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Shanghai Masters Snooker 2017: Two players to back from each quarter

Luca Brecel is beginning to fulfil his long-touted potential
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After tipping three straight tournament winners and five of the last six finalists, Paul Krishnamurty bids to maintain his winning streak at the Shanghai Masters. Here's his eight selections...

"Take these odds about Brecel fast, and likewise for bigger targets later in the season. Once elite players emerge, their odds tend to collapse immediately. Often mentioned as a future world champion as a teenager, Brecel is still only 22 and producing a phenomenal standard."

Back Luca Brecel 1.5u e/w @ 30/1

In defiance of the general trend within modern snooker, the last six main event winners on a packed schedule have been very obvious. John Higgins won the Indian Open; Ding Junhui the World Open; Judd Trump the European Masters; Ronnie O'Sullivan the English Open; Mark Selby the International. When today's Champion of Champions final is resolved, either Ronnie or Shaun Murphy will be crowned.

Without bringing the pedigree of that sextet into question, this run must end. Literally dozens of players are capable of winning nowadays and, as we saw last term, they will all have good weeks over the course of a long season and plenty will win in their turn. Even if not quite on the same scale as last year's miracle champions Anthony Hamilton and Mark King, outsiders will inevitably come through.

The Shanghai Masters, which starts in the early hours of Monday morning, looks ripe for such an upset. Snooker may not be the most physically grueling sport but constantly travelling back and forth between Asia and Europe is. Those who had to return home for the Champion of Champions in between this and the previous China event are at a distinct disadvantage.

Back Mark Allen 1.5 units each-way @ 20/1
Back Tom Ford 0.25u e/w @ 225/1

The top half of the draw looks ripe for an outsider. Besides Trump and Ding - arguably the least reliable among the elite - only Mark Allen is trading (just) below [30.0]. In particular, Ding looks well worth opposing at single-figure odds, following highly unlikely defeats to Hamilton and Oliver Lines. He also has an extra round to play than most. Ryan Day is the biggest threat in Ding's mini-section but he's hardly bombproof either and I'd rather focus on those who avoided the return trip to Coventry.

Mark Allen and Yan Bingtao contested the International semi and renew rivalry in the last-64. Whoever wins will be heavy favourite to reach the quarters. Although Bingtao's 9-3 reverse there is a dubious guide, given the pressure of his first semi-final appearance, his outright odds have been cut by two-thirds so I prefer the more experienced man at 25/1.

In Ding's mini-section, let's try a huge-odds punt on Tom Ford. A ranking finalist only 15 months ago, the Leicester man recorded some good wins earlier in the season and can hardly be faulted for losing his last two matches to Selby at the International and when runner-up in the low-grade Haining Open.

Back Luca Brecel 1.5u e/w @ 30/1
Back Xiao Guodong 0.5u e/w @ 125/1

Take these odds about Brecel fast, and likewise for bigger targets later in the season. Once elite players emerge, their odds tend to collapse immediately. Often mentioned as a future world champion as a teenager, Brecel is still only 22 and producing a phenomenal standard. If maintaining it throughout the season, he could easily be among the top-four market leaders heading into the World Championship.

Saturday's semi-final defeat to Murphy demonstrated the Belgian's inexperience on big stages but he is gaining that fast. It was his third semi-final of this career-best season in which he has beaten Ronnie, Selby, Trump and Murphy. I'm worried about jetlag ahead of his opener against Matthew Stevens but, if landing the odds there, Brecel will maintain very strong favouritism until at least the quarters.

At that stage Trump - his only market superior in the quarter - may await but Judd will have to negotiate several tricky hurdles first. This mini-section is so much more competitive - involving Ali Carter, Stephen Maguire and some dangerous outsiders - that I'd rather get with Brecel's likeliest last-16 opponent. Runner-up here in 2013, Guodong beat Mark Selby recently and is easily our main selection's biggest early threat.


Back Martin Gould 1u e/w @ 50/1
Back Zhou Yuelong 0.5u e/w @ 150/1

Another big-name I'm happy to oppose here is John Higgins, who must play a last-128 match against English Open semi-finalist Alexander Ursenbacher, before further tricky opponents in the last-32 and last-16. Equally, Marco Fu is hard to back after yet another failure in Coventry and given a surprisingly poor Shanghai record.

Take that pair out and the section is wide-open. Liang Wenbo and David Gilbert warrant close consideration, but are edged out of the staking plan by the brilliant teenager Yuelong. We've already seen how quickly Yan Bingtao is progressing and Zhou is not far behind. His earlier season form does not merit odds of 150/1.

Fu's first match is against the highly dangerous Hossein Vafaei and, if losing, it would open the draw right up for International semi-finalist Gould. He loses no credit for being trounced by Selby there, having shown plenty in the previous rounds.

Back Mark Selby 7u win @ 9/2
Back Gary Wilson 0.25u e/w @ 325/1

The combined odds of players in this ultra-competitive bottom section take out nearly half of the book - mostly due to the presence of O'Sullivan and Selby. However they are far from the only big-names, most notably Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins.

Prior to today's final at least, Ronnie has been superb in Coventry, carrying over the form shown when winning in Barnsley. Whether he's as well motivated for a trip to Shanghai is another matter, especially given that he'll be chasing the second Home Nations event hard next week. Note, he hasn't gone beyond the last-16 of this event since 2009.

I can see Ronnie's first opponent rising to the occasion. Gary Wilson didn't disgrace himself when they met at the Crucible in May, losing 10-7, and is capable of much better than his enormous odds imply. He is no stranger to the latter stages, reaching the 2015 China Open final.

Alternatively, whereas early rounds are generally the best time to get against Selby, I can't see much of a threat until perhaps Williams in the last-16. Once he gets beyond that, we know there is no tougher nut to crack. The Jester loves this event, winning in 2011, finishing runner-up last year and reaching no fewer than six semi-finals.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty


2017/18 Profit/Loss

+84 units

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