SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) shares his favourite fancies from the qualifying rounds of the European Masters.
Jak Jones v Florian Nuessle | Wednesday 18th December 2019, 10:00
I’ve seen plenty of improvement from Wales’ Jak Jones in the last 12 months. After one season back in the big time, he looks more settled on tour and has the ability and toughness to go deep in a ranking event. However, this season, he hasn’t yet pulled up any trees in an event and looks worth taking on at least in the handicap market against Austrian amateur, Florian Nuessle (+3.5 4/7 Bet365).
Nuessle is relatively inexperienced at the top level (yet to play on tour) but two years ago made the World Amateur semi-final at 15-years-old to show off his potential. He lost in the 2018 European U18 Final and is a two-time Austrian amateur champion – not bad for a 17-year-old. At Q School in May, Nuessle hit two centuries and a 90.
In the season and a half on tour, against just players outside the top 64 (like himself), Jones has only whitewashed one player in 13 matches. He conceded one frame in two and the other ten either won conceding three or more or lost the match altogether.
Therefore, he’s no certainty to cover the handicap, even against an amateur. I think Nuessle can get Wednesday off to a good start and gain the two required frames.
Barry Hawkins v Ross Bulman | Wednesday 18th December 2019, 19:00
Barry Hawkins is having a weird season on tour. In patches, he’s looked sublime. He’s bagged 18 centuries (one was a 147 at the UK Championship), made a couple of quarter-finals and won the Paul Hunter Classic.
Conversely, at other times, he’s looked absolute dross. An odd shock here and there is normal due to the standard on tour, but he’s lost to John Astley, Alan McManus, Daniel Wells and Jamie O’Neill – big upsets and four players on the fringe or outside the world’s top 64.
The most recent loss, the 4-0 drubbing to Astley in Glasgow’s opening round was very alarming.
On paper, he looks to have an easy task against Irish amateur Ross Bulman on Wednesday evening. With no pressure on his back, I think Bulman, like Nuessle, can get two frames on the board to win on the frames handicap +3.5 in this best-of-nine.
He was a little star struck at the UK Championship losing 6-0 to his idol Ronnie O’Sullivan but has shown on tour this season as a wildcard top-up he’s capable of winning frames against the pros.
That loss to O’Sullivan is the only whitewash he’s obtained. He’s taken two frames off the excellent Joe Perry, two off a very good pro in Chris Wakelin, two off top youngster Jackson Page and beat Zhang Jiankang 4-1 who got to the last 16 in Glasgow last week gone. In his defeat to Page, he compiled a 124 total clearance.
The 18-year-old from Youghal practises from six to eight hours a day. His junior pedigree at home is mighty impressive; in 2015 he claimed the under-16, under-18, under-19, and under-21 national titles in the space of 48 hours in Carlow. He also made the final of the European Under 21 Championship this year, losing to the aforementioned Page.
If Bulman can play his own game, without any fear, he’s more than capable of surprising Hawkins and win a few frames, especially in Barry’s current plight. 6/5 looks very decent value and he goes into the double with Nuessle +3.5 at a tasty 12/5 with Bet365.
Six-match multiple | Tuesday 17th December 2019, 19:00
With this being a best-of-nine format, I predict less shocks and more predictable results. Therefore, I like the look of the following six to make into a 11/5 accumulator.
Kurt Maflin should have too much ammo for last season’s pro, now amateur Ross Muir. I hope I don’t put the jinx on him but Maflin is becoming quite a reliable sort on tour with only one first round defeat this season, none in qualifying.
Graeme Dott is as reliable as anyone in qualifying and won’t have any problems against Malaysia’s Thor Chuan Leong. Dott has lost only one first round match and was excellent in Glasgow last week before Judd Trump halted him.
Stuart Bingham, Gary Wilson and Mark Davis should make short work of Duane Jones, Barry Pinches and Fraser Patrick. The latter three have only won two matches in 24 between them this season. And playing three class acts which spells trouble.
My biggest price of the six, is Liam Highfield to beat Fergal O’Brien. Highfield hasn’t made a last 16 this season but only has one first round defeat in seven. He’s scoring extremely well too; in 16 matches, he’s bagged 37 breaks over 50, including 10 tons. That’s in 53 frames won, so very impressive indeed.
O’Brien lost to one of the weakest players on tour, Andy Lee, in Glasgow – a fifth first round defeat in eight this season. Highfield has won three of their four meetings, one was a 4-1 victory in Gibraltar earlier this year. Highfield lost to eventual Scottish Open Champion Mark Selby last week, but hit four centuries in his previous two wins. If he continues that form in Barnsley, he should defeat the veteran Irishman.