SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) picks out his favourite European Masters selections from the first round in Belgium.
Zhang Yong v Jimmy Robertson | Tuesday 2nd October 2018, 19:00
Zhang Yong made the quarter-finals of two ranking events last season and I fancy the 23-year-old to prevail at a tempting 7/4 (Bet365) over higher-ranked Jimmy Robertson in a best-of-seven clash.
Zhang improved as the 2017/18 campaign went on and this season he has taken the notable scalp of reigning World Champion Mark Williams (the Welshman's first defeat since his Crucible triumph this spring).
Zhang's recent record in best-of-sevens is encouraging. In his last 13 best-of-sevens, he's won 10 (end of last season to now). He has six wins from eight this season in the shortest format.
His opponent, Jimmy Robertson, is struggling a wee bit. He's notoriously better in the longer format.
In best-of-sevens last season, he won just seven from 16. This season, it's a little better, but he has fallen over the line in three best-of-sevens, winning in deciders. And of his five defeats this season, three have been against Chinese opposition (two defeats to the same player).
Robertson is the better player but Zhang is an improving type. He's been underestimated by the bookies here.
Robertson has been pro nearly 10 years and only has one ranking quarter-final appearance to his name. As I said earlier, Zhang has two quarter-final appearances in the last eight months.
I would make Zhang a lot shorter than 7/4 for this contest.
Two big-priced quarter selections
I'm going to advise also, at small stakes, Zhang to win Quarter 4 at 66/1 with Ladbrokes. He's in the same section as Zhou Yuelong, which is very winnable.
Robertson is 14/1 to win Quarter 4. I cannot have such a huge differential between the two personally. Zhang is very much a confidence player and 66/1 is too big, for me.
In Quarter 3, I'm going to side with my man of the moment, Scott Donaldson. Most will know now how impressed I am with the Perth man. I think he's a potential future ranking event winner. He's one of the most improved players on tour.
He's got a tricky opener with Mark Davis then a potential round two dust-up with Mark Selby. I don't want to look past Davis but an encounter with Selby could be good timing after the China Championship graft for ‘The Jester' of last week.
Donaldson defeated Selby at the UK Championship last December so won't be overawed. He also beat him in a best of seven in 2015. Half the battle against the top players is having the belief to beat them. Donaldson has and knows he can win.
If he can take Selby out, the draw opens up for him. He's a dangerous individual in these short format events. I think 25/1 (Ladbrokes) again, a touch on the generous side on Donaldson to win Quarter 3.
He's without doubt in the form of his life.
Peter Ebdon v Ali Carter | Tuesday 2nd October 2018, 09:00
Lastly, Peter Ebdon is worth a few coppers to defeat Ali Carter at 13/8 (Betfred).
Ebdon has found a new lease of life this season, making the Paul Hunter Classic final. I've been ultra impressed with the veteran's scoring power so far. He's compiled five centuries and had 20 further breaks over 50 in 14 matches.
In all of last season, in 38 matches, he made nine tons. Former world champion Ebdon is still a fantastic competitor.
Carter has opened the season with two Last 32 exits and one Last 64 – nothing to write home about. A season ago Carter would be a strong favourite but, form-wise, Ebdon is definitely the one to side with.
Ali lost in Guangzhou to a very similar player to Ebdon in Fergal O'Brien. Carter has the upper hand in head-to-heads but I don't think it will count for much here.
Ebdon can grind out season win number 11 here against the Captain.