Ali Carter returns to Newport for the defence of his Welsh Open title today with "no expectations" of how he will perform. The Essex player has struggled for form this season, after an excellent 2008-09 campaign, and is narrowly clinging on to his place at No 5 in the world rankings.
He tumbled out of the Masters in the opening round earlier this month, losing to Mark Williams, and was the victim of two major humblings in the first two ranking events of the season. At the Shanghai Masters he was crushed 5-0 by Liang Wenbo in the second round, and was then beaten 5-1 by Robert Milkins in the first round of the Grand Prix in October.
Carter, 30, believes he can piece his game together again to challenge for the sport's big prizes. He will put no pressure on himself heading into tonight's match against Mark Davis at the Newport Centre, but would love a return trip to the final. "I have no expectations going in," Carter said, "and that is sometimes a good thing as sometimes you can go into a tournament full of expectation and not really perform to the level you hope to. I am not saying that I expect to get beaten in the first round – I just haven't placed too much pressure on myself. I will take it one match at a time."