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UK Championship - First Round Preview

UK Championship - First Round Preview

Tomorrow sees the start of the first proper Snooker ranking event in near two months, the 12BET.com UK Championship at the International Centre. Hundreds of fans will be gathering in Telford to watch the stars in action and see who will take the crown this year. Will defending champion Ding Junhui be able to defend his title?

I will be in attendance during the first two days of this event, so there will be some more exclusive videos added to the YouTube Channel, new photos added to the Facebook Album and any other interesting things that will happen at the event! (look out for me in the "147" t-shirt).

Now for the preview of the first round matches in Telford, the BBC broadcasting schedule for these matches is at the bottom of the article.


Ding Junhui at EPTC4

Starting us off this year is defending champion Ding Junhui who takes on another former winner of this event, Welsh wizard Matthew Stevens. This match could go quite close, both have been playing quite well this season. Ding winning a PTC event and Matthew doing well in the PTC events also and is on the verge of a top 16 place once again. But at the moment I slightly favour Ding to come out on top as he has had more success this season to draw from, but Matthew won't go down without a fight.

Next up is Northern Island's best Mark Allen versus PTC winner Tom Ford. Mark has had a really bad start to the season having not qualified for the World Open and losing in the first round of the Shanghai Masters but he looks back in form after several good performances at the last two EPTC events. Tom won a PTC at the start of the season but hasn't qualified for a venue since the World Championship's and hasn't had many good runs in recent PTCs, so I fancy Mark to come out on top, but it could be the closest match of the first round.

Marco Fu hasn't had the best of season's either, on the verge of dropping out of the top 16 unless he makes the quarter-finals here he will be desperate to beat Barry Hawkins. Barry has been performing solidly and is pushing for a top 16 spot also, after reaching the final 16 at the World Open beating Mark Selby and performing well in the PTCs. I could see Barry causing an upset at this stage but Marco has often proven us wrong several times before.

Thanks to the recent release of his father from prison and his premier league win, Ronnie O'Sullivan will be on a high at the moment and will be looking to dispatch of Stuart Bingham with ease. Stuart might put in a good fight but Ronnie should easily come out on top.

Next is one of the more interesting ties of the round, Ken Doherty versus Stephen Maguire. Both have been performing rather solidly this season with Stephen reaching two PTC finals and Ken winning quite a few matches also. On form alone I will expect Stephen to come out on top, but Ken loves long format matches and could cause an upset.

Ricky Walden nearly didn't qualify for this event, narrowly beating Xiao Guodong 9-8. He will face much stronger opposition against Mark Selby in the first round. Mark is one of only a few of the top 16 to play in every PTC event and it has paid off for him, putting him 2nd on the order of merit and winning PTC2. Ricky is provisionally in the top 16 now though and will put a strong fight but Mark should win it.

Martin Gould in EPTC4

Meanwhile Pinner Potter and World Open quarter-finalist Martin Gould takes on Scot Graeme Dott. Since his run to the finals at the World Championship, Graeme has been quite quiet, not winning many matches so he will be looking to put in a strong performance. It's been the opposite for Martin though, he has done consistently well in the PTC events and lost one to Dominic Dale on the colours and reached the World Open quarter finals and is on the edge of a top 16 place. The bookies favour Dott, but I fancy Martin to cause an upset.

Now it get's interesting! John Higgins versus Stephen Lee. Both are PTC winners, but John's was arguably more impressive, winning in Prague which was his first tournament back after being suspended on accusations of match fixing and reaching the finals of the next event. Stephen has been playing well recently, winning the EPTC4 at the South West Snooker Academy, but all signs point to a John Higgins win in this match. Will be interesting to see how he is received when he enters the arena for the first time though...

Next up is Shanghai Masters champion Ali Carter versus shock qualifier Mark Joyce. Probably won't be the most exciting match of the round, because Ali hasn't been playing that well since winning the title in Shanghai, but will be interesting how Mark plays back under the spotlight of the TV cameras especially as he defeated Steve Davis 9-2 in qualifying so he must be in form at the moment. I can't see Ali loosing at this stage though but stranger things have happened.

