UK Championship Snooker gets underway at the Barbican in York on Tuesday where the betting is headed by Ronnie O’Sullivan at 9/2 (general).
You can read my preview for sportinglife.com here
The Rocket has really applied himself recently – reaching the final last weekend of the Antwerp Open and looked set to win until defending UK Champion Mark Selby came back from 3-1 down to snatch it 4-3. He has also been superb this week in the Champion of Champions event in Coventry where today he is playing the final against Stuart Bingham.
What is notable also is how measured he has become around the table – his touch is still as deft as ever but he is acutely aware of the higher standard in the new Barry Hearn era of the game. Where one mistake can cost you not only one frame but also momentum. In these now shorter best of eleven frame matches up to and including the quarter-finals this is far more important.
But it is more difficult to pick a winner here with the flat 128 draw which is now standard in all but three ranking events. O’Sullivan will have to win seven matches to prevail so we will look elsewhere for value.
Marco Fu – Has confirmed his bottle and class this season
Marco Fu has impressed this season – he won the Australian Goldfields Open and made the final of the International Championship earlier this month. Only losing by the odd frame to Ding Junhui who has won the last three ranking events – a remarkable performance given we are now seeing the highest ever standard of snooker.
Fu has been working hard and although he disappointed in his match against Judd Trump last week in Coventry he has enough recent good form to suggest the 28/1 (general) is worth a punt. Well drawn too with only Bingham as the obvious stumbling block to a quarter final place. Bingham is now a real danger though after many years as a journeyman pro and is a perfect example of how success in a major tournament can give a player belief when it was lacking before. His Australian Open triumph in 2011 meant he then knew he could deliver the goods on the big stage and he followed this up by winning the Premier League in 2012. He is clearly very confident.
Neil Robertson is currently World Number One and along with Ding they have been the two most consistent players on the tour this season. The Aussie is drawn well in quarter three and the 8/1 (888sport, UNIBET) is worth a punt. O’Sullivan commented this week how strong Robertson is in all departments. He does worry opponents into making safety errors in their shot selection because he is such a good single ball potter – as good as Mark Williams in his heyday.
Kyren Wilson has shown some decent form this season – notably when making the quarter finals of the Shanghai Masters in September which included wins against Fu and Bingham – and he also accounted for Stephen Maguire in the International Championship last month. The 250/1 (sportingbet) is worth a small, highly speculative each-way punt.
There was a bizarre incident in the final frame of the International Open semi-final on Friday between Marco Fu and Joe Perry. While trying to hit the last red when snookered Perry caught the black first with red and black close together. Jan Verhaas intially (and correctly) called foul and a miss seven to Fu but then had a change of mind and decided it was red first.
Jan Verhaas – clear blunder
Video replays clearly showed the initial call to be correct and fortunately Fu went on to win 9-8 after both players had good chances. If Perry had prevailed here this would have been a big black mark against the Dutch referee. In fairness it was a long match and it’s a very tough job but the replay is there for the referee and should be used in all situations where there is any doubt. Players and referees careers can change on such decisions.
There is not just a new breed of players coming through but also referees so the standard will continue to improve. I’ve been especially impressed with Marcel Eckardt from Germany and he is certainly a candidate for the World final in future.