We go beyond the halfway point of the European Masters qualifying competition throughout the play inside the Morningside Arena in Leicester on Thursday, where once again 12 players will secure their spot in the main draw.
The bigger names are beginning to come to the party throughout the week as everyone on show looks to win the five frames they need in order to be able to book a flight to Germany for the main event next month.
Given that Mark Davis is the highest ranked player on show in the morning session on Thursday, I think it is safe to say that we have a low key beginning to the action. He will meet the American player Ahmed Aly Elsayed while elsewhere in the session Andy Lee will look to make it into the main draw. He meets Louis Heathcote who has flirted with dropping off the tour but having kept his card at Q-School will be looking to press on. James Cahill is another who has done that and he is also taking to the baize in this session when he goes up against the women’s world champion Baipat Siripaporn. The other match in the morning sees Ross Muir, also beginning a two-year card this term, facing He Guoqiang who is in the same position.
Jimmy Robertson is a former winner of this tournament and he begins his quest to reclaim the title in the afternoon session on Thursday when he goes up against the Indian player Himanshu Jain. That is the standout match in the afternoon but Tian Pengfei will be on show looking to make it through to the next stage. He meets Allan Taylor for a place in the main draw. Reanne Evans is back on the tour after a tough first two-year spell. She showed signs of life in the Championship League and will look to build on that against Jenson Kendrick. Liu Hongyu is another who impressed early in the first event of the season and he takes on Hammad Miah in a big match for both men.
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We have two cracking matches in the evening session which should rate as tie of the round contenders. Jack Lisowski begins his quest for a maiden ranking title when he meets a Sam Craigie who got down to the final day of the Championship League. Gary Wilson won the Scottish Open last season and he starts his European Masters campaign when he takes on the talented Ben Mertens. Alfie Burden is still on the tour and he takes on the amateur Haydon Pinhey who did everything at Q-School but win his tour card back. Mark Joyce will look to make it into the main draw when he faces Sanderson Lam.
There isn’t a whole lot that I fancy on Thursday but I will go with one in the evening session as Sanderson Lam takes on Mark Joyce in a match where the outsider looks worth supporting. Joyce has only won three matches since the UK Championship so he can’t exactly be brimming with confidence heading into this one, particularly after a failed day in the Championship League in the first event of the season.
Lam had a confidence boosting run to the second stage of that event where he drew with Chris Wakelin at that part of the tournament having drawn with Barry Hawkins and saw off Zhang Anda in the first group to make it through. Lam hit six 50 breaks in his first group and added another in a really tough second section so he has started the season hitting the ball nicely. Lam also finished last season well taking John Higgins to a decider at the Welsh Open before winning a couple of matches in World Championship qualifying before losing 10-8 to Joe Perry but there is no shame in that result. He made a bunch of decent breaks that week and just looks in better shape than Joyce. At 13/10 I’ll take him here.
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