The Northern Ireland Open began in style with a lot of heartwarming performances to kick off the day. Amongst those who treated their fans to the best of performances while securing passage to the next round is Stephen Maguire.
The Scottish professional who turned professional as far back as 1998 strolled into round two at the expense of his opponent, Declan Lavery.
Maguire looked to be hobbling due to fracturing his ankle in Yushan. However, he’s secured his pass to the next round where he is poised to lock horns with Mike Dunn or Mark Davis. It was a walk in the park for the world number 14, and he would be secretly wishing that every game came that easy.
John Higgins also secured a spot in round two. The former world number one clinically shoved aside China’s Chang Bingyu 4-2 to secure an impressive win. With all due respect, the Chinese didn’t look like he was woke to the complexities of the game or who he was poised to face. His opponent, Higgins already had 15 ranking titles before he was born in August 2002.
Elsewhere, Yan Bingtao progressed to the next round. Interestingly, there were a number of 4-2 scorelines registered on the first day of proceedings at Belfast. Both Mark Selby and David Lilley dispatched their opponent with 4-2 scorelines, and Yan Bingtao was no different.
The 2017 finalist completed a 4-2 victory over Andy Hicks with an impressive break of 129 to seal his place in round two.
Matthew Stevens also sealed a victory to make sure of his spot in round two. With Stevens, class is permanent, and he made a public show of that class when he took on Chris Wakelin, reeling off consecutive breaks of 136 and 134.
With that win, the two-time crucible finalist has set up a round two game with Mark Selby in what promises to be an exciting, topsy-turvy encounter.
Marco Fu also got on the front foot. The HongKong Professional who pipped Ronnie O’Sullivan to the Grand Prix in 2007 strolled past Gerard Greene, exercising a 4-1 win over the Northern Irish professional to set up a round two fixture with Yan Bingtao.
Gerard Greene might be Northern Irish, but he isn’t destined to lift the Northern Ireland Open at least not this term.
Written by: Roland Arum