The Turkish Masters is a new tournament on the snooker scene this season and the qualifying competition for the inaugural staging of it gets underway in Leicester on Wednesday when the first of five days of action takes place.
We have 12 matches on the schedule on Wednesday with 24 players taking to the baize knowing they are one best of nine win away from securing their place at the lucrative main draw later in the campaign. Jack Lisowski and Stephen Maguire are the headliners on the first day.
Lu Ning is the highest ranked player in the morning session and he will get one of the main tables as a result of that. The Chinese ace will have seen what his compatriots Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao did at the weekend and will be looking to follow in their success. He meets a fellow Chinese player in Lei Peifan. Mark King is the next highest ranked player on show in the morning and he’ll be on the other main table. He gets a tussle with Zak Surety for a place in the main draw.
Two matches take place on the outside tables on Wednesday morning. They see Martin O’Donnell looking to finally get what has been a largely disappointing season going. He meets the veteran Michael Judge for a place in the main draw while the most appealing match of the session could be the other match as two of the better youngsters on the circuit meet when Pang Junxu looks to continue to fulfil his promise against Aaron Hill.
Matt Selt has already won one title on foreign soil and he will look to get himself in the main draw to give him a shot at another crown away from home. He is the top ranked player in the afternoon session so he’ll be on the main table when he takes on Zhang Anda. The other main table match is another all-Chinese affair between Xiao Guodong, who is in danger of being forgotten with the success of the likes of Xintong, Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong, and Xu Si.
We have a former world champion on one of the outside tables on Wednesday when Ken Doherty looks to qualify for the new tournament. He faces a tricky little test though as he will meet Anthony Hamilton who is having a quietly acceptable campaign so far. Liam Highfield will be annoyed at letting a good chance for valuable ranking points slip away in Berlin last week and he’ll be eager to win here to get some more points on his total. He takes on Ashley Hugill.
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This is the session where the bigger names begin to come out to play. Stephen Maguire is the top seed on show throughout the course of the day and his match will be on the main table to front up the evening. He meets another talented Chinese player in Zhao Jianbo. Jack Lisowski will be the other big name gracing the baize in this session. The classy left-hander will be looking to book his spot in Turkey when he takes on the World Seniors champion David Lilley.
Two other matches take place in what is actually a decent evening session overall. Jordan Brown will defend his Welsh Open title later in the month and he’ll look to go into that tournament with a win in this qualifying event. He takes on Bai Langning who has more promises than his results this term have suggested. The other match is a clash of the Yorkshiremen as David Grace meets the recently crowned UK Seniors champion in Peter Lines.
I’ll go with one bet to open up the competition and that comes in that evening session where I like Peter Lines to get the better of David Grace in the battle of two men who will know each other pretty well. That can be a concern but I think the need of Lines to keep winning matches will allow him to put friendship to one side for a few hours. He carries good winning confidence into this match after a run to the last 16 of the UK Championship where he was 4-4 with eventual winner Zhao Xintong at one stage before losing 6-4, and then landing the UK Seniors title.
That is much more than Grace has. Grace tested positive for Covid which meant that he couldn’t compete in the Shootout and unless he has a table at home he won’t have been able to practice for a week. He didn’t qualify for Berlin last week so the last competitive hit that Grace has had was at the UK Championship at the end of November. That isn’t ideal preparation for this one. Grace has only won three of 10 knockout matches this season with Peter Devlin the highest ranked player he has beaten so he wasn’t exactly playing well prior to this extended break. Although they were a good while ago, Lines has won both their previous meetings and looks a huge price at 6/4 to win this one too.
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