Remember to check out my exclusive photos and videos from this event, they will be added periodically over the next few days.
I arrived at Telford this morning and found the International Centre (eventually after a long walk in the snow on badly maintained public footpaths...) and was ready to watch the big matches today. My initial impressions of the venue is that it is very big, but that means that they have room for lots of stuff including a bar, multiple food vendors, a cue zone (table with organised challenges), merchandising, loads of banners and posters and several TV screens showing archive footage. It's a better venue than Wembley for the Masters but in a worse location, (well for me anyway!).
First up in the arena (which I thought looked amazing, but too similar to the World Open layout in my opinion, needs more individualism) was defending champion Ding Junhui against the resurgent Matthew Stevens. Ding was cueing like a dream today and apart from failing to get over the line a couple of times, he managed to dispatch Matthew with relative ease, with breaks of 135, 103 and 101. Ding will now face Mark Allen in the next round after he managed to beat Tom Ford with out much struggle, including a 141 break which puts him in high contention for the maximum break prize of £5000 at the end of the tournament.
The other big match that I got to see some of was the returning John Higgins against another PTC winner, Stephen Lee. I expected John to be playing well but I did not expect him to knock in a century in his very first match back on British TV. I also did not expect a second century in the second! Lee then fought back with a century of his own in what was a very high quality match that finished 4-4 overnight.
I also got to see the tail end of the Mark Selby v Ricky Walden match in which Ricky apparently won most of the frames in the first session. But when I joined it, Selby was 6-5 up and continued to dominate for most of the match, including a nice 109 break to win the penultimate frame. Ricky had several chances but Selby seemed to out class him completely with some amazing pots in the last frame. Mark now faces Stephen Maguire in the next round who came out a 9-6 winner over Ireland's Ken Dohery who will have to be condoled by the fact he gets to join the BBC commentary team now. Stephen knocked in top breaks of 137 and 127 on the way to the victory line.
I am back there tomorrow so there will be more exclusive photos and videos to come, stay tuned!
Ding Junhui 9-4 Matthew Stevens
Mark Allen 9-5 Tom Ford
Stephen Maguire 9-6 Ken Doherty
Mark Selby 9-6 Ricky Walden
To Finish Tomorrow:
Graeme Dott 3-5 Martin Gould
John Higgins 4-4 Stephen Lee
Peter Ebdon 4-4 Andrew Higginson
Neil Robertson 7-1 Rory McLeod