The last-chance saloon qualifiers for the Betfred World Snooker Championship continue, with Ding Junhui (Outright – 28/1) having advanced through to the last stage with a 6-4 win against compatriot Tian Pengfei.
For so many years, Ding was the face of Chinese snooker, but his star has fallen in recent times with UK Open champion Zhao Xintong, and former Masters winner Yan Bingtao overtaking him in the rankings.
He enters as world number 29 and will face amateur David Lilley – a previous winner in the World Seniors Championship – for a place at the Crucible.
David Gilbert, another usual participant in the Worlds, is also into the final round of qualifiers after he comfortably defeated Rory McLeod 6-1.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Tom Ford were also winners on Sunday, with the qualification process coming to an end on Thursday, before the tournament gets under way on Saturday.
On Monday, Ali Carter is set for action as he takes on China’s Gao Yang (Match betting – Carter 1/8, Gao 5/1) for a place in the final round.
Carter is ranked world number 23 and is a two-time finalist at the Crucible, losing both times to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012.
Another former two-time runner-up in Matthew Stevens is also in action against Sam Craigie (Match betting – Craigie Evens, Stevens 4/5), while Joe Perry faces Jackson Page (Match betting – Perry 1/3, Page 23/10).
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One man who will be in the final stage of qualifying is Stephen Maguire, with the Scot dropping well down the rankings amidst a poor year.
“Livewire” has participated in every World Championship since 2004, but was unimpressed with the set-up for the qualifiers, which are taking place at English Institute For Sport.
“I just want to know whose idea it was to change the table round – and to put it upside down. How is that possible?” Maguire questioned.
“How can the black spot be where the crowd is? That has never happened since I have been a pro, 20 years. All of a sudden you are shooting into the crowd around the black.
“So any sort of movement in the crowd…it was alien out there. Whoever’s idea that was to change the tables about needs to be sacked – it’s that simple.”
Player Profile – John Higgins (Outright – 12/1)
The Wizard of Wishaw heads to the Crucible looking to win his fifth world title and despite his relatively advancing years, is showing no signs of plummeting down the rankings.
The 46-year-old has cultivated a reputation for being one of the most tactically astute players to ever play the game – his safety play is widely regarded as the best of all-time.
Those attributes certainly suit the gruelling long-format games in Sheffield and they have taken him to four world titles achieved across three different decades – 1998, 2007, 2009, and 2011.
A fifth world title in 2022 would make him the first player to win across four decades and he arrives having had a good year on tour, reaching six finals.
However, he has lost five of them and it could be questioned whether that will be playing on his mind.
His defeat in the Tour Championship final to Neil Robertson earlier this month will have stung – he squandered a 9-4 lead to lose 10-9.
Regardless, Higgins has always been a player for the big occasion and it would be no surprise to see him celebrating on May 2nd.
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