The inaugural Turkish Masters begins on Monday when many of the stars of the game head out to Antalya in that part of the world for an event which is beginning to carry plenty of significance in the calendar even in its first year.
There is plenty of dosh and ranking points available for reaching the latter stages of this tournament and that can have a big impact on the shake up for Tour Championship qualification at the end of the month as well as potentially avoiding the qualifying event for the World Championship.
Apart from a few matches which were held over, we have had a full qualifying round so the main draw will consist of 64 players. They have all been drawn into a bracket which will see the opening round right the way up to the quarter finals being the best of nine frames. Friday is the big day as the last 16 and the quarter finals will be played on the one day. The semi-finals come along on Saturday over the best of 11 and then the first winner of this tournament will be determined over the best of 19 frames on the Sunday where the champion heads away with £100,000.
As the world number one Mark Selby was seeded to be the main man in the top quarter of the draw but he has withdrawn because of his mental health issues. That plays into the hands of the UK Championship winner Zhao Xintong who is now the leading player in this section. The other two players who were in the top 16 when the qualifying for this tournament began are Stephen Maguire and Jack Lisowski. They are both in the field this week.
Martin Gould is one of the higher ranked players from outside of the top 16 who are in this quarter of the draw. He will be joined by Jordan Brown who will be disappointed that his title defence in the Welsh Open went when he lost in the qualifying round last week. Matthew Selt and Michael White both had fair weeks in Newport last week but the real interesting one in this section is Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who are it stands will be falling off the tour at the end of the season unless he can pick up a few results.
Kyren Wilson hasn’t made his way into the main draw yet because his qualifying match was held over to the venue but on the assumption he does come through he will be the leading seed in the second quarter. If he is not up to the task then John Higgins will get the honour of being the highest ranked player in the section. Anthony McGill made it through from the top 16 elite to take his place in this quarter but Stuart Bingham was beaten in the qualifying round.
There are some monster names in this quarter who aren’t in the top 16. The biggest of those is Ding Junhui whose slide down the rankings has been quite alarming. Si Jiahui is here too while Tom Ford and Graeme Dott will be looking for big weeks to try and avoid having to qualify for the Crucible. Michael Holt has more serious things on his mind. He is battling to remain on the tour and could do with a few wins to assist that. Scott Donaldson and Robert Milkins are a couple of others to watch out for.
Sign up for a Boylesports account to get up to £25 in free bets! Perfect offer for this event! Click the image below for this great offer! New accounts only. 18+ T&Cs apply. Gamble Aware.
The man of the season Neil Robertson was meant to be the top dog in the third quarter this week but he has also withdrawn from the event, which leaves the path clear for Shaun Murphy to be the highest ranked seed in the quarter. His form hasn’t been the best this term though so Mark Allen and Yan Bingtao might think that they can use their top 16 seeding to have a good run ahead of the World Championship, although Allen will be in the Tour Championship at the end of the month.
There are plenty more players who could have decent weeks in this quarter too. Hossein Vafaei arrives here off the back of a run to the semi-final at the Welsh Open, a few weeks after his win at the Shootout. Jimmy Robertson has been in two ranking semi-finals this season and will be looking for another here while Ben Woollaston looked good at times last week too. Chinese pair Lyu Haotian and Cao Yupeng are in this quarter as is their countryman Xiao Guodong. Elliot Slessor and Oliver Lines might go well too.
The Welsh Open finalist Judd Trump is the star attraction in the bottom quarter of the draw this week. With Selby withdrawing and Ronnie O’Sullivan not entering the event he is the highest ranked player on show. Mark Williams is the man who is seeded to meet him in the quarter final. Luca Brecel is the only other top 16 player in this quarter because Barry Hawkins came a cropper in the qualifying round last month.
It certainly isn’t all about the big names in this quarter though. One player outside the top 16 landed the Welsh Open title on Sunday evening in Joe Perry and he lines up in this quarter, as does Ricky Walden, the regular semi-finalist this term. Liang Wenbo made the last four of the European Masters and he is in this section as are Zhou Yuelong, the European Masters champion Fan Zhengyi, Ali Carter, Sam Craigie and Matthew Stevens. This is an absolutely loaded quarter.
Two men impressed me in the Welsh Open last week and I’m happy to take a chance on them here in a weaker field. In the top half of the draw I liked the way Ding Junhui played in Newport last week. He made three centuries in the match he won against Michael Holt and then got knocked out in the next round against Ronnie O’Sullivan. I’m going to let him off for that because I don’t think he believes he can beat O’Sullivan anymore and he won’t be running into him this week anyway. In fact, the highest ranked player he’ll meet up to the final is Kyren Wilson and I don’t think he will scare him in any way. Ding doesn’t have an easy draw – he meets Robert Milkins in the first round – but at his best he is more than good enough to go deep with the draw he does have. With the format slightly longer than last week and no O’Sullivan in sight I’ll chance my arm with the Chinese star.
The other player who caught my eye was Shaun Murphy. He looks like he is starting to come good again and he needs to if he wants to carry any sort of confidence to Sheffield with him. He beat Anthony Hamilton in Newport with a flurry of decent breaks but then ran into a train in the form of Ryan Day in the last 32. In the eight frames he won in Newport, Murphy made six 50s and a ton so there is nothing wrong with his scoring. He has repeatedly said he keeps running into players who put in storming performances against him and that was very much the case last week. With the amount of big names missing this week and the better lesser names elsewhere in the draw this might be the week Murphy comes good.
Back D.Junhui to win Turkish Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 17.00 with Coral (1/2 1-2)
Back him here:
Back S.Murphy to win Turkish Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Betway (1/2 1-2)