Surprises were thin on the ground on day one of the BetVictor Welsh Open but it was good to see Mark Williams, the only Welshman to win this title, playing better than he has of late.
“It wasn't the Mark Williams of old, he’s gone for good, but it’s the Mark Williams of a few years ago and I can still give anyone a game,” was the twice champion’s typically forthright view of it all.
Encouragingly for Williams, the long balls were going in. He looked confident and went for his shots.
Williams turns 38 next month. This is approaching veteran status but he is not yet over the hill. He can still be an intimidating presence when he’s floating imperiously around the table.
So too can Judd Trump, although his form these last two months has also been below par. He said after running through Mike Dunn in under an hour that all that had been lacking of late was luck.
Maybe this is a good way of looking at it, even if most impartial observers would suggest that there’s more to it than that. Stressing and worrying about poor results only adds to anxiety. Trump is young enough and certainly good enough to recover his poise quickly.
As players get older, mental scars do form. Trump is 23 and has much to look forward to, so a good run in Newport and recent reverses will be quickly forgotten.
The best performance of the day came from Mark Selby, who midway through the fourth frame of his eventual 4-0 defeat of Steve Davis had a pot success rate of 99%.
It’s true that Davis contributed to his own downfall but Selby’s week off since Germany seems to have left him refreshed and he cued quite superbly, a 144 total clearance the highlight.
Speaking of which...
Traditionally, when a round has been split between the non televised and televised phases it has been deemed to count towards the highest TV break prize. However, World Snooker now say Shaun Murphy’s 145 on Saturday night will only count towards the non-televised prize.
They could clear up the inevitable confusion by specifying stage one (qualifying) and stage two (venue) high break prizes and taking ‘televised’ out of the equation altogether.
After all, Murphy’s break was captured by liveworldsnooker.tv’s cameras whereas if Neil Robertson made a 147 this morning not a ball would be broadcast because the session isn’t being recorded.
This also exposes the folly of determining the match schedule weeks in advance rather than at the start of the tournament.
Robertson is the world no.3 and a former champion. He is playing Ian Burns, the rookie of the season so far. With all due respect, this is a more attractive match than Gerard Greene v Sam Baird, which will be televised this afternoon.
Why not change the order of play to suit the people paying for the tournament, i.e. broadcasters and, by extension, the viewers?
Anyway, one match that will be televised features two world champions, and I don’t mean John Higgins v Ken Doherty. It is Murphy’s meeting with Pankaj Advani, the reigning world billiards champion, which promises to be fascinating.
Advani is a cue sports legend in his native India and his mastery of the three ball game is evident in the thoughtful way he approaches snooker.
India is a coming nation. Talk is strong of a ranking event there next season. Advani and his compatriot, Aditya Mehta, are doing well this season and are both blessed with a good attitude aside from their obvious talents.
Success at the highest level in one sport is hard enough. Snooker may be Advani’s second sport but he has the chance this evening to make a name for himself in the 22-ball younger brother of billiards.