Friday, 11 February 2011

Whitewash is the way to Wales

Fourteen qualifiers secured their place at this year's Welsh Open today.

They say the qualifying circuit is as tough as it's ever been, but judging by six players booking their slot with 4-0 wins, that was dispelled a myth, as Sheffield became domination station.

And to boot, only one match went the full distance.

Marcus Campbell, Stuart Bingham, Gerard Greene, Dave Harold, Jamie Burnett and Barry Hawkins all swanned through without losing a frame...

Stoke potter Harold is likely to be the happiest of that bunch, as he beat higher-ranked Liang Wenbo. He'll now face Ricky Walden at the venue. While he may have reason to celebrate, Wenbo's slump is definitely alarming.

Bingham continued his march towards the top 16 against Paul Davison, but Mark Selby now stands in his way of further progression. He's likely to face a stern test off the back of reaching the German Masters final.

Greene beat Ian McCulloch to come against Stephen Maguire. Campbell sunk Joe Jogia to meet Ding Junhui and Ali Carter will meet Hawkins after he conquered Andy Hicks.

Shanghai Masters runner-up Burnett will be back playing venue snooker again, as he cruised past Tom Ford to meet Graeme Dott.

It wasn't such a good day for Judd Trump who was dumped out by veteran Rod Lawler.

It may be 15 years since he enjoyed his highest career ranking of 20, but he continues to be a threat on his day.

As an ever present of the pro tour for the last 20 seasons, he knows his way round the table, as showed experience still counts. His reward is a tie with Mark Allen, who will have his back up after a poor showing in Berlin.

The biggest shock of the day though was reserved for Rory McLeod as he dismissed in-form Stephen Lee 4-1, to dash his hopes of breaking back into the top 16. McLeod often doesn't get the praise he deserves.

His slow style of play doesn't always make for the most entertaining viewing, but he continues to ply his trade just below the top 32 and regularly qualify for venues.

You're always in a game when you're playing Rory. Jamie Cope will find that out in Newport.

Andrew Higginson can no longer make the top 16 cut either, after he went down 4-1 to Michael. Holty hasn't had the best of seasons but can put that right when he meets Mark King, who is rocking.

Marco Fu's hopes remain alive though. He built on his run to the German Masters semi-finals by beating Berlin quarter-finalist Joe Swail 4-1. He'll meet Germany's winner Mark Williams at the venue and has it all to do.

Dominic Dale was another player who continued his good form this season. The Welshman booked his place at his home tournament with the 4-2 scalp of Mark Davis and will meet Peter Ebdon in round one.

Joe Perry's resurgence goes on. As a 4-2 winner over Tony Drago, he meets Stephen Hendry who needs a win to secure his top 16 status.

In the day's other matches, Shoot-Out king Nigel Bond set up a clash with world champion Neil Robertson, after beating Ken Doherty 4-2, while Jack Lisowski stunned Martin Gould in the only match to go to a decider, as reported earlier.

That leaves the first round draw almost complete for this year's tournament. All that's left is for the Welsh boys to play their final qualifying matches. Ryan Day against Jimmy White is sure to be a crowd pleaser, with Ronnie O'Sullivan awaiting, and Matthew Stevens takes on Anthony Hamilton with a match against Shaun Murphy in waiting.

We've come to expect closer fought matches in qualifying in recent events, but today was somewhat of a formality for most of the winners.

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