Monday, 28 February 2011

Kurt leads the Beijing bound 16

The China Open qualifiers came to an action-packed conclusion yesterday, as 16 players made it through the gruelling cubicle stages to Beijing.

First through and one of the most comprehensive winners of the day was Norway's Kurt Maflin, who ended his dream week with a 5-1 demolition of former top 16 man Mark King.

A couple of days ago on this blog, I asked how the Romford potter would adapt to life back in the qualifiers.

After an impressive break of 134 in the opening frame, it seemed as if he'd make the transition with ease. But then the world number 91 Norwegian Kurt came storming back to give a timely reminder of just how tough it is to claw your way back into the elite.

Four straight wins see Maflin on a flight to Beijing, but shockingly after all this hard work, his place in the first round of the tournament is still not guaranteed.

He'll have to overcome one of the wildcard players before earning his tie with Ding Junhui.

Twitter has been rife with yet another 'great wildcard debate' over this issue. Many people think it's harsh for the lowest qualifiers to come all this way and still not guarantee their place at the main stages of the event. I have to agree, it's tough on them. But by the same token, I think it's great for talented homegrown players to get the chance to play in front of their home crowd when the biggest tournaments come to town. This won't be the last we hear of the dispute, and I do think some form of revision is required..

Whatever your opinion, you can't deny Kurt his glory. He'll have a few drinks to toast this success.

Here's a run-down of the rest of the qualifiers who can get busy booking their flights to Asia...

There wasn't so much joy for Thailand's Issara Kachaiwong, also playing his fourth match of the week.

He crashed at the final hurdle to Ken Doherty 5-0. The Darling of Dublin looked in inspired form to record this whitewash, and could have had a maximum in the process. But he broke down on his on his 14th red-black.

Another of the fans' favourites, Jimmy White, swiftly followed him through with a  5-2 defeat of Dominic Dale.

The Wind always adds a certain soemthing to a tournament, and winning snooker matches still means so much to him.

The buzz he gets still seems to be as great as it ever was.

Another of the old guard to make it to China was Nigel Bond. That makes it three successive venues for 00147. Still a solid match player, he went past Liang Wenbo, who continues his miserable run of form. He can't buy a win at the moment.

No-one can deny he's a terrific talent, but as long as he keeps trying to pot every ball in sight, players like Bond will continue to sweep him up.

Also in good form right now, are the Welsh duo of Ryan Day and Matthew Stevens. They looked in fine nick in Newport, and continued that at the qualifiers with comfortable 5-1 wins over Tom Ford and Anthony Hamilton respectively.

Judd Trump has been stuttering of late, but he put that behind him to reach the venue with a 5-1 steamrolling of Ben Woollaston, who had come through three rounds before suffering defeat.

It wasn't such plain sailing for Stephen Lee. He had to fightback from a deducted frame down after turning up .late, but eventually crept past Alfie Burden 5-4. This was the only match that went to a decider.

The snooze fest of the day came between Rory McLeod and Marcus Campbell. This match was played at an alarmingly slow rate, but a wins a win for Campbell.

Some people have chose to make a lot of their 'slow coach' mentality, but trust me, the players don't enjoy it either. Sometimes, it's just the way the balls go.

Other winners included Robert Milikns, Joe Perry, Martin Gould, Stuart Bingham, Gerard Green, Barry Hawkins and Mark Davis, who all came through easily enough.

China Open draw (excluding any wildcards):

Stephen Lee v Mark Williams
Ryan Day v Ronnie O'Sullivan
Matthew Stevens v Stephen Hendry
Kurt Maflin v Ding Junhui
Stuart Bingham v Ali Carter
Marcus Campbell v Mark Allen
Robert Milkins v Jamie Cope
Jimmy White v Mark Selby
Nigel Bond v John Higgins
Martin Gould v Ricky Walden
Ken Doherty v Graeme Dott
Joe Perry v Shaun Murphy
Mark Davis v Stephen Maguire
Judd Trump v Marco Fu
Gerard Greene v Peter Ebdon
Barry Hawkins v Neil Robertson

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