UK Snooker Championship Tips: One player to back from each quarter

Shaun Murphy has a solid record in the UK Championship
Shaun Murphy has a solid record in the UK Championship

The first event of snooker's triple-crown is already underway, with the big guns starting their campaigns on Saturday. Paul Krishnamurty weighs up all the leading candidates and recommends a staking plan that could potentially cover all four semi-finalists...

"I prefer 2008 champion Murphy to reach the semis for the fifth time in seven UK renewals...Shaun nearly always saves his best for the snooker majors and is full of beans ahead of this return to the scene of his finest ever session"

Back Shaun Murphy 2u @ 27.026/1

Working on the historical assumption that only the game's elite need apply for the latter stages of the UK Championship, the first semi-finalist will be one of five - Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins, Ali Carter or Graeme Dott. Amongst those, defending champion Selby is the only one trading pre-tournament below 25.024/1 but the world number two is no certainty to emerge by any means. The Jester often makes hard work of his early rounds and could be tested in the last-64 by Pankaj Advani, let alone a potential last-16 clash against last year's unlucky semi-finalist Carter.

At nearly three times the odds, I prefer 2008 champion Murphy to reach the semis for the fifth time in seven UK renewals, despite an ordinary campaign so far. Shaun nearly always saves his best for the snooker majors and is full of beans ahead of this return to the scene of his finest ever session, when overhauling an 8-4 deficit in last year's semi-final against Carter. Hawkins, who hasn't really followed up on his out-of-nowhere run to the world final, represents the only realistic threat en route to the quarter-finals and a possible rematch of last year's final with Selby. Murphy struggled to retain his fluency from the semi on that occasion, but has at least shared their four ranking contests since.


Back Mark Allen 3u @ 17.016/1

Two-times UK champ Mark Williams will disagree, but this section will probably be dominated by more recent champions Ding Junhui, Judd Trump and 2011 runner-up Mark Allen. The Juddernaut will doubtless have his supporters but he'll have his work cut out getting past two of the most in-form players. Ding and Allen have won five tournaments between them in the past three months and my prediction is for them to meet in the quarter-finals. 

Both have improved in the past year, becoming far more ruthless and strategic, and either would make a worthy champion. I've long argued Allen is below the market radar, on the verge of a breakthrough and have always felt he was a better player over long matches. This prestigious title is the ideal opportunity to demonstrate his progress so at bigger odds than both rivals, Allen rates the value at 17.016/1.


Back Neil Robertson 6u @ 8.415/2

World number one Neil Robertson hasn't actually won an event since June's Wuxi Classic, having lost a series of close encounters to his closest rivals. Last week at the Champion of Champions it was Ronnie O'Sullivan in a deciding frame, previously Ding Junhui had proved his nemesis. Nevertheless, the Aussie remains the most consistent performer and only very rarely vulnerable to lesser opposition. From this draw, it's hard to make too many realistic cases against him en route to the semis.

The two big-name threats are John Higgins and Stephen Maguire, neither of whom have been anywhere near their best this term. In fact, their vulnerability makes this the most appealing section to hunt for outsiders. If they or someone else could somehow knock out Robbo, the likes of Joe Perry at 100.099/1 or 140.0139/1 chances Mark Davis and Liang Wenbo could make a mockery of those odds. Robertson, however, is the pick.


Back Ronnie O'Sullivan 10u @ 4.57/2

Similar comments apply here, in a section which is all about Ronnie O'Sullivan. In anything like top form, there is nobody realistically capable of stopping Ronnie reach the semis. Having only gone down 10-8 to the Rocket in the Champion of Champions final, Stuart Bingham may disagree but one could equally reflect on a 13-4 mauling in the World Championship quarter-finals. Ronnie is getting better at peaking for the big events and a few resounding early victories could easily drive his odds into around 2.01/1 before having to meet any of his main rivals.

Again though, if the favourite slips up, some huge-priced outsiders come into the reckoning. Bingham and Marco Fu are the obvious beneficiaries but neither make much appeal around odds of 30.029/1. On the other hand at around 120.0119/1, both three-times UK finalist Matthew Stevens and last year's Crucible quarter-finalist Michael White do.


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