Big guns were firing on day one of the ManBetX Welsh Open in Cardiff, with Mark Williams, Judd Trump and John Higgins among the first round winners.
Less than 24 hours after winning the World Grand Prix in Cheltenham, Trump was back on the baize in the Welsh capital and kept his tremendous run of form going as he beat Harvey Chandler 4-0 with top breaks of 85 and 84.
“It was nice to get through so I can have a bit of time off before my next game,” said Trump, who has also won the Northern Ireland Open and the Masters this season. “I have come here to try to win the event so I want to prepare properly.
“There aren’t many players who win back to back events so I have to be realistic. It is draining mentally to be playing week in, week out, so I’m just going to try to enjoy this event and relax. It’s a good time to be playing snooker because there is a tournament every week. There are players who have won five ranking events in a season and that’s a goal I want to achieve within the next few years.
“My mentality at the moment is that I don’t want to drop a frame, so I’m trying my best to win every frame I play. I always enjoy coming to Cardiff because the fans here love their snooker and I always get fantastic support.”
Home favourite Williams was pushed all the way by fellow Welshman Kishan Hirani before coming through 4-3. Tour rookie Hirani made a 126 to lead 2-1 before World Champion Williams knocked in 66 and 80 to go 3-2 up. Hirani took frame six only for Williams to get the better of a scrappy decider.
“It was a tough game, he made a couple of good breaks and his safety had me in trouble,” said Williams, who was the last Welsh winner of this event back in 1999. “People were saying it was a foregone conclusion and I was going to win 4-0 or 4-1, but I know that’s a lot of rubbish. I knew it was going to be a difficult game and I could have lost.
“It would be good for the tournament if any Welshman had a run, it’s unbelievable how none of us have done any good in recent years. It could be because the home pressure gets to us.”
After a poor run of form in recent weeks, defending champion Higgins got a much-needed win on the board, beating Graeme Dott 4-0 with top breaks of 86, 65 and 51.
“Coming back to Cardiff I was trying to think of some good memories that I’ve had here, I’ve won it a few times,” said Higgins, who took the title for a record fifth time last year. “To win any game for me right now is good, my confidence isn’t at the highest. Graeme struggled a lot with the chances he had today, which was great for me.”
Higgins lies 16th on the one year ranking list and is not yet guaranteed a spot in next month’s Players Championship – read more about that here. “I’m right on the bubble,” he added. “I felt if I’d have lost that match then I would have had no chance to qualify for it.”
Shaun Murphy top scored with 102 in a 4-1 win over Adam Stefanow while Jak Jones came from 2-1 down to win a Welsh derby against Matthew Stevens 4-2.
Jack Lisowski recovered a 3-1 deficit to beat Niu Zhuang 4-3, firing runs of 87, 68 and 75 to take the last three frames in just 23 minutes. China’s Zhou Yuelong edged out Stephen Maguire 4-3.
Germany’s Lukas Kleckers top scored with 52 in a 4-0 defeat of Peter Ebdon while Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher enjoyed an impressive 4-2 win over Yan Bingtao.
Veteran Ken Doherty scored a 4-1 victory over Sean O’Sullivan while Scottish Open champion Mark Allen finished with an 82 in a 4-2 win over Mark Joyce.
The first round action concludes on Tuesday.