Top Stars Continue Progress in Wales

The last two days saw the field at the Welsh Open whittled down to the last 32 as the second round took place in Newport.

Once again, there were very few shock results as the tournament begins to edge closer to the business end of proceedings.

Only one top 16 player went by the wayside in the opening round – Robert Milkins – and he was joined by just one other at the latest hurdle.

Mark Davis just scraped past Alexander Ursenbacher last week but he could not repeat the trick against Joel Walker as he went down 4-3 to the talented youngster, once mentored by Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Meanwhile, the ‘Rocket’ himself headed a host of top players who safely progressed into the third round.

O’Sullivan almost compiled the 12th maximum break of his career but missed the 14th red in his opening frame against Barry Pinches, a match he went on to win 4-1.

Very few of the elite were troubled that much with defending champion Stephen Maguire taken the distance in his bout with Sam Baird.

Scotland’s Maguire found himself 3-1 down but reeled off the last three frames to avoid the upset and maintain his hopes of keeping his crown.

Barry Hawkins and Graeme Dott also needed all seven frames to dispatch of Cao Yupeng and Jamie Jones respectively but it was easy pickings for the majority of the rest.

World no.1 Neil Robertson fired in his 87th century of the season as he comfortably beat Rory McLeod 4-0 while John Higgins and Joe Perry also boasted whitewash wins over Ken Doherty and Liu Chuang respectively.

Mark Selby and Ding Junhui surrendered the solitary frame in their clashes but were rarely in trouble while Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen progressed with 4-2 triumphs.

It was a mixed two days for the home contingent but they still have a strong force contending in Wales.

Jones, Michael White and Ryan Day were all left disappointed but two-time world champion Mark Williams, former Masters champion Matthew Stevens and current Shoot-Out winner Dominic Dale are all still in there fighting for home glory.

Lowly ranked Andrew Pagett, whose claim to fame so far in his career is qualifying for the Crucible in 2011, also advanced with a 4-3 success over Gerard Greene.

The Irish representation has ended, though, as joining Doherty on the sidelines is his fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien, who also suffered a whitewash defeat at the hands of the dangerous underdog Liang Wenbo.

From here on out, the tournament should have the feel of a more traditional ranking event with only 32 players remaining.

The next two rounds are still best of seven frames but the format steadily lengthens from the quarter-finals onward.

With an abundance of the big names still involved in the draw it remains difficult to predict who will go on and feature during the weekend’s play.

O’Sullivan and Ding are the favourites, of that there is no doubt, but neither are guaranteed wins over Xiao Guodong and Ben Woollaston respectively, with both enjoying good campaigns so far.

Judd Trump, who overcame Jamie Burnett 4-1 on Monday, has another Scot for company in Anthony McGill, a further player who has looked increasingly dangerous in 2013/14.

The tie of the round is arguably Robertson versus Williams, a match that could potentially feature a lot of big breaks amid an array of long pots, but Carter and Allen promises to be an interesting tie as well.

All to play for then, as this year’s Welsh Open begins to take shape.

The full draw can be viewed here.

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