Welsh Open 2011: Tournament Preview – Part Two

Following on from the first half of my Welsh Open qualifiers preview earlier today, here is the second…

Click here to view the tournament draw in full.

Also note that for this event, all qualifying matches will be staged over the best of seven frames with no mid-session interval.

The Third Quarter


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Michael White Jamie Jones Joe Swail Marco Fu
Adam Wicheard

Kicking off the third quarter is the round one clash between Michael White and Adam Wicheard, two talented players who each have got some good wins under their belts this season. That said, Michael is the more experienced of the two and I would expect him to come through and set up an all-Welsh second round tie with Jamie Jones, a player who finally looks like he has found his feet on the main tour. Closer to the top 48 than 64th place now, he will be looking to win this one though it could well go either way.

The winner will play Joe Swail, the player who until the German Masters had no sort of form whatsoever but now following victories against Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy in Berlin has declared that following problems on and off the table, he is feeling good again. Coming just days after his Berlin run, he should have the momentum to win at least one match here and set up a clash with Marco Fu, the man who demolished him 10-4 at the 2009 World Championship and more recently 5-1 at the German Masters

Outside of the top 16 he might be but following his Berlin run and his Wembley Masters final, he too is in the groove at the moment and I would be surprised to see him fail to make the venue, particularly as he probably needs the win in order to return to the 16 in time of the world qualifiers.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Jimmy Michie Alfie Burden Rory McLeod Stephen Lee
Kurt Maflin

The first match of this path will be more intriguing than usual following the reports of Jimmy Michie’s retirement following the Sky Shootout and the controversy surrounding him following that tournament. Will he play against Kurt Maflin? If he does it is hard to pick a winner, neither having played well during this season, unlike the man waiting in the next round, tour returnee Alfie Burden.

Assuming that Aflie does come through against either player, he would then face Rory McLeod in the next round, another player who caught the eye in the recent Shootout and perhaps more to the point, qualified for the recent UK Championship and has already made a 147 break this season. On balance I would probably fancy Alfie to cause an upset here, particularly given the short format which will give Rory less chance to frustrate his opponent.

In truth however I would be surprised to see anyone other than Stephen Lee qualify from this section given Lee’s sparkling form this season. Like Matthew Stevens I feel that Lee is currently playing some of the best snooker he has played in the last five or six years and with a good run in this tournament could reclaim a place in the top 16 ahead of the trip to Sheffield.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Kyren Wilson Matt Selt Tony Drago Joe Perry
Jamie O’Neill

Next up, Kyren Wilson should I think start as favourite against Jamie O’Neill to progress to a second round clash with Matt Selt which could be very interesting indeed. Selt has continued to kick on following his breakthrough 2009/10 campaign but currently sitting in 48th place on my list, will be looking to win and leave himself with one match fewer to play in order to make it to the Crucible for the first time.

Hoping to qualify for Newport for the second year in a row though will be the next man in this list, Malta’s Tony Drago who lost a heartbreaker to Ryan Day at the venue last season. His form in 2010/11 has not been quite as dazzling as last season, but he has continued to win the majority of his opening round qualifiers and secure a steady accumulation of ranking points.

Finally, whoever comes through that match will face Joe Perry, the man currently enjoying something of a revival following a change of cue and a change of coach, now working with SightRightUK’s Steve Feeney. On the back of a good run in Berlin which included a fine win against Shanghai Masters winner Ali Carter, Joe will fancy his chances of coming through this one to set up a tie with Stephen Hendry in Newport and I think he will.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Ben Woollaston Ian McCulloch Alan McManus Gerard Greene
Liu Song

The opening round in this pathway sees Leicester’s Ben Woollaston take on Liu Song in a match that is particularly important for the man from China as currently in 66th in my list, he is in with a real chance of reclaiming a place in the top 64 ahead of the world qualifiers. For that reason I think that he will come through, although a loss to Daniel Wells in Berlin last week might be evidence that his form is not quite as hot as it was when he qualified for the event in Germany.

The winner will face Ian McCulloch, the man from Preston whose descent down the rankings has continued this season, seeing himself fall to 56th in my latest list. Although he is still capable of the occasional good performance, if it is to be Liu Song who wins through to face him I would make the man from China favourite.

Alan McManus in the next round however is a different matter as although he too is not the player that he once was, he has held his own in tournaments this season and could do with the win in order to secure his top 48 place after the event.

