Paul Krishnamurty previews Sunday's action from York where Ronnie O'Sullivan heads a busy schedule. Check out his three best match and speciality bets of the day...
"Liam Highfield doesn't generally get thrashed by superior opponents and enjoyed some good wins last week in Northern Ireland. Moreover Murphy is not the most reliable in these early rounds. I'll be surprised if this is one-sided."
Sunday's 16 second round matches offer a mixture of tight contests involving lesser-ranked players, mostly on the non-televised tables, while several big-guns are heavily odds-on to progress. However, after watching defending champion and world number one Mark Selby unceremoniously dumped out of the competition by 10/1 outsider Scott Donaldson yesterday, even the biggest names daren't take anything for granted in snooker anymore.
Likewise only last week, Elliot Slessor caused a similar-priced upset to derail Ronnie O'Sullivan's bid for the £1M Home Nations bonus. With Selby out, the Rocket is red-hot [2.9] favourite to land his sixth UK title and [1.1] against Michael Georghiou today. Can he be trusted this time?
For my money, absolutely. Ronnie may not be immune to shocks, especially over short best-of-seven where games for which anyone can come out flying, but he has become much more reliable with age. His record against his closest rivals in the last couple of seasons hasn't been too fearsome but, when granted multiple chances to win frames, he very rarely fails to deliver. Without the performance of his life, Georghiou will offer those chances.
The pair met in the last-32 here last year, with O'Sullivan running out a 6-1 winner. He's actually in better overall form this time around, looking very focused, and I expect will make light work of Georghiou. Naturally anything other than prohibitively priced betting options are limited though, so let's just try a correct score for an interest.
The other very strong favourites - John Higgins, Barry Hawkins, Shaun Murphy and Luca Brecel - are also very hard to oppose in their matches. If short-odds accas are your thing, the fivefold including O'Sullivan pays around 11/10. We don't like that sort of certainty betting here, though. It may not seem obvious which one will lose but, the way snooker is nowadays, one probably will.
Most vulnerable among them, in my view, is Shaun Murphy. Liam Highfield doesn't generally get thrashed by superior opponents and enjoyed some good wins last week in Northern Ireland. Moreover Murphy is not the most reliable in these early rounds. I'll be surprised if this is one-sided and rate 8/13 about Over 8.5 Frames as a better odds-on banker than any of the outright bets.
Among those matches on the outside tables, the best value could lie with 22 year-old Akani Songsermsawad to beat Michael Holt. This little-known Thai player has produced some decent wins this term and hasn't been notably inferior to Holt. These Asian players are emerging at a rate of knots and are often below the market radar.
Back Ronnie O'Sullivan to beat Michael Georghiou 6-1 1u @ 16/5
Back Over 8.5 Frames in the Shaun Murphy v Liam Highfield match 4u @ 8/13
Back Akani Songsermawad to beat Michael Holt 2u @ [2.7]