Saturday saw the field of the first Players Tour Championship reduced to 16 and while there were high profile casualties early in the day such as Jimmy White, Peter Ebdon and Ryan Day, no amateur players were able to progress to the final day…
Following Friday’s late night finish (more on that later), which saw one half of the draw play through to the last 16 stage, Saturday saw the second half get underway and it did not take long for many of the professionals including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Dominic Dale, Matthew Stevens, Jamie Cope and Peter Ebdon to ease their way into the second round. Peter in fact came close to repeating Kurt Maflin’s maximum feat before seeing his attempt end prematurely on 104.
Others however were not so lucky, most notably Ryan Day who surrendered a 2-0 advantage against promising youngster Michael Wasley, eventually losing 4-3. Tour newcomers Jack Lisowski and Adam Wicheard came close to recording impressive wins but also lost 4-3 to Liu Chuang and Barry Pinches respectably.
Eventually the players were through to the second round and the top players continue to excel, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby and Mark Williams advancing without too much trouble. Peter Ebdon however could not repeat his morning display, losing 4-1 to Scot Marcus Campbell while Jimmy White, Barry Pinches and Jamie Cope needed deciding frames to see off their opponents.
The most eye-catching results of the round were Igor Figueiredo’s 4-3 victory over Jimmy Michie, completed with a break of 71 in the decider, as well as Anthony McGill’s 4-2 victory over his vastly experienced compatriot Alan McManus.
The third round saw the eagerly anticipated clash between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby take place and unsurprisingly it was a close battle that went the distance to a seventh and deciding frame. Unlike at the Masters however it was O’Sullivan who came through this time with a break of 60 to book his place in the last 16 in Sheffield.
Elsewhere however virtually every match went to form with the fancied man coming through, setting things up nicely for Sunday’s final day.
Finally I could not finish without a word on the events so far as although these events are an important step forward for snooker, allowing the players to play more matches, earn more money and fight for more points, it would appear that changes may need to be made for the future.
For the fans the most obvious problem is that of the ‘closed shop’ nature of the event with no online streaming, minimal spectators, temperamental livescores and little by the way of match reports. I do appreciate that like the equivalent series in darts, the series is not designed for TV, but even if just one of the tables had a webcam on it, there are people who would watch. Snooker needs to be seen to be embracing its fans at the moment.
The other issue would appear to be the scheduling, which on the opening Friday resulted in the final match not being completed until 3am! When I spoke to somebody at the venue at around 10:30pm on Friday I was expecting play to be concluded by then, not for some matches not to have started yet! The inherent problem would appear to be the lack of tables at the Academy however and in the short-term at least it is difficult to see how this will be addressed.
Despite these issues, it is important to remember that this is just the first event of the series and it is only natural that things aren’t perfect first time out. Hopefully the organisers will have learned from the weekend and by the end of the season some solutions will have been found.