First of all, the bottom half of the draw was destroyed as second seed Mark Selby joined third seed Neil Robertson in taking the long ride home, leaving just three seeds in that half of the draw. Meanwhile, in the top half, defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has been sweeping all before him in a display of imperious snooker that few - myself included - thought him capable of.
O’Sullivan began the week by cruising past former finalist Ali Carter with a 13-8 win, then blasting to a 7-1 lead over Premier League champion Stuart Bingham in the opening session of his quarter final. A place in the semi-final, at least, looks assured for the Rocket and the question now is more whether he can keep on playing snooker of this level of skill and intensity after his year out of the game. Asked after his defeat if O’Sullivan could be the first player since Stephen Hendry in 1996 to retain his crown, Carter’s comment was “Definitely, if his head doesn’t fall off first” - a reference to O’Sullivan’s famously fragile temperament. There have been no signs of any of his famous meltdowns so far, though, and at just even money at Bet365 now is really the time to back him with your sports picks if you are going to bet at all.
In O’Sullivan’s half of the draw the other quarter final sees Stephen Murphy taking on world number one Judd Trump. Trump is seeded four and was my tip to at least make the final, but he was hardly able to put a break together in the first session of play and finds himself 7-2 down in the best of 25 frame game. One advantage is that his betting odds have now shot out to 12/1, but in his current position if you’ve already backed him you should be looking to lay that bet off if you can. Murphy is best odds of 6/1 at the moment, but those look too short bearing in mind that he will have to get past O’Sullivan just to make the final.
The main beneficiary of the carnage in the bottom half of the draw has been Ricky Walden. He beat Robertson’s conqueror, Robert Milkins, 13-11 and didn’t look that impressive in doing so, but he now faces another unseeded player in Michael White and took a 6-2 lead thanks to breaks of 113 and 93 and would’ve been 8-0 ahead but for some scrappy play in the two frames he lost. He’s another 12/1 shot to win the championship, but that doesn’t look that generous. On the other hand you can get 13/11 with Betfair on him making the final, which could easily see you in a small profit.
The second quarterfinal in this half is the most interestingly poised, with Barry Hawkins, who beat Selby, leading Ding Junhui by 5-3. The game itself has been something of a tactical battle, which isn’t always Ding’s forte. However, he is the more experienced player and I would expect him to make good on his seventh seeding here and go through. Paddy Power are offering 6/1 on him to win the tournament outright and a final between him and O’Sullivan would be a great spectacle. Watch this game closely, though, as if Hawkins wins few are going to fancy the chances of either him or Walden giving O’Sullivan much of a fight, which will result in an even further shortening of the defending champion’s odds.