The second day of the qualifying competition for the Northern Ireland Open takes place miles away from Northern Ireland as 16 players head back to Wigan looking for the four frames they need to be able to book a flight to Belfast later in the season.
The bigger names have had their match held over to the main venue so it is the second string and below who will be on show here but with some players already playing for their tour lives it is another big day for some.
As has been the case throughout the qualifying competitions this season, we have a couple of Chinese players taking to the baize in the morning session to satisfy TV in that part of the world. Wu Yize is the highest ranked of the two and he’ll be looking to follow up a good showing in the European Masters when he takes on John Astley. The other Chinese player on show is Zhang Anda and he has a qualifying date with Andy Hicks to overcome.
Early Afternoon Session
Two more Chinese players are on show in the second session of the day with the man who went to the European Masters as the defending champion last week headlining proceedings. That is Fan Zhengyi and he will meet Ashley Hugill while Si Jiahui, who had a decent run in the European Masters, meets the Ukraine potter Anton Kazakov in a match the Chinese player will be heavily expected to win.
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Later Afternoon Session
This was the session where the pick of the matches took place on Tuesday and on Wednesday it will see the highest ranked player at the qualifying competition taking to the baize in the form of Hossein Vafaei. He meets the experienced Mark Davis who will be looking to make the main draw himself. Graeme Dott is one of the more recognisable players on show this week and if he is going to book his spot in Belfast he will need to get the better of Craig Steadman.
The evening session sees another recognisable player taking to the baize when the former Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown is on show. He’ll be extremely eager to win through and qualify for his home tournament. If he is going to do that he will need to get the better of Andrew Pagett. The other match sees the veteran Dominic Dale facing the only woman player on show on Wednesday in the form of Rebecca Kenna.
I’ll take one bet on Wednesday and it comes in the first of those afternoon sessions where I suspect Fan Zhengyi is a little short when he takes on Ashley Hugill. Fan has had a quiet start to the season as he skipped the Championship League. That means he has played two matches this term – his qualifier for the British Open which he lost 4-0 to Jamie Clarke and then his opening match in the European Masters where he went down 5-1 to Michael Judge so he has played a middle of the road opponent and a lower ranked one and won one frame in 10.
Ashley Hugill has been a lot more active this season and had a couple of competitive results in the Championship League and certainly wasn’t disgraced when he took on Judd Trump in Furth last week. It is hard to have much confidence in Zhengyi at the minute and so I think Hugill is the one to be on here. He won their only previous meeting which was at the Gibraltar Open last season after Fan won the European Masters so that feels like a significant result. Hugill finished last season qualifying for the World Championship and feels a big price here.
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