Rodriguez or Bowles to steal the show
There will be some seeded players showing some real nerves on Monday evening as conceivably all the favourites could be in for a scare against a group of very talented underdogs.
First up is the ever-colourful Peter Wright taking on the ever-improving youngster Arron Monk in what should set the tone for a tense and nervy evening for the more fancied players. Until a couple of months ago this one could well have been near enough a level match with the bookies, but Snake Bite Wright has hit some form and looks as good as he has for some time.
His first win on the Pro Tour came in Killarney in October, he followed this up with a semi-final and two quarter-finals on the floor and then made the last eight at the Players Championship Finals making it a very profitable latter part of the year for the world number 24.
Arron Monk is developing into a seriously dangerous opponent though and is himself regularly reaching the latter stages of the Pro Tour events now. He also put in some good performances at the Grand Slam which saw him make the last 16 and of course has experience on the world championship stage having performed admirably in defeat to Kevin Painter last year.
With both men in decent form it should be a very close contest, Wright should come through it but this is going to be a very tight one. For the match to go to five sets is 13/8 with various bookmakers and this looks a decent punt.
The preliminary match is arguably the highest quality one of the tournament as Spain’s Carlos Rodriguez takes on the debutant John Bowles. The Englishman is favourite but it could really go either way as Rodriguez has claimed some big scalps over recent years and has played at the Ally Pally twice before, reaching the second round in 2009. It is a pick ‘em contest and only one bookmaker has either man at evens so it may be worth taking that price on Carlos Rodriguez with Ladbrokes.
Next is the man who no one in the top 32 wanted to draw, Ian White against a man who could really have done with a kind draw, Mark Webster. Webby has been struggling all year since going out of this competition at the first round stage 12 months ago. After two consecutive semi-finals previously at the Ally Pally the Welshman is now not even favourite to win his first round contest so poor has been his form with Webby widely at evens and White at 10/11.
White has been a revelation on the floor this year finishing eighth on the Pro Tour Order of Merit despite being down at 33rd in the world. It seems only a matter of time until he is in the top 32 though and this move up the rankings could start with a win over Webster on Monday night. The pressure will be heavily on the Welshman with him defending the £50,000 he won two years ago, if he fails to do so then he will tumble down the rankings very quickly and it looks like that could well be the case.
The penultimate contest sees the unpredictable James Wade taking on world championship debutant Pete Hudson. Wade has been struggling since his visible breakdown at the Grand Prix and went out in the group stage at the Grand Slam and at the first round of the Players Championship Finals. Hudson is here on merit having qualified through the Pro Tour Order of Merit but even with the Machine nowhere near his best he the Rock will have his work cut out to cause an upset. He will fancy his chances of pinching a set though and the 5/6 with Paddy Power on over 3.5 sets may not be a big price but looks good.
Finally Jamie Caven takes on the winner of Bowles and Rodriguez and although Caven has been playing well on the floor recently, especially in the Championship League, he often fails to translate those performances onto the big stage. Whoever wins between Bowles and Rodriguez will be full of confidence and both are very dangerous players so the 11/4 that Sporting Bet are offering on either to beat Jabba looks pretty good.
Peter Wright v Arron Monk over 4.5 sets @ 13/8 with Bet365
Ian White to win @ 10/11 with Sky Bet
James Wade v Pete Hudson over 3.5 sets @ 5/6 with Paddy Power
Rodriguez or Bowles to beat Jamie Caven @ 11/4 with Sportingbet
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