Round Two Preview

Friday sees no action in the 2015 UK Championship with the players granted a rest day ahead of the remainder of the tournament in York.

UK Trophy
Who will get their hands on this trophy this year? – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

That’ll give suitable enough time for the television cables to be assembled ahead of the start of the coverage on BBC and Eurosport tomorrow.

64 players remain in the hunt for glory at the Barbican Centre, where a whopping £150,000 will be on offer for the champion next Sunday.

As always with the flat draws, the first round threw up a few shock scorelines – most notably the defeats of Ding Junhui and Michael White on the opening day.

Other than that, though, there were no other casualties from players ranked inside the word’s top 32, so the competition remains as fierce as ever.

With several of the lower ranked competitors dispatched of then, there are quite a few more appetising encounters to look forward to over the course of the first weekend.

World no.1 Mark Selby will have particularly painful memories of his last clash with up-and-coming star Oliver Lines – which also came in a best of 11 tie at last year’s International Championship.

After establishing a 4-0 lead, Lines mounted a remarkable comeback to oust the then world champion 6-4, and so will have that in his locker ahead of their second round meeting on Sunday.

Selby will obviously begin as the favourite but Lines is a dangerous talent and he wont be taken lightly.

In another bout that pits a former Crucible champion against a rising prodigy, Shaun Murphy has Chinese 17 year-old Zhou Yuelong for company in the last 64.

Murphy has never met the 2013 world amateur champion but did recently come up against Zhou’s World Cup winning partner Yan Bingtao in the Champion of Champions – a match the Englishman lost 4-2.

In-form Northern Irishman Mark Allen was due to face Kilkenny’s David Morris next but the latter continued his current downward spiral¬†with an unexpected deciding frame defeat to Michael Georgiou.

If you’re reading today, Davy, Happy Birthday – don’t mean to rub it in!

Allen’s section of the draw has considerably opened up as he was also in line to face Ding in the last 16.

As already expressed here on a few occasions in the last few weeks, Allen is a notably streaky player so when he is on a winning run it tends to last for a few months.

This makes him very dangerous at the moment and I think the 29 year-old has a very good chance of reaching a second UK final this year.

Also in his quarter, though, is Stuart Bingham, with the world champ to be challenged by veteran Anthony Hamilton in his upcoming tie.

Assuming that match is shown live, it could well be the last, or one of the last, times we get to see the popular “Sheriff of Pottingham” on our screens as he is really struggling to stay inside the top 64 this season.

Meanwhile, some of the other big-hitters remaining in the draw include John Higgins, Judd Trump and Neil Robertson.

Australia’s Robertson, champion a couple of years ago, plays India’s Aditya Mehta, another name fighting for his place on the tour.

Trump has a rematch of his first round victory at this year’s World Championship when he faces Stuart Carrington again while John Higgins, who has already secured a hat-trick of ranking events in 2015, is up against Tian Pengfei.

Realistically, all three will be expected to come through what are tricky, but certainly winnable, ties.

Elsewhere, Dubliner’s Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien continue to fly the tricolour Irish flag with pride.

The duo enjoyed completely contrasting triumphs in the first round, with O’Brien needing to come back from 5-2 down to prevail in his bout with Thor Leong.

Doherty instead inflicted a whitewash thrashing over Malta’s Tony Drago.

O’Brien battles Thepchaiya Un-Nooh for a last 32 berth while three-time finalist Doherty will need to play as well as he did against Drago, where he compiled a brace of centuries, if he is to trouble Mark Davis.

In a packed schedule, there are several other intriguing ties that will take place.

These include, but is not limited to, the duel between Gary Wilson and Martin Gould – two ranking event runners-up of 2015 – Barry Hawkins’ meeting with the dangerous Finn Robin Hull, and Stephen Maguire’s clash with Jamie Cope.

A lot to look forward to then as we catch our first proper glimpse of this year’s UK Championship in the coming days.

Click here to view the full draw

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