Day two from the Welsh Open in Newport and among those through to the last 16 are Mark Williams and Stephen Hendry, while world number one Mark Selby begins his bid to join them this evening…
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Trailing 2-1 and 3-2 today, twice former champion and local favourite Mark Williams found himself on the brink of a shock exit against former world semi-finalist Andy Hicks today, before winning the final two frames with runs of 70 and 58 to sneak into the second round. Indeed Andy had his chances to clinch it in both frames, but an in-off together with a missed red to a centre pocket were to prove his undoing.
As Mark admitted during his post-match press conference, he will have to play a lot better if he is to come through against Marco Fu or Ronnie O’Sullivan in his next match, but his win at least keeps him in the draw and bags him another 1,200 ranking points.
Back in 2003 Stephen Hendry claimed his third and thus far Welsh Open crown with a final victory against Williams and he continued his bid for a fourth crown tonight with an impressive 4-1 victory against 2007 champion Neil Robertson.
Having split the opening frames with runs of 62 from Hendry and a fine 135 total clearance from Robertson, the third frame proved key as the Scot was able to snatch it on a re-spot, doubling the final black into a centre-pocket to lead 2-1. From there it was to be one-way traffic as he made breaks of 67 and 86 to record what I make to be his first win against a player ranked inside the top five since the 2006 UK Championship and underline his recent improved form. While he might not be as consistent as he once was, it is nevertheless encouraging to see him looking something like his old self once again.
Elsewhere, Stephen Lee recorded a 4-1 victory against Michael Holt with a top break of 59, while Stuart Bingham moved up one place in the latest projected seedings list with a 4-2 success against 1997 finalist Mark King this afternoon.
In the evening session, Martin Gould started like an express train against Peter Ebdon by taking the opening two frames with big breaks in no time, but it was his steal in the fourth to lead 3-1 which would eventually prove key.
Martin now awaits the winner of the ongoing match between world number one Mark Selby and talented youngster Sam Baird, which sees the outsider hold a 3-2 lead at the time of writing. Can he see it through or will the 2008 champion storm back?