Snooker

Scottish Open Snooker Betting: Two players to back from each quarter

Snooker player Jack Lisowski
Jack Lisowski is on the brink of a breakthrough

"As in the last World Championship, Lisowski finally looks to be putting it all together and a first ranking title is surely imminent...This event looks just right to breakthrough (as Brecel did last year)."

Paul Krishnamurty previews the second Home Nations Series event, which starts on Monday morning, live on Betfair Video...

At first glance, the Scottish Open looks the sort of event that is primed to produce a shock winner. It comes towards the end of a long run of tournaments, following a major, and previously was the last event of the calendar year (next week's English Open has been moved back). Matches are over best-of-seven prior to the quarter-finals, making the favourites that bit more vulnerable.

Perfect event for a challenger to break through?

Indeed, one might expect the big-guns would opt out or take the event less seriously. Yet overall, the six renewals since it returned to the schedule have produced top class finals. Yes, Luca Brecel last year and Marco Fu back in 2016 were a little further down the betting but neither could be classed as an upset. 2017 very nearly produced one, before Cao Yupeng capitulated and missed a black ball for his first title.

As top-seed, Brecel has every chance of another big run from a relatively decent draw. Only Ricky Walden, who isn't enjoying a great season, would challenge him for favouritism prior to the last-eight. 40/1 is in my view a perfectly reasonable offer but I'll swerve him in favour of Sam Craigie at more than three times the odds. They will likely meet in the last-64.

Craigie to continue his progress

I'm pretty sure this is the first time Craigie has ever made a staking plan, because he is a very frustrating character. A massive underachiever. Nevertheless, underachievers always retain the potential to transform quite suddenly, and it may be that Craigie's run to the UK quarter-finals proves a turning point. Losing to the eventual champion is no disgrace and he followed up with two comfortable wins last week.

Quarter two is extremely competitive, involving Ding Junhui, Mark Williams and Zhao Xintong, plus several capable outsiders. All of that trio are happily opposed. Ding produced something approaching his best at the UK Championship and is clearly one to watch, but he lost to Matthew Stevens last week and has numerous hurdles to clear here. Not least Zhao in the last-32.

Improved Robertson worth persevering with

One interesting last-64 match is between Jimmy Robertson and Pang Junxu - both regular outsider picks for this column, yet to deliver, but far from abandoned just yet. The former gets the marginal nod here, because he's been so solid throughout the early rounds for the last year and a half. Robertson beat an excellent match player in Jak Jones 5-2 on Tuesday, knocking in two tons.

It was also good to see Jack Lisowski resume winning ways in last week's qualifiers, after producing the best snooker of the UK Championship and losing the semi by a whisker. As in the last World Championship, this perennial underachiever finally looks to be putting it all together and a first ranking title is surely imminent.

A good opportunity for in-form Lisowski

This event looks just right to breakthrough (as Brecel did last year). Jack's principal challenger prior to the last-eight would be twice former champion Mark Selby. Given their contrasting styles, strengths and weaknesses, it may surprise readers to learn that Lisowski is tied 5-5 in their head-to-head.

The trend in recent years has implied that all the top players more or less win in their turn. Nobody can maintain their best form throughout the whole year. On that basis, one might assume Neil Robertson is due a title. He was the best in the world last year and hasn't exactly deteriorated, even if underperforming in recent months.

I am tempted by 6/1, but the Aussie is under a bit of pressure and there are hard opponents in his path. Last-128 opponent Mark Davis beat Judd Trump last week. Joe Perry, who knocked him out of the UK Championship, may lie in wait at the last-32 stage. Therefore I'd prefer an each-way punt on one of the home contingent.

McGill to lead home hopes

Anthony McGill had a good run in this last year, reaching the semis. He's a multiple ranking event winner and a formidable match player. He's got an easy last-64 match against Sean O'Sullivan so could very well make the latter stages, at which point a 66/1 each-way punt could suddenly seem tremendous value.

I am not full of positivity about Judd Trump by any means right now. Outside the Champion of Champions, he hasn't looked at all confident and didn't through most of last season. That he reached the CoC and World Championship finals was a testament to his class, if less so his form.

Easy draw for Trump

Nevertheless, I find it very hard to see how Trump doesn't reach the quarter-finals from this draw. The hardest possible opponents are Stuart Bingham and Xiao Guodong. The former has been well below his best for a season and a half now. The latter took him to 6-5 at the UK, but rarely appeals as an outright bet, because he falls short against the best.

The sixth mini-section looks primarily between Mark Allen and John Higgins, but there's a big gulf in recent form between these two. Higgins looks extremely vulnerable at the moment and I'll be backing Anthony Hamilton against him in the first round. Allen has been the player of the season but he's entitled to be exhausted and lost 5-0 to Zhao Jianbo on Wednesday.

Jamie Jones capable of winning at this level

Yupeng was shortlisted here at 125/1, as he retains the ability to breakthrough at this level. But the superior matchplay skills of Jamie Jones - twice a quarter-finalist already this season - are preferred. The Welshman is also well capable of breaking through in an event like this and, at 80/1 with a relatively easy starter to reach the last-32, could amount to a case of getting on before the draw opens up, as higher-rated players fall by the wayside.

The bottom quarter is the toughest. Ronnie O'Sullivan is the favourite but he hasn't won this title since 2000, and made only one final since its return. If there's a ranking event where his motivation might be in question, this is it. That would present an opening for Kyren Wilson and Yan Bingtao - top-class players who haven't won anywhere near enough titles yet. There's also Barry Hawkins and numerous good outsiders to consider.

Yuelong and Wilson represent fair value

I've opted for Zhou Yuelong and Gary Wilson. Many judges reckon Zhou will fare best in the long-term, among the Chinese prospects. That he has no weakness (apart from what seems an inferiority complex against the best players). He won't have to worry about facing any legends until at least the last-eight here, though, and 50/1 rates good value on the basis of his run to the Northern Ireland Open final.

Wilson is a speculative punt, as I look to take on O'Sullivan in the bottom section. Two of my favourite outsiders - Hossein Vafaei and Noppon Saengkham - meet in the last-64, so the Englishman is preferred as he has only Ken Doherty to beat before the last-32. 150/1 could turn out to be good value if market leaders struggle early.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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Paul's Snooker Profit/Loss:

2022/23: +47 units
2021/22: +48 units
2020/21: -22 units
2019/20: +6 units
2018/19: +155 units
2017/18: +106 units

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