The third round of the World Championship qualifying competition comes to a close in Sheffield on Monday and by the end of the day the 32 remaining players will be one win away from a place in the main draw at the Crucible Theatre.
We’ve seen some big names not just exit the tournament in this round but also lose their tour status and that is on the line for more players over the course of what is sure to be another dramatic day of action on Monday.
The second seed Hossein Vafaei is the highest ranked player on show on Monday morning. Amazingly he has never qualified for the World Championship but he begins his quest to right that wrong when he takes on the German player Simon Lichtenberg. Gary Wilson started the season by making it to the final of the British Open and he’ll be aiming to finish it at the Crucible. To move to within one win of getting there he will need to take care of the dogged Jamie Clarke.
Graeme Dott is a former winner of this tournament but if he is to compete for the title this season then he’ll need to win a couple of qualifying matches. The first of those comes on Monday morning when he takes on Pang Junxu in a tie which has banana skin written all over it. The other match in this session sees Alexander Ursenbacher beginning his quest to make it to the Crucible. He will take on the Chinese youngster Lei Peifan.
The top ranked player in the afternoon session is the former Shootout winner Ryan Day. He is no stranger to playing at the Crucible and he’ll be looking to move to within a win of getting there again when he takes on Yuan Sijun. The newly crowned Gibraltar Open champion Robert Milkins will play his first match since landing that title on Monday afternoon as well. He will take on Cao Yupeng who was probably the draw to avoid for the seeds in this round.
Noppon Saengkham hasn’t had the season he would have wanted but he can make up for that if he makes it through to the Crucible. He has an awkward opener against Daniel Wells who hasn’t really played well so far but he does have a couple of wins to know name in qualifying already. Another player with two wins in this competition is James Cahill and he’ll bid to be one win away from returning to the Crucible when he takes on Liam Highfield who also hasn’t had the best of seasons.
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Ali Carter is the top seed on show in the evening session, the last session of third round matches. The twice former finalist will take on the Chinese youngster Gao Yang who knows he has to win this match or he will be heading to Q-School to keep his place on the tour. The other leading light on show in this session is the Welsh Open champion Joe Perry. He starts his quest to qualify for the Crucible with an awkward clash against Jackson Page.
Ali Carter isn’t the only former finalist in this tournament who is on show in this session. Matthew Stevens will also be back on the baize looking to move to within a win of going back to the Crucible. He will have to overcome the challenge of Sam Craigie in order for that to happen. The other match sees Xiao Guodong on show. The Chinese player is another who hasn’t had a brilliant season so he’ll be eager to get the better of David Grace and attempt to salvage his campaign.
James Cahill famously qualified for the Crucible before and then went on to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round when he got there and I think he can push Liam Highfield close in their match on Monday afternoon. All the pressure is on Highfield here and I’ve noticed just recently that when the pressure comes along he has been playing not to lose rather than to grab a match by the scruff of its neck and look to win it. You could see him doing that here with all the tension around.
It might well be that the two wins Cahill has had this week allow him to play a more attacking game which should be the way to go here. He has beaten a couple of decent opponents in Jamie O’Neill and Mark Davis and scored well in both of those matches. Cahill is good enough to be on the tour and tends to rise to the occasion. You can get odds against on him with a 1.5 frame start in this match and I think that is the way to play this rather than risk he comes out on top in a decider which would be full of tension should it go there.
Back J.Cahill (+1.5 frames) to beat L.Highfield for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Coral
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