The opening day of the European Masters is a busy one in Germany on Tuesday when the tournament begins with all of the held over qualifying round matches being played alongside a bunch of first round games.
We have three sessions of play with seven matches taking place in each and with the top eight in the world all on show we should be treated to no shortage of fantastic action to start up the first proper event of the season.
Two of those held over matches will be played out in the morning session on Tuesday. One of those sees Kyren Wilson beginning the defence of his title when he takes on the Scottish player Dean Young. Mark Selby will be involved in the other game when he meets the Thai player Manasawin Phetmalaikul for a place in the main draw. Those two matches will be among four streamed in each session. The other two in the morning see John Higgins facing Dylan Emery and the World Championship semi-finalist Si Jiahui taking on Ken Doherty.
That leaves three matches which don’t get to be streamed or on the TV in each session. Zhou Yuelong is the highest ranked player on these three tables and he takes on Andrew Higginson, who is looking to make full use of his second go on the tour. Dominic Dale has made it through to the main draw and he will meet his fellow Welsh player Duane Jones while the other game sees the Chinese player Lyu Haotian taking on Elliot Slessor.
Three held over matches take place in the afternoon session as Luca Brecel begins his first season as world champion. The Belgian player will be on the main table when he takes on Jackson Page. It isn’t very often that Judd Trump doesn’t get to play on the main table but he will be on one of the streamed ones when he faces off against Mohamed Ibrahim while Mark Allen also looks to make it into the main draw when he takes on Anton Kazakov. The other streamed match comes from the main draw as Tom Ford takes on Oliver Brown.
Such is the quality that is on show in this tournament the players who won’t be on the streamed table on Tuesday afternoon include the current Shootout champion Chris Wakelin and the recent Welsh Open winner Joe Perry. Wakelin meets Aaron Hill who has not looked good this season so far while Perry meets Ross Muir. The other match sees Ben Woollaston looking to build on his qualifying win over Robert Milkins when he faces Xu Si.
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The other three held over matches will be played out in the evening session with Ronnie O’Sullivan the man on the main table when he takes on the veteran Andy Hicks. The other two held over games will be on the streamed offering with Neil Robertson opening up his season against Wu Yize, with the winner heading straight into the last 32 after their first main draw opponent couldn’t get a visa. The Championship League winner Shaun Murphy is also in action when he takes on Steven Hallworth. Jack Lisowski has already made it into the main draw and he’ll face Michael White in the first round of it.
That means that a top 16 player such as Hossein Vafaei can’t even get a place on any of the four streamed tables in this session. He will be on an outside table for his meeting with Allan Taylor. Another match which probably could have had a streamed table slot is the one between Ricky Walden and Jamie Jones. Even the other match isn’t an absolute stinker. That sees the Scottish Open finalist from last season Joe O’Connor, facing Ashley Carty.
I’ll go with one bet over the course of the opening day, much of which is made up of star quality with the held over matches but in truth not too many of those are likely to be all that competitive. There are some more main draw matches which are of interest though and one of those comes along in the evening session where Jamie Jones goes up against Ricky Walden in a match where I believe the odds might be the wrong way round.
It probably isn’t the wisest thing to take early season form into account given how few matches we’ve had this term but I do like the way that Jamie Jones has started the season. He went unbeaten in his Championship League group but went out on frame difference but has won both of his qualifying matches since then. If you include the Championship League, Walden has won one match in five this term and while that is a short sample size, he lost from in front to Luca Brecel at the World Championship and there might be a hangover from that. Jones has kicked off the season well with three tons and two 90s in the 15 frames he has won and just looks to be hitting the ball better than Walden. He’s my pick in this one.
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