The early stages of the UK Championship has seen several upsets but Paul Krishnamurty predicts Sunday's biggest names and favourites to progress with the minimum of fuss...
"David Gilbert is fancied to make light work of Peter Ebdon. The latter has enjoyed something of a renaissance this season...but hasn't beaten anyone as highly ranked as today's opponent."
Back David Gilbert to win the 1.5 Frame Handicap @ Evens
The top two UK Championship market leaders - and only players trading at single-figure odds - are the stars of Sunday's show in York. Ronnie O'Sullivan takes on Ken Doherty while Judd Trump faces Dominic Dale. Neither are a realistic betting option for anyone other than very big-hitters, given respective odds of [1.06] and [1.14].
Ronnie and Judd unopposable against strugglers
Nevertheless, it is very hard to envisage an upset in either case, and the same can be said of at least two more bankers. Mark Allen and Yan Bingtao shouldn't have too much problem dismissing Rory McLeod and Paul Davison respectively. If short-priced accas are you thing, that fourfold pays 4/9 on the Sportsbook.
In such scenarios where the favourite is strongly fancied, I prefer to have a correct-score or handicap punt for smaller risk, at more rewarding odds.
4/1 about Ronnie winning 6-0, for instance, looks pretty fair. Doherty found some form out of nowhere in the first round but has been whitewashed four times already during a very poor season, including by the likes of Chris Wakelin and Zhou Yuelong. O'Sullivan isn't losing many frames to lesser (yet much more dangerous) types right now, and won six on the bounce in the previous round after losing the opener.
Similarly it is very hard to see Trump, who is showing his best form in years, not prevailing for the seventh time in eight meetings with Dale. The Welshman has won only three matches this season. 11/5 about him failing to win two frames via the 4.5 Frame Handicap is the selection.
So far as Allen's match is concerned, his recent form is enough to overwhelm a limited journeyman. However McLeod is nothing if not a battler and has enough about him to avoid a whitewash. Let's try 6-2 here at 16/5.
Trust Gilbert to confirm supremacy over Ebdon
The nap is on the outside tables, where David Gilbert is fancied to make light work of Peter Ebdon. The latter has enjoyed something of a renaissance this season, reaching a final and the Northern Ireland quarter-finals last time, but hasn't beaten anyone as highly ranked as today's opponent. Gilbert is much superior, in form and a plausible outside bet for the title. Even money about him beating the 1.5 Frame Handicap is a strong recommendation.