By Jeff Anderson
Masters snooker gets underway tomorrow where Ronnie O’Sulivan is 9/5 (SPREADEX) to retain his title. He might win and a lot of boxes are ticked for him to produce. But the standard is too high to justify a punt at this price and Stephen Maguire in the opposite bottom half stands out as the pick.
The Scot really impressed in the UK Championship and triumphed in European Tour Event 5 last month. He opens against Judd Trump who also impressed in the UK but who often follows a good run with a poor nervy show. So it’s Maguire to get past Trump and the the draw opens up at the decent 28/1 (general) each-way.
Stephen Maguire – Back to his best after lots of hard work.
Marco Fu has a squeak here too at long odds. His does blow very hot and cold at times but reached the last eight in York going down to the resurgent Maguire. In the opposite half of the draw he opens against Stuart Bingham and is a good long-priced each-way saver so definitely worth the 40/1 (general) on offer.
Robin Hull is the biggest outsider to progress to the second round at the Crucible and is best-priced 18/1 with BETVICTOR. Steve Davis knows he can be very good and a defeat is not a foregone conclusion.
Hull said this week ‘I’ve been through a bit and now I’m playing snooker. Ronnie O’Sullivan can do what he wants to me, but it won’t take away my enjoyment of playing at the Crucible. Besides, I’m not just going to roll over.’
Robin Hull – a big outsider but a good player and has lots of experience
Spreadex offer 250/1 for Hull to win this first quarter meaning he needs to win just three matches for backers to collect. This is worth a small punt especially as his second round opponent would be Joe Perry or Jamie Burnett.
More throughout the tournament
The World Snooker Championship starts this Saturday morning where Ronnie O’Sullivan opens proceedings against Finland’s Robin Hull. The Rocket is bidding to make it three in a row here – a remarkable statistic in the modern era and especially with the higher standard of play on the tour. The last player to retain the World title was Stephen Hendry in 1996.
You c an read my preview for sportinglife.com here
O’Sullivan has been on fire this season – notably winning the Masters in a canter and selecting his tournaments to suit. With his head right thanks to Dr Steve Peters, the Rocket wants to surpass Hendry’s record of seven world titles. Steve Davis went on record this week as saying that O’Sullivan, who is 38 could still win a World title well into his forties.
Ronnie O’Sullivan – wants a third consecutive World title
After his success last year he was chalked up at 5/1 to win in 2014 and has been shortened to a best-priced 7/5 (sportingbet). He cannot be discounted because he really wants this and has been practising his socks off in Sheffield as he did last year to prepare for his defence. He usually prevails when focused and the 7/5 has to be worth a punt – especially as he has been handed a decent draw. Although Marco Fu who is his likely quarter-final opponent is capable of beating anyone at the top of his game. But we’ll look to the other half of the draw to find some each-way value.
Judd Trump has had a quiet season but impressed in Championship League when prevailing last month and has a good draw in quarter four too. Opening against Tom Ford he is then seeded to play Stephen Maguire who is probably past his best and only occasionally capable of snooker good enough to compete against the current top players. The 12/1 about Trump (888sport, Ladbrokes) is worth an each-way punt
Neil Robertson has disappointed me recently although much has been made of his 93 century breaks to date this season. But he hasn’t shown the consistent form lately to prevail and his quarter which includes Trump and Mark Allen is tough too so we’ll leave the Aussie alone.
One player I do like at a really big price is Xiao Guodong. The Chinese player who has practiced with O’Sullivan to prepare for his debut at the Crucible works with Terry Griffiths at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester. Up to 25 in the world he has had his best season and reached the final of the Shanghai Masters going down 10-6 to an in-form Ding Junhui.
Xiao Guodong really fancies himself – 125/1 and definitely worth a punt
What you need at the Crucible is to be a bit arrogant and to fancy yourself to do well. Xiao has a cockiness to him which will help him perform in this cauldron-like atmosphere. Many first timers do fall over here – especially if they get behind early on. He does has a tough opener against Ali Carter who has at times impressed me too in this campaign but if can get past the Captain then the draw could open up for him.
He could meet Mark Selby in the last 16 who has really disappointed this season and is not guaranteed to get past last year’s quarter-finalist Michael White. We’ll have a bet on Xiao to win quarter three at 12/1 (General) and a highly speculative each-way punt at 125/1 (sportingbet) to lift the title – purely because he is on the way up and believes in himself enough to win.
In the match betting Kyren Wilson is worth backing against last year’s semi finalist Ricky Walden at 5/2 (General). After Wilson had beaten Graeme Dott 10-7 in the final qualifying round this week Dott remarked that on that form Wilson could do well here and the Scot felt his own game had been decent. We’ll also back Wilson to win quarter two at 28/1 (Boylesports, Ladbrokes) because along with quarter three these are definitely the weaker sections of the draw.
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.
The German Masters gets underway tomorrow in Berlin. Ali Carter is well drawn to retain his title. He is best priced 25/1 with Ladbrokes and has a real chance. In the Shootout at the weekend he cued straight and confidently – in particular he did pot two blacks sliding across the face of the object ball which both made the centre of the pocket. This is a strong indication of a player’s form.
