The opening day of the European Masters sees the four held over qualifying matches mixed in with a bunch of first round games in the main draw as the tournament gets up and running inside the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
That means we have the four top ranked players in the game at present on show on the first day on Monday and a whole host of decent cueists acting as a pretty strong support cast, so this event should catch fire from the get go.
We have six tables in operation in the early stages of the week and four of those will have cameras on them either for the TV or the Eurosport App and bookmaker streams. The main match in this first session of play will see the highest ranked player already into the main draw in Kyren Wilson in action. He meets Jamie Jones in a good looking contest. Over on the other main table all eyes will be on Yan Bingtao as he bids to make the last 32 against his countryman Li Hang.
The other two matches we will be able to watch sees more Chinese players on show as Zhou Yuelong meets the youngster Gao Yang in a big match for the more established player given the ranking money he is defending. Xiao Guodong takes on Andy Hicks in the other one and then away from the cameras we have Joe Perry taking on Cao Yupeng and a battle of the younger players as Aaron Hill meets Fan Zhengyi for a place in the second round.
It is in the afternoon where two of the held over qualifying matches will be played and they will be the main focus in the session and on the main tables. The televised match will see Mark Selby begin his title defence. The world champion faces Matt Selt who is no stranger to the big occasion now and could be a tricky opponent. Judd Trump will be on the other main table. If he is to make it into the main draw he will have to come past the veteran Michael Judge.
The other four matches are all first round games with the two available for streaming being the ones which feature the Scottish Open champion Luca Brecel. He is involved in a humdinger of a match against the British Open finalist Gary Wilson while the other match sees the former winner of the Shootout in Ryan Day who takes on Jamie O’Neill. The other two matches away from the cameras sees Jackson Page facing Sunny Akani and Graeme Dott meeting Mark Davis.
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Two more heavyweights get their campaign underway on Monday evening. The Masters and Players Championship winner Neil Robertson is one of those on show but it is Ronnie O’Sullivan who will be on the televised table. He will be involved in a throwback of the ages match with Nigel Bond. Robertson will be on the main streamed table when he faces what should be a comfortable tie against the Chinese player Lei Peifan.
The other four matches are all from the main draw in this session with a couple of standout names in the other two streamed games. Our tournament outright pick Barry Hawkins will be on one of them. He faces off against Anthony Hamilton while Jack Lisowski will be on the other when he meets Ashley Hugill. That leaves two matches without the cameras and they involve the Championship League winner Dave Gilbert who takes on Liam Highfield while Ashley Carty meets Soheil Vahedi.
I’ll open the week with just the one bet as we assess conditions and who is up to speed and who isn’t and it might be the fact that one player in Matt Selt has been more active than his opponent Mark Selby that makes the main show in the afternoon session a closer match than perhaps it might have looked on paper. Selt has played in both the qualifying events over the last two weeks whereas Selby has had his games held over to the venues so he hasn’t played since the German Masters at the end of last month where he looked a shadow of himself.
That has been the case for Selby throughout the season for reasons which are now well known but clearly they are still impacting his performance. Selt probably lacks the consistency that he would desire but we saw at the UK Championship that he can beat the best when he took care of Judd Trump. I think Selt is a big price here based on recent activity alone but I’m still a little reluctant to fully oppose Selby but the almost even money on Selt to get to three frames via the +2.5 frame handicap certainly appeals.
Back M.Selt (+2.5 frames) to beat M.Selby for a 3/10 stake at 1.95 with William Hill
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