Jamie Cope and Judd Trump are up next, both young players looking to take advantage of what they both probably think as a "good first round draw". Judd has won a EPTC event this season and Jamie has won a few matches also, but neither have much to show for themselves in the last month of so. I expect it to be quick fire and exciting snooker and I slightly favour Judd to come out on top but it could be anyone's match.

Jimmy White

Now it's time for the one that everyone has been waiting for! Jimmy White versus arch-rival Stephen Hendry! Jimmy has played some amazing Snooker in the qualifiers to get here, winning three matches. He will be looking for revenge for the five World Championship Finals that Stephen beat him in. Stephen has it all to play for though as a loss could see him drop out of the top 16 for the first time since 1989 and he has that added pressure on him. I expect Stephen to still prevail though but Jimmy will run him close.

On their Marks, get set, go! It's Mark Williams versus Mark Davis! Both have seen a resurgence in their careers tin the last 12 years, with Williams winning the China Open and Davis winning the 6 Red World Championship and getting to the World Open quarter finals. But I don't expect Williams to lose this match as long format's favour him strongly, but Davis is pushing for the top 16 and won't go down lightly.

In the qualifiers, Patrick Wallace beat four players higher ranked than himself to reach this stage. Easily the strongest player out of the lot though he faces Shaun Murphy. Patrick hasn't been playing that well in any of the PTC events in comparison to Shaun who has won one and and reached a final which put him top of the Order Of Merit. I can't see any other result than Shaun winning with relative ease.

Mark King and Ryan Day are up next. Both by their own accounts have not been playing brilliantly this season, with both winning very few matches. Ryan left the top 16 this season and will be desperate to get back in and Mark has the added pressure that he is at 16th and real danger of falling out of it. I expect it to be close but I could see Ryan coming out on top.

Next up it's Peter Ebdon versus Andrew Higginson. Ebdon has had a good season so far, dropping out of the top 16 and then going straight back in after his World Open semi final appearance. Andrew has done well also by qualifying for the PTC finals in March. It will be an interesting match but the longer format will probably suit Peter better.

Last but not least it's the World Open, World Champion and No.1 Neil Robertson against 2009 Masters qualifying winner Rory McLeod. Since reaching the Masters in January, Rory hasn't had much to show for this season. You can't really say the same about Neil for obvious reasons. Rory also has a habit of not performing well under the TV lights so I expect Neil to win this match easily, but at some point if Rory keep qualifying for venues he should start to play well under pressure.


BBC Television Schedule:

Sat 1230 & 1900: Ding Junhui (Chn) v Matthew Stevens (Wal)

Sat 1230 & 1900: Mark Allen (NI) v Tom Ford (Eng)

Sun 1400 & Mon 1230: Marco Fu (HK) v Barry Hawkins (Eng)

Sun 1900 & Mon 1400: Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) v Stuart Bingham (Eng)

Sat 1230 & 1900: Stephen Maguire (Sco) v Ken Doherty (Ire)

Sat 1230 & 1900: Mark Selby (Eng) v Ricky Walden (Eng)

Sat 1400 & Sun 1230: Graeme Dott (Sco) v Martin Gould (Eng)

Sat 1400 & Sun 1230: John Higgins (Sco) v Stephen Lee (Eng)

Sun 1400 & Mon 1230: Ali Carter (Eng) v Mark Joyce (Eng)

Sun 1900 & Mon 1400: Jamie Cope (Eng) v Judd Trump (Eng)

Sun 1400 & Mon 1230: Stephen Hendry (Sco) v Jimmy White (Eng)

Sun 1400 & Mon 1230: Mark Williams (Wal) v Mark Davis (Eng)

Sun 1900 & Mon 1400: Shaun Murphy (Eng) v Patrick Wallace (NI)

Sun 1900 & Mon 1400: Mark King (Eng) v Ryan Day (Wal)

Sat 1400 & Sun 1230: Peter Ebdon (Eng) v Andrew Higginson (Eng)

Sat 1400 & Sun 1230: Neil Robertson (Aus) v Rory McLeod (Eng

Posted Dec 4, 2010
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