Welsh Open 2012 - the countdown begins

02:06:00 Ramona Dragomir 0 Comments

The 20th edition of the Welsh Open starts tomorrow morning at the Newport Centre with snooker's crème de la crème. 

The tournament, that many call it a total fiasco in comparison with the UK Championship or even the German Masters, has pretty strong roots in snooker's culture and it's the sports way of saying "Each year I like to return on the magical kingdom of the Dragons".

Last year's edition was a pretty interesting one, mainly because it was an all Scottish affair (the first in Welsh Open's history) between John Higgins and Stephen Maguire. With a final 9-6 result Higgins was winning his first ranking title of 2011 and his third (after the EPTC 5 and the UK Championship) since his six-months ban.

Higgins and his mum after winning the 2011 Welsh Open
Although this season the Scottish player hasn't quite shined yet, he promised to end the "trophy drought" and retain the Welsh crown that he so proudly won a year ago. Still, this doesn't necessarily mean he'll manage to fulfil his dream, since there are so many hungry gladiators in the race of the big rocky trophy.

The defending champion is facing one very eager to win Liang Wenbo in the first round, the Chinese player getting through the qualifying stages by knocking down each of his opponents, so it's going to be a genuine challenge for Higgins to win his first match.

It's also going to be a challenge for Master Steve Davis who made it at the venue after winning two important maches in the qualifiers, both of them on a 4-3 result. "The Nugget" is facing a very talented "Captain" Ali Carter in the first round and even if the second named one hasn't had such a great run lately, he's still out for the kill, so the six-time world champion will need to give his best on the green baize.

The good, the interesting & the legend Davis
The legends gang is far from showing off, Stephen Hendry getting a spot in the tournament as well. He has quite an impossible match to start with, Neil Robertson being his opponent. 

He's not the favourite to win, but Hendry is used to being the under dog for some time now and after crashing Norway's Kurt Mafling in the qualifiers to get in Newport, he might just put out a fight in order to not leave Robbo to win that easily.

Legend number three is the Irishman Ken Doherty who proved to be in a splendid form in Sheffield for the last few days. He's to meet Northern Ireland's Mark Allen in his first match and if he keeps on playing like he did in the qualifying rounds, we are certainly going to see some fireworks.

The recent winner of the German Masters, the one and only Ronnie O'Sullivan is seeing Hong Kong's Marco Fu for his first battle of cues and I dare to say this is a match that could hold a lot of surprises. Mainly because O'Sullivan has the tendency to lower his game once he wins something, but also because Fu has used us to a brilliant cue action when we are least expecting it.

Can O'Sullivan keep up the good work?
An interesting clash of style is the match that has the names of Tom Ford and Graeme Dott written on the scoreboard. As we know, Dotty can play in two ways: extremely bad, or extremely well. 

If he is to play well then we are up for a snooker show because Tom Ford is hitting the ball smoothly, but if not we might just see a whitewash, because Ford is merciless with his opponents.

Ding Junhui experienced an early exit during the recently ended German Masters. And I don’t think he enjoyed it. Not one single bit. So he will be going for the kill here trying his best to kill the frames from one visit. His opponent is Mark Davis, a brave pink soldier who has been knocking on Top 16's doors for quite some time. He is in a very good form and if little Ding will fight back we are going to be spoiled with a genuine battle of cues coming to you LIVE from Newport.

The real test for Maguire is now
The youngster Judd Trump left Berlin with a lot of bitterness after losing in front of Stephen Maguire in the quarter finals. And since he is a very ambitious lad he'll probably want to prove he still has that winner sparkle. 

He starts as a favourite of course, his opponent Fergal O'Brien not being a very forceful one, to be honest, but on the other side with a lot of experience, thing that Trump clearly hasn't got yet.

Another match to look forward to is Stephen Maguire v. Adam Whicheard. I don’t know about you, but I admit to be very impressed by how Maguire has managed to hold his grip during the recent events. I don’t know is he took anger management classes, but besides some cue bagging here and there he has been cool and his game has improved. 

Murphy needs to get back on track
Now, logically he is the favourite to win this, but since he suffered a huge defeat in front of O'Sullivan during the German Masters' final it's interesting to see if he recovered and if his cue action has got to suffer from it. The real test is yet to come.

This Masters' runner-up, Shaun Murphy is facing a very dangerous player, Mark Joyce. Joyce had survived the qualifiers and he did it by crashing each player he dared to stay in the way of victory. So Murphy will have to settle in quickly and get all of his experience and wonderfully played snooker on the table from the very first start. Otherwise, Joyce will have no mercy on him.

Will the Welsh Potting Machine strike in Newport?
Another strong competitor that comes from the qualifiers is Andy Hicks, the Englishman responsible for the highest break of the qualifying rounds (142) having to face a master of the green baize, Mark Williams. 

It's true that the Welshman hasn't been too consistent with his game and seems a bit out of touch, but since this is a tournament held in his beloved country, I dare to say he’ll be wanting to upset some old rivals and get some silverware under his belt, for it's been such a long time since he did it.

But one things at the time, so let's see who's playing who tomorrow, shall we?

1 Ryan Day v. Michael Holt (qualifying match)
4 Ding Junhui v. Mark Davis

Not before 1.30pm
14 Judd Trump v. Fergal O'Brien
8 Ali Carter v. Steve Davis

Not before 2pm
7 Shaun Murphy v. Mark Joyce
6 Graeme Dott v. Tom Ford

Not before 7pm
3 John Higgins v. Liang Wenbo
2 Dominic Dale v. Sam Baird (qualifying match)

*all hours are UK time

TV coverage:
11:00- 17:00 British EuroSport
13:00 - 16:30 BBC 2 Wales
19:00 - 20:00 BBC 2 Wales
19:00 - 22:30 British EuroSport
23:20 - 24:00 BBC 2 Wales

All matches are played on "best of 7" rule.