Previewing the Indian Open - which begins tomorrow on Betfair Live Video - Paul Krishnamurty recommends backing one player from each section of the draw...
"Zhao Xintong has extreme potential and showed more of it when scoring heavily en route to the Welsh quarters last time out."
Back Zhao Xintong 1.5u e/w @ 33/1
The latest renewal of the Indian Open may very well be the most wide-open event in ranking tournament history. Following numerous withdrawals, John Higgins is left as favourite despite performing several leagues below his best all season.
Struggling Higgins is poor value for title defence
Higgins is here to defend the title, having won in 2017 before this renewal was postponed in response to the Kerala floods. The Wizard of Wishaw, however, makes no appeal whatsoever at just 9/2 to repeat. Nor, for that matter, do any of the top-eight candidates, trading below 20/1.
Three of those eight are positioned in this top quarter - Higgins, Joe Perry and David Gilbert. The last-named pair would be in keeping with an event that tends to prove fertile territory for that tranche of players around the edges of the top-16.
Both should go well. Twice a ranking finalist this term, Gilbert looks ready to break through while Perry has also reached the final of a better event and has a nice early draw. Given that they've only ever managed one title of any note between them, though, I'd rather look for bigger odds.
Ben Woollaston has long struck me as a potential winner, especially in one of these lesser events. Ben had a good record in PTCs very early in his career, and has also been runner-up in a ranking event before - to Higgins in the 2015 Welsh Open.
The 31-year-old has won plenty of matches this term, including one against Selby, before tending to find an elite player too good. There are few such obstacles this week.
Extremely similar dynamics apply to this section. Jack Lisowski couldn't have bought a better chance to win his first title. Nor could Yan Bingtao, although his claims as an imminent winner have declined this term. Stuart Bingham is very much the one to beat, but is easily opposable at short odds.
Again I'm taking them on with a character who has gone on many a good run in better tournaments who is arguably better than his ranking. Gary Wilson is a former losing finalist and reached last year's Welsh Open semis. His best win this term came against Judd Trump and he won't face any opponents of that calibre here.
Numerous outsiders could thrive in the bottom half
Next the weakest section. Had Thepchaiya Un-Nooh not won the Shootout on Sunday, he might well have got the nod at big odds. 40/1 though is short enough given how rare back-to-back wins are amongst even the very best players. Chinese prospects Yuan Sijun and Zhou Yuelong both have nice draws, but that is reflected by much skinnier odds than usual.
Alexander Ursenbacher looked a serious prospect at the Welsh Open, especially when beating Ronnie O'Sullivan. Certainly better than a 150/1 chance in this company. Preference though is for Michael Georgiou - a streaky type who showed cracking form in Wales before running into the eventual champion Neil Robertson.
If turning up in the form shown just before Christmas, Shaun Murphy will ease through this bottom quarter. If reproducing the standard shown at almost any time this season, he could lose to anyone. Again, he must be taken on at 10/1. So too the fundamentally unreliable Luca Brecel at 18/1.
If winning a tricky first round match against Sam Baird - another who has long struck me as potentially much better than his ranking - this draw could open right up for Zhao Xintong. He has extreme potential and showed more of it when scoring heavily en route to the Welsh quarters last time out.
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