112 players have come and gone from this year’s UK snooker Championship in York and we are now left with the best 16 players of the tournament, all battling it out for a chance to lift the second biggest snooker title on Sunday.
With Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham and now Ding Junhui all knocked out, it’s anyone’s trophy, but some snooker players stand out above the rest of the pack.
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Matthew Stevens
Ronnie O’Sullivan seems to be the man on form this week, thrashing each opponent so far on his journey to the last 16. Obviously O’Sullivan is the favourite to win seeing as he has the clearest path to the final, but lets not rule out his opposition just yet.
In 2003 Matthew Stevens won the UK championship, beating Stephen Hendry in the final. He has been there and done it, so O’Sullivan may grant Stevens more respect than his past few opponents. Matthew has done little or nothing in the past decade as he tends to be found in the back end of the game and rarely on the TV snooker table. Is Matthew still capable of producing the goods just like in 2003?
Unlikely!! O’Sullivan appears to be too strong this week for Stevens and the only way we can see an upset, is if Stevens plays out of his skin and O’Sullivan crumbles somehow.
Shaun Murphy v Zhou Yuelong
Clearly one would automatically declare Shaun Murphy the favourite against the Chinese sensation but lets not forget Murphy’s turbulent road to the last 16. Yesterday Murphy was 5-1 up on Dominic Dale, only to turn the switch off a let Dale back into the match. Murphy was then faced with a deciding frame where he just about managed to stumble across the line.
Zhou is fastly becoming the next big thing to come from China. Last night he defeated another Chinese sensation, Yan Bingtao 6-5 in a thriller of a match. He can clearly manage the pressure of a final frame shootout, but how will be cope against Murphy?
If Murphy plays how he can, and avoids lapses of concentration, he should win this snooker match, but like we’ve seen already, there’s been plenty of upsets and i don’t think we’ve seen the last of them yet.
Marco Fu v Oliver Lines
If there’s one youngster that everyone’s talking about this week, then it has to be Oliver Lines. He was the man who sent Judd Trump home in the last 64 by thrashing him 6-2.
Marco Fu has stumbled his way to the last 16, not playing particularly great snooker. In his match tomorrow against Oliver Lines, he would want to step up his form, otherwise it will be another top seed going home.
Mark Selby v Zhang Anda
Mark Selby has been talked about very seldomly this week. In fact Selby has cruised his way to the last 16 by hammering Robert Milkins 6-1. The World No.1 and current World snooker champion is the second likliest player to win the UK’s this year behind Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Zhang Anda on the other hand is a player we haven’t seen much of. In the last 32 he beat Mitchell Mann 6-3 but we are yet to see him perform on the television snooker tables.
Selby is a clear favourite here, but as most snooker fans know, Selby is not totally immune from a meltdown.
Jamie Jone v David Gilbert
Jamie Jones was the man who sent Ding Junhui home in the lat 32. Clearly this man has the ability to play good snooker among the best in the world and also has potential to go a long way in this tournament.
David Gilbert saw off Ali Carter in a wonderful match that went the entire distance. Gilbert made two century breaks in that match so clearly a man in form.
This is a hard one to call, but we gotta run with David Gilbert on this one given his experience and current form.
John Higgins v Mark Allen
What a snooker match this will be. Two heavyweights of snooker with totally different styles of playing the game.
Coming into this event, we tipped John Higgins as our favourite to win the UK Championship based on his form in the last month. Firstly he won the China Championship, then the Champion of Champions and to top it all off, he made a 147 at the Northern Ireland Open.
In contrast, Mark Allen hasn’t had the best of form in the last month. Most recently he underperformed at his home event, the Northern Ireland Open. Could this event be the turning point for Allen? We know he has the ability, but does he have the form to withstand Higgins?
For us, the momentum in this match is with John Higgins but either way, it could be a close one!!!
Mark William v Liam Highfield
The Welshman, Mark Williams has done it all on the snooker table, the Worlds, the UK’s and the Masters, but this was over a decade ago now. Recently he has found form though and could potentially be found in the latter stages of this event. In the last 32, Williams found himself in a tough draw against Ricky Walden who he saw off in a thrilling 6-5 victory.
Liam Highfield got himself to this stage of the UK’s by beating Peter Lines (father of Oliver Lines) 6-2. He is yet to be tested in front of the TV cameras so it will be interesting to see how he deals with pressure.
If Mark Williams plays his snooker as well as he can do, then he should have no problem getting to the last 8 (famous last words).
Stephen Maguire v Luca Brecel
Stephen Maguire is by far, the most underachieved player on the snooker circuit. One thing that lets him
down more than anything else is his temperament.
Luca Brecel is also a snooker player that’s underachieving at the moment. There is oodles of potential in this kid, but we’re yet to see it.
This match will be an interesting watch. Both players like to go for their shots but we feel Maguire has that bit more experience than Brecel and therefore should win, but it’s really hard to call this one.