Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Survival of the strugglers

If yesterday was a day where the favourites prevailed, today was all about two struggling players in the top 16 coming back fighting.

Picture by Monique Limbos
A week ago it was unknown whether the Essex duo Ali Carter and Ronnie O'Sullivan would even make the trip to China.

Now, they're both in second round thanks to their dogged determination.

The Captain has been in a really bad way of late; with his fight against Crohn's disease even threatening to cut his snooker career short.

But Ali has always been known for his battling attributes, and used them here to edge past Dominic Dale 5-4. In a season which has brought little cheer for Carter, this is a big win; his first in 2012, in fact. It's been difficult for him to even play at times and enthusiasm has been low but this result could be the start of  a brave march.

Here's for hoping anyway, as the snooker cicruit is a much brighter place with the inclusion of Ali.

The Rocket hasn't had an easy time in the health department either with glandular fever sapping him of all his energy. After winning the German Masters and advancing to the semi-finals of the Welsh Open to extend his stay in the top 16, he's been a no-show at both the World Open on Hainan Island and the PTC Grand Finals in Galway.

Some critics have questioned the full extent of his suffering but unless you've ever come up against glandular fever it's impossible to make an informed judgement.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Whether you're Ronnie O'Sullivan or anyone else, it's not an easy sickness to fight.

Despite that, he's made the trip this week. He was nowhere near his best but managed to conjure up a 5-4 win over Marcus Campbell from a 3-0 deficit.

The Scot found out the hard way that you've never beaten O'Sullivan until you're over the line. He's always capable of pulling something out from under his sleeve. He'll be satisfied with his comeback but still faces the wrath of his sceptics.

People are saying he's only here because of the World Championship. That may be true. The Crucible is on the horizon and is the most important event for every player.  But the bottom line is: he turned up in China, he won and he still gets slated. He just can't win in some people's eyes.

This wasn't all for the deciding-frame wins. Stuart Bingham managed to sneak past Joe Perry but it was easier for others.

Lu Ning continued his good run with an impressive display to beat Shaun Murphy 5-2. Back-to-back contributions of 114 and 119 helped the youngster on his way as he continues to make the most of his wildcard opportunity. Murphy was left to simply hold his hands up in defeat, beaten by a man in great form.

Peter Ebdon enjoyed the taste of a major ranking event win by beating Matthew Stevens while Ricky Walden sprung the surprise of the day taking down Mark Allen 5-2.

John Higgins and Mark Williams both came through with ease against Rory McLeod and Jin Long respectively. It's no shock to see a return of their efficient displays as the World Championship creeps ever closer.

Now it's time for the last 16.
Tomorrow's second round draw:

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Mark Williams
Judd Trump v Stuart Bingham
Mark Selby v Ding Junhui
Ali Carter v Lu Ning
Stephen Maguire v Ricky Walden 
Stephen Lee v Graeme Dott
John Higgins v Peter Ebdon
Neil Robertson v Stephen Hendry

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