Welsh Open Preview

With the qualifying stages complete, the attention now turns to the Welsh Open this week in Newport.

The Welsh Open has, throughout the years, been perhaps unfairly chastised as being one of the least important ranking events on the annual calendar.

However, the 2012 edition marks the 20th anniversary of when the tournament was originally staged back in 1992, ensuring that is now one of the oldest and most established events on the tour.

Indeed, of the current crop of events only three majors boast a longer and more illustrious history than that of the Welsh.

Criticized at times maybe, but the Welsh Open has always been a tournament that has been important to the top players which is reflected in the champions that have graced the trophy over the years.

In actual fact, all eleven players that have been crowned victorious in Wales in the last two decades will contest the event this year with the exception of the late great two-time champion Paul Hunter.

Three legends of the sport made it through the final round of qualifying yesterday in Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Irishman Ken Doherty.

Between them, they have accumulated seven Welsh Open titles and the fact that they are still hanging around the higher echelons of the game is a testament to their talent in the first place.

This is especially true of Davis who, at 54 years of age, is still able to graft out victories when fans and pundits continue to predict his likely obituary.

Davis will surely  be fancying his chances of advancing further in the tournament as he faces Ali Carter, probably the weakest Top 16 player at the moment.

2009 winner Carter has endured a difficult twelve months both with form and illness and has openly admitted that he is going to reassess his future at the climax of this season.

In a best of seven setting up until the quarter-finals this should offer hope for those someway down the rankings.

That said, the last eight line-up last year, when the event was played under a similar format, consisted of eight stellar competitors suggesting that the permanence of class theory will ensure that the better players will find a way to win whatever the system imposed is.

Doherty plays Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen in the last 32 and his fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien makes it a trio of Emerald Isle competitors in the strong field after he came from 3-1 behind to oust Mike Dunn in the qualifiers.

Everyone is no doubt that it is time for fresh, young talent to emerge from the Republic as both Doherty and O’Brien reach the tail end of their careers.

Yet, it is nice to see them still competing at a relatively high level and both have enjoyed pretty solid seasons up to this point so it would not be a surprise to see a strong run from one or the other – though O’Brien’s opening opponent of Judd Trump will prove a tad tricky.

Overall, there are a lot of potential permutations to keep the tournament interesting.

What will Ronnie O’Sullivan’s response be to winning the German Masters last week? Can John Higgins regain his form to be crowned champion for the third year in a row?

With four Welshman still in the draw, can there be a first home victory since Mark Williams’ success in 1999?

Either way, it should be another cracking week in Newport and let’s hope for the continued success of a tournament that has, at this stage, earned at least some recognition.

Full draw for the Welsh Open can be viewed here.

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