ALTHOUGH TOP LEVEL professional snooker undoubtedly relies on star names for their pulling power, it’s nice to see a few different faces contesting the quarter-finals of the BetVictor Welsh Open.
Luca Brecel and Gary Wilson were particularly impressive on Thursday, not just beating Mark Selby and Neil Robertson respectively but playing very well to do so.
For Brecel, it marked a significant step forward. Selby made two centuries but the Belgian teenager proved himself up to the job when the pressure came on.
Wilson had never been past the last 16 of a world ranking event but took the game to Robertson and was good value for his 4-2 win.
The former taxi driver ensured his meter is still running in Cardiff by playing a very good last frame after being gifted the previous one on the three miss rule, Robertson having been left trying to clip a red thin with the black close to a corner pocket.
Wilson won the 2004 world under 21 title but when he turned professional there was not the breadth of professional playing opportunities that there are now. Last season, he reached the last 16 of the Indian Open and has been a semi-finalist on the European Tour. His attitude throughout the match with Robertson was superb and he has a chance now to progress further, though Ben Woollaston will provide stubborn opposition in the last eight.
It’s a shame, though, that with only three of the four quarter-finals televised, this one won’t make it in front of the cameras.
Yet again, Welsh hopes rest on Mark Williams, who sent another of the title favourites, Judd Trump, packing.
As with several other matches, the players in this one were not too enamoured with conditions. The particular bone of contention seems to be big bounces off the cushions which are causing players to lose position.
Even Marco Fu, possibly the most polite man in snooker, got frustrated but still beat Matthew Stevens 4-2 and provides quarter-final opposition for Williams.
Stephen Maguire and John Higgins, Welsh Open champions both, have come through under the radar having so far been consigned to outside tables but go head-to-head in what could be a close first quarter-final.
Brecel plays the night TV match against Ricky Walden, who is hopefully now over the shoulder complaint which dogged him at the turn of the year.
Of the eight players remaining, five have won ranking titles so it isn’t exactly a case of the unusual suspects but it’s also doubtful many would have picked these eight to be left standing at the quarter-final stage.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.