European Masters Snooker: One player to back from each quarter
The European Masters kicks off today, with coverage throughout on Betfair Live Video. Here's Paul Krishnamurty's regular staking plan and four selections...
"Kyren Wilson has already won twice this season and the hat-trick bid was only thwarted by Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Shanghai semis, beating Trump easily along the way."
Back Kyren Wilson @ 9/1
Just a few hours after Mark Selby prevailed in an epic China Championship final, snooker's main tour switches to another continent. Given the travelling and hectic schedule, it was no surprise to see some notable withdrawals ahead of the European Masters. John Higgins and Mark Williams have already opted out late, leaving Selby as the only member of the world's top-four in attendance.
This was the last title won by Judd Trump and, as second favourite, probably his best chance since. Whether he really deserves that status, however, is another matter. To be fair, Trump played pretty well last week but makes absolutely no appeal at the price, from this draw.
Trump is one of only two yet to play his last-128 match and that won't be straightforward, against last week's quarter-finalist Martin O'Donnell. In the last-32, he would likely face Marco Fu, and the last-16 either Kyren Wilson or Neil Robertson. Following those big-name withdrawals, this is definitely the strongest section.
Wilson, for me, is the one to beat here. This extremely progressive type has already won twice this season and the hat-trick bid was only thwarted by Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Shanghai semis, beating Trump easily along the way.
With Higgins out, this quarter is headed by two players with the highest potential, neither of whom are yet to win. Jack Lisowski has been trying a lot longer than Yan Bingtao but is at last playing as if a top-16 place is inevitable. It is hard to make a case for anyone beating him prior to the quarter-finals.
However that is all factored into the price, just as Bingtao's potential is accounted for by odds of just 18/1. He remains a prospect of the highest order but hasn't shown it yet this term. The top ranked player here, Luca Brecel, is simply unbackable on his form in 2018.
The value very much lies with outsiders. Hamilton is ultra-motivated at the moment, having lost last season to injury. He's started this term well, winning eight of 11 matches with two of those defeats coming to superior players. If I were having two picks here, Luo Honghao would have been a speculative choice at 375/1. The 18 year-old star amateur made an instant impression in the pro ranks, reaching the China Open quarters, and is evidently one to watch.
Despite yesterday heroics, Mark Selby is another big name to avoid in this format. Whilst being peerless over the longer distances, the world number one struggles so often during early rounds to never make much appeal in best-of-seven events. I wouldn't trust him first up against the promising Sam Craigie, or in the last 32 against Scott Donaldson or Mark Davis.
Barry Hawkins is another big-gun here but this relatively rare winner is another about whom single-figure odds over best-of-seven rarely appeal. Otherwise there isn't much to choose between Stuart Bingham, bang-in-form Zhao Xintong, Ricky Walden or World Open runner-up David Gilbert.
Marginal preference is for Gilbert. Now up to 20th in the rankings, I think this could be the season he finally breaks through. He beat a lot of good players that week in China and wasn't the first to get hauled in by Mark Williams in the final.
Prior to entering the big league by winning the Masters, this was precisely the sort of event one would associate with Mark Allen and, with Williams out, he's head and shoulders above the rest in this bottom section. He should build some rhythm and momentum with straightforward last-64 and last-32 matches, before a trickier tie against, worst ways, Gary Wilson.
Either Ali Carter or Anthony McGill would make for a tough quarter-final opponent, if reaching that far. Again if I were picking two, that pair would be swerved in favour of 500/1 Zhang Yong, who has shown promise when carrying our cash in similarly outlandish punts.
2018/19: -5.5 units
2017/18: +106 units