Finally here we have Gerard Greene, a regular in the top 32 during recent seasons but a player who has failed to qualify for a venue so far this season, losing all of his matches. He did however perform well during the PTC events which has helped him to maintain his current ranking and will be looking to break that venue duck.

The Bottom Quarter..

Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Paul Davison Stuart Pettman Peter Lines Stuart Bingham
Dermot McGlinchey

Nearly there! The opening match in this section sees Paul Davison take on Dermot McGlinchey, both experienced players but I would have to lean towards Paul based on his form this season and the fact that he has more recent tour experience than his opponent.

Awaiting in the next round will be Stuart Pettman, a player who badly needs a few wins with the points from his 2009 China Open semi-final soon to be removed and recently missed the qualifying tournament for the German Masters. It is always dangerous to back a player who has not played much recently, but if he is somewhere near his best I would expect him to have enough to come through and set up a match with Leeds pro Peter Lines.

Having been a model of consistency on his return to the tour a couple of seasons ago, Peter has been more up and down this time around and so is hard to assess ahead of this tournament. That said, he will be fancied to book a final round tie against Stuart Bingham who will be fighting hard to secure the points he needs in order to qualify for the Crucible as a member of the top 16 for the first time, avoiding the torture of having to qualify which caught him out last season as funnily enough he was swept aside by Pettman.

Got to fancy Stuart here I feel.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Xiao Guodong Patrick Wallace Michael Holt Andrew Higginson
Issara Kachaiwong

The opening round here sees young Xiao Guodong take on Issara Kachaiwong as the young Chinese star bids to to claim a top 64 place for the first time, justifying the decision of World Snooker to hand him a wildcard for this season. Whether or not he will do that remains to be seen but I fancy him to defeat Issara and set up a second round tie with Northern Ireland’s Patrick Wallace.

Like Xiao, Wallace is right in the thick of the fight for a top 64 place and will be hoping to get the win or two that he needs in this competition to make sure of it. If it is to be Xiao who is his opponent, I would make it a very even clash and one that I would struggle to pick a winner of. That said, given that Patrick’s best performances this season came at the UK Championship, perhaps the shorter format here will favour his young opponent.

Awaiting in round three is Michael Holt who in all but one ranking event this season has struggled for results, largely as a result of off-table issues and looks to be vulnerable here. It should be remembered however that in the other event he did defeat John Higgins to win the final EPTC event of the season, reminding everyone that he cannot be written off easily. That being said, I would not be surprised to see him exit early.

Finally, Andrew Higginson will meet whichever player does make it through to the last 16 as the man from Widnes chases a place inside the top 16 for the first time. I suspect that he will just fall short of that but having regularly qualified for venues this season, I see no reason why he should not do so again.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
James Wattana Jimmy Robertson Jamie Burnett Tom Ford
Simon Bedford

The penultimate path of the draw sees James Wattana take on Simon Bedford in a very tough match to call between two players of a similar ranking these days. I also get the feeling that both players would be better suited to a longer format so that perhaps makes it more difficult to call still.

Looking along the draw, both Jimmy Robertson and Jamie Burnett are very capable players and could easily qualify for the event, but I do fancy Tom Ford here to triumph and secure a place inside the top 32 heading into the World Championship qualifiers in early March.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Matt Couch Adrian Gunnell Nigel Bond Ken Doherty
Noppon Saengkham

Finally, the sixteenth and final section of the draw will be started by Matt Couch and Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham as Matt chases the points he needs in order to clinch a place inside the top 64 and move himself up the draw for the World Championship. For his opponent his maiden professional season has brought little joy and so I would expect Matt to come through.

Awaiting in the second round will be Adrian Gunnell who other than a win in the World Open has struggled to make an impression this season. On his day he is a very good player, you do not stay a professional for as long as he has if you are not, but I fancy Matt to cause an upset here.

For the winner, a third round clash with Sky Shootout winner Nigel Bond beckons, a tough match if Nigel’s recent win against Liang Wenbo in the German Masters qualifiers is anything to go by. As is often the case with the older players, on their day they can still produce a very high standard, but the consistency is not at the same level and much will depend on how Nigel plays on the day.

Lying in wait in the final qualifying round is another veteran, 1997 world champion Ken Doherty who will be looking to make another venue and maintain his strong record in the qualifiers over the past year or so. On his day Ken is a class player and he has to be favourite to come through this one.