This year promises to be the most fascinating for some time, with the wildest of wild cards sitting at the top of the draw. How do we think the Snooker cookie will crumble for your sports picks?
Reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has not played at this level since winning in 2012. After that he refused to sign the players’ contract for the current season, meaning that he could not compete in or attempt to qualify for any ranking tournaments. He only appears here as he is exempt from qualification by virtue of being reigning champion.
Despite this, he starts at betting odds of 13/2 with Betway, which are not that generous for someone who hasn’t played in a year and especially considering that he opens against world number 27 Marcus Campbell. You can get 5/1 on Campbell at Ladbrokes and there’s certainly no harm in backing against O’Sullivan at this stage.
O’Sullivan’s top seeding means that world number one Mark Selby drops to second seed. That is unfortunate for him as it means that number two Neil Robertson then becomes the third seed, putting the two in the same half of the draw. Like O’Sullivan both are priced at 13/2 (this time with Totesport) but will now meet in the semi-final rather than the final.
The real beneficiary of all of this, therefore, is Judd Trump, who drops down to fourth seed and therefore finds himself in O’Sullivan’s half of the draw rather than Robertson’s. He should have little trouble getting past Dominic Dale in his first match, before meeting two time runner up Matthew Stevens or Marco Fu in the next round and then 2005 champion Shaun Murphy in the quarter final. Neither Stevens nor Murphy have looked like they can stay with Trump recently, which should set him up nicely for a semi-final against either O’Sullivan or - more likely - reigning Premier League champ Stuart Bingham.
O’Sullivan aside, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see all of the seeded players make it through to the second round. Finding upsets is hard. Stevens vs. Fu is possibly the likeliest, with Fu 15/13 with Bwin to take that. In the opening match fourteenth seed Ricky Walden could be at risk against 13/8 shot Michael Holt...
...but for my money Jack Lisowski, a real rising star of the game, looks good value even at even money to overturn 15th seed Barry Hawkins and set himself up for a second round meeting with Selby.