Snooker: Walker targets rapid start in Open last 16

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World number 84 Joel Walker is acutely aware he needs to get off to a flier today if he is to keep his impressive run at this year’s Welsh Open going.

The talented potter faces either Stephen Maguire or Andrew Pagett in the last 16 of the world ranking tournament after defeating James Wattana yesterday.

Walker - tipped by five-time Crucible winner Ronnie O’Sullivan as a possible world champion of the future - beat Wattana 4-1 at the Newport Centre.

Given the Open is a best of seven format in the early rounds, Walker knows he can ill-afford to make a sluggish start.

“It is important to start quickly whatever format you are playing in,” he told The Star. “If you win the first couple of frames then it puts pressure on your opponent.”

Breaks of 66 and 65 helped Walker see off Wattana, allowing the 19-year-old to reach the fourth round of a world ranking event for the first time in his career.

Walker, who has also beaten Pankaj Advani and Mark Davis in the event, said: “I played pretty solid in the opening couple of frames against James [Wattana] and then I took my chances in the last two.

“I am just taking my chances a lot more and I hope I can continue improving. I feel I have got better as the tournament has progressed.

“I missed a couple of pots versus James but my safety play was good.”

Maguire and Pagett were in action last night.

“I don’t mind who I play,” insisted Walker. “If I play well, I am confident I can beat anyone.

“It will be tough whoever I play. Stephen [Maguire] is one of the best players in the world while Andrew [Pagett] is playing in front of his home crowd and has played well all week.”

Mark Williams, meanwhile, produced a notable upset, beating world No 1 Neil Robertson 4-3. Williams, a two-time world champion, has fallen to 18 in the world rankings.