Rory McLeod often gets stick for the pace at which he plays but it’s only three years since he made three successive centuries against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the UK Championship and, as his results show, he is a dangerous player.
John Higgins found his concentration sorely tested by playing McLeod over three sessions at the Crucible last season before ultimately coming through. Their match in York today is only best of eleven but Higgins has not yet come to life during this campaign and can’t afford to let McLeod start to boss the style of match.
Not that this will be easy to do against Higgins, who has enough class and patience to see off the McLeod threat.
It would be a surprise if Mark Davis, who perennially seems to be on the brink of joining the top 16, beat Ding Junhui, but not a huge one.
Ding won the UK title in 2005 and 2009 and is an awesome break-builder and great front runner.
Davis, then, needs to get on top of him early on. Very easy to write, not so easy to do against a great talent like Ding.
Neil Robertson has had an excellent time of it in the PTCs and will be expected to come through against Tom Ford, a player who has got himself into the top 32 but not someone who has often produced the goods on TV.
Matt Selt is much improved in recent seasons but it seems like an age since he was in the quarter-finals of the Australian Goldfields Open (it was actually July).
He’s up against the iron-willed Graeme Dott this afternoon, a player as tough as anyone and particularly good at winning the key psychological frames, the ones that hurt.
Some people feel Stephen Maguire’s match with Stephen Hendry is the tie of the round. When they played at last season’s Welsh Open, Hendry kicked off with a maximum, after which his game all but disappeared.
Maguire can be a little erratic but has a very good record in the UK Championship and will probably be too strong for Hendry.
When Maguire was a teenager he spent many hours practising with the then world no.1, picking balls out and learning about top level snooker. But that was a long time ago and fortunes have changed for both men.
Tonight’s other match pits Matthew Stevens against Marcus Campbell. I remember watching Marcus win their World Championship final qualifying round match in a decider not so long ago but this is on television, where Stevens would be expected to come to the fore.
There is apparently no partition between tables at the williamhill.com UK Championship, which is good for spectators as they can keep an eye on both tables but, I suspect, not entirely to the liking of all the players.