Tournament favourite Neil Robertson and three-time Masters champion Mark Selby kick off their bids today. Here's Paul Krishnamurty's preview...
"Selby has been producing a standard not far off Trump, on a par or arguably superior to Robertson...I make him the likeliest tournament winner."
We're halfway through the first round but the odds imply we haven't seen the winner yet. The four players already through to the quarter-finals take out only 28% of the book. The quarter likeliest to produce the champion gets underway this afternoon.
Following Judd Trump's withdrawal, Neil Robertson is rated the man to beat. Rightly so, in the wake of his UK Championship victory and having been the second best player throughout 2019 and 2020.
Bingtao isn't scared of the big-guns
I don't, however, regard the Aussie as a sure thing against Yan Bingtao. The Chinese prodigy may not have yet reached the consistent standard of the elite players but he's made rapid progress and has often thrived against top players.
Indeed Yan beat Robbo in a major - the 2019 UK - by a resounding 6-1 scoreline. He lost their only previous encounter 6-3 - a good result considering he was only 15. Note he also took Trump to 13-11 at last year's World Championship.
Try this back to lay trade
Such results lead me to conclude Yan won't freeze on his Masters debut. We haven't seen a favourite even come close to getting turned over yet, which surely changes soon.
Whether he completes the job or not, odds of 4.47/2 offer a bit of trading potential. Let's try a back to lay, placing the order to partially cash out for profit at 2.01/1.
Based on both their career and recent head-to-head, one would also expect Mark Selby versus Stephen Maguire to be close. Selby leads 9-7 with the last six shared, dating back to 2015. In majors, he leads 3-1, with all three victories coming in this event.
Selby way ahead of Maguire this season
The same cannot be said about their respective current form. Maguire played fantastically - to his own great surprise - to win the Tour Championship after the resumption in June, but has achieved very little of note since.
In contrast, Selby has won two events and been producing a standard not far off Trump, on a par or arguably superior to Robertson. With the world number one out, I make him the likeliest tournament winner.
Within a few hours of publishing my outright preview, not only did Trump withdraw but Selby's tip flew off mid-match in the Championship League. Though repaired, I presume he'll be using a new one. Theoretically that's a negative but he's had three days to play it in.
I'm not deterred although there's no sense in backing him at prohibitive odds of 1.351/3. Instead, try a small punt on Selby to win 6-2 or better at 11/4 via the -3.5 Frame Handicap.
Three tons is realistic
Also try 11/4 about three centuries in the match via the #OddsOnThat section. Even when below his best, Maguire hits a high share of tons, averaging one every 12 frames despite a poor season to date.
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