HOME favourite Matthew Stevens won a tense final frame decider against world number 126 Matthew Wicheard on day one of the Bet Victor Welsh Open snooker at the Newport Centre.
Carmarthen star Stevens, one of ten Welsh players competing in Newport over the next ten days, made hard work of his opening match.
The 36-year-old has never enjoyed great success in his home tournament having only twice progressed beyond the third round in 20 years as a professional.
Now ranked 19th in the world, the heady days of 2000 to 2005 when he was Masters and UK champion and twice a beaten finalist in the World Championship seem a long time ago.
At 2-0 down to Bath’s Wicheard he seemed to be heading for another early exit but a break of 64 in the third frame, followed by 38 in the fourth and 53 in the fifth saw him lead 3-2 and a 50 in the decider was enough for victory in the end.
“Adam is a good player and I’ve been struggling a bit of late,” admitted Stevens. “It’s not nice to be struggling coming here because you’re trying so hard anyway but I managed to dig deep.
“I’ve got four or five days to practice and I definitely need it so hopefully I can come back next week and play a bit better.”
Meanwhile the 2012 and 2013 tournament winners both eased through to round two with the minimum of fuss.
Ding Junhai, who triumphed two years ago, beat Gary Wilson 4-2 while Stephen Maguire, who won it last year, was a 4-1 winner against Elliot Slessor.
“There was a bit of pressure to win this game but now there is less on me. I won the first frame and just tried my best,” said world number three Ding, who has already won four ranking titles this season.
Despite losing the first frame, Maguire knocked in breaks of 79 and 98 on his way to victory.
“In the first frame he got in total control and in the second he looked in control again but I managed to pot a long red and things changed after that,” said the Scot.
“If I got off to bad start and went 2-0 down which I nearly did, Elliot would have been strong favourite to win. You have to get out of the blocks very fast.
“When I potted the long red – which I probably would get one out of 50 – and landed on black, I made a good break and it seemed to settle me.”