TODAY’S TV action in Newport features three world champions and a player well on the road to Crucible glory.
Ding Junhui has enjoyed a hugely successful season already, winning four ranking titles. In fact, in major ranking events he’s lost only two matches.
This morning he faces Jamie Cope, a player who has disappeared off the radar in recent times. World no.13 in 2010, four years on he’s down to 46th after being diagnosed with a debilitating hereditary condition which has caused him to shake.
Confidence has drained away and Cope has found results hard to come by. It’s been a horrible situation that nobody wants to see any player go through. So the draw could have been much kinder to Cope as he attempts to claw his way back up the rankings.
Ding was Welsh Open champion two years ago and has to be favourite to reach the semi-finals from his quarter, particularly with defending champion Stephen Maguire suffering from a swollen disc.
The second televised match of the day sees Mark Williams, the only Welshman to win the Welsh Open, up against Tian Pengfei, one of several dangerous Chinese players on tour.
Williams could easily have lost to Michael Wasley in the first round. The winner in 1996 and 1999, Williams is trying to cut out the unforced errors, but these inevitably creep in over time. It’s the reason his old sparring partner Stephen Hendry eventually retired.
Neil Robertson has plenty of patience, which he will need against Rory McLeod, a player who always gives it everything.
Robertson’s consistency has helped him occupy top spot in the world rankings for most of the last year but he is looking to return to the golden form he displayed pre-Christmas. At the Masters and German Masters this was lacking somewhat, though he continues to score heavily.
The evening match pits world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan against Norwich potter Barry Pinches – two players who have made maximum breaks in the Welsh Open.
Pinches is fighting hard to keep his tour card so this is not a draw he would have necessarily wanted. O’Sullivan is playing his first tournament since winning the Masters for a fifth time last month.
Ronnie was quoted in the press at the weekend as questioning how high the standard can be if he can turn up as a part-timer and win titles. This is a relevant question but ignores the fact that he’s Ronnie O’Sullivan, arguably the best player ever (also, he won the world title in 2012 having played a lot of snooker that season).
The Welsh Open may not get his juices flowing like other, bigger tournaments but he’s won it twice and defeat tonight would be a huge shock.
Tuesday TV times:
BBC2 Wales (and red button): 1-4.50pm; 7-8pm; 11pm-12am (GMT)
British Eurosport: 10.30am-3pm; 7-10pm (GMT)
British Eurosport2: 3-5pm (GMT)
Eurosport International: 11.30am-4pm; 8-11pm (CET)
Eurosport2: 4-6pm (CET)
Photographs by Monique Limbos.