Home favourite Mark Williams safely advanced to the last 64 of the Welsh Open on Monday in Newport.
The 46 year-old beat Michael Judge 4-1 at the Celtic Manor Resort to get off to a positive start in the last Home Nations event of the season.
A semi-finalist last year behind closed doors, Williams is the only player from Wales to win the tournament despite it having been a permanent fixture on the calendar for three decades.
The reigning British Open champion believes that maybe the home contingent puts too much pressure on themselves but is grateful to be able to play in front of fans again after none were allowed into the venue in 2021.
“It’s much better – just to play like this, it’s a fantastic venue, it’s huge,” Williams, who next faces Kurt Maflin in 2022 Welsh Open, told the World Snooker Tour.
“It was good last year with no crowd but this game needs a crowd, and now they’re all back it is a thousand times better.”
“We’ve been playing the last few tournaments with crowds now as well. No sport is really that good without any crowds watching.
“The crowds are what bring the atmosphere, the tension, and they get involved, so it’s much better.
“I think maybe in the back of your mind – and it could go for all of the other Welsh players – maybe we try too hard if that’s possible.
“I’ve thought about that a few times, there’s got to be a reason why no Welsh players have done any good.
“Maybe the pressure is too much for some of them, or maybe we’re trying a little bit too hard when we should just relax and enjoy it.”
Dominic Dale, in addition to invited local amateurs Dylan Emery and Liam James Davies, all suffered heartache, though, after each suffering defeats in final-frame thrillers.
Veteran Dale was downed by Kyren Wilson while Emery and Davies were edged by Elliot Slessor and Iulian Boiko respectively.
However, two-time former ranking event winner Michael White did advance to the last 32 courtesy of a 4-3 triumph over Allan Taylor.
The majority of the matches on the opening day of the competition were the held-over ties in the preliminary round, with most of the bigger names safely making it through.
Neil Robertson thrashed Jimmy White, John Higgins overcame Pang Junxu, Judd Trump beat Dean Young, and world number one Mark Selby ousted Chen Zifan.
There were wins elsewhere for Zhao Xintong, Mark Allen, Yan Bingtao, Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins, and Stuart Bingham.
But defending champion Jordan Brown crashed out during the morning session, losing in a decider to Mitchell Mann.
Scottish duo Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill were also somewhat surprise losers, dispatched by Fergal O’Brien and Zhang Anda respectively.
Live coverage is available on Eurosport, Quest, BBC Wales, or via other channels depending on your location.
Featured photo credit: WST