Grand Prix 2009: Veterans Victorious

While there have been a number of upsets this week, four-times Grand Prix champion Stephen Hendry has avoided becoming the latest and moved comfortably into the last 16 with victory over Matt Selt this afternoon. I was almost going to say that Peter Ebdon had also avoided an upset by defeating Liang Wenbo but on recent form it could well be argued that Peter’s victory is the surprise!

Click here to see how the results have affected the provisional rankings.

Stephen Hendry 5-2 Matt Selt

63-42, 117(116)-0, 53-71, 71(58)-17, 43-72, 106(72)-1, 81(47)-45

Stephen Hendry booked his place in the last 16 today with a good performance against BBC debutant Matt Selt.

While noted for his attacking play, Stephen used all of his experience from the off today and played a more patient game against his young opponent to take the opening frame before doubling his lead with career century number 736.

Matt kept in contention by taking a tight third frame on the pink but Hendry as he has said himself kept his focus and thanks to a break of 58 ensured that he would go into the break with a 3-1 lead. Matt was able to pull one back when the two resumed but a well-taken plant which resulted in a break of 72 moved Hendry one away from the match and he completed the job in frame seven with 47.

It was not the most spectacular performance of Stephen’s career but in these tournaments it is always crucial to come through the opening round as only then do the players really feel settled in the event. The win moves him back inside the top ten provisionally, notably ahead of Mark Selby who drops to 12th, but knowing Hendry he will be far more concerned with ending his long trophy drought this week…

For Matt it is the end of another good run but it is crucial experience that hopefully he will learn from. Now well inside the top 64 provisionally he will be hoping for another good run in the UK qualifiers.

Peter Ebdon 5-2 Liang Wenbo

6-102(38), 1-98(70), 74(72)-7, 78(44)-45, 73(46)-1, 66-38(38), 75(39,32)-28

1993 Grand Prix champion Peter Ebdon has given his chances of retaining his top 16 place at the end of the season a timely boost today with an impressive victory over Shanghai finalist Liang Wenbo from 2-0 behind early on.

Indeed it was Liang who made the better start with breaks of 38 and 70 but once Peter had pulled one back with a break of 72 in frame three, there was no stopping the world number 14. He did not play at his very best but he looked solid in the balls and as the errors began to increase from the Chinese cue, Peter grew in confidence and eventually ran out a 5-2 winner.

Having been thrashed 5-1 by Liang in last month’s Shanghai Masters Peter will be delighted to have won today and he is rewarded with a rise of five places in the provisional rankings as a result. If he can dig his heels in and go on another run however, he might take some stopping as in China last season.

The result is a set-back for Liang but no more than this and it should be remembered that despite being many people’s favourite for the match, he was the qualifier today! I am sure that he will be back on form in Telford later this year.