Professional Snooker - 2016 Kaspersky Riga Masters (Qualifying)
3rd & 4th June 2016 / Guild Hall, Preston, England
RIGA MASTERS QUALIFYING REVIEW - STARS TO FEATURE IN LATVIA
Just like qualifying for the Indian and World Opens earlier on in the week, the sport's top names pretty much had it their own way again during the preliminaries for the 2016 Kaspersky Riga Masters - the final event of this triple header curtain raiser to the new 2016/2017 season.
Players had to negotiate a hurdle here in order to appear at the venue stages later this month. 128 entries in the field, but no seeding, therefore it was an open draw.
Mark Selby's first competitive outing since claiming a second World Championship last month resulted in a victory - but only just!
The World Number 1 was made to work hard by exciting Thai prospect Akani Songsermsawad; eventually ousting the youngster 4-3.
After losing the opener, Selby levelled and then went ahead with a break of 103. But 'Sunny', as Akani is sometimes known, registered a 71 for 2-2 and then left his opponent pointless in the fifth frame to move one away at 3-2 up.
But the reigning World Champ produced a trademark recovery, an 82 helping him force the decider and then by holding his nerve 56-47 in the seventh and final frame.
Another mega star to pip Thai opposition was John Higgins, who was embroiled in surely the tie of the round.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh rattled in runs of 52 and 56 to take a 2-0 lead, but the Scot counter attacked with efforts of 80, 68 and 135 (highest of the round) in going 3-2 in front.
The rapid Un-Nooh squared it for 3-3, but Higgins showed yet more class with a 111 for a 4-3 win.
World Number 2 Stuart Bingham saw off Darryl Hill 4-1, meaning he has completed this week's qualification hat-trick for India, China and Latvia.
Judd Trump beat Rhys Clark 4-0, Joe Perry eliminated Peter Ebdon 4-2 and Neil Robertson fashioned a 74 and then a 70 in breaking away from 2-2 against top-up player Michael Collumb for a 4-2 success.
Mark Williams continues his impressive start to the new campaign; the Welshman had contributions of 110, 108 and 83 in defeating amateur Louis Heathcote 4-1.
The double World Champion has dropped just a frame in each of his three matches in Preston.
Kyren Wilson also made it 3 out of 3; coming back from being 2-0 down to record a 4-2 success over another amateur in Anthony Parsons.
Martin Gould bounced back from his World Open failure a few days ago by trouncing Zak Surety 4-0. The German Masters title holder notched up breaks of 92, 63 and 72 as Surety was restricted to just a total of 40 points throughout.
Incredibly, despite the short formats, Gould is the only top 16 victim during the 8 days action at the Guild Hall.
The highest ranked entrant to suffer defeat over the last couple of days was current No.18 Stephen Maguire, who went down 4-2 to recent Q-School graduate and professional rookie Fang Xiongman.
The Chinaman crafted a trio of half centuries in the process, and gained instant revenge for a 5-0 loss to Maguire in World Open qualifying. Fang made it through to India too.
Alan McManus, Robert Milkins and Ben Woollaston (as well as the before mentioned Ebdon) were other members of the top 32 to perish; they bowed out to Jamie Cope, James Cahill and Adam Stefanow (amateur) respectively.
Gary Wilson, Xiao Guodong, Ryan Day, Allan Taylor, Stuart Carrington, Michael Georgiou, Zhou Yuelong, Mark King, Zhang Yong, Mark Davis, Andrew Higginson and Anthony McGill all enjoyed a 100% record during their time in Preston.
Wilson and McGill lost just two frames in their three matches, whilst Day and Carrington have dropped only three. Carrington was in particularly heavy scoring mode during his 4-0 clean sweep of Eden Sharav - totting up successive runs of 100, 79 and 120.
Day keeps up his terrific qualifying record going; the 36 year old has made the venue stages of every ranking event he has entered since his Last 48 defeat in the 2013 World Championship - over 3 seasons ago!
For non top 64 players Taylor and Zhang, this period of snooker at the Guild Hall has been a real breakthrough in terms of money earned and venues qualified for. They have completely smashed their records from the whole of last season already.
Matthew Stevens and Graeme Dott also remain unscathed, although received walkovers here against suspended pair of Matthew Selt and Leo Fernandez.
After a worrying start to his 27th consecutive year as a professional, 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty picked up his first win with a 4-1 success over Peter Lines.
For all the other results, please visit the snooker.org tournament page here.
Written and published by Michael Day on the 5th June 2016