It is the penultimate day of qualifying for the Turkish Masters on Saturday with another 24 players taking to the baize inside the Morningside Arena in Leicester each looking to secure the one win needed to book a seat on the plane to Turkey next month.
It is a big day for some players on show on Saturday because as well as qualifying for this tournament, some have it on their minds about the need to pick up ranking points to push for automatic qualification for the World Championship.
One of those players will be on the main table first up when Martin Gould takes centre stage. He is on the fringes of the top 16 and a monster run in an event between now and the World Championship cut off could easily see him straight through to Sheffield. If that run is to come here then he needs to see off Craig Steadman. Another man with an outside chance of making it through to the Crucible automatically is Graeme Dott and he’ll be on the other main table. He takes on the youngster Sean Maddocks.
Two other matches goes on around the arena with Scott Donaldson the highest ranked player in them. He has the chance to revive what has been an up and down campaign when he takes on the Chinese player Chen Zifan. The other match was due to see Noppon Saengkham in action but he has had to withdraw which means that it is the amateur player Mark Lloyd who will go up against Oliver Lines for a place in the main draw.
The big names come out to play in the afternoon session on Saturday and the current biggest of them is the recently crowned UK Championship winner and German Masters champion Zhao Xintong. The exciting Chinese superstar will headline the session when he takes on Louis Heathcote. Over on the other main table the UK semi-finalist Barry Hawkins will be on show. He meets another competent Chinese player in Yuan Sijun for a place in the main draw.
Such is the quality on show in this session that Stuart Bingham will be reduced to a role on the outside tables when he goes up against the talented Welsh youngster Jackson Page in a match which has a banana skin look to it. The other match in the session sees the veteran Dominic Dale on show. He meets the Chinese amateur Si Jiahui who caused a stir when he beat Shaun Murphy at the UK Championship a couple of months ago.
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It is the newly crowned Championship League winner John Higgins who will lead up the evening session on Saturday. He takes on the veteran player Barry Pinches in a match which should see the Scot cruise into the main draw. That will be on one of the main tables and on the other Shaun Murphy gets the chance to revive what has been a terrible season for him so far when he takes on a Jimmy White who could do with stringing a few wins together.
This session is loaded to the extent that Mark Allen can only find a place on the outside tables. The Northern Ireland Open winner has been in good form this season and he’ll look to maintain that when he has a tricky assignment with the talented Chinese player Chang Bingyu with the other match seeing Chris Wakelin looking to ease the pressure on his tour place when he meets yet another Chinese talent in the form of Gao Yang.
There isn’t a huge amount that I like over the course of Saturday but I do think Si Jiahui could be primed for a good go at Dominic Dale. These two met at the UK Championship where Dale won 6-4 but he had been fairly active prior to that match whereas here Dale has only played one Shootout frame since the UK Championship so one speed frame in two months, whereas his opponent here has been much more active having featured in the Scottish Open and two Q Tour events since the UK event in York.
Si won the first of those Q Tour events so he carries some winning form into this match with him and you can never underestimate that at this stage of a campaign. Had he not won four frames against Dale at the UK Championship I probably wouldn’t have gone near him here as there would be a danger that the Welshman would use his experience against him and outsmart him but that wasn’t the case in York so I think given the difference in activity between the two men Si Jiahui can reverse that result.
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