World Championship 2011: Qualifying Preview Part III

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Onto the third quarter of my World Championship qualifiers, will I be brave and tip any of the lower ranked players this time? Only one way to find out…

The Third Quarter


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Paul Davison Anthony McGill Fergal O’Brien Matthew Stevens
Qualifier 3

Part three begins with a meeting between Paul Davison and in all likelihood Jak Jones, although one of the amateurs in this section Stephen Rowlings was a professional last season and so if sharp could cause an upset. Assuming that it is Jones who wins however, Paul for me will go into the match as the favourite having won a number of matches recently including three en route to the final qualifying round of the Welsh Open. Jak on the other hand has just one win to his name in the full ranking events, though it should be remembered that he remains very young and will no doubt have learned a lot from the season so far.

The winner will then meet Scotland’s Anthony McGill, another talented young player whose season highlight was his excellent run to the final stages of the German Masters, his first appearance at a venue, excluding the Sky Shootout of course. Will he build on his so far promising campaign with another win here as he bids to force his way into an unlikely top 48 spot? My gut instinct would say yes as he is a player that I like a lot, but with three early defeats from his last four tournaments perhaps comes a reminder that he is not quite the finished article yet.

Next up for whoever does come through will be Irishman Fergal O’Brien who last season in this competition not only qualified for the Crucible but also pushed eventual winner Neil Robertson hard in possibly the closest 10-5 match I have ever seen! Generally speaking his form has been good over the last couple of seasons but losses to Adam Wicheard and then surprisingly 4-0 to Jack Lisowski in his Welsh Open match demonstrate that he is perhaps not as consistent as he once was. Even taking that into consideration though, over the longer format Fergal has to be favoured here for me.

If he can win he will set up what on paper looks be a tough match to call with two-time finalist Matthew Stevens who will be looking to make it back to the Crucible for the first time since 2008 when he lost out to defending champion John Higgins in the first round. So far it has been a good campaign for Stevens, much like last year in fact where he started well before suffering a late-season dip which saw him undo much of his previous good work.

This time around however I would be surprised to see him lose, indeed he has successfully qualified for each of the major events so far this season, twice reaching the quarter-finals. This has seen him move up to 13th on my latest projected seedings list, probably needing just one win here to make sure of a long awaited return to the top 16.

So far this season they have met twice during the PTC, each winning one match, while Fergal has a further two wins dating back to the turn of the century. While he still has the game to beat Matthew, the Welshman has to start favourite for me.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Patrick Wallace Rod Lawler Matt Selt Marcus Campbell
Qualifier 4

Next up, Patrick Wallace takes on the final preliminary qualifier, possibly Tony Knowles although it is hard to make any firm predictions on that not knowing the standard that the four players are producing these days. Despite Patrick’s lack of results since his UK run, I would have to favour him to progress regardless of who makes it through to play him.

In the second round he would face Rod Lawler, a player who as I have noted in a few pieces recently, has a deceptively low ranking at the moment when looking at his performances in the major events this season. With wins against Michael Holt, Mark Joyce, Judd Trump, Anthony Hamilton and Barry Pinches already this term, he is one of the safer bets in his section of the rankings to win a match or two and I fancy him to do so again here.

If he can, his next match would be against Matt Selt in a re-match of their clash in this tournament back in 2009. On that occasion Rod had to defeat Matt in order to retain his place inside the top 64 and he made no mistake, a 10-5 win easing him into the next round. Will it be a repeat this year?  Quite possibly, though Matt is certainly playing at a higher level than he was back then and either way I expect it to be a closer contest.

For the winner awaits a trip with Marcus Campbell, the veteran Scot currently at a career high ranking and needing just one win to make it to the Crucible for a second successive season. So far he has made it to three venues, including the two most recent with wins against Rory McLeod and Joe Jogia, so will be looking to make it three in a row here.

While Marcus would have to be the favourite, I do see the potential for an upset here, be it either Rod or Matt who makes it through to face him in the final round. With Rod’s greater experience, including a 10-5 win against Dominic Dale a year ago, I actually quite fancy him as an outsider but there is a reason that he has not made it back to the Crucible since his last 16 run back in 1996. Selt too has still to prove that he can be a regular winner of these best of 19’s and so I will therefore opt to stay safe and tip Marcus to come through.

Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Michael White Matt Couch Anthony Hamilton Barry Hawkins
Adam Wicheard

Next up, an interesting clash between Michael White and Adam Wicheard, two of the younger players on the circuit. In White’s case this season has been a more than respectable one, highlighted by his run to the final qualifying round of the Shanghai Masters when he defeated Liu Chuang, Michael Judge and Dominic Dale before losing out to Peter Ebdon. His form since has not been so consistent, but strong performances during the PTC will keep him on the circuit if he is to miss out on a top 64 spot which is no mean feat for a youngster.

