“ Sports: Snooker / Sport Topic: Snooker Events „
The Welsh Open is a funny one. It's a ranking tournament of over twenty years stature and taken seriously enough to be only ever won by top five ranking players yet. Not even the World Championships is able to acclaim that pedigree. But it's ignored by mainstream TV and currently hiding away on BBC Wales and 301 Sports Extra channel. No one knows it's on outside of Wales and unless you stumble upon it on the BBC Sports Channel you never will. But it has never been dominated by one single player like Hendry and Davis did other tournaments, only Joe Swail and Andrew Higginson the non- names to make the final in those two decades.
When cigarette advertising was banned, The Welsh Open, like most other snooker events, swapped one vice for another, a betting company filling the vacuum. I can't say I approve of sport being sponsored by betting companies and no coincidence that match fixing has radically increased in snooker since cigs and drink sponsors were ushered away from snooker. To back up my concerns, this week we learn that World Snooker does indeed feel the suspended Stephen Lee has a case to answer for on spot - fixing and no fewer than four matches are now under investigation that he was involved in, most seriously a UK Championship televised match he went on to lose.
= = = Previous Big Winners = = =
S. Hendry - 3 Wins (6 Finals)
J. Higgins - 3 Wins (5 Finals)
S.Davis - 2 Wins (3 Finals)
K.Doherty - 2 Wins (3 Finals)
P.Hunter - 2 Wins (3 Finals)
R.O'Sullivan - 2 Wins (3Finals)
The 2011 Welsh Open Final effectively retired the great Stephen Hendry, his last major final, going out in style when he made record his tenth maximum, John Higgins his opponent, equaling Ronnie Sullivan's record. That 2011 final would make Hendry the oldest at 42 years and 35 days to make a ranking final. The Welsh open also saw the long gone but much loved Paul Hunter at just 17 - years and 111 days to be the youngest ever to make a ranking semi-final.
This year's event was the first to deploy Barry Hearn's new rules that the top 32 guys should compete in the first round of the tournament proper. But a compromise was drawn up because of the multi table arena the Newport Convention Centre offers and the qualifying round would be televised over the best of seven frames, meaning it felt just the same for the top guys. There would be no casualties though as all the big names sailed through to the first round proper, Steve Davies embarrassed yet again without winning a frame. I love you Steve but its time to retire mate as you're looking like a mug, not befitting of one of the greatest players ever. You're 53!
1 Ding Junhui 4 v 2 Dechawat Poomjaeng . .
2 Mark Williams 4 v 1 Liu Chuang . .
3 John Higgins 4 v 1 Gareth Allen . .
4 Judd Trump 4 v 0 Mike Dunn . .
5 Dominic Dale 4 v 1 Daniel Wells . .
6 Ryan Day 1 v 4 Liang Wenbo . .
7 Matthew Stevens 4 v 2 Alfie Burden . .
8 Mark Selby 4 v 0 Steve Davis
=== Round One ===
Round one proper did see some shocks, world champions Mark Williams, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy, and a disinterested Mark Selby, all bounced out in those shotgun style best of seven matches, four guys so not suited to the short match. Murphy's was the most striking as he lost to Pankaj Advani of India, the eight times World Billiards Champion, his first year on the snooker tour. Their were howls of fix on Twitter over the result but to be fair the Indian guy looked pretty useful and already world number 71 from the 164 pro's listed in just 6 months snooker. Judd Trump, more suited to shoot out snooker, scraped home 4-3 to the likeable and funny Dominic Dale, who was also doing pundit work on the sofa.
===Round One Results =====
9 Ding Junhui 4 v 0 Mark King . .
10 Marco Fu 2 v 4 Mark Allen . .
11 Gerard Greene 0 v 4 Sam Baird . .
12 Robert Milkins 4 v 1 Mark Williams . .
13 Neil Robertson 4 v 1 Ian Burns. .
14 Craig Steadman 0 v 4 Stuart Bingham . .
15 Ricky Walden 1 v 4 Tom Ford . .
16 Ken Doherty 4 v 1 John Higgins . .
17 Judd Trump 4 v 3 Dominic Dale . .
18 Andrew Higginson 4 v 2 Michael Wasley . .
19 Graeme Dott 4 v 2 Fergal O'Brien . .
20 Pankaj Advani 4 v 3 Shaun Murphy . .
21 Stephen Maguire 4 v 2 Anthony Hamilton . .
22 Liang Wenbo 2 v 4 Matthew Stevens . .
23 Barry Hawkins 2 v 4 Alan McManus . .
24 Joe Perry 4 v 0 Mark Selby
= = = =Round 2 = = = =
There is no doubt this format gives top young players the chance to move up the rankings and rattle the established players. Neil Robertson actual played an amateur in the first round proper here, something I can't recall happening on a televised stage. But it was established pro Stuart Bingham that knocked him out here with the break of his life to win 4-3. Robertson was 64 - 9 up in the decider and missed the crucial red, only for Bingham to clear up to the black to win. I do feel the best of seven is a lottery though and it takes something from the rather rushed tournament. Getting from 64 guys to just two in one week is tight.
