What a fine performance from Stephen Hendry last night. Heavy scoring, strong concentration and bags of determination: it couldn’t have been more of a contrast from his disappointing 5-3 reverse to martin Gould at the same stage last year.
I’m sure Stephen won’t be getting carried away by this but I’m equally sure he will be very satisfied. His challenge now is to keep it going.
Tonight, he faces Ryan Day in the second round. Day scraped through 5-4 against Tony Drago last night in a nerve jangling encounter that had to be watched, in the Doctor Who tradition, from behind a sofa.
Drago is snooker’s version of a high wire walker: you watch him full of dread thinking he’ll fall off at any moment but also know there’s half a chance he will actually make it to the other side.
I was disappointed for Tony because he did so well to come through four qualifying rounds and reach Newport and also there are few players who love the game as much as him.
At least he has given himself every chance of remaining on the tour for another season.
The other second round match tonight pits defending champion Ali Carter against Neil Robertson.
They met at the same stage of last year’s World Championship where Robertson made a succession of steely clearances to win 13-8.
In the first round this afternoon, newly crowned Masters champion Mark Selby will be setting out on his bid to emulate his feat of two years ago and immediately win the Welsh Open.
Judd Trump could cause him a few difficulties but Selby is in the ascendancy and will be favourite to progress.
Ding Junhui wasn’t sharp at Wembley but he’s had a fortnight to get ready for Newport. Jamie Cope is a dangerous player but has not really kicked on since reaching two ranking finals in the 2006/07 season.
John Higgins won the Welsh Open title ten years ago. It’s never been his favourite tournament but he’ll be expected to come past Michael Judge.
Mark Williams’s record breaking run of 48 consecutive opening round victories in ranking events was ended by Fergal O’Brien at the 2003 UK Championship.
O’Brien has won only one match all season – to qualify last week – and Williams was flying at Wembley so a home victory appears likely.
The quality of the play has not been matched by crowd turnout. Also, table two is such a tight set up that it reminds me of the old Steptoe and Son episode where they install a snooker table without any room to play, so have to cue through the windows.
Harold, you’ll recall, is already out.