The first round of the World Championship continues inside the Crucible Theatre on Monday when three more matches start out on their journey while the two games which began but didn’t finish on Sunday come to their conclusion.
Over the course of the day we get to see no fewer than three former champions taking to the baize each with the aim of progressing into the second round of this famous tournament and have the chance to earn some big money.
Day 2 Recap
Four matches concluded on Sunday and we had the first two seeded players biting the dust in among them. There was no sign of that in the early stages of the day though with the UK Championship winner Zhao Xintong in impressive form in beating Jamie Clarke 10-2 before Ronnie O’Sullivan got the better of Dave Gilbert 10-5. It was Shaun Murphy and Barry Hawkins who bit the dust earlier than they would have wanted. The former lost 10-8 to Stephen Maguire and the latter was upstaged 10-7 by Jackson Page. Two matches are at their halfway mark heading into Monday with Anthony McGill 6-3 up on Liam Highfield and Mark Williams an extra frame to the good on Michael White leading him 7-2.
In Play Betting
Those two matches which are outstanding aren’t really ones for me to bet on. I say that not just because the seeded players are ahead in both of them and should really get the job done from here, but also because they are my two outright picks for the tournament. Of the two Anthony McGill is probably more vulnerable with a 6-3 lead but he bogged Liam Highfield down a little too easily for my liking and I expect him to get the job done. I think Williams has broken the back of Michael White too and he should get the job done at some point in the afternoon on Monday.
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Mark Allen vs Scott Donaldson (Monday 10am & Monday 7pm)
The one match on Monday that begins and concludes on the same day sees Mark Allen beginning his quest for a world title which everyone knows he is good enough to win but hasn’t been able to get the job done to date. He starts out against the durable Scottish player Scott Donaldson.
Donaldson did well to come through qualifying and wasn’t really in any danger across any of his three matches with the exception of the second one where he trailed Li Hang 5-3 before winning 6-5. The first of those came against Robbie McGuigan who Allen knows very well. It has been a bit of a quiet season for the Northern Irishman since he won on home soil back at the Northern Ireland Open and that has prompted many to believe there could be an upset here. I don’t see that happening but I do see a situation where Donaldson can stay close. He scored pretty well in the qualifying campaign and has three times taken Allen to a deciding frame, including on a big stage at the Champion of Champions a couple of years ago. How close he keeps it remains to be seen but I like over 16.5 frames here with Allen nursing a poor record here and not in the best form.
Neil Robertson vs Ashley Hugill (Monday 2.30pm & Tuesday 10am)
The attention of the snooker fraternity on Monday will very much be on Table Two in the afternoon session when the 2010 champion Neil Robertson looks to start what would be a perfect way of crowning a wonderful season when he takes on the tournament debutant Ashley Hugill.
There was once the school of thought that debutants struggle here but Jackson Page has already blown that out of the water so that will give Hugill a boost here. He has also seen his stablemate Zhao Xintong win in the first round so Hugill won’t lack for motivation here. Whether he is good enough to win this is the bigger question. Robertson has had a brilliant season with four big titles on his mantelpiece but his record here is very poor. Much is made of the fact he doesn’t have room for his pre-shot routine but he has been here enough times to have done something about that so I think there is more to it than that. Robertson should win this but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hugill is good enough to hang around longer than expected. I’m not ready to put my money where my mouth is on that though.
Stuart Bingham vs Lyu Haotian (Monday 7pm & Tuesday 2.30pm)
The last match to get underway on Monday sees the 2015 champion beginning his bid to add a second world title to his CV. He will start out against Lyu Haotian who was taken to the cleaners by Mark Allen here last year and who will be out to prove he is better than that.
Bingham hasn’t had the best season of his career but we have seen a number of times that a player who has had a bad season comes in here fresh as a daisy and performs and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that happens with ‘Ballrun’ here. Haotian did well to qualify for the tournament again but he was helped by the absence of Liang Wenbo in his group. Once Wenbo had been suspended his section opened right up to the extent that Lu Ning was the only player in the top 64 in the rankings that he had to face and even he hasn’t been on top form for a while. If he is at his best I expect Bingham to come through here quite comfortably but I’ll assess the first session and maybe get on at the midway point once we know just how well Bingham is playing.
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