on the group with a 3-1 win over Joe O’Connor and a 3-0 defeat of Lee Walker. Throughout the day he compiled century runs of 100, 103 and 117.
“I enjoyed today,” said Liang. “Sometimes you have to enjoy the game and your game will come, snooker is like this, when you’re happy you play well. If I play like this, I will have a chance to win the tournament. I practised for seven or eight days before coming here, after two and a half months off.”
In the end former Welsh Open semi-finalist O’Connor finished second in the group. He defeated Walker 3-1 and made the highest break of the tournament and his career so far, a run of 143, in a 2-2 draw with Selby.
Elsewhere, Gary Wilson punctuated a day of heavy scoring by firing in four century breaks, as he swept to top spot in group 14.
Wilson, who reached the semi-finals of the 2019 World Championship, defeated Mitchell Mann and Gerard Greene 3-0 and secured a 3-1 win over John Astley. He made breaks of 100, 107, 125 and 134 in the process.
“I played okay, a few sloppy shots here and there but that’s to be expected when we’ve had a bit of time off,” said Wilson. “I think we have all come here not really knowing how we are going to play, so I was pleasantly surprised and played alright.
“Like everybody has expressed already, it has been really well organised, I don’t think there is anything you can fault. It has been really good to know it can go ahead like this.”
Ronnie is in action today, with Kishan Hirani, Michael Georgiou and Chris Wakelin in Group 10. It’s hard to know what to expect. Speaking to Hector Nunns, Ronnie said that he hadn’t practice at all since March, except for a few hours. That’s probaly true. When he did his first chat with Hendry on Instagram, he mentioned that they were moving to a new house, with lot of work still to be done in the new one (he explicitely mentioned the kitchen 😉). More recently, he also said to Hector that he had been running quite a lot. At the start of the lockdown he had been piling in the pounds and he wanted to get fit again.
Because of all that, my expectations aren’t high unlike those of Stephen Hendry and others who, on social media, said that they are impatient to see him play. Even in an event like this one, and despite the circumstances, there are a lot of expectations on Ronnie.
The other group today features Tom Ford, Robert Milkins, Mike Dunn and Ian Burns. On paper it’s a very open group. Both Tom Ford and Robert Milkins are very heavy scorers on their day, and this format will suit them.