There are three first round matches to get underway at the World Championship and they do so when the tournament continues inside the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on a very tasty looking day of action on Wednesday.
Among the 10 players on show on Wednesday half of them have been to the final of this competition so the standard should be very high. There was a feeling that this tournament elevated to a new level of quality on Tuesday and much more of the same is expected on Wednesday.
Day 4 Recap
Three more seeded players made it safely through to the second round on Tuesday. The first of those was Neil Robertson. He was made to work a little harder than he would have wanted but eventually overcame Ashley Hugill 10-5 before Stuart Bingham got the better of Lyu Haotian by the same score. It was one frame closer for Yan Bingtao as he overcame Chris Wakelin 10-6 in a real high quality match. There are two outstanding matches which will finish on Wednesday and we might get a huge upset in one of them with John Higgins trailing Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 5-4 overnight. Jack Lisowski leads Matthew Stevens 6-3 in the other one.
In Play Betting
I almost feel compelled to take Thepchaiya Un-Nooh to see off John Higgins now given that he is still odds against despite showing some real class after Higgins came back to 4-4 from 4-2 down. The Thai won the final frame of the session with a run of 114 and is showing no signs of backing down but history tells us that he struggles to get over the line in the big arenas against the big names. I’m not convinced Higgins turns this deficit around though especially if Un-Nooh can start well on Wednesday morning. I’m tentatively going to leave it alone though. I expect Jack Lisowski to get the job done against Matthew Stevens but I’ve already had a bet win in that match and don’t really need to revisit it again with Lisowski hardly the most reliable here either.
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Kyren Wilson vs Ding Junhui (Wednesday 10am & 7pm)
The pick of the first round matches will open up the day over on Table One and will conclude it as well as two former finalists meet when Kyren Wilson takes on the most dangerous of the qualifiers in the classy Ding Junhui.
We all know he last time Ding went and qualified for this tournament he made the final of it. Nobody wants to go to qualifying but with Ding building on a nice run of form over the last couple of months or so, the fact he has been there and made it through will do him no harm at all now he’s here. Wilson is a tough nut to crack though. He is so solid and seems to save his very best snooker for this venue. This is an absolute stinker of a draw for both men and as such I think it is a match to watch and enjoy quality snooker rather than bet on it and bite our nails on a contest which will surely be tight.
Judd Trump vs Hossein Vafaei (Wednesday 2.30pm & Thursday 7pm)
Judd Trump will begin his quest for a second world title on Wednesday afternoon when he takes on the debutant Hossein Vafaei, although unlike a number of debutants here the Iranian has already won a tournament and achieved plenty in his career.
Nevertheless, this is a different beast entirely but I think Vafaei is experienced enough to deal with that. He is certainly confident enough to and the fact he comes into this event in good form with a real battle in the qualifiers under his belt makes him very dangerous. With Trump his supporters will be clinging onto the fact he’s had a quiet season and will be fresher coming here this year than in previous ones while his detractors will point out he is in nothing like the sort of form we come to expect from him. I think there is a very real chance of an upset here but the bet I like is for Vafaei to make more than 3.5 50+ breaks. He won’t be able to beat Trump without making four 50s but if Trump suddenly turns it on Vafaei could make four 50s and lose. Vafaei is a very good scorer and if he settles into this one early he’ll lay it down to Trump. Whether that is enough to get 10 frames remains to be seen but I expect him to make four 50s in this one.
Luca Brecel vs Noppon Saengkham (Wednesday 7pm & Thursday 1pm)
The final match to begin in the first round of the tournament sees the UK Championship finalist and Scottish Open winner Luca Brecel beginning his quest for a first world title when he takes on Noppon Saengkham for the right to take on the winner of John Higgins or Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the second round.
The Belgian is the favourite to be that man and I expect him to come through but there is a weird dynamic to this one that the seeded player in Brecel has never won a match here before but his qualifier opponent in Saengkham has. Saengkham is very solid but he hasn’t had a great season and I’m not sure he was all that great in qualifying either, although to be fair he scored well and held himself together in the final qualifying round. Even so if Brecel is in the sort of form he was in towards the end of 2021 or when he walloped Trump at the Tour Championship last month he’ll be a tough nut to crack. This looks like perfect watch the first session and assess ahead of the second session material to me though.
Back H.Vafaei – Over 3.5 50+ breaks for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with Betfair
Back him here: