Other than Kurt Maflin and Alex Borg who had already withdrawn before the start of the event, two more players withdrew on day 1: Mark Joyce and Neil Robertson. Mark Joyce developed covid symptoms, and, although he hasn’t got the test results yet, preferred not to travel. That’s the sensible thing to do of course. I wish Mark the best, hopefully no severe symptoms and a speedy recovery. Neil Robertson cited personal reasons. As a result, Jimmy White and Mark King get a bye to the next round.
Neil Robertson has played just two matches since winning the UK Championship in December: the first round of the 2020 World Grand Prix, which he lost by 4-2 to Robert Milkins and the first round match at the 2021 Masters, wich he lost by 6-5 to the eventual Champion. He admitted afterwards that his preparation had been minimal because he had given priority to his family over Christmas. But this now is becoming puzzling and a bit worrying. Neil’s partner has suffered serious mental healths issues in the past, and the lockdown takes its toll on many. I hope that there isn’t a severe return of her depression.
There were no big surprises yesterday. Here is the report by WST:
Murphy Defence Begins With Victory
Defending BetVictor Welsh Open champion Shaun Murphy began his campaign at this year’s event with a 4-1 defeat of Zak Surety at the Celtic Manor Resort.
The Magician lifted the Ray Reardon Trophy 12 months ago with a stunning 9-1 defeat of Kyren Wilson in the final.
He’ll require another strong showing this week if he is to qualify for the upcoming Cazoo Players Championship. Murphy currently lies in 20th position on the one-year list and needs to force his way into the top 16 to gain a place.
Murphy made breaks of 63, 107 and 119 on his way to today’s win and will face either Stuart Carrington or Soheil Vahedi in the last 64.
“It’s very pleasing. I’ve put a lot of work in since my last outing. There have been times this season where I have been really struggling,” said Triple Crown winner Murphy.
“I’ve spoke at length about the difference in restrictions with living in the Republic of Ireland. It has affected my ability to prepare for tournaments. I’ve done as much as I can for this week, as the last thing you want to do is turn up as defending champion and go out in the first round.
“I’ve played myself into a hole this season. I’m chasing points for the Players Championship now. It is last chance saloon for that. It’s one down and a few more to go.”
Mark Selby missed out on a golden opportunity for a 147 in his 4-1 defeat of Barry Pinches. The three-time World Champion compiled a supreme run of 134, before missing a routine pink to end the break.
Selby remains in a strong position in the fight for the £150,000 BetVictor Series bonus, which goes to the player who accumulates the most prize money over the six events.
He lies in second place behind Judd Trump, after winning the BetVictor European Masters and being runner-up at the recent BetVictor Shoot Out. Just two events remain in the series, with the BetVictor Gibraltar Open to follow.
Selby said: “Making a 147 in any tournament is one of the biggest buzzes you can get in snooker. I’ve managed to do it once or twice before. It would have been nice to do it again there, but it wasn’t to be. There are a lot worse things going on in the world than me missing the pink.”
World number one Trump booked his place in the second round with a 4-2 win over China’s Pang Junxu. The Ace in the Pack made breaks of 117, 67, 90 and 51 on his way to victory. He faces Si Jiahui in the second round.
Scotland’s five-time Welsh Open winner John Higgins got underway with a 4-1 defeat of Steven Hallworth, while fellow Scot Stephen Maguire saw off Welshman Dominic Dale 4-1.
The above report is inaccurate: Trump played Zhao Jianbo, not Pang Junxu. Pang beat Allan Taylor by 4-0. This is unprofessional from WST.
Also, Trump’s breaks give the wrong impression about the match. Actually he was very poor for the best part of it. His young opponent, only 17 years old, was visibly ill at ease on the main table and made some bad shot choices. A more experienced player would likely have sent Judd Trump packing yesterday. Now that he is through, he’s likely to get stronger.
Also there is no mention of Chang Bingyu fight back against Joe Perry: from 3-0 down, Chang forced a decider, but the vastly experienced Joe eventually prevailed.
No mention either of Ding’s 4-1 victory over Lyu Haotian. Ding like many Chinese players is struggling emotionally under the current circumstances and he has been speaking to Phil Haigh. It’s heatbreaking really. People who moan because they have to wear a mask in super-markets, or because they can’t get smashed in the pubs should get some perspective.
Today, Ronnie will face Robbie Williams, and it’s not an easy first round opponent over a best of 7. Should he win, he is due to play Jimmy White tomorrow,
Ronnie O’Sullivan painting helps find bone marrow donor
An artist’s partnership with multiple world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has helped a 12-year-old girl find a life-saving donor.
John Donaldson, from Bristol, is auctioning a signed painting of the snooker star to help Libby Cott who has a rare bone marrow condition.
Publicity generated by the pair’s efforts has helped raise £130,000 in donations.
Libby’s auntie Lucy Tant says thanks to the funds, a donor has now been found.
Libby, from Buckhurst Hill, Essex, has aplastic anemia, a condition which leads to her body not producing enough new blood cells, making her more prone to infections.
Mr Donaldson, 40, a former painter and decorator, said his previous work for American rapper Snoop Dogg gave him the motivation to get involved in the push to find a bone marrow donor.
He said: “I’d seen the Libby’s Lockdown campaign on Ronnie’s social media and I thought I can help her.
“So I got in contact with Ronnie and said I can do this painting and if you sign it we can raise a lot of money.”
The highest bid for the artwork currently stands at £2,500.
Mr O’Sullivan said he could tell Mr Donaldson “put his life and soul” into his painting and he was “glad” to be able to help.
He said: “It was heartbreaking to hear about Libby, who goes to the same school as my step-daughter.
“When you are a parent like me it makes you really understand what it must be like for her family.
Ms Tant said since the artist and snooker player had shared her campaign on social media, more than £130,000 had been donated.
Ms Tant said the help given by Mr Donaldson and Mr O’Sullivan was “incredible”We cant believe that John has spent 63 hours painting this for us. It alone has given us the fundraising that we needed,” she said.”Any more money raised through John’s auction will now go towards helping other people find donors.”
The arena looks nice and it’s good to see adjacent tables again. WST put a lot of efforts into the arena design during the lockdown, but it still felt empty. This looks more “normal” and it’s great.