Day one of this season’s Welsh Open and so far we have seen victories for the reigning world and UK champions, as well as an impressive success for the evergreen Steve Davis who extended Ali Carter’s miserable run with a deciding frame victory in Newport…
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Having struggled for form during much of 2010/11, this campaign has been markedly improved for six-time world champion Steve Davis and today he underlined that with a 4-3 victory against 2010 champion Ali Carter to reach the last 16.
A close match throughout, the first four frames were shared, breaks of 68 and 121 from Davis and a 61 from Carter a sign of its quality. As the match progressed it looked as Carter might make his higher ranking count with a break of 83 to lead 3-2, before making 34 in the next only to break down.
From there however Davis was to make no mistake, a 63 clearance enough to force a decider before his second century of the match, this time of 117 in the next frame, was enough to secure an impressive victory and his first last 16 run at a venue since the 2010 World Championship. While he might not be as consistent as he was in his heyday, Steve has shown on a few occasions recently that on his day he can still score heavily enough to do some damage and when it all comes together is still not to be underestimated.
For Ali Carter meanwhile it is a second consecutive deciding-frame defeat at the last 32 stage of a full-ranking event, though as was the case during his German Masters defeat to Joe Perry, on paper he looks to have scored well and competed, without quite being able to make it count. The result is that Ali remains 12th in the projected seedings list and with more points to come off between now and the end of the season than any player other than Neil Robertson, in a genuine fight to retain his top 16 status beyond the end of the season.
Next up for Steve will be a second round clash with Shaun Murphy, after the former Welsh Open finalist ended Mark Joyce’s hopes of a return to the top 48 with a 4-2 victory today. The result confirms that Jimmy White therefore will remain 48th at the next seedings revision.
Elsewhere, there was also an impressive victory for Tom Ford who reached the last 16 of a full-ranking event for the second time this season with a 4-2 victory against Scotland’s Graeme Dott. Having lost to the Scot at the semi-final stage of the recent Shoot Out tournament, Tom tonight avenged that defeat with an strong performance and continues to put distance between himself and those fighting for the final few top 32 places.
Awaiting Ford in the next round will be either Stephen Lee or Michael Holt, after the Hitman ended the hopes of home hope Ryan Day in one of the last 48 matches held over to the venue. Indeed there was to be more pain for the local spectators later in the day as Sam Baird shocked Dominic Dale in the evening session with a 4-2 win.
A player who has consistently impressed me since I saw him for the first time at the Northern Snooker Centre back in 2009, Sam has a bright future ahead of him and will next square-off against Mark Selby at the last 32 stage. Despite this result however and his similar run to the last 32 of the upcoming Haikou World Open, he remains hard-pressed if he is to retain his place on tour beyond the end of this season, although it is not impossible…
Other players through today included John Higgins and Judd Trump, who dropped just one frame between them against Liang Wenbo and Fergal O’Brien respectively, while Ding Junhui’s victory against Mark Davis confirmed that both Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stuart Bingham will not have to qualify for the Crucible in April.
Click here to view tomorrow’s schedule…