Wicheard meanwhile has found things tougher during his first pro season, wins against Joe Delaney and Fergal O’Brien the strongest results of a campaign which looks set to see him drop off the tour immediately. For this reason, as well as the fact that Michael recently defeated Adam 4-2 at the same stage of the Welsh Open, I expect the Welshman to advance.

In the next round he would face Scunthorpe’s Matt Couch who having reached the final qualifying round of this event back in 2009 will be eager to recoup as many of those points as possible to keep him inside the top 64 at the end of the season. A Welsh Open qualifying defeat to Noppon Saengkham aside, Matt has enjoyed a decent season, winning all of his other opening matches and reaching the final of the EPTC2 event where he lost out to Shaun Murphy. As a result of that run Matt will at least remain on the tour win or lose here, but it would certainly give him a boost if he were to win a few matches or even make it to the Crucible.

Will he? Looking at Matt’s results in more detail, to me he generally defeats the players that you would expect him to beat whilst losing to those higher ranked who you would expect to defeat him. If he were to face White I would slightly favour Couch based on his experience, particularly over this distance, but I would expect it to be close.

Either way though, next up will be a stern test for either player in the form of Anthony Hamilton who despite a couple of recent losses to Matthew Stevens appears to be in reasonable form at the moment. During his German Masters win against Neil Robertson he made three centuries and since his heavy defeat to Rod Lawler in the UK Championship has looked far more like the player who last made it to the quarter-finals of this tournament back in 2007.

It should be pointed out that Anthony has lost his opening match during the last two seasons here against Ricky Walden and Tom Ford, but all the same I would be surprised to see him not win at least one match here.

If he does he will then meet Barry Hawkins for a spot at the Crucible, the Hawk having slipped of the radar recently somewhat, though he has continued to win the majority of his qualifying matches. Could Anthony cause a shock here? Definitely in my opinion, but looking back through previous seasons results there is one trend that stands out to me. This is that since 2005/6, Barry has lost just one qualifying match in a match of the best of 17 frames or longer, winning all of the others and ensuring that he has remained a consistently presence at the major venues. For me that is quite telling, particularly when looking at some of the opposition that he has defeated and it may give him the edge.


Qualifying Round One Qualifying Round Two Qualifying Round Three Qualifying Round Four
Liam Highfield Jack Lisowski Steve Davis Stephen Lee
Kuldesh Johal

Finally for today comes the match between Liam Highfield and Kuldesh Johal, two players who in the past have done very well on the PIOS tour. Liam’s form this season has not quite grabbed the headlines in the way that Jack Lisowski and Anthony McGill’s results have, but thanks in particular to a strong start he currently sits just inside the top 64 of the projected rankings. Kuldesh meanwhile has again struggled as a professional as he did during his debut campaign in 2008/9.

Helpfully, we do at least have a fairly handy form guide here as the duo also met at this stage of this season’s UK Championship qualifiers. On this occasion Liam came out a 9-7 winner and although his form has since dipped somewhat, I would make him a slight favourite to do so again. Only slight though.

Whoever does win will then set up a contest with Jack Lisowski, a familiar opponent in Liam’s case with the two having met during the PIOS last season as well as during last month’s Welsh Open qualifiers when Jack ran out a 4-1 winner. Again, on paper at least I would have to favour Jack here, be it Liam or Kuldesh who makes it through to face him.

The third round would then see the 19-year-old Jack take on 53-year-old Steve Davis in one of the most fascinating matches of the tournament. On paper this would appear to be a real opportunity for Jack against an opponent who has not qualified for a venue since the Shanghai Masters back at the start of the season. Jack by contrast has been a consistent winner so far this term and is now threatening a place inside the top 48 for the first time.

Steve Davis however is no ordinary opponent, as he demonstrated during last season’s competition when he rolled back the years to reach the quarter-finals. While he has lost a lot of matches this season, opponents such as Peter Ebdon, Jamie Cope, an inspired Mark Joyce on his way to the UK Championship quarter-finals, Ryan Day, Joe Jogia and James Wattana are no easy draws and he was unfortunately to lose the last two in deciding frames. If Steve can just find some inspiration for this week then he could quite conceivably repeat his heroics of last term. Whether he can or not, it will be a real test of his young opponent’s safety game.

Whoever wins it will face Stephen Lee, a player of undoubted quality who in spells this season has demonstrated something like the level of form that once took him to four ranking event titles. Having won all of his qualifiers this season except for his Welsh opener, including that at the UK Championship when he comfortably saw off David Gilbert, I expect Stephen to come through against either Jack or Steve here.

My Predicted Four Qualifiers: Ok, ok I’m going for the seeds again. As much as I know that there will be upsets and that not all of them will come through, on paper I again think that Matthew Stevens, Marcus Campbell, Barry Hawkins and Stephen Lee are the favourites to come through! Matt Selt and Anthony Hamilton could be ones to watch though and you never know what Steve Davis is going to produce…

Part Four tomorrow…