O’Sullivan Through But Slams Welsh Venue

Ronnie O’Sullivan negated his way into the third round of the Welsh Open on Monday but expressed his discontent at the state of the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.

O'Sullivan also described the new venue as an aircraft hangar - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
O’Sullivan also described the new venue as an aircraft hangar – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

‘Car boot sale’ and ‘shopping mall’ were just two ways that the defending champion described the venue, which changed from Newport this season to better accommodate the 128 flat draw format.

O’Sullivan won his opening two matches against Vinnie Calabrese and Rory McLeod, where he had to come from 2-0 down to win 4-2, before lambasting the playing conditions, in particular criticising the fact that people were “just walking all over the place.”

It’s the unfortunate catch-22 that World Snooker finds themselves in at the moment.

Play in a smaller, perhaps more suitable for snooker, arena but have an elongated schedule like what was the case in 2014, or move to a bigger venue and concede a better atmosphere to allow the tournament to be completed in a shorter time frame.

The start of the Welsh Open has a very Players Championship event feel to it, not helped by the fact that all the encounters up until the quarter-finals are contested under a short best-of-seven guise.

Does this really befit the traditions of the third oldest ranking event behind only the World and UK Championships?

Well, it was only a few years ago that many people were suggesting that the Welsh Open should be cut from the calendar altogether such was the meagre prize fund on offer and the lack of attendances, especially at the early stages of the competition, in Newport.

Matches should be longer than seven frames, of that there is no doubt, but moving the tournament to the capital city could still work out.

The jury’s out until Sunday’s conclusion and we get a better sense of what kind of atmosphere is generated at the business end this weekend.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of other snooker played on the opening day yesterday.

The top half of the draw played their first two matches to reach the last 32 and O’Sullivan will take on home favourite Matthew Stevens on Wednesday after the Welshman recorded a brace of deciding frame victories over Oliver Lines and Ken Doherty – knocking in the highest break of the event so far with a 136 over the Irishman.

Australian Neil Robertson was in scintillating form as he demolished James Cahill 4-0 with the aid of three tons and repeated the scoreline in a whitewash win over Irishman David Morris to set up a meeting with Jamie Cope on Wednesday.

All in all, most of the top seeds advances unscathed.

All except for Masters champion Shaun Murphy that is, who had breaks of 117 and 102 but still lost 4-3 to Wales’ Jamie Jones.

Jones will next play another home hero in Mark Williams, the last Welshman to win the tournament back in 1999, who overcame Lu Haotian and Barry Pinches for a place in the third round.

Pinches had earlier pipped ‘Whirlwind’ Jimmy White in a black-ball 4-3 thriller to really put the 52 year-old’s three-decade tenure on the Main Tour in doubt.

Elsewhere, in-form players Mark Allen and Judd Trump progressed while 2009 champion Ali Carter grabbed some morale-boosting triumphs over Fraser Patrick and Mark King.

The performance of the day arguably came from amateur Ashley Carty, though, who proved that his German Masters qualification was no fluke by beating Michael Holt and Alfie Burden to set up a meeting with Hong Kong’s Marco Fu.

Today it’s the turn of the bottom half of the draw with the likes of world champion Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and Stephen Maguire entering the fray.

The full draw can be viewed here.

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