The 2023 Welsh Open – Taking Stock of Round 2 – Last 64

The second round of the 2023 Welsh Open – the last 64 round – concluded yesterday afternoon in Llandudno and it has thrown a few unexpected results. Indeed Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Stephen Maguire, Kyren Wilson, Jordan Brown, Matthew Stevens and Mark Williams all bowed out at that stage.

Ronnie won despite serious problems with his tip. My report on that match is here.

Here are the reports by WST (minus the part on Ronnie’s win)

Tuesday Afternoon

Dale Hands Robertson Double Blow

Dominic Dale scored one of his best results of recent years as he shocked Neil Robertson 4-0 in the second round of the BetVictor Welsh Open, ending the Australian’s chances of qualifying for next week’s Players Championship.

Robertson came into this week 18th on the one-year ranking list and potentially needing a deep run to climb into the top 16, but today’s defeat means he won’t be in Wolverhampton to defend a title he won a year ago. It has been a disappointing season so far for the player who captured four titles in 2021/22. This term he is yet to reach a ranking final.

The world number four scored just 35 points in the first three frames today as Dale took control, making breaks of 71 and 56. Robertson had a chance to pull one back but his hopes ended when he missed the black off its spot at 29-42 in frame four.

You have to give all credit to Dominic, he played incredibly well today,” said Robertson. “It doesn’t mean anything (to miss the Players Championship). I have won 30 major tournaments in my career. It doesn’t impact my preparation for the next event. It means I can have more time on the practice table and watch (son) Alexander’s football over the weekend.”

Dale, who reached the semi-finals of the recent BetVictor Shoot Out, said: “You have to put the top players under pressure and today I managed to do that. It’s easy to get hammered and look like an idiot when you play someone like Neil. I have always been a bit of a showman and natural exhibitionist and if you can’t perform in front of an audience like this then you are not cut out for sport.

At the end of the match I shook his hand because I’m a big friend of Neil, I love his style of play and I said to him ‘never forget what a fantastic player you are’ because I know he’s not getting the results he wants at the moment, there is just two or three percent of his game he needs to find and he’ll get back to winning tournaments.

This is a fantastic event and I’d love to see it come back to North Wales, maybe to that other place called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

Lawler made a tremendous 73 clearance in the deciding frame to score a 4-3 win over Matthew Stevens, who was unlucky not to land on a red when he split the pack at 59-0.

Defending champion Joe Perry won his ninth consecutive match in this event, beating Mark Joyce 4-1 with top breaks of 107 and 92. Luca Brecel top scored with 100 in a 4-0 win over Elliot Slessor while Cao Yupeng enjoyed a whitewash victory over Ding Junhui in a Chinese derby.

Tuesday Evening

Jones Beats Williams In Welsh Derby

Mark Williams, the only home player to win the BetVictor Welsh Open having lifted the trophy back in 1996 and 1999, saw his hopes of a third title end with a 4-3 reverse against Jak Jones.

World number 53 Jones beat the player ranked 46 places higher and is one of only three Welsh players left in the field in Llandudno, alongside Dominic Dale and Daniel Wells. Cwmbran’s 29-year-old Jones is through to the last 32 of a ranking event for the third time this season and will now face Jordan Brown or Julien LeClercq.

Three-time World Champion Williams made a break of 122 to lead 2-1, but Jones took the next with a run of 52, then converted a long double on the final pink in frame five to lead 3-2. Williams made it 3-3, but an excellent run of 73 gave Jones control of the decider. Masters runner-up Williams battled for snookers and got one of the two he needed on the last red, but then failed to escape from a snooker himself and offered the handshake.

I’m really pleased with the win because Mark is still one of the best players in the world, it’s a big win for me,” said Jones. “In the last frame even when I made 73 I knew I wasn’t over the line and then he put me right under pressure so I was relieved to come through in the end. It was a great atmosphere out there. It’s a big opportunity for me now but the matches are all difficult.”

Defeat for Williams means that his place in next week’s Players Championship is in the balance. He is 15th on the one-year ranking list so must hope he is not nudged out of the top 16 over the next few days.

The 47-year-old said: “In night matches I get really tired quickly and that’s something I have got to look at. I am eating the right food but maybe I need more exercise. I was trying my best out there. I have practised more for this tournament than I have for the last 12 months. But I need to get fitter.”

BetVictor English Open champion Mark Selby came through a tough battle against Si Jiahui, winning 4-3 with a break of 124 in the fifth frame and an 85 in the decider.

David Gilbert has been arguably the player of the week so far, having made two centuries and seven more breaks over 50 in his two matches. He beat BetVictor Shoot Out champion Chris Wakelin 4-2 with top runs of 82, 110 and 59. Like Williams, Wakelin must watch results over the coming days to find out whether he has a place in the Players Championship in Wolverhampton.

Kyren Wilson suffered a 4-2 defeat against China’s Pang Junxu, a result which ends Wilson’s hopes of overtaking Ali Carter at the top of the BetVictor Series rankings and earning a £150,000 bonus at the end of the week.

