The first round of the World Championship continues inside the Crucible Theatre on Sunday on a day where four matches will come to a close and the second round draw starts to take a little more shape on another busy day of snooker.
Saturday saw the defending champion Mark Selby make it through to the second round and on Sunday the likes of the UK Championship winner Zhao Xintong and World Grand Prix champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will be looking to join them.
Day 1 Recap
The opening day was all about the defending champion Mark Selby and he safely negotiated his path through to the second round when he came out on top against a determined Jamie Jones, beating the Welshman 10-7. Four matches played their first session on Saturday ahead of a Sunday conclusion. Zhao Xintong had the best of it as he opened up a 7-2 lead on Jamie Clarke while Ronnie O’Sullivan won the last six frames to go from 3-0 down to Dave Gilbert to lead him 6-3. That is the same score Stephen Maguire leads Shaun Murphy by. Murphy wasn’t the only seed to end the day trailing 6-3 as Barry Hawkins did likewise against Jackson Page.
In Play Betting
A feature of this tournament is the ability of being able to watch the early stages of a match and then get a bet on it before it resumes for a later session. There are four such matches for us ahead of the Sunday play. I expect Zhao Xintong and Ronnie O’Sullivan to complete routine wins while I already have a bet on the Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire match but I’m happy to get involved in the other one where I’m not convinced Barry Hawkins is done with Jackson Page just yet.
Page will go into the final session leading 6-3 but it would have been 7-2 but for a steal in the final frame on Saturday by Hawkins. Hawkins still hasn’t scored a 50 break in the entire match and yet he is only three frames behind Page who has six of them and a century in a first session where he really sparkled. The dynamic of this match is different now. Page will be sleeping on a lead for the biggest win of his life and that is sometimes an uncomfortable position to be in. If he starts to feel the pressure and get nervous then Hawkins is more than experienced enough to recognise that and pounce. Hawkins is a very good player from behind, much better than he is as a frontrunner and I can’t believe he’s going to go a whole two session match without scoring. I expect him to come roaring back here. Whether it is enough to win the match I’m not sure but he can get closer enough to bring over 17.5 frames in. He has to win the first eight frames 5-3 for that to land which isn’t beyond him. Page would have to share those eight frames and with the change in dynamic I don’t think that is guaranteed. I don’t see Hawkins winning 7-1 to scupper the over though so I fully expect to see at least a penultimate frame here.
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Anthony McGill vs Liam Highfield (Sunday 10am & Monday 10am)
The first of the two matches to begin on Sunday sees the former semi-finalist Anthony McGill starting out on another quest for the title when he takes on Liam Highfield who will be heading to Sheffield looking for his first win in this famous venue.
McGill has been to the semi-final and quarter final in the last two years of this tournament so he will be confident walking through the doors of this theatre but he’ll also know that as a seed things can get a little awkward if you let it. Highfield doesn’t have a huge amount to lose but he will be eager to get a win at the Crucible because his ranking isn’t sufficient enough for him to be guaranteed a place here every year. I suspect the early stages of this one will be tight before McGill pulls away the longer it goes on but I’ll watch and see if that is the case, maybe with the possibility of getting on ahead of the final session on Monday.
Mark Williams vs Michael White (Sunday 2.30pm & Monday 2.30pm)
The pick of the two matches to begin on Sunday is the one featuring the two Welsh players Mark Williams and Michael White. The former will be looking to land the crown for the fourth time while the latter is back on the tour next season and will be out to show he means business.
White actually has a perfectly creditable record against Williams and you get the feeling he’ll take the match to his countryman but Williams has seen all that before. I suspect Williams will be up for this. He rarely reacts to a defeat on social media but he did after the Tour Championship quarter final and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s put one or two extra hours in as a result. He practices with Jackson Page and he has been flying over the last couple of weeks which could be another sign that Williams will be right at it here. He also made a couple of 147s in an exhibition last week. I fancy the over 16.5 frames to land here but I’ll just see how competitive White is before I strike even if that means we need to take a higher line ahead of Monday.
Back B.Hawkins vs J.Page – Over 17.5 frames for a 3/10 stake at 1.95 with William Hill
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