Prestatyn, North Wales in the first week of January is not, perhaps, the glamour snooker reporting gig of the year but here I am at the Welsh Open qualifiers where the circuit has swung into life again after the Christmas recess.
This is at least part of the same country as where the final stages will be played unlike, say, Malta which, with its Mediterranean climate and opulent hotel/exhibition centre venue is about as far from a Welsh holiday camp as would be a snooker tournament on Saturn.
So far today, Andrew Higginson has impressed by completing a 5-0 victory over Drew Henry.
Andy had to wait ten years into his professional career to qualify for the final stages of a ranking event before doing so in the Malta Cup in November. That he has now done so again proves just how important a factor confidence is in snooker.
He made 72 in the first before snatching the second on the black after getting a snooker on the pink.
This appeared to break Henry’s resolve and he scored only one further point in the match as Higginson finished off with runs of 50 and 80.
Also through by way of a whitewash is Jamie Cope, a 5-0 winner over Mike Dunn, who thus won his first match since reaching the final of last October’s Royal London Watches Grand Prix.
Adrian Gunnell similarly beat Alex Borg 5-0 and it was double disappointment for Malta when Tony Drago lost 5-2 to Michael Judge, although I did have the pleasure of witnessing a quite sublime Drago century – a tremendous 111 in something like six minutes – which served to showcase just how natural a talent he is.
China will be represented in Newport next month not only by Ding Jun Hui but also by Liang Wenbo, who beat Mark Davis 5-4 despite the Englishman compiling two centuries.
Dominic Dale will be disappointed not to qualify for his home event. He fought back from 4-2 down against Jamie Burnett but was beaten 5-4.
The qualifiers don’t receive much coverage and crowds are sparse but watching some of the snooker this morning I was struck by two things:
1) How high the standard is across the board
2) How much it means to the players involved
It will, of course, mean a lot to Jimmy White if he can beat Mark Allen later and qualify for a ranking event venue for the first time this season.