That’s interesting quotes by Willo. He’s never come across as a fitness fan. As you will read hereafter, John Higgins is considering seeing a mental coach. That was a big no-no only a few years ago. The “Class of 92” looks determined to stay at the top for some more years! I guess that a few “kids” out there must be cursing them silently!

Jak Jones is a very solid player and I’m surprised that he hasn’t done better on the tour so far. I first saw him play at SWSA, in the Pink Ribbon, when he was about 16. He really impressed me back then.

Wednesday Morning and Afternoon

Higgins Revival Gathers Pace

John Higgins continues to see the green shoots of renaissance in his game as he scored a second consecutive 4-0 victory at the BetVictor Welsh Open, beating Martin Gould to reach the last 32.

Four-time Crucible king Higgins has had a poor season by his standards; he is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event so far this term and came into this week in 60th place on the one-year ranking list. But the Scot looked sharp in winning his BetVictor Championship League group last week, and has carried that momentum to Llandudno, beating Alexander Ursenbacher and now Gould without conceding a frame.

It was good scoring today, that’s what I’ll need to produce for the rest of the tournament if I want to go deep,” sad 47-year-old Higgins, who made breaks of 89, 68, 97 and 66 today. “My focus is just trying to hit the ball more solid and play as well as I can. There are big events coming up – I’ve got the Championship League Winners’ Group, the Six Red event and the WST Classic so I have got time to get my game ready for Sheffield.

This is a great place to come, I have brought my wife down so we could spend Valentine’s Day together and do a bit of sight-seeing. I am relaxed and enjoying it.”

Higgins, who faces Sanderson Lam next, recently admitted that he has considered working with a sports psychologist for the first time in his career. He added today: “When you are struggling mentally with the game, you look for little nuggets or bits of advice from players who have been there and done it. It’s a tough sport. I have always been one of the guys on the tour who has always kept myself to myself, and sometimes it can get on top of you.”

Judd Trump was far from his best in a 4-2 win over Louis Heathcote, but did enough to set up a third round meeting with amateur Daniel Wells. From 2-1 down, Trump made a vital 34 clearance in the fourth frame to pinch it on the black. In the next, Heathcote was on a break of 62 when his attempted red with the rest finished short of a corner pocket, and again Trump punished him with a 65 clearance. The Masters champion then got the better of a safety battle on the final green in frame six and wrapped up the contest.

Louis will be super disappointed because he created some good chances for himself but missed the crucial balls,” said Trump, who was runner-up to Joe Perry in this event last year. “I am getting out of jail a bit but also making the tough clearances that maybe I have been missing. Similar to the Masters, it looked like I was going out but made those important clearances under pressure. At the start of the season I might have lost that 4-3.”

Ali Carter remains on target to win the £150,000 BetVictor Series bonus at the end of this week, and his 4-1 win over amateur Ian Martin kept him £9,000 ahead of second-placed Mark Allen. “It’s in the back of my mind of course,” said BetVictor German Masters champion Carter, whose top break today was 124. “It’s in my hands now but it’s also in Mark (Allen’s) hands. All I can do is try to win the tournament. Hopefully the money will drop into my account. But if it doesn’t then I’m still in a  good place – I’m in the Players Championship, more than likely the Tour Championship and a seed for the Crucible.”

Allen, who needs to at least reach the semi-finals for a chance of over-taking Carter, eased into round three with a 4-1 win over Mitchell Mann. He now faces Andy Hicks, who beat Wu Yize 4-3 by clearing from the last red to snatch the deciding frame on the final black.

Jack Lisowski top scored with 93 in a 4-0 win over Ryan Thomerson, while Barry Hawkins top scored with 70 as he beat Ben Woollaston 4-0, strengthening his position in the race to the Players Championship. Hossein Vafaei fired runs of 102 and 133 in a 4-1 victory over Ken Doherty.

Judd Trump got out of jail indeed as he honestly admitted. Louis Heathcote should probably have won this match. I hope that he has the opportunity to “debrief” what happened with his coach or someone who is in his corner because he can’t lose matches like that if he hopes to climb to the top.

The two young Belgian rookies won their match against strong opponents. Ben Mertens beat Jackson Page and Julien Leclercq beat Jordan Brown. For the first time, three Belgians reached the last 32 stage of a ranking event.

The third round – last 32 – started yesterday evening. I’ll report on that round later, probably tomorrow. But the trends continues as there were more “casualties” amongst the to players already: the defending Champion, Joe Perry, Mark Selby and David Gilbert all lost their last 32 match.

One thought on “The 2023 Welsh Open – Taking Stock of Round 2 – Last 64

  1. Indeed interesting quote by Mark Williams, especially in the light of the humongous burger in his car, he sported as a fb-picture: not exactly a model healthy food. 😝

    Good for Julien, but besides that nightmare he caused me two years ago, Jordan Brown didn’t really stir much water in his career, so him losing looks more like business as usual, rather than surprising.

    Maguire on the other hand seem to have a very bad season, even though in Sheffield he made it a plan to get inside the top 16.0

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