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.
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.
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.
Ronnie O’Sullivan heads the market at 9/2. The Rocket played an exhibition with Jimmy White last week and the Whirlwind said O’Sullivan is in great form and looks dangerous. No value at that price though. All players start in the last 64 here having won through a qualifying round in Barnsley earlier this month. He has a tough opener against Anthony McGill who is worth a punt for the match at 5/1 (BETVICTOR, sportingbet). The Scot fancies himself and is climbing up the rankings currently standing at a career high of 46. And most importantly made the last eight at the Indian Open two weeks ago beating Barry |Hawkins along the way.
Anthony McGill – has the bottle for the big time
In the outright betting Pankaj Advani (125/1 general) is worth another punt after losing to compatriot Aditya Mehta in the Indian Open semi-final. Advani was looking a title winner until he let the occasion get to him but he is well drawn and that performance will give him confidence for a good run here.
in the bottom half of the draw DIng Junhui and Neil Robertson are fancied for a good run but they’re in the same third quarter so we’ll leave them alone.
So it’s McGill for a shock win over the Rocket and Advani as an each-way shot.