where Mark Selby and Ding Junhui open proceedings followed by John
Higgins up against Stephen Lee.
You can read my preview for the bettingzone at sportinglife.com here
Selby needs a good result to get his league campaign back on track
after losing his opener 5-1. This event though is perfect for his
style of play. He sees the shots as quick as any player on the circuit
bar Ronnie O'Sullivan so unless he is faced with a very difficult
safety the 25 second time limit doesn't matter so much. This helps
because he does need a couple of seconds longer than the quicker
players to get focused on the shot - but if you're clear what the
options are as you arrive at the table then the shot clock is less of
Mark Selby - At his best when he needs a result
It was these difficult safety shots that cost him his opening match
against last week's Gdynia Open winner Neil Robertson. At the very
start of their game, twice the Aussie left the Jester from Leicester
in trouble. Selby responded by playing the best shot he could but
given the variables of these one-night tables with cloth and cushions
that can play markedly differently then it's in these opening gambits
that a player can be vulnerable. Simply because the outcome of the
preferred shot choice can still be uncertain - especially when playing
the white slowly.
This helped Robertson get off to a flyer who then marched on to win
easily 5-1 which has put Selby under pressure to do well in his three
remaining group games. But when it comes to shot selection, bottle and
match temperament the Jester time and again delivers. The reason why
he's world number one is essentially his choice of shot and refusal to
push the boat out unless there is no alternative. In addition he
leaves players difficult shots and then has the class to cash in.
He'll need to do this here but a win will put him right back in the
hunt for a semi-final spot.
DIng is in decent form but the league is a different mindset and last
week the Chinese star blew hot and cold when losing 4-2 to Stuart
Bingham. Although he reached the final last year he has never been
consistent enough in the league to back with confidence. The clinical
aspect to his game does seem lacking in this event.
A Selby win is on the cards so we'll take the 13/8 (general). Also a
heavy win will really help his cause and his shot selection and focus
can bring that too so we'll have a small punt on the whitewash at 28/1
(bet365, skyBET) with a saver on a 5-1 win at 7/1 (general).
The second match of the night is difficult to call. Although Higgins
won the Shanghai Masters last week he was distinctly unimpressive when
beating Mark Allen in his opener here. The Scot struggles sometimes to
get comfortable under time pressure - his set up and address aren't
fluent enough to dominate in this format.
Stephen Lee has lost his first two matches and is highly unlikely to
qualify especially after the way he performed. But he is still
carrying on his good tour form from earlier in the year and won Asian
PTC 2 in Yixing two weeks ago. Invariably here in the league though
the arena is quite warm which Lee feels more than most players. He
clearly struggled with the temperature in his two matches to date so
we'll leave this one alone.