The opening major of the snooker season is underway and as always, Betfair Live Video has it covered. Here's Paul Krishnamurty's preview...
"As we saw in Sheffield, Kyren is a man to follow in majors. He's already hit a 147 in the first round."
Last week saw a historic and unique moment in snooker history. For the third straight renewal, the Northern Ireland Open produced the same final, winner and scoreline as Judd Trump beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-7.
In doing so, the world number one became the first player to achieve that in a ranking event since Stephen Hendry won this UK title from 1994-96.
Note the lop-sided draw
However that dream final cannot be repeated here, as both are positioned in the bottom half of the draw. With Trump and O'Sullivan taking out 47% of the exchange book between them, there are plenty of value options in the top half.
The draw certainly offers a great opportunity for the defending champion to build form as the week progresses. A fortnight ago, after the Champion of Champions, I couldn't consider backing Ding. Whilst brilliant in York last year, that form came out of nowhere.
However he's impressed since, only losing one in eight matches, and that to Ronnie in the NI quarters. He'll be a firm favourite against any opponent prior to these quarters, and against anyone there besides Mark Allen.
In-form Allen respected
Allen is the form man and respected at the same 16/1 odds. His early path is much trickier though, probably involving dangerous outsider Zhou Yuelong and John Higgins.
Back Neil Robertson 5u @ 9.617/2
Despite both suffering surprising big-odds defeats at the NI Open, the two frontline candidates in this section look extremely formidable.
Robbo marginally preferred to Selby
To be fair, neither Robertson or Mark Selby did that much wrong and in the previous event, they'd produced a semi-final of the highest calibre. The Aussie emerged 6-5 on that occasion, a small piece of revenge for his one-sided reverse at the Crucible, and is marginally preferred again on grounds of his path.
To reach their scheduled quarter-final clash, Robbo's worst case path involves Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao. Whereas Selby's involves a tricky last-32 followed by either Barry Hawkins or David Gilbert.
Trump's odds imply a 26% chance - which would have yielded a substantial profit at level stakes over the past two years. However he hasn't won this title since 2012 or reached the final since 2015. Last year, he suffered a historic upset against Nigel Bond.
Wilson capable of thwarting Trump again
The world number one has become incredibly formidable in the latter stages, dominating most opponents of late including O'Sullivan. One man he hasn't got the better of yet is Wilson, who beat him at the Crucible and in the Championship League final.
As we saw in Sheffield, Kyren is a man to follow in majors. He's already hit a 147 in the first round and has been showing very promising form before throwing in a bad session. His turn may well be due.
The other deterrent to backing Trump is that, even after Wilson, he's likely to face O'Sullivan in the semis. I would prefer Trump in that semi as he looked clearly superior again last week. I did like Ronnie's attitude though, battling hard and coming from behind in matches, despite being below his best.
In terms of elite players, only Shaun Murphy stands in the way of a semi-final spot and 'The Magician' has been way off his best in most recent matches. The only other player trading at less than 100.099/1 is last year's runner-up Stephen Maguire.
Saengkham is preferred at much bigger odds. The Thai beat Murphy at the Crucible before taking Selby to a decider and whitewashed Maguire last week. He's shown plenty against superior opposition in recent seasons and is on the up.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
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