The final occasion earlier than the World Championship begins this afternoon because the top-eight gamers on the one yr rating listing battle for a £380,000 prize fund on the Tour Championship. Even first spherical losers will take residence £20,000, though earnings will not depend in the direction of the rankings till the semi-finals.
There’s additionally a £100,000 prize on provide for the winner of the Cazoo Cup collection – at present headed by John Higgins. For as soon as there is no such thing as a rankings sub-plot, as all eight are already certain of a Crucible place.
Will Trump fare higher this time at Celtic Manor?
Arguably extra vital is the change of venue, as gamers return to Celtic Manor. Many expressed dismay on the situations when it hosted the Welsh Open, with Judd Trump notably off-colour.
That is about the one argument one may legitimately engineer in opposition to the world primary’s declare. Trump was completely magnificent on the Gibraltar Open, producing snooker that was actually a category, a number of courses, above the subsequent greatest customary that week.
It appeared virtually a wounded response to a few defeats, that are in fact inevitable given the variety of tournaments. He is by far the likeliest winner of this occasion and the world title, however that apparent assertion is mirrored by odds of simply 2/1 right here and 1/5 to beat Barry Hawkins first up.
Hawkins is not any pushover
Not thrilling costs, within the strongest last-eight of the season, and in opposition to an opponent whom he has hardly ever been in a position to brush apart. Hawkins trails their head-to-head 4-6 after shedding their final three encounters, however all required a deciding body. He surrendered a 5-1 lead final time.
That actually sums up Hawkins’ profession – top-class, however a nearly-man who struggles to recover from the road. Since that gut-wrenching loss to Trump within the German Masters, he is surrendered a semi-final result in Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Nevertheless that reveals he can compete even in opposition to the most effective and, on his normal kind, an upset just isn’t out of the query. I’m attempting what quantities to an even a refund to put commerce – taking 5.04/1 pre-match, then setting an order to put again twice the stake at 2.56/4.
Higgins ought to be favorite in opposition to Ronnie
Before that, the motion begins with snooker’s model of ‘El Clasico’ – the third renewal this yr. Rarely of their 28 years has supremacy between O’Sullivan and John Higgins appeared tougher to measure.
The profession head-to-head reads 34-30 to Ronnie however he was hammered in each current encounters, within the Masters quarters and Players closing, by an mixture rating of 16-6. Higgins hit six tons throughout the 2 matches, producing what he is described as the most effective snooker of his profession.
That’s fairly an announcement given every part he is achieved, and unbelievable given his usually lesser customary of current years. I’m sceptical the Wizard of Wishaw can preserve it and take it to Trump however, make no mistake, his current customary has been near-unbeatable.
Furthermore, whereas Ronnie has additionally performed some unbeatable stuff of late, it hasn’t come in opposition to his closest rivals. Weak performances in opposition to Trump, Mark Selby and Higgins in that Players closing could recommend an absence of perception. I’m not satisfied the market is true right here. Back the outsider.
The head-to-heads within the two backside half matches could shock. Neil Robertson leads Jack Lisowski 4-0 and Mark Selby leads Kyren Wilson 6-0. The betting for each matches helps these numbers.
I do usually regard head-to-heads as a really significant stat, as it could mirror taking part in kinds and psychological blocks. However these are too excessive to take at face worth.
Lisowski nice worth on current kind
In the 2 years since Lisowski misplaced 11-4 to Robertson within the China Open closing, he is superior massively and is lengthy overdue a primary title. 20/1 is a cracking outright value, particularly provided that he will not must face his nemesis Trump till the ultimate.
Whereas Jack has reached three finals in three months, Robertson has executed nothing since successful the UK title. It could be very doable that he is been saving his power for the spring and the Crucible, the place he has underachieved so many occasions, however I’d need much more proof of peak kind earlier than taking 2/5 in opposition to an opponent of Lisowski’s class.
Wilson barely most well-liked
The closing match has ‘deciding body’ written throughout it. I’d discover it very exhausting to meaningfully separate Selby and Kyren Wilson’s kind over the previous 9 months and each are for my part higher suited by lengthy distance matches.
It is feasible that Wilson has points taking part in Selby, having thrown away a 4-0 lead of their earlier assembly on the Champion of Champions.
Nevertheless, as soon as once more, the betting appears too one-sided. That is their solely match in three years, although, throughout which era Kyren has improved significantly in all departments and turn out to be very constant. 11/1 about him for the title, from the better half of the draw, is truthful worth.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty