Masters Snooker: One player to back from each quarter
Paul Krishnamurty made a stunning profit in his snooker columns last year and recommends backing the following quartet at the second leg of snooker's triple-crown which begins at Alexandra Palace on Saturday.
"Murphy hit a very rich vein of form in the Scottish Open and German Masters qualifiers...At peak-form, he won all three majors so must be kept onside now suddenly thriving."
Back Shaun Murphy each-way @ 20/1
After becoming the most prolific major winner of all-time at the UK Championship, Ronnie O'Sullivan said he needed new records to target. That can't be achieved at The Masters as his tally of seven titles, including three of the last five, is already unsurpassed.
One achievement the Rocket has yet to manage is winning all three majors in the same season. Nobody has sweeped the 'Triple Crown' since Mark Williams in 2003 but nobody since has looked likelier to do so. Ronnie is just [3.3] to win here and only slightly bigger for the World Championship.
One crucial difference with his procession at the UK is that there are no easy games at the Masters. The draw opened right up for O'Sullivan at York, meaning he had to beat just two top-16 players - Jack Lisowski and Mark Allen.
Debutant Lisowski to make a big impact
That pair are scheduled, and predicted, to meet in the quarter-finals, before potentially facing O'Sullivan again. The former has the easiest first-round match against Luca Brecel, while Lisowski (pictured below) rates excellent value as outsider against the woefully out of form Ding Junhui.
Allen is the defending champion, has really stepped up in recent months. He boasts a better record than most against Ronnie and, given that his route to the UK final involved considerably harder work, is more than capable of prevailing this time.
Alternatively Lisowski came up well short against Ronnie (just as he did against Higgins at the Crucible when similarly rated a live outsider). Despite evidently having a great deal to learn, very few performed as consistently well during 2019 and he is too talented to not make his mark on the biggest stages soon.
Bingham rated a value alternative to Ronnie
Despite the harder draw, it is hard to manufacture any argument against O'Sullivan. He's playing as well as ever this term and looking ultra-focused. He's consistently rewarded backers in what must be his favourite major, reaching no fewer than 12 finals.
The problem, as always, is the price, with [3.35] very short in such an elite field, facing a top-class opponent in every round. After all, he only need fall a couple of frames behind and equivalent odds might appear to win just one match.
First up, Stuart Bingham _(below) represents a tough obstacle. He was outstanding when winning the English Open and unlucky to lose the UK semi to Allen, again producing top-class stuff throughout the tournament. Although his 3-14 head-to-head with Ronnie reads badly, those three victories all came in majors.
Wilson to prevail in tough quarter
This quarter best fits the 'group of death' tag. Fuelled by their growing rivalry and comments about one another, Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson is the pick of the first round match-ups. Whoever wins will play either Masters specialist Mark Selby or Stephen Maguire.
It will come as no surprise to regular regulars that Kyren gets the verdict. He reached the final at three times these odds for us last year and the plan remains to persist with this emerging superstar in the majors. Wilson has beaten Trump in six of their last seven encounters.
At 50/1, Maguire is a tempting alternative. He's been struggling this term with injury but produced a comeback for the ages to beat Williams en route to the UK quarter-finals. The Scot is perfectly capable of upsetting the increasingly unreliable Selby first up.
Resurgent Murphy a must-bet
For me, the two best value bets lie in the bottom quarter. I backed Neil Robertson each-way at 16/1 when the draw was first published, because he was the only one of this quartet showing anything like his best. Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins are hard to fancy on this season's form.
Afterwards, though, Murphy hit a very rich vein of form in the Scottish Open and German Masters qualifiers. This time last year, he was arguably second only to Ronnie and subsequent struggles may have been a legacy from a neck injury. At peak-form, he won all three majors so must be kept onside now suddenly thriving.
2018/19: +64 units
2017/18: +106 units