With just two first round matches at the Crucible to be completed, today also sees the beginning of the Last 16. We are currently looking at a casualty list of seeded players being knocked out longer than any for 20 years, indeed should Mark Williams or Ali Carter lose from strong positions today, it would be an all-time record number of seeded Crucible first round losers.
This afternoon the second round kicks off with Scotland’s Stephen Maguire (1.22) taking on England’s Joe Perry (4.00). Perry, it’s fair to say, was flattered by his 10-1 scoreline over an inexplicably poor Graeme Dott in Round 1, and he is surely not going to get the number of chances per frame against an in-form Maguire as he did in that match. The two have met here on two occasions with one win each but come into this on very different levels of form. I’d have Maguire a nigh-on certainty to win the match, the only way I think he can not win is to be too complacent in his pursuit of a Quarter Final spot, if this goes to form I can’t see Joe winning any of the three sessions so that makes the handicap on Maguire an appealing bet.
Ex-champ Neil Robertson (1.10) was clinical in his defeat of Ken Doherty in Round One and my fancy to take the title (5.50) now takes on Dave Gilbert (6.70) to book his place in the Last 8. Gilbert has been playing in this from the very first qualifying round and whatever the result here can be extremely proud of what he has achieved. The Tamworth man held himself together well in his first match against Martin Gould but I feel he benefitted from the under-confidence of his opponent who is currently on a shocking losing run. Confidence is something that the 2010 champion has in abundance and I see this very much like the Maguire match. It will take a colossal swing in form for this to be anything other than a very comfortable win for the Australian.
Best Bets: Maguire -4.5 frames (1.95) Robertson -5.5 frames (1.87)