Gibraltar Open Snooker: Two players to back from each quarter
Paul Krishnamurty previews the Gibraltar Open, which will be covered all weekend on Betfair Live Video...
The favourite looks very strong from this draw, with little threat until at least the last-16....Kyren is proving very adept at this level, winning three lesser events this season."
Back Kyren Wilson @ 6/1
The fourth renewal of the Gibraltar Open is underway, with amateurs attempting to qualify for the last-128, which will kick off on Friday morning.
Very much a 'second-division' affair, boasting a first prize of merely £25,000, this is an excellent opportunity for players just below the elite. All three champions - Marco Fu, Shaun Murphy and Ryan Day - fit that bill. Among the top-ten ranked players, only Kyren Wilson and Barry Hawkins are in attendance.
Great chance for Gilbert to break his duck
Day is one of three such 'second-tier' players in this top quarter, along with Ali Carter and David Gilbert. The defending champion appeals least, given a path involving Noppon Saengkham and Mark Davis, just to reach the last-16.
Carter has a nice path but Gilbert is preferred at bigger odds. His snooker has been more consistent than anyone in this section and, having finally reached the top-16, all that is lacking is a first ranking title. Twice a runner-up already this season, he's due a change of luck.
I didn't expect to ever tip Peter Ebdon again but 'The Force' has proved he can still live up to his nickname in lesser company this season, reaching a final and a quarter-final. His early path is pretty straightforward and the rest of the draw could well open up in the meantime.
Honghoa retains tremendous potential
There's nobody shorter than 20/1 in this section and, were Shaun Murphy to show anything like his best, those odds would be an absolute steal. Besides one tournament before Christmas, though, there has been no signal of it.
It has been a long time since I last backed Luca Brecel and, to be honest, it is done reluctantly because the Belgian's style is so unreliable. Nevertheless, he has been playing better of late through the early rounds and would be a hot favourite against anyone apart from Yan Bingtao up to the quarter-finals.
Regular readers may recall Luo Honghao giving us an exciting run at 500/1 in the English Open, before losing a cracking quarter-final to Ronnie O'Sullivan. The 19 year-old looked an outstanding prospect that week, building on a strong amateur reputation. He hasn't done much since but, as Yuan Sijun has demonstrated, these youngsters can turn it around in an instant.
Hawkins primed for a big run
The two big guns in this section are Barry Hawkins and Stuart Bingham, with the former marginally preferred. Barry has been hinting at good form for a couple of months and played very well in defeat to the unstoppable O'Sullivan last week.
Eden Sharav is another little-known outsider to gatecrash the later rounds this term. He reached the Northern Ireland semis, where not disgracing himself in defeat to Judd Trump. That isn't the 26 year old Israeli's sole form - he's reached five top-32s and is climbing the rankings fast.
Others worth a mention here include last year's semi-finalist Scott Donaldson and Anthony Hamilton, who is playing well again this term.
Well-drawn Wilson chasing fourth title this term
The tournament favourite looks very strong from this draw, with little threat until at least the last-16. 6/1 isn't a price to get excited about but Kyren is proving very adept at this level, winning three lesser events this season.
His last eight opponent will likely be tough, with Jack Lisowski, Joe Perry and Yuan Sijun all in contention. Martin O'Donnell, Gary Wilson and Zhao Xintong also reside in a very trappy mini-section.
I like Xintong at these odds. He is arguably as good as any of the Chinese prospects and has scored very heavily on a few occasions this season, most recently at the Welsh Open.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
2018/19: +147 units
2017/18: +106 units
Back David Gilbert 1.5u e/w @ 20/1
Back Peter Ebdon 0.5u e/w @ 50/1
Back Luca Brecel 1u e/w @ 35/1
Back Luo Honghao 0.25u e/w @ 150/1
Back Barry Hawkins 4u @ 8/1
Back Eden Sharav 0.25u e/w @ 200/1
Back Kyren Wilson 5u @ 6/1
Back Zhao Xintong 0.5u e/w @ 66/1