The first round of the World Championship qualifiers concludes on Saturday with the final 11 matches to begin start and finish and the other remaining games also conclude inside the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
Friday was a relatively drama free day but that is a rarity in this event and I’m not expecting Saturday to pass without tension, excitement and plenty of nerves as the final 21 spots in the second round are filled across the three sessions.
Day 3 Recap
We lost our first big name in these qualifiers on Friday as Marco Fu bit the dust. He lost to the Chinese player Luo Honghao 10-7 to miss out on the Crucible for the first time in 15 years. Elsewhere there were easy wins for Joe Perry, Tom Ford and Zhang Yong among others while qualifying specialist Robbie Williams battled his way through too.
It was an up and down betting day for us. Sam Craigie easily covered his handicap coming through 10-2 against Rhys Clark but Alan McManus threw in a shocking performance and allowed Ng On Yee six frames despite the women’s world champion not making a single 50 break. We’ll make profit for Friday’s bets through as Ali Carter leads Paul Davison 8-1 at half time.
The number one seed comes out to play on Saturday and his match forms one of the streamed games in the morning and evening sessions. I am of course talking about Ryan Day. He meets Oliver Lines for a place in the second round. It is Welshmen all the way on the streamed showings as Matthew Stevens is on the other one. Thor Chuan Leong is his opponent over the course of the day.
Two former champions are on the outside tables when Graeme Dott and Ken Doherty begin their quests for another trip to the Crucible Theatre. Doherty faces Andy Lee while Dott goes up against Hamza Akbar. Elsewhere we have an all-Asian clash between Tian Pengfei and Soheil Vahedi while Chris Wakelin meets Fan Zhengyi. Xu Si faces Sean O’Sullivan and Stuart Carrington meets Pang Junxu. The other three matches see Kurt Maflin playing Mitchell Mann, Scott Donaldson taking on Craig Steadman and Lu Ning going up against Allan Taylor.
I’m prepared to give Ali Carter the win in his match. There is no way back for Paul Davison from 8-1 down. It is just whether Carter covers the handicap for us which he should do. Andy Hicks is up against it too. He trails Michael White 7-2 so he has his work cut out, as does Igor Figueiredo who trails Mark King by the same score, but the other matches are pretty tight.
Lu Haotian is a warm favourite to convert a 6-3 lead against Ashley Carty and Jimmy White and Ian Burns should convert the same score against Ross Bulman and Farakh Ajaib respectively. The other matches all have just one frame in it. Li Hang leads Niu Zhuang 5-4 while Ben Woollaston holds the same advantage over Elliot Slessor. Nigel Bond leads Mike Dunn 4-3 and John Astley is 5-4 up on the talented Yuan Sijun.
I’ll go with two bets on Saturday. One starts and finishes and the other is a match from Friday which concludes. The Saturday match I like the bet in comes in the form of Matthew Stevens. He usually comes good in this tournament but it isn’t like he’s had a bad season. He’s actually played some of his best stuff for a while this term and I expect him to be far too good for Thor Chuan Leong. To be fair to the Malaysian he has been more competitive in this campaign but to no massive effect and not only is he up in class here but he’s up in distance too. Leong might hang with Stevens in the early stages, although I wouldn’t bank on it, but the longer this one goes the more I expect Stevens to pull away. He can cover a 4.5 frame handicap in this one.
Yuan Sijun went into his match against John Astley as an overwhelming favourite so he will be disappointed to be 5-4 down and I’m not convinced he will turn things around. Sijun made the semi-finals in Gibraltar but he didn’t really beat anyone in that tournament and there is a world of difference between that and this. If you include that Gibraltar semi he had lost 10 of his previous 11 frames prior to this match so he could just be suffering from a confidence shortage at the wrong time. Astley has done nothing of note this term but he banged in a century in the first session and given that he leads 7/4 is just a shade big. There is a lot of hype around the Chinese player which explains these odds but if Astley can get a good start to the second session and get him under pressure the youngster could easily crack.
WON – Back M.Stevens (-4.5 frames) to beat T.Chuan Leong for a 4/10 stake at 2.25 with Coral
WON – Back J.Astley to beat Y.Sijun for a 3/10 stake at 2.75 with Betfair
Back him here: