So the wait is finally over and players have travelled far and wide to lock horns in Riga, Latvia. After the recent taster of the World Cup, the meat and bones of the season starts here and fans will not be disappointed as most of the top players are here to jostle for the top prize on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend, I will be giving daily reviews of some of the televised matches and reporting on the highs and hopefully not too many lows of this great tournament that players praise and enjoy to travel to. However there was a sting in the tail as 8 players including last year’s winner Neil Robertson and Robert Milkins was left stranded at Luton airport after their plane was grounded.
First up was a refreshed Ricky Walden who had the youthful Chinese player, Yuan Sijun in the draw. Despite a great start from Walden and within a whisker of winning the first frame, Yuan came back at him and took the frame in the colours. Then it was on to the second with Ricky missing an easy black at the start, Yuan smelt blood and before you knew it, the Chinese player had made it 2-0. However Sijun rattled a black in the third after a promising start and let Walden in but Ricky failed to capitalise, allowing his opponent, another bite at the cherry. Unfortunately Walden had to suffer in silence as Yuan again got the upper hand, leaving Walden with a lot to think about, 3-0. With a strong attempt by Walden, he captured his first frame but were his efforts in vain? This was the case as Yuan took the last frame and sealed an impressive 4-1 win. Walden may have been suffering from European jet lag but never really showed his expertise on the day.
Next up was Ali Carter against the Welshman, Jack Jones. Carter looked brown from a recent holiday but by the end of the match he must have been browned off as an impressive win by Jones left Carter reeling. I have rated Jak for a while and now may be his hour and with the carnage that the Luton grounding has produced in the draw. Jones eased through today with a 4-1 win.
Impressive wins also came for new and established players with Joe Perry beating Anthony Hamilton, 4-2, Graeme Dott with a 4-0 win over Lee Walker, Mark Williams, 4-0 over Jordan Brown and Mark King, 4-1 over Allan Taylor.
This tournament definitely has the makings of a surprise winner and could propel a lesser known player to the forefront of the game. Rather like a game of roulette, no one knows where the ball will land and this is what modern snooker has evolved into. No player is safe and can be toppled at any time. this may be a brutal reality but it does have the positive result of bringing new talent to the fold and chipping away at the early rounds before they meet the last 16 stage. with a best of 7 format, this does make it easier and if a higher profile player doesn’t turn up on the day.
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