Royal London Watches Grand Prix 2008: Misfiring rocket into last 16

World number one Ronnie O’Sullivan got his Grand Prix campaign underway this afternoon against Liang Wenbo, though he was far from convincing in doing so. Click below to read about that and the match between Ali Carter and Dave Harold…

Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-2 Liang Wenbo

Ronnie O’Sullivan was far from his best this afternoon but he did enough to eventually come through quite comfortably against Liang Wenbo with a 5-2 victory.

The first two frames in particular were amazing as O’Sullivan missed simple shot after simple shot, at one point his pot success rate dropping to a remarkable 65%. Ronnie himself seemed baffled at how he was playing and though Liang Wenbo was far from great himself, he just about managed to get himself into a 2-0 lead early on.

This was where it started to go wrong however as with Ronnie still making errors, Liang could not capitalise on them and it was only going to be a matter of time before O’Sullivan started to play better. This he did as he firstly made it 2-1 before a very harsh in-off from Wenbo when he went into the reds gifted O’Sullivan a chance for 2-2.

Level at the interval you got the feeling that Wenbo had missed his chance and this is exactly how it turned out as O’Sullivan steadied himself and took the next three frames, finishing off with a 103 century break.

Visibly digusted with his own performance when interviewed in the BBC studio with Steve Davis and John Parrott, O’Sullivan admitted that he hasn’t been at his best so far this season, despite his strong results in both Northern Ireland and Shanghai.

He said:

“I’m not beating myself up about the way I played, but to be honest I’ve played rubbish all season.

“My season has been error-ridden, but luckily people keep missing against me. It’s making me look good.”

Barring a couple of matches I totally agree with him there and really sense that to a degree he is there for the taking at the moment, if only other players could take their chances more. One player who has proven himself more than capable of doing so however is O’Sullivan’s opponent in the last 16 Marco Fu, the man who beat him in the final here last year. Should be a cracking match.

Liang Wenbo meanwhile will be disappointed that he could not take advantage of O’Sullivan’s struggle this afternoon. Still he is very young and the experience can only help him. I just feel with him that while his attacking style is thrilling to watch and capable of tearing some players to bits when he is on song, against the very top players like O’Sullivan it just isn’t going to work. Time will tell…

Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-2 Liang Wenbo 47-78, 7-70, 91(32)-2, 68(56)-22, 65(56)-19, 59-15, 103(103)-0

Ali Carter 5-4 Dave Harold

World number seven Ali Carter came through a hard fought match with Northern Ireland Trophy finalist Dave Harold 5-4 this afternoon to earn a tie with Mark King or John Parrott in the next round.

It was to be Dave who made the better start, making a superb break of 95 to take the opening frame in around 15 minutes. Things were to turn around in the next however as having gone in off he left Carter a shot at a long straight red which he cued perfectly, allowing him to level the match at 1-1. Despite needing a few chances to do so, Ali then pressed on and moved into a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval, putting himself in a strong position.

Harold was not to give up though as he won a scrappy fifth frame before a dramatic sixth. Here Dave not only won it to level at 3-3, but made a great 147 effort, eventually breaking down when he missed a tricky red to the right centre on 104.

Carter then hit back to move one away from the match at 4-3 but Harold again hung in there, making a determined break of 89 to force a decider.

Both had their chances in the final frame but in the end it was to be Carter who just about did enough to win it, though it really could have gone either way. Having no had a great start to the season Ali will now be hoping to push on and build on his World final this April against King or Parrott in the next round.

Harold will be very disappointed not to continue his good form, again losing out in a final frame decider as he did in Shanghai to Steve Davis. He remains in good form though and I’d expect him to be qualify for the Bahrain Championship in a couple of weeks…

Ali Carter 5-4 Dave Harold 20-95(95), 63-40, 69(44)-0, 69(42)-0, 33-64, 0-104(104), 70(61)-1, 18-89(89), 69(34)-29