The field is thinning out at the BetVictor Welsh Open but there’s plenty of quality remaining as the last 16 gets underway at Newport this morning.
The first televised match pits the 2008 Welsh Open winner, Mark Selby, against the player who succeeded him as champion in 2009, Ali Carter.
Selby has lost only one frame so far but hasn’t yet been pushed. Carter, attempting to gain a top 16 seeding for the World Championship, had a good win yesterday over Mark Allen.
Carter tends to be a player who comes good every now and then while Selby is more consistent, hence his position in second place in the world rankings. However, the Leicester man is likely to encounter more stubborn resistance this morning than previously in the tournament.
Last month, Ronnie O’Sullivan produced one of the finest displays of snooker ever seen when he beat Ricky Walden 6-0 in the quarter-finals of the Masters, setting a new unanswered points record of 556 in the process.
This was as good as it gets and the world champion meets Walden again at 1pm. Neither had played much since the Masters until they arrived in Newport. Walden had been to Las Vegas on a sort-of stag-do ahead of his wedding later in the year and relished the break.
Breaks, though, are what he will need today against an O’Sullivan who looks relaxed and business-like as he targets a third Welsh Open crown.
The third TV match is a repeat of the 2011 world final as John Higgins tackles Judd Trump.
Higgins, Welsh Open champion in 2000, 2010 and 2011, has not yet lost a frame in three matches. Not bad for someone who told Inside Snooker before the event that he was at an all-time low in terms of confidence.
Trump’s confidence has risen since his run to the German Masters final in Berlin a few weeks ago and he is starting to look good for his first silverware since he captured the International Championship in November 2012.
As so often before, Welsh snooker looks to Mark Williams, who is now the only home player left in the tournament following his morale-boosting 4-3 victory over Neil Robertson yesterday.
Robertson seemed to become too bogged down towards the end and Williams demonstrated a solid temperament to come through. He faces Marco Fu tonight.
It’s 15 years since Williams won the second of his Welsh Open titles. If he’s beaten the world no.1 he can beat anyone but the Fu match is as much a test of his consistency as form: being able to follow one good performance with another.
Away from the cameras, it’s a big day for Joel Walker and Scott Donaldson, each of whom appear in the last 16 of a world ranking event for the first time. Given this, it’s a shame at least one of them hasn’t been put on the TV. Donaldson is playing Ding Junhui, whose four ranking titles this season and status as world no.3 hasn’t cut any ice with the schedulers this week.
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.