The second round of the European Masters concludes and the entire third round will be played out inside the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes on Thursday when we play down to the quarter final line up in the latest event of the season.
The big names fell like flies in the earlier stages of the week so there is a rapidly open feel about proceedings from here on in. Those big names who do remain will be on their toes to avoid being victims of a giant killing.
This is the session in which the second round of the tournament will come to an end. It will do so with the biggest name left in the top half in action on the main table when Neil Robertson faces off against the exciting Chinese youngster Pang Junxu in a clash which could be a banana skin for the Australian. Over on the second main table two class acts meet in the match of the morning when The Masters and Players Championship finalist Barry Hawkins takes on the Championship League winner Dave Gilbert.
Hawkins is one of our pre-tournament picks and the other will be on one of the streamed tables in this session when Liang Wenbo takes to the baize once again. He will meet Noppon Saengkham who overcame Shaun Murphy in the first round. Ricky Walden is one of the form horses in the game at the minute and he’ll be looking to drive himself closer to a place in the Tour Championship when he takes on the talented but very inconsistent Chinese player Yuan Sijun.
It is from the afternoon session where the third round of the tournament will begin with all four tables once again in use with Ronnie O’Sullivan the centre of attention once again. Having overcome a deciding frame in the first round he will be looking to push on when he meets Ashley Hugill in a match the lower ranked player has little to lose in. The other main table action will see two talented Chinese acts going at it when the former Masters champion Yan Bingtao takes on Fan Zhengyi.
The action over on the streamed tables shouldn’t be too shabby either with quarter final spots up for grabs as the Welsh Open champion, Jordan Brown, who defends his title next week, takes on a Graeme Dott who keeps on grinding out results and is looking for that huge week to propel him towards an automatic spot at Sheffield. Ryan Day is on show in the other match. He meets Sunny Akani who held his nerve to see off Luca Brecel in the previous round.
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We only actually know the identity of two of the matches in the evening session so far as the schedule will get finalised once the morning action has been completed. The two matches we know will definitely take place in this session sees the former world semi-finalist Anthony McGill taking on a Kurt Maflin who should be buzzing after beating Judd Trump in the previous round. Fraser Patrick takes on Tom Ford in the other match with Ford looking to follow up an emphatic 5-0 demolition of John Higgins.
Neither of those will be on the main TV table though should Neil Robertson come through earlier in the day. If he does then he will meet the winner of Dave Gilbert and Barry Hawkins on the TV table but if he doesn’t then Pang Junxu will face whoever comes through that instead. The other match will see the winner of the match between Liang Wenbo and Noppon Saengkham going up against whoever comes out on top in the Ricky Walden vs Yuan Sijun clash.
Jordan Brown has worked his way into this season and looks to be hitting some decent form ahead of his title defence in Newport next week and I fancy that can continue when he takes on Graeme Dott on Thursday afternoon. Dott did well to come from 4-2 down to beat Zhou Yuelong on Wednesday morning but he was visibly annoyed with how he was playing in the early stages of that match and unlike the Chinese player, if Brown gets Dott on the ropes I think he’ll keep him there.
Brown seems to have really benefitted from a spin in the Championship League at the beginning of 2022 and is playing some good stuff now. That is evidenced by him beating Mark Selby earlier in the week and while Selby is in nothing like the form that took him to the world title, he is still a scalp on the CV of anyone. Dott just looks to be missing a spark to me and in a match which might well run close and be competitive I think Brown will just have the edge on him.
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