Carter opens against Dechawat Poomjaeng and should walk into the last eight. He is a strong tip to go deep into the event and possibly retain his title.
Ali Carter – Cueing very straight and wants to retain his title.
In the opposite half Neil Robertson has become the real deal and it’s no surprise that he is 5/1 favourite (sportingbet). The Aussie has a reasonable draw although Tian Pengfei and Marco Fu are potential dangers so we’ll have a saver on the world number one.
The Shootout gets underway tonight at 6pm from the Tower Circus Arena in Blackpool ending on Sunday night .
It is a bit of a lottery although we’re best sticking with the players who meet the following criteria.
1. See the shot quickly and play it quickly
2. Have bottle – just one miss can be the end.
3. Are currently playing well
Robert Milkins – Made the final in 2011 and is very quick on the shot – 66/1 (Ladbrokes).
Other players who meet this criteria are Alfie Burden (100/1 general) – Burden has bottle and his aggression can help him go far into the event.
Anthony McGill (66/1 Coral) is good enough to lift a trophy – he did make the final of the Scottish Open in 2012. And he does fancy himself which is a critical quality in this format.
We’ll have to leave the match betting alone – simply because more or less anyone can win. But the players who have wit and can adapt to the rules can be at the forefront also. Mark Selby is the cleverest snooker player on the circuit and this will suit him.
But his address is just a bit too long. The Jester is currently 16/1 favourite – simply because layers have no idea who is going to win so they may as well reflect the ranking for standard tour events just lengthening the prices to account for the rules. A 10 minute frame time and 15 seconds per shot which is reduced to 10 seconds per shot after five minutes.
Quite simply the way to give yourself the best chance is to play safe as normal and when you get in just try and make a 30+ break and if your break down play a good safety. Your opponent will start to panic and have no option but to try and push the boat out so just manage the table from thereon in.
Good luck. And what fun!
Masters Snooker gets underway on Sunday from Alexandra Palace in North London and you can read my preview for sportinglife.com here
World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan heads the market at 11/4 (general) with defending champion Mark Selby best priced at 13/2 (general).
Joe Perry stands out as real value in the draw. The Wisbech player has been a professional since 1991 and is now playing his best snooker which is remarkable given the improved standard of play on the tour. Perry has risen five places to 15th in the current world rankings and this week won Group Two of Championship League Snooker against a really strong field – winning eight out of nine matches along the way.
Joe Perry – Not without a shout at a big price
He said afterwards that it will help him go to the Masters with real confidence. He opens against Stephen Maguire who took some time off at the start of this season and hasn’t yet regained the level of form to enable him to compete. So we’ll take the 13/8 (StanJames) for Perry to prevail and have a speculative each-way punt at the generous outright 66/1 (general) as well as a saver on him to win quarter three at 7/1 (general).
In the first quarter Selby opens against Mark Davis and the Jester showed some form in the UK Championship losing in the final to Neil Robertson. But he now doesn’t seem capable or confident of steamrollering an opponent – preferring instead to use his methodical approach and acute understanding of the variables of the game to work out the best shot for nothing. This can disrupt an opponents rhythm which is why he is involved in more scrappy frames and long matches than any other top sixteen player. Although there is no reason why he should change because it clearly works for him. But we’ll discount Selby simply because there are many players coming into this tournament in very good form.
Judd Trump opens against Marco Fu and is at risk of losing in the opening round. Trump hasn’t managed to sustain his form of the last three seasons – in the five major ranking events of this campaign he entered he has only made the last 16 once. Also he is short of recent success on the big stage so we’ll take a punt on Fu who this season triumphed in the Australian Goldfields Open and was runner-up in the International Championship in China. We can ignore his loss to amateur Mitchell Travis in the opening round of the UK last month. The 2/1 (CORAL) is worth a bet and also we’ll have a small each-way saver outright at 40/1 (general).
Ding Junhui has won three ranking titles so far this season which reflect his current form and he isn’t finished yet. He now looks relaxed around tournaments and can now even play at his best in China whereas before he felt the pressure too acutely to perform. He opens in the second quarter against the new slimline Shaun Murphy and the 15/2 (UNIBET, 888sport) for Ding outright should be taken.
O’Sullivan has a great record in this tournament – in the last ten years he has lifted the title three times and lost 10-9 in the final three times too. He didn’t enter last year. He plays Rob Milkins in the first round and the venue is just a 30 minute drive from his Chigwell home. This means he can go home during the tournament which will help him.
But I’m not sure he is value at 11/4. His focus and commitment this season have largely been exemplary but the snooker landscape has changed. Selby and Robertson at the top of their game don’t fear the Rocket at all which does negate somewhat the Ronnie factor. Quite simply O’Sulllivan’s best used to be usually good enough to win but with the plethora of tournaments and consequently the higher standard of play this now means his best is no longer a guarantee of success.
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.