An excellent prize fund and the increase of first round matches to a best-of-11-frame format has added a sense of importance to the International Championship that has been lacking slightly at the other tournaments so far this season.
|Picture by Monique Limbos|
Yesterday, I blogged about Cao Yupeng's fantastic win against John Higgins.
Today, it was Aditya Mehta's turn to be thrust into the bright lights of a major venue. The Indian number one took his debut at a major event confidently in his stride with a 6-4 win against Stuart Bingham.
Like Higgins, Bingham had his problems. He blamed the roll on the table for coming in at the interval 4-0 down. But take nothing away from Aditya. He's been arguably the most improved player on the tour this season and plays with a maturity way beyond his years.
Never rash and always measured, but still attacking. This isn't an easy balance to strike
For every player who enjoys great success on a week like this, there are those who suffer massive disappointment.
Martin Gould's spell in the top 16 came to an end today and with it his place at The Masters in January faded away. He lost 6-5 to Marco Fu and appears to be desperately lacking the confidence that saw him break into the elite over a year ago.
The Pinner Potter remains a class act and I'd back him to bounce back but right now he needs to rediscover his best.
Mark Williams also struggled, spluttering round the table suffering from illness. That helped Mark Davis to a 6-4 win.
The two stand-out performances today came from Stephen Maguire and Mark Allen.
The Scot raced into an unassailable 4-0 lead against Jamie Burnett with a demonstration of ruthless snooker, and eventually ran out a 6-3 winner.
Mark Allen hit five on the spin to see off Robert Milkins 6-2. He's oozing confidence right now and must feel untouchable the way he's playing.
Who else to watch for?
Judd Trump, Ding Junhui and Shaun Murphy looked comfortable enough in round one. World number one Mark Selby will feel adequately equipped to go all the way after seeing off tough-as-boots qualifier Ali Carter.
But keep your eye on Neil Robertson. He wasn't at his best to see of Ryan Day and is yet to sparkle in China, but he has a habit of playing his way into tournaments and is a strong favourite in his quarter.
Bring on round two....
Last 16 draw:
Judd Trump v Aditya Mehta
Lu Haotian v Dominic Dale
Stephen Maguire v Peter Ebdon
Neil Robertson v Matthew Stevens
Mark Davis v Marco Fu
Shaun Murphy v Ding Junhui
Mark Allen v Cao Yupeng
Mark Selby v Ricky Walden