The only two left-handed players to win the world title go head-to-head at the BetVictor Welsh Open in Newport on Wednesday.

Mark Williams, still his country’s no.1, will face Neil Robertson, the world no.1, for a place in the last 16 in the day’s second televised match.

The first pits Mark Selby against Dominic Dale in an encounter which has the potential to be a close affair.

Selby is always tough to beat but Dale is riding a wave of confidence at the moment following his Shootout triumph last month. He turned up in Newport having forgotten his waistcoat but in general is in good form and must fancy his chances against the world no.2.

Robertson made his 87th century of the season in beating Rory McLeod 4-0 while Williams was put under no pressure whatsoever by Tian Pengfei, who he beat 4-0.

As Robertson pointed out, he hasn’t played Williams much of late but this has the potential to be a really interesting contest as one great player in form takes on a great player looking to return to form.

Home advantage is sometimes an over-rated phenomenon. It doesn’t make a very difficult game any easier but it may act as an inspiration for Williams, who is looking for a big win against a top name.

Ronnie O’Sullivan came close to a maximum in his first frame against Barry Pinches, missed on 104 and then his overall standard deteriorated. Pinches, though, could not take advantage and O’Sullivan won 4-1.

He will have to play better against Xiao Guodong but of course there’s every chance that he will do. Ultimately, to win you just have to play better than the other guy and the best players respond when put under pressure, but can coast when not.

Williams’s good friend and the butt of many of his jokes, Andrew Pagett, earns a bow in front of the cameras against Stephen Maguire, who struggled with the pain from a swollen disc in the previous round.

Pagett doesn’t have much TV experience but looked confident when he qualified for the Crucible two years and will have home support. With Maguire not fully fit, an upset could be on the cards.

The tournament has frankly been rather low key so far. It’s taken a week to reduce the field to 32 players with only five days to play the rest of the tournament. For an event to be entertaining then quality should be more important than quantity and it would also help to see a few different players on the TV table rather than the same old faces all the time.

Of course, the same old faces are the top players and great champions who have earned their place in the limelight, but if the point of the flat draw system is to bring new players through then it would be nice to showcase a few of them.

It doesn’t help that for the last 128 there were cameras on two tables (for the streaming service) but in the second week there is only coverage of one. This makes little practical sense and means most matches – some featuring big names – are played in virtual obscurity.


TV Times:

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

British Eurosport: 10.30am-3.15pm; 6.55-10pm (GMT)

British Eurosport2: 3.15-5pm (GMT)

Eurosport International: 11.30am-4.15pm, 19.55-11pm (CET)

Eurosport2: 4.15-6pm (CET)


Photographs by Monique Limbos.