The second round of the UK Championship will conclude on Sunday and it will be the last day of action across the two rooms at the Barbican Centre in York with the remainder of the event being played out in the main arena.
Among the matches on Saturday we saw some good performances from some big names but we lost some others in the case of John Higgins. The quality keeps on coming on Sunday with the defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan among the stars in action.
It is in the afternoon session that Ronnie O’Sullivan takes centre stage. All eyes will be on him to see if he has recovered from the fever he claimed he had during his first round win on Thursday. He takes on Ken Doherty to whom the extra £5,000 for winning will be very welcome. That will be on the main TV table with the other one being occupied by Ding Junhui. He faces Matt Selt in what could be a tricky encounter for the Chinese star.
Such is the quality of the tour these days there are some huge names on the lesser tables. Luca Brecel faces Liam Highfield in a match which should also be in the main arena with the match between Dave Gilbert and Peter Ebdon likely to be the other one. Elsewhere Martin O’Donnell plays Chen Feilong, Jak Jones goes up against Joe Swail, Paul Davison will take on Yan Bingtao and Gary Wilson meets Sam Baird.
Judd Trump is one of many star attractions in the evening session on Sunday. He faces Dominic Dale on one of the televised tables while The Masters champion Mark Allen will take on Rory McLeod on the other main table with both men expected to come through without too many troubles.
There are some tasty matches on the outside tables in this session as well. Marco Fu will go up against Luo Honghao in one of them while Ali Carter plays Chris Wakelin in what is a huge match for the Captain and his Masters chances. Noppon Saengkham plays Rod Lawler in one of the other matches while Graeme Dott and Matthew Stevens meet in a battle of former world finalists. Martin Gould meets Hossein Vafaei and Joe O’Connor plays Andrew Higginson in the other matches.
I’ll go with three bets over the entirety of Sunday. In the afternoon I’ll take Sam Baird to come past Gary Wilson. Baird was 5-1 down in the last round to Liang Wenbo but it wasn’t as though he was playing badly, he never really saw a ball in those first six frames but he powered back and might feel like he is free rolling from here on in. Wilson is a solid player but probably isn’t a great deal better than Baird when both play well. Baird has a couple of wins over Shaun Murphy to his name this season and in a fairly level match I think he is grossly overpriced to come through here.
Marco Fu came through 6-0 in the first round but worryingly mentioned that his eye is not fantastic still afterwards so I’m wondering if the TV lights will cause something of a problem when he takes on a Luo Honghao who showed how competent he can be when he made it through to the quarter final at the English Open earlier in the season. Honghao walloped Michael Georgiou 6-0 in the first round here which is a pretty decent result and if Fu does struggle a touch then I think the Chinese player can take care of him.
Matthew Stevens is enjoying a renaissance this season of which I’m sure a lot of it is down to seeing his friend Mark Williams lift the world title last term. He made it to the semi-final of the International Championship which should bode well for him in this tournament given that it is the same format. Graeme Dott is never an easy nut to crack but he isn’t in the best form so far this season and he has only won more than one match in the same tournament once since the Riga Masters. Form suggests Stevens should be the favourite here and I’m happy to back him accordingly.
Back S.Baird to beat G.Wilson for a 4/10 stake at 2.63 with Betfair
Back him here:
Back L.Honghao to beat M.Fu for a 3/10 stake at 3.00 with Boylesports
Back him here:
Back M.Stevens to beat G.Dott for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with William Hill
Back him here: