April 25, 2018

World Championship 2nd Round Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:35 am

The first round at The Crucible is always a real buzz, it’s where the premise is set for the mood of the rest of the championship and where the stories are made, first time winners, shocks, impressive and shaky starts, we usually get them all and this year is no exception.

It’s funny really, in that we seem to have completely changed the focus when it comes to the players that have come here through qualifying. In recent years, in fact every year since the format changed the talk has been about those arriving from the qualifiers being ‘dead men walking’, potters that were already potted out after the gruelling marathon of (then) Ponds Forge and now the EIS.

But this year the message being peddled is a very different one. Tired? Burnt out? Not on your nellie, these qualifiers are primed to precision, they have spent the last week and a half harnessing their already razor sharp skills and winning those three matches. Coming here match fit is now the new burnt out. If we are to believe what we are being told it’s now the seeds who are at a huge disadvantage in Round 1, having had their feet up since Beijing, waiting to wallop a clapped out zombie in Round 1 only to be met by a potting machine. That’ll learn ’em.

The players are clearly beginning to believe all this with one of them even saying that next year it might be an advantage not to be seeded. It just proves the old promotional message, say it loud enough and enough times and eventually people will believe it. Especially if you back it up with ‘evidence’, though if you dig deeper into the evidence it’s clear that the pattern of seeds v qualifiers these past few years has altered very little in terms of how many get through Round One and how many don’t.

Anyway, it’s time to have a look at the second round, match by match. At time of writing the first round bets flagged up have gone extremely well and I hope this will continue as we move into the 3 session best of 25 framers. If you aren’t following me on Twitter you may have missed the specific daily bets that have been flying in, so sorry about that, but I have been telling you to do so now for quite a while. Hashtag Careless.

So, who will be lining up in the quarter finals this year? Remember, for the head to heads just click on the match and be transported to the magical kingdom of Cue Tracker.

Joe Perry v Mark Allen

Highly impressive form from both of these two in Round 1 with Joe schooling the World Champion and World Number 1 Selby and Allen keeping a dangerous Liam Highfield at arms length for the match entirety. In terms of scoring, Perry had the edge of the two in the opening round with Allen being solid enough but with a highest break of just 89. The head to heads between the pair are dead level and only a single frame seperates them in a total of 55 played, so you’d imagine that they will need more or less the full 25 quota to sort this one out. Perry to me looks very content with his form and is playing very ‘matter of factly’, with a way around the table that suggests he’s not really that arsed if he loses because he quite fancies a holiday. Allen on the other hand seems eager to prove that he can produce over the longer distances consistently and not just the short ones. The Masters Champion does have a little to prove at The Crucible as for a player as good as he is he has little to show here for his efforts, Perry has a better record at The Crucible and to me he looks quietly confident. There won’t be much in this but I’m going to just side with The Gent.

Prediction: Perry to win 13-11   

Kyren Wilson v Jamie Jones

Jamie Jones again came alive here in Round 1 and won another fantastic encounter with Shaun Murphy with heavy scoring and bottle in reserve. Kyren was a little more under the radar with his workmanlike performance against Matthew Stevens, this included a run of four frames in the middle of the match which basically got it won for him. He’s a bit like that Kyren, he tends to feel his way into a match and then all of a sudden flick a switch and start dominating, a very rare and advantageous quality to have. Jamie on the other hand is very much a maverick, you seem to live the match with him and feel how he is feeling which is probably why he has such a loyal and enthusiastic fanbase. They have never met over anything more than best of seven but Jamie will probably be glad this one is a lot longer as he’s lost 5 of their 6 previous encounters. My feeling on this match is that Kyren will not give Jamie anything like the chances that Shaun did. He plays a lot tighter a game than Murphy and is prepared to wait patiently for an opening and force his opponent to make errors. Jamie could well get a flyer and pick up where he left off but I have a feeling this match might be one in which Kyren wins or draws every session and rides out the match as one big one made up of three short ones. Hence the predicted scoreline.

Prediction: Wilson to win 13-9 

John Higgins v Jack Lisowski

Jack at last seems to be producing what most of the living Western world knew he had in him on the big stage and his performance against Stuart Bingham not only demonstrated his ferocious potting and break building but also a cooler head when things get tight, which it goes without saying he is going to need here. The good thing about playing Higgins is that you know exactly what you are getting, the downside is that what you are getting can sometimes be impossible to match. He didn’t look quite at his best against Un-Nooh but once challenged he pulled out what was necessary. It goes without saying that Jack will need to be at his best to win here and even then that might not be enough, this is a huge test for him and if he can overcome it I think he’s a live contender to lift the trophy, he did also beat Higgins convincingly recently in China. It’s a real head versus heart this one, unfortunately for me this time, it has to be Higgins.

Prediction: Higgins to win 13-10  

Ricky Walden v Judd Trump

Well, what can you say about Judd’s first match other than, you’re sooo Judd Trump? Looked for all the world to be coasting only to start playing like a man with no eyes and get pegged back, this time though he managed to win and avoid yet another roasting by snooker fans on social media, but is it simply a case of delaying the roast for another few days? Walden said he was happy with how he played in his opener but he was another who looked very edgy towards the end against Brecel, though he never really looked like losing. But for both of them this is a new day and if patterns are anything to go by this might again be a very tetchy affair. Judd holds the aces in the head to heads but for me a repeat of his previous match and he’ll be heading home, Walden too I think will need to step up a gear and try his best to boss this one from the start. But hey, whatever pattern the match takes it will still take winning and if it gets close I’d side with Ricky.

Prediction: Walden to win 13-11


Ding Junhui v Anthony McGill

McGill battled through and showed his fighting qualities at the end against Ryan Day, who was inexplicable awful in the second session and allowed the Scotsman back into it with very little resistance. Ding on the other hand dominated Xiao from the off and looks content and happy, his health concerns that plauged him during the UK and The Masters now seem like a distant memory and he is obviously a big contender again for the title. A bit like Judd, Anthony has already used his get out of jail card and you have to say that this match is probably a mountain too high for him, I expect Ding to win quite comfortably.

Prediction: Ding to win 13-6  

Lyu Haotian v Barry Hawkins (never played each other)

Contrasting pathways here for these two. Its fair to say that if we take first round form at face value and apply it to this match then Lyu would ride out a comfortable winner. His scoring prowess against Marco was there for all to see and it isn’t clear how much of this was down to the fact that Fu was just not ready for the match and how much was Lyu believing that he can actually become an unlikely star here this year. Barry can console himself with the fact that things can only get better, if his tactic is to gradually build up to a peak at the business end of the championship he has started as planned as he was as poor as I’ve seen him in a long time in beating Carrington the other night in a match, shall we just say, that won’t be getting many repeat watchers on You Tube. In terms of head to heads and very much like when all the toilets were stolen from the local billiard hall, we have nothing to go on. Hawkins fans will just have to hope that the opening round was a blip and not an indicator of Barry’s form and that Lyu starts missing. Having backed Barry in the outrights I hope he wins but he will have to improve a lot and hope his opponent begins to feel the occasion. That’s enough to make me select the Chinese player, but I won’t be having a bet in this one.

Prediction: Lyu to win 13-11     

Mark Williams v Rob Milkins

The walk-on tunes when these two walk out belong more at the British Legion than The Crucible but what follows will be every inch worthy of this great stage. MJW got the match won against Jimmy Robertson early and you could sense that he lacked a bit of motivation coming out to finish it off before he finally did and in some style. He proclaimed himself afterwards in the form of his life and who are we to disagree? Rob bossed Neil Robertson from the off in their match and Neil didn’t, it has to be said, put up a great deal of resistance, but that takes nothing away from Milkins achievement, like Jones he comes here and beats the same seed in the same round as he has done before. I think this one will probably go the same was as the match involving Jones in that Williams will win or tie each session, keeping the Gloucester man at arms length. 

Prediction: Williams to win 13-8 

Ali Carter v Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ooooohhhhh Ali, look at the head to heads….I know you don’t want to and I know you remember every match but it’s something we just can’t ignore. 14-0 including 4 times here, is it possible that it might, just be 15th time lucky? Once Ronnie woke up on Sunday and heard Selby had lost he decided he might as well come back and beat Maguire after all. Despite the early scare and misfiring rocket headlines on hold he came through in the end in an assured way and a way, I’d argue, that he hasn’t the last two years, looking focused and happy. He sat with the press for ages afterwards extolling the virtues of celery, plugging his book and claiming he will live until he’s 200. For his part, Ali showed all his famous battling qualities to come back from a 3-6 deficit to Dotty and overturned that particular Crucible hoodoo, so at least he can draw on the fact that he reversed historical form here in the last round. But to see anything other than an O’Sullivan win here would I think be me speaking as a mate of Ali’s rather than a blogger, I have to side with Ronnie to do for the sixteenth time, something he has done fifteen times before. Best of luck Cap.

Prediction: O’Sullivan to win 13-8

RECOMMENDED SECOND ROUND ACCA: Pays 13/2 at Marathonbet: Perry, Wilson, Higgins, Williams and O’Sullivan all to win.

RECOMMENDED HANDICAP ACCA: Perry (+2.5), Wilson (-1.5), Higgins (-2.5), O’Sullivan (-4.5) pays over 9/2 at Bet 365. 



Ricky Walden, Jack Lisowski and Stuart Bingham Post-Match Interviews

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:35 am

A very edgy encounter yesterday afternoon saw Ricky Walden overcome Luca Brecel to proceed to the last sixteen while last night Jack Lisowski became the latest seed-slayer with a very impressive victory over Stuart Bingham. Here is what they all (except Luca) had to say afterwards.


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