FOUR EXTRA days of action at the BetVictor Welsh Open has seen the field reduced from 128 to 64 but very few shock results, with the higher ranked player winning 52 of the 64 matches played.

You often hear that ‘anyone can beat anyone’ but in fact, whatever the format, the best players remain in the ascendancy. If anything, the ‘flat draw’ system has only served to underline this. Far from producing a raft of new faces, it is condemning them to really tough first round matches against the world’s best.

Four tables remain in Newport for the televised phase, although only one of them will actually be televised. There will be four TV matches on each of the next four days.

Sunday is a rest day while the TV equipment is rigged up so the action resumes on Monday morning with Stephen Maguire, the defending champion, up against Sam Baird.

Baird has been ultra consistent in PTC events, booking his place in the grand finals, but the next step for him, as for so many players down the rankings, is a strong performance against a top player on television. Easier said than done against someone as experienced as Maguire.

BBC Wales understandably favour home players for the tournament they broadcast so next up it’s Matthew Stevens against Ian Burns.

Both players are struggling for results. Stevens dropped out of the top 16 earlier this season and a week ago lost 5-0 to James Wattana in China Open qualifying. Burns was named rookie of the year at the World Snooker Awards in 2013 but results have been a little disappointing this campaign.

This is the sort of match which can turn a season, though. If Burns were to win a TV game then it would give him huge confidence ahead of the World Championship qualifiers, and the way Stevens has been struggling he must sense a chance to cause an upset.

The third TV match is Mark Selby v Dave Harold, which could well turn into a grind. Harold is a tough as old boots campaigner and Selby can get stuck in when he needs to. The key for Harold will be whether he can score heavily from the chances which come along.

In the evening, Judd Trump will play Jamie Burnett, one of those experienced players capable of causing problems if Trump isn’t on his game.

However, he seems to be at the moment. Fresh from his run to the German Masters final it could be that Trump has saved his best this season for last.

One point: to only have one session of best of seven frame matches in the evening could be seen as short-changing the public. Perhaps two matches from 1.30pm and two from 6pm would work better, though of course broadcasters have their own requirements which don’t always make such things possible.


Monday’s TV times:

BBC2 Wales (and red button): 1-4.50pm; 7-8pm; 11.20pm-12am (GMT)

British Eurosport: 10.30am-5pm; 7-10pm (GMT)

Eurosport International: 11.30am-6pm; 8-11pm (CET)


Photographs by Monique Limbos.