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

Snooker legend Judd Trump
Judd Trump has been the standout player this season

Paul Krishnamurty previews the third leg of the Home Nations Series, as he bids to follow up on last year's 150/1 winner in this event...

  • Trump a rock-solid favourite

  • Good opportunity for first-time winners

  • Top-half of draw to prove much stronger

The final tournament of 2023 starts this morning at the Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh. This is also the third leg of the Home Nation Series.

There are still a few games from the last-128 qualifying round carried over and, given that they include most of the leading candidates, we shall treat it as such and go in with eight picks - one each from the eight sixteenths of the draw.

With the exception of Zhang Anda's win at the International Championship, recent winners on the tour have proved very predictable. Ronnie O'Sullivan won the UK Championship, Judd Trump won three on the bounce, and Mark Allen landed his second title in three starts at last week's Shootout.

All three are in attendance so the run may well continue, but I reckon this event offers a great opportunity for a first-time winner, as is reflected in the staking plan below. Indeed last year, I put up 150-1 winner Gary Wilson, who beat another triple-figure priced outsider, Joe O'Connor, in the final.

Top section looks relatively weak

In the top quarter, the only two players who could be considered heavyweights are Mark Williams and Kyren Wilson. Neither has an easy path by any means, and the latter has been in miserable form.

I will include Williams, mainly because of the odds. For an elite player, who has won and reached a final this term, 28/1 looks a tad too big. The players he will encounter early - Sam Craigie and Yuan Sijun - are highly capable, yet the types whom I'd expect Mark to know too much for.

O'Connor to go well in Scotland again

In the other mini-section, Hossein Vafaei will I suspect become an elite player. He certainly looked it at the UK Championship before falling to Ronnie in the semis. However the market is very much alive to his progress, and 28/129.00 doesn't hugely appeal.

Instead let's give Joe O'Connor a chance to go one better this year at 66/167.00. He is a very likeable type, with solid matchplay skills, and came through a brutal draw last year. This path is much easier. He may meet Wilson again in the last-32 and, if so, arrives in better form. Joe looked strong at the UK before losing to John Higgins.

Trump to bounce back from York setback

The second quarter includes both Trump and Allen. Whilst I wouldn't question Mark's ability to win back-to-back (he managed it last season), preference is for the player of the season.

I am not slightly deterred by Trump's defeat in the UK semis to an inspired Ding Junhui. A classic case of horses for courses, as Ding showed yet again that he is a different player at York.

In the three previous rounds, Trump looked utterly imperious and a very strong favourite for the title. He's back in the form of 2018-2020, during which time odds of 4-1 would have yielded substantial profits, backed every time. Take them here and don't look back.

As for Allen's mini-section, try a win only bet on Zhou Yuelong. Nobody came closer to beating O'Sullivan at York and, while he remains winless, it is surely only a matter of time.

Swerve O'Sullivan in lesser event

The third section is dominated, on paper at least, by Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Selby. I cannot, however, even consider O'Sullivan. Nearly all his best form in recent years has come in majors and other elite events. Fair enough. He evidently prefers to mainly focus on those, and rarely puts his best foot forward in a decent, yet lesser event than this.

Selby is certainly a contender but 8/1 doesn't stand out as value, considering he's still at the last-128 stage and so often struggles in shorter matches early on.

Barry Hawkins warrants consideration too, but he has a very tough opener against Pang Junxu. 175/1 for the latter does catch the eye, especially as he won both previous encounters against 'The Hawk'. who also isn't all that reliable early on.

Persist with under-rated Saengkham

I may be accused of misplaced loyalty, but I must also give Noppon Saengkham another chance. I am prepared to die on this hill - the Thai is a much better player than his ranking, and will break through eventually. Again, he played really well at the UK. It was a sickener to watch him hit three tons and still lose 6-5 to Tom Ford.

The bottom quarter looks, like the top one, relatively weak. John Higgins is struggling to finish tournaments. Shaun Murphy has lost his way since trying this bizarre experiment of using multiple cues. Luca Brecel is highly inconsistent. It would be brave to assume Ding will turn up in the same form away from York.

Ford to maintain good form

My two here are again, putative first timers, who are reliable in early rounds and reasonably drawn. Tom Ford is on a good run, reaching the International final and only falling to Ding in York.

Lyu Haotian is very reliable in the early rounds, but repeatedly falls short against better players at the death. It is just possible this draw opens up before having to play an elite opponent.

*Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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