A TOTAL OF 95 MATCHES in two days has reduced the BetVictor Welsh Open field from 128 to 32, with an interesting mix of big hitters, well known professionals and some unheralded young players aiming to progress further at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on Wednesday.
Alongside the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Judd Trump are India’s Aditya Mehta, Belgium’s Luca Brecel and two amateurs, Ashley Carty and Oliver Brown.
It was Brown who delivered an upset in the final TV match of the day, beating Welshman Ryan Day 4-1. Day looked very edgy and Brown needed several chances but he cued well and demonstrated clear signs of potential. He had already beaten Ding Junhui in the season-opening Wuxi Classic and is exactly the sort of new, young name snooker needs to be doing well.
At 20, he is still a little raw but seemed to relish his chance in front of the TV cameras and can only grow in confidence now.
Despite Day’s defeat, there is a strong home presence in the draw with Mark Williams facing Jamie Jones, Matthew Stevens tackling O’Sullivan and Michael White through to meet Stuart Bingham.
Another Welshman, Lee Walker, sprang a huge surprise by beating former champion Ding Junhui 4-1 in the first round but fell to Michael Georgiou in the second.
It’s been a hectic couple of days with opinions divided. Some – O’Sullivan chief among them – did not like the venue. Some liked the venue but not the conditions. Some liked both.
Now, seven tables are removed to be left with four in the main arena. It will still be busy but will resemble more a ranking event than a PTC.
Arguments about formats are interminable but the game remains snooker and it is as difficult, maddening and fascinating as ever.
O’Sullivan could have lost to Rory McLeod on Monday night, indeed may have done a couple of years ago, but his discipline shone through in the end and he is still a potent threat this week.
Selby was very impressive in all departments against Marcus Campbell, riding the crest of a wave of confidence after winning the German Masters.
Trump’s heavy scoring this season shows no sign of abating. He is up to 60 centuries now, far more than anyone else.
And for all the upsets, it is from this small pool of regular champions that the eventual winner of the title will most likely lie – though that doesn’t mean there won’t be more shocks before the field is further reduced.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.