Wednesday at the Welsh Open sees the first round of the tournament come to a close and the second stage of what is the last Home Nations event of the season beginning as we get closer to determining who will lift the Ray Reardon Trophy in Newport.
We’re still waiting for the first truly big shock of the tournament although the home crowd lost their favourite Mark Williams on Tuesday. Most of the big names are back on the baize again across the three sessions on Wednesday.
Kyren Wilson made a few headlines earlier in the season when he declared he was never on the main TV table in these Hone Nations events but he is on there in the morning session on Wednesday when he faces off against Li Hang. Over on the streamed table Stuart Bingham will be looking to make it into the second round of the tournament when he faces an Elliot Slessor who endured a marathon win over Dylan Emery earlier in the week.
The two matches that will be on the outside tables in this session sees two Welsh aces on show. Matthew Stevens really should have won this title in the past but that hasn’t materialised. He starts his main draw campaign when he faces Lu Ning while on the other table Jamie Clarke will be looking to make the second round of his home event. In order to get there he will need to overcome the European Masters semi-finalist Graeme Dott.
Ronnie O’Sullivan will be back on the baize on Wednesday afternoon when he looks to make it through to the second round. He will face off against Lukas Kleckers with the winner going on to play Ding Junhui on Thursday. That will be on the main table while over on the streamed one Shaun Murphy will go up against Anthony Hamilton. Ricky Walden hasn’t given up hope of making it into the Tour Championship so his match against Noppon Saengkham is huge for him. Ryan Day meets Zak Surety in the other game.
The world champion Mark Selby will headline the second part of the afternoon. He looked terrible in his held over match but a very revealing interview after that encounter highlighted exactly why that is the case. He meets Liam Highfield on Wednesday while on the streamed table Zhao Xintong will look to continue his fine year when he meets the home player Zhao Xintong. Such is the quality on offer at this part of the day that Barry Hawkins is only on an outside table. He meets Ashley Carty while Yan Bingtao faces his countryman Zhao Jianbo.
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We don’t actually know the full identity of the evening session just yet because it gets completed earlier in the day. We do know that it is all second round matches and that Neil Robertson will open the show on the main TV table though when he takes on the winner of Graeme Dott against Jamie Clarke. Should he comes through earlier in the day then Matthew Stevens is likely to be on the streamed table against Mitchell Mann. The other two matches to open up the evening session sees Jimmy Robertson meeting Fergal O’Brien and Kurt Maflin taking on Scott Donaldson.
The second part of the evening as far as the TV table is concerned will be all about Judd Trump. He meets the new tour card holder Si Jiahui who will be back on the tour next season after he won the World Amateur Championship at the weekend. There is a real tasty clash on the streamed table when John Higgins faces off against Ali Carter while on the outside tables Mark Allen meets Joe Perry in a good match and there is an all-Chinese battle between Zhang Anda and Yuan Sijun.
Two big names are begging to be taken on in the afternoon session and they begin with Shaun Murphy who has been doing loads of TV work this week and presumably not so much practice. He did well to overcome Andy Hicks on Monday but you would expect that. I’m not sure he can be expected to get past Anthony Hamilton in current form. I always think Hamilton relishes these Home Nations events because it was his run to the last four in the Northern Ireland Open in the first year it was played which revived his career and recently he has been winning a lot of snooker matches. Murphy hasn’t and if he coughs up a load of chances to Hamilton he’ll be doing TV work for the remainder of the week.
I hate taking advantage of men when they are down but it is hard not to take on Mark Selby right now. I’m in awe of him for opening up on his struggles and they are real and horrible to hear of quite frankly but just hearing him speak and seeing the look on his face it is clear he doesn’t really want to be here. In an ideal world he’d be facing someone better than Liam Highfield but the Stoke potter took Dave Gilbert to a deciding frame in Milton Keynes last week and beat Mark King to get here so he might be rounding into a bit of form. Selby is probably still a worthy favourite because his C game gets him through but if Highfield plays to any sort of a decent standard he could make his odds of 3/1+ look a bit silly.
Back A.Hamilton to beat S.Murphy for a 3/10 stake at 2.75 with William Hill
Back L.Highfield to beat M.Selby for a 2/10 stake at 4.20 with William Hill
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