John Higgins stands out at 16/1 (general) at the Players Tour Championship Finals in Preston starting tomorrow. The Scot is coming into form at the right time with the Crucible less than four weeks away. He was impressive in Haikou at the WOold Open a fortnight ago – especially in beating a confident Judd Trump 5-4 from 4-0 down.
John Higgins – Has the form and bottle to prevail in Preston
Also he has the pedigree to perform on the big stage and for big money – the first prize here is £100000. Has a potential clash with Ding Junhui in the last 16 but if he comes through that then he should at least make the semi-finals.
The in-form and supremely confident Ronnie O’Sullivan is a best priced 9/4 favourite. Can he win again? He is well drawn but best of seven throughout so we’ll look elsewhere. Although even in these short races his adage of ‘just play the best shot you can’ is certainly putting his opponents under extreme pressure so don’t rule him out.
The World Open in Haikou starts tomorrow (Monday) and Judd Trump is coming into form at the right time so is the pick at the generous 9/1 offered by Coral. He went off the radar since his purple patch of 18 months or so ago but he is the only player who can threaten a Ronnie O’Sullivan in form. The Rocket hasn’t entered the event.
Judd Trump – Coming of age and may lift more silverware this season.
Last month Trump reached the final of the German Masters and just last week won Championship League Snooker against top-drawer opposition. So he is a must here and opens in the top quarter against a wildcard for a place in the last 32.
In the second quarter I’ve been especially impressed with the slimline Shaun Murphy who topped the winners group of Championship League Snooker after the group stage. After an indifferent season he is available at 20/1 (Ladbrokes). Well drawn in the early rounds he can go deep into the event.
In the bottom half it is worth having a saver on Barry Hawkins. The World Final runner-up reached the semis in Newport last weekend and made the quarter finals of the UK Championship. Forever improving and has been a much stronger player since his maiden ranking win in Australia at the Goldfields Open in 2012. Available from many sources at 28/1 the Hawk should be back each-way as a saver.
Ronnie O’Sullivan produced a breathtaking display in Newport this week to lift his third Welsh Open title – finishing off in style with the 12th maximum break of his career to seal a 9-3 win over China’s Ding Junhui.
Ronnie O’Sullivan – Too good all week in Newport
It bodes well for snooker generally that the Rocket is more settled in his personal life and this shows on the table. Even at 38 he is playing the best snooker of his career and it is only making his opponents even more in awe of him. Anyone who has a scientific understanding of the game and this includes all the current top professional players know that his form this week in Wales was nigh on unbeatable.
He is currently best priced for the Crucible at 7/4 favourite having shortened from the 5/1 available after his success at Sheffield last year. He is value at this price but the only caveat I would add is that the standard at the Crucible is not usually the highest. Simply because the more cramped playing conditions and the statically charged two table set-up for the first three rounds produce more kicks and bad contacts – than the nice airy arena we saw at the Masters where O’Sullivan also prevailed.
There has been a lot of talk about kicks recently which Shaun Murphy has taken a keen interest in and has clearly sided with Robert Ledger a respected university lecturer who suggests they are caused by a chemical reaction.
But they didn’t expand about one important aspect of the kick which was as clear as a bell in Berlin at the German Masters – and where notably the players were scathing about the conditions. The more tables in an arena means more table heaters and more static charge – so more kicks. It was verging on the ridiculous the amount of kicks in Berlin yet when it came to the one table set up in the final they were virtually non-existent . I have passed on my thoughts to this effect to World Snooker.