Paul Krishnamurty previews the British Open with six recommendations going up to 275/1. Betfair Live Video will have coverage from 9am on Monday...
"Alexander Ursenbacher has a horrible starter in John Higgins, but played better than the Scot in the Championship League. The Swiss is a tremendous prospect"
The 2021/2022 snooker season is underway, with David Gilbert landing the first, (and his first) ranking title at the Championship League. Next, an old ITV favourite returns to the schedule.
The British Open was a mainstay on the tour until 2004 and was won by all the big games. My most vivid memory though came in 1990, when Alex Higgins reached his last final, losing to Canadian Bob Chaperon.
A quirk of that renewal was a random draw, made live on TV at the end of each day's play, all of which became ever more exciting as the Hurricane progressed. (Although if memory serves, Alex was the only player who didn't turn up for the draws!)
Random draw throws event wide open
That rare random draw format is revised this year and matches will be played over best of five. Both certainly increase the prospect of an upset and the first round draw perfectly demonstrates it, throwing up a re-run of the world final in Mark Selby v Shaun Murphy.
There are two particularly notable absentees in Neil Robertson and Ronnie O'Sullivan, leaving Judd Trump and Selby the only players trading in single figures. The former is short enough at 4/1, given the randomness, while the world champion is at his most vulnerable in short matches.
Another solid chance for Wilson
The one player near the top of the market who does appeal is Kyren Wilson. Some may accuse me of misplaced loyalty. He has become incredibly hard to get over the line. However I'd say that is primarily due to struggling against the handful of superiors on the tour in the latter stages, which is much less likely to be a factor here.
Otherwise, he is relentlessly consistent against lesser opponents in the early rounds, and has a decent starter against Ashley Hugill. He's already won last year's Championship League over this short format, and was bang in contention again last week.
Stick with Day whilst in form
Ryan Day was also in good nick at the Championship League, and is always worth sticking with when on a hottish streak. Plus I reckon the Welshman is perfect for this sort of second division affair, over a short distance. See past wins in Gibraltar, Latvia and Romania.
Noppon Saengkham has been a regular pick for this column for two years now. In vain so far, but I'm convinced the Thai will break through soon. Once again, excellent form at the Championship League is a big plus, and so too what appears an easy first round match against Sean Maddocks.
Keep this trio of prospects onside
As with Saengkham, my final three darts are thrown at outsiders whom I very much want to keep onside moving forward. Alexander Ursenbacher has a horrible starter in John Higgins, but played better than the Scot in the Championship League. The Swiss is a tremendous prospect and I suspect best for now in short formats.
Pang Janxu gave us some excitement at huge odds last term and remains overpriced at 275/1. Ranking the Chinese youngsters is not easy, but no way is he four times the price of Zhao Xintong (who has a horrible draw against bang-in-form Cao Yupeng). Pang is a given for my staking plans whilst at these odds.
Finally Joe O'Connor has caught the eye in the early stages of various events, and has reached a ranking semi-final before. As with the others, he is still relatively young at 25 and with the potential to improve considerably in due course.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
2020/21: -21.6 units
2019/20: +6 units
2018/19: +154.5 units
2017/18: +106 units