The 2023 Welsh Open – Day 1

The first day at the 2023 Welsh Open in Llandudno featured the last 128 held-over matches. Most matches were won by the highest seeded player. The three exceptions were: Jackson Page’s win over Stuart Bingham, Stuart Carrington’s win over Ryan Day and Liam Davies’ win over Noppon Saengkham.

The main television table appeared to play heavy, especially in the morning and afternoon.

Ronnie was far from his best – he clearly isn’t match sharp – but still whitewashed Oliver Lines. My report on that match is here.

Hereafter you’ll find the report by WST:

Morning and afternoon session

Robertson: I’m Here To Win The Tournament

Neil Robertson started the BetVictor Welsh Open strongly with a 4-1 victory over Andrew Higginson, boosting his hopes of qualifying for next week’s Players Championship.

The Australian remains 18th on the one-year ranking list and will need to win at least one more match to get into the top 16 and earn a place in Wolverhampton, where he won the title last year. But Robertson insists his only target is to go all the way to the £80,000 top prize and Ray Reardon Trophy this week at Venue Cymru.

I’m here to win the tournament, I wouldn’t be happy just to get through whatever round it is to get into the Players Championship,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for – to try to win the event. I have a lot of happy memories here and I love the town – it always seems to be sunny in Llandudno! I want to be here as long as possible.”

In a repeat of the 2007 Welsh Open final, Robertson started strongly today, making a break of 129 to go 2-0 ahead. Higginson pulled one back and led 52-7 in frame four, but Robertson took it with a 54 clearance and then won frame five on the colours to set up a last-64 tie with Dominic Dale.

He added: “It was a really tough first round draw because whenever I have played him in the past he has been in the top 20 or 30 in the world and he has beaten me a couple of times – that’s the Andrew Higginson I know. I made a good clearance to go 3-1 up and got a bit lucky in the last frame. The scoreline doesn’t reflect how close it was. Dominic will be another tough game, he seems to play well against the top players.”

World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a 4-0 success against Oliver Lines with top breaks of 51, 58 and 91 and now meets Ross Muir on Tuesday afternoon.

Mark Williams, who was the last Welsh winner of this event back in 1999, impressed in a 4-2 win over Michael White. From 2-0 down, Williams made tremendous clearances of 70 and 76 to draw level at 2-2, then got the better of two scrappier frames to earn a meeting with Jak Jones.

Michael was cruising at 2-0, then he missed an easy red on 62 in the third frame. I made two good clearances because I could easily have lost 4-0,” said Masters runner-up Williams. “If I need a clearance under pressure I can pull it out. I think Michael will be kicking himself because that was a golden opportunity to beat me. The venue here is great, it was full this afternoon and it will be full tonight.

Joe Perry made a successful start to the defence of his title, beating Mark King 4-1 with a top break of 62. He said: “I didn’t know how I would feel as defending champion because I haven’t experienced it that many times. So to get off to a perfect start was nice. I settled pretty fast and that helped me to relax and get on with the job. I’ve got a few friends here with me. This is one of my favourites venues on the tour so in between matches I can get out into the town and enjoy the sights.”

Jackson Page made a 131 in a 4-1 defeat of Stuart Bingham while David Gilbert beat Marco Fu 4-2 with runs of 87, 60, 87, 77, 58 and 113. Shaun Murphy made a 134 in a 4-0 win over Victor Sarkis, while John Higgins top scored with 135 as he white-washed Alexander Ursenbacher.

Evening session

Allen: I Can Keep Improving

Mark Allen has unquestionably been the player of the season so far, but sent a warning to his rivals that he is still trying to improve his game, after firing two centuries in a 4-1 defeat of Alfie Burden at the BetVictor Welsh Open.

The Pistol has already won the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, UK Championship and World Grand Prix this season, but is not resting on his success and has been working relentlessly on his game in the build up to this week’s tournament in Llandudno. Breaks of 97, 105 and 101 helped Allen to a comfortable win today, setting up a second round tie with Mitchell Mann on Wednesday morning.

