The second day of the UK Championship sees the first round continuing on Sunday when the bottom quarter of the draw play out to determine who will compete in the last 16 in this section inside the Barbican Centre in York.
We already saw two top eight seeds fall by the wayside on the opening day of the tournament so the world champion Luca Brecel will be on his toes when he graces the baize on what looks like another competitive day of snooker on Sunday.
Luca Brecel vs Yuan Sijun
The first match on the main table on Sunday sees the world champion Luca Brecel beginning his quest to add the UK Championship title to his world one when he goes up against the Chinese qualifier Yuan Sijun.
There are 41 places between these two players at the outset of the tournament but if you think Sijun is just making up the numbers here you might need to think again. He made five centuries in the 12 frames that he won in qualifying and has reached two last 16s and a quarter final this season so he is clearly in a decent spell of form at the minute. You probably couldn’t say the same thing about Brecel but we know that Brecel is never going to be consistent but when he turns up and it is his week then he can beat anyone and win any tournament he enters. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Sijun comes through this match but I’d have wanted a bit more than 6/4 on it happening and as such I’m happy to leave this one alone.
Zhang Anda vs Elliot Slessor
Over on the other table in the afternoon session we will see the International Championship winner Zhang Anda looking to progress in an event which has a similar format to that one when he opens up his campaign against the qualifier Elliot Slessor.
Slessor had to play the extra round in qualifying to make it through to the tournament so he certainly won’t have the excuse that he isn’t match sharp for this contest but he didn’t really beat a great deal in those three matches and the concern would be that when he has come up against a top 16 player this season he has beaten Jack Lisowski but lost to Kyren Wilson and Barry Hawkins. He also lost to Zhang in the English Open earlier in the season. We have only seen the Chinese player once since he won the International Championship where after a slow start he almost reeled Ding Junhui in at the Champion of Champions but that came less than 72 hours after he won in China so we probably shouldn’t judge him on that. There is no doubt that Zhang has caught fire in recent months and I think he’ll win this but at the prices you’ll need to back a handicap for a decent price and the line is about right. As he is my outright bet I’ll let that ride for my interest here.
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Shaun Murphy vs Hossein Vafaei
The main table match in the evening session on Sunday will see the former champion Shaun Murphy beginning his question for another UK title when he takes on a man who has had some of his best results in this tournament in the form of the qualifier Hossein Vafaei.
Vafaei has taken care of Mark Selby in the last two years of this tournament so he’ll be a danger to Murphy, particularly when you consider that in his two qualifying matches for this event he knocked in four tons and a bunch of other decent breaks. We know that Murphy scores well in these longer format tournaments but I can never understand why he commentates on events the day before he plays. It doesn’t strike me as the best preparation but he has done it enough that you would think he could be competitive at the very least. I think the styles of these two men should make for a cracking contest. Both like the balls open and score and both are in decent enough touch. I like over 9.5 frames at odds against here.
Ali Carter vs Matt Selt
Over on the other table in the evening session the match will see a couple of Essex cueists going at it when the German Masters winner Ali Carter takes on one of the better qualifiers into the tournament in the form of Matt Selt.
Selt will have good memories of this event having dumped Judd Trump out here a year ago and he’ll be looking to take care of another big name here. Carter has had a good 2023 in winning the German Masters last season as well as making the final of the Wuhan Open and he arrives here with his game in decent enough shape. Were it not for running into Ronnie O’Sullivan in a couple of quarter finals, Carter might be having an even better season than he is. I think Selt is more than capable of keeping this competitive but the odds and all the various lines look about right or a little on the tight side for comfort so I’ll leave this one alone.
Back S.Murphy vs H.Vafaei – Over 9.5 frames for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Betway