Paul Krishnamurty says today's highlight is arguably the highest quality last-32 match in snooker history, where he is backing 17 year-old Yan Bingtao to upset the odds and take another step towards stardom...
"Yan's potting is phenomenal and, whilst there is room for improvement in break-building and cue ball control, his game is the most mature I've ever seen in a 17 year-old...he is certainly the most exciting prospect in the quarter-century since Ronnie, Mark Williams and today's opponent emerged."
The odds about Ronnie O'Sullivan winning a sixth UK Championship title are falling fast, following a day of carnage for favourite-backers at the Barbican Theatre, which saw his two closest rivals in the betting bite the dust. Yet when the Rocket starts his next match this afternoon, he will find himself in the rare position of having to compete to be centre of attention.
That's because while O'Sullivan faces Michael White, one of the strongest last-32 matches of all-time will be on the next table, involving two bona-fide contenders for this or any tournament they enter. Whoever wins out of John Higgins and Yan Bingtao will be second only to Ronnie in the betting.
I defy anyone to confidently price this match up. It is literally impossible to be more impressed with Bingtao. His potting is phenomenal and, whilst there is room for improvement in break-building and cue ball control, his game is the most mature I've ever seen in a 17 year-old. Safety is competent and he has a good snooker brain. Yan is certainly the most exciting prospect in the quarter-century since Ronnie, Mark Williams and today's opponent emerged.
Sure, he hasn't won a title yet but he came within a frame of it last week in Northern Ireland, and reached the semis of the International Championship in October. The breakthrough could well happen this week on the second biggest stage of the snooker season. Even as he hits a peak in terms of market respect and faces a legend like Higgins, the kid could still be the value.
Bingtao has no reason to fear Higgins or anyone else. He won their recent encounter at the International 6-2, where he also eliminated O'Sullivan 6-1. Plus, this may be the ideal time to play the Wizard of Wishaw. Higgins was very poor in the last round, struggling to gain fluency or consistency, and will be using a new tip today.
I don't think Ronnie is certain to have everything his own way either. Michael White represents a different league of threat to the outclassed Michael Georghiou in the last round - much likelier to capitalise on any chances that fall his way. Twice a ranking event winner, White knocked in two tons in the last round and might very well give Ronnie his hardest match before the final. Let's try a correct score combo on 6-3 and 6-4, paying around 2/1.
For the evening session, let's try a treble of handicap picks, paying just above 7/1. First, Kyren Wilson's recent form is way ahead of Ricky Walden and giving up 1.5 frames looks well within reach.
Noppon Saengkham is on a good run over the past week or so - thanks to some very easy draws rather than a transformation in his standard. Xiao Guodong is a better player, has had some excellent wins in recent weeks and is fancied to cover 2.5 frames on the handicap.
Finally, Barry Hawkins can't yet be trusted at short odds. It may be that this major finally heralds a return to his world-class best but the Hawk has been poor this term and has never had much of a 'B game'. Songsermsawad did us a favour in the last round and is capable of competing here. Only 22 and regularly outperforming expectations, correctly pricing up this Thai kid is far from straightforward.
Back Yan Bingtao to beat John Higgins 3u @ [2.3]
Back Ronnie O'Sullivan to beat Michael White 6-3 1.5u @ [5.0]
Back Ronnie O'Sullivan to beat Michael White 6-4 1u @ [7.0]
1 unit treble (pays over 7/1)
Back Kyren Wilson to win the 2.5 Frame Handicap @ 10/11 (vs Walden)
Back Akani Songsermsawad to win the 2.5 Frame Handicap @ 11/10 (vs Hawkins)
Back Xiao Guodong to win the 2.5 Frame Handicap @ 11/10 (vs Saengkham)
2017 UK Snooker P/L:
Stakes: 20 units
Returns: 24.5 units
P/L: +4.5 units