I am always searching to get better, to find a way to improve,” said the world number three. “I had a few days enjoying myself after winning the World Grand Prix, since then I have just been practising. I have been trying something new technically and today was the first time I have brought it into a match. That unsettled me a bit but as the game went on I found my rhythm and really enjoyed it.

If my A game comes then I’ll win events, but it’s encouraging that in the last few months I have won tournaments without it. I want to go for my shots and score heavily, but it also gives me confidence to know that I don’t have to do that to win. At the UK Championship and the World Grand Prix, it was two long hard weeks where I battled for everything. It wasn’t pretty but I got the job done.

Allen is also in with a chance of winning the £150,000 BetVictor Series bonus at the end of this week, though he must at least reach the semi-finals to stand a chance of eclipsing Ali Carter in the series rankings.

He added: “Ali has a bit of a lead after winning in Germany, I can’t control what he does. I am just trying to enjoy the event and the bonus is a million miles from my thoughts at the moment.

Wild card Liam Davies, age 16 from Newport, came from 3-1 down to score a superb 4-3 victory over Noppon Saengkham, taking the deciding frame with a break of 122. Davies has just returned from Australia where he competed in the WSF Junior and Open Championships, narrowly failing to gain a tour card. But he shrugged off that disappointment, as well as jet lag, to get the better of Saengkham and earn a tie with Robbie Williams.

It was an unbelievable match, neither of us really made any mistakes,” said Davies, who last year became the youngest player ever to win a match in the World Championship. “By the time we got to 3-3, he was under pressure. Australia was a stunning experience though my snooker wasn’t great. I really struggled with my game there so it’s nice to bounce back tonight. I put too much pressure on myself out there, I have to remember that I’m only 16 and I should just enjoy it rather than trying to get on the tour. I feel so at home out in the arena, I am so relaxed and confident, as if I am practising.”

Judd Trump eased to a 4-0 victory over David Grace with a top break of 68 while Jack Lisowski set a new target for the £5,000 high break prize as he beat Zhang Anda 4-0 with 85, 138 and 71.

Mark Selby won a ranking event match for the first time since his BetVictor English Open triumph in December, as he came from 2-0 down to beat Jamie O’Neill 4-2 with top runs of 124, 69 and 85.

Stuart Carrington edged out British Open champion Ryan Day 4-3 while Luca Brecel fired runs of 60, 81, 79 and 50 as he beat Sean O’Sullivan 4-1.

Mark King was really, really poor. He is under pressure to keep his tour card and struggled badly. That was sad to see.

Once Mark Williams came back at him Michael White crumbled really. There were very high expectations on him as a junior. Too much probably. Now I don’t believe he will ever fulfil his potential.

Judd Trump didn’t play particularly well but did enough to beat David Grace by 4-0. After the match, Judd said that the table was playing “heavy”, which was probably true, although, from what I saw it was already playing better than in the afternoon.

Mark Selby was all at sea at the start of the match but Jamie O’Neill made so many mistakes and gave him so many chances that, eventually, Mark found his game. He finished the match well.

The quotes by Liam Davies are interesting because they clearly show what a difference pressure makes. They are the perfect “explanation” as to why amateurs should NOT be allowed to play on the main tour ever IMO. Noppon is not in any danger to lose his professional status but this defeat puts an end to any hope he might have had to make it into the Players Championship.

One thought on “The 2023 Welsh Open – Day 1

  1. It’s not worth getting too upset about this ‘amateur’ vis-a-vis ‘professional’ thing. There are equally strong arguments in favour of having top-up players. If Noppon Saengkham was under more pressure, that was as a result of being the favourite against an underdog – it wouldn’t have been any different had he been playing Dylan Emery, for example. Sometimes a higher-ranked player will be up against somebody who is under immediate threat of relegation, in which case he can count himself fortunate. These things are all within the normal range. I actually thought Liam Davies looked much more comfortable on these tables than the conditions he found in Sydney, which really didn’t suit him at all. It’s not all about psychological issues.

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