Pankaj Advani saw off another world champion to go into the quarter-finals by beating Graeme Dott, the first Indian to make a Q/F, whilst Trump started to go through the gears by beating Andrew Higginson 4-1. Mathew Stevens was the final Welshman to be knocked out in Newport whilst there was a surprise quarter-final spot for 43-year-old Ken Doherty. Defending champion Ding Junhui remained on course to defend with another easy win.
===Round Two results ==
25 Ding Junhui 4 v 2 Mark Allen.
26 Sam Baird 2 v 4 Robert Milkins . .
27 Neil Robertson 3 v 4 Stuart Bingham . .
28 Tom Ford 3 v 4 Ken Doherty . .
29 Judd Trump 4 v 1 Andrew Higginson . .
30 Graeme Dott 1 v 4 Pankaj Advani.
31 Stephen Maguire 4 v 2 Matthew Stevens.
32 Alan McManus 4 v 3 Joe Perry
Judd Trump, for me, believes he is already the player he is going to be and refuses to finish them off on the ropes with body and head shots when they are done, continuing to blasts ambitious pots for the crowd and letting the guy off the ropes. This leaves Trump open to comebacks and the players are beginning to see that weakness and take their chances. Willie Thorne up in the box makes the great point that Trump overuses the white and often takes on every ball in the belief he will still get position every time, which he increasingly doesn't. Indian sensation Pankaj Advani almost turned the game on its head from 4-0 down to Trump at 4-2 but didn't have the snooker game to stop the 5-2 defeat. Better players will. Stephen McGuire was the other notable winner here, seemingly free of any betting scandal stigma now as his performances pick up again.
33 Ding Junhui 5 v 1 Robert Milkins . .
34 Stuart Bingham 5 v 3 Ken Doherty . .
35 Judd Trump 5 v 2 Pankaj Advani . .
36 Stephen Maguire 5 v 3 Alan McManus.
The commentary team on BBC Wales were, well, very Welsh. The rather 'spacey' Dominic Dale from Bridgend joined the unknown presenter - to me - for the studio chat and segways whilst Terry Griffiths and Willie Thorne replaced John Virgo and Dennis Taylor up in the box, dry humor the order of the day with those two old devils. All we needed was the Welsh Valleys pit choir to complete the jingoism. The highlight of the officialdom has to be sexy female Chinese umpire Zhu Ying, known as Ivy on the circuit, presumably her porn name when you see her glamour pics. Wow!
A tetchy best of eleven saw defending champion Ding Junhui knocked out by the far from glamorous Stuart Bingham in the final frame decider for 6-5, the sort of bloke you would expect to see on a forklift truck on an industrial estate rather than in international sport. It's only the 37-year-olds third major final in his 18 year pro career, losing the 2012 Wuxi Classic in China and winning The 2011 Aussie Open. He also won the snooker Premier League last year. The new ranking system has clearly refreshed his career chances. This is his time. He is only the eighth player to score two maximums in his professional career and the 25th to make 100 centuries, a real journeyman.
For Trump the luck finally ran out as Stephen Maguire reeled of five frames in a row to steal a 6-4 victory from 0-2 down. The beery Scott said he would go toe - to - toe with Trump if he wanted a potting shoot out and indeed he did.
=====Semi Final Results====
Stuart Bingham 6 - 5 Ding Junhui
Judd Trump 4 - 6 Stephen Maguire
Maguire had not won a major ranking final for five long years, his match fixing allegations of 2007 putting his integrity in the game on hold and so reflected in his guilty conscious and performances. He seems to have got past that now and once again a big time player, back up to number five in the world. He is one to watch for Sheffield at a juicy 18-1 E/W to be World Champion. Bingham, of course is that classic journeyman and the new rules have suited him down to the ground, up from 42 in the world to number 10, number five in the last 12 months on current form.
The final itself was 4-4 after 8 frames and 8-8 after 16, a last frame decider seeing the better man McGuire win out. He looks like the animal he once was and my tip for Sheffield. The loser Bingham still looks like warehouseman and won't be winning the World Championships any day soon.
==== The Result ===
Bingham 8 Maguire 9