Welsh Open Betting: Time for Day to rise and shine
Eurosport commentator David Hendon thinks the young Welshman can land his home tournament which starts on Monday February 16.
It's about time Ryan Day won a major title. He's certainly good enough in terms of pure ability and has matured as a player in the last few years to become one of the circuit's real dangermen.
Day has already appeared in three ranking tournament finals. He lost the first 9-4 to Shaun Murphy at the 2007 Malta Cup and let slip a 6-2 lead over Dominic Dale who beat him 10-6 in the Shanghai Masters final later the same year. Earlier this season, the Bridgend potter played the best snooker of the Grand Prix in Glasgow but failed to produce that form in the final and lost 9-7 to John Higgins, who freely admitted he hadn't been at the top of his game.
The more finals a player loses, the more anxious they become to finally land a big trophy. Graeme Dott appeared in four finals before winning his first ranking title, the 2006 World Championship. In doing so, he cast aside any doubts, from himself and the wider world, that he wasn't a winner.
Day can do the same at the Welsh Open this week, where he's rated a tempting [19.5] to come out on top. He's already improved to his highest ever ranking, eighth, and is regarded by his fellow players as a likely title winner at some point in the near future. He's also the Welsh no.1 and guaranteed crowd support at an event that has not traditionally favoured home stars. In fact, the only Welsh winner since the tournament began in 1992 is Mark Williams, who captured the title in 1999 and 2002.
If Day is to break this hoodoo he must first beat Michael Judge, who he saw off in the first round of last season's World Championship. Peter Ebdon or Anthony Hamilton await in the last 16 and neither of them have shown any sort of form this season. Day may well meet Mark Selby, the defending champion, in the quarters but he beat him 5-4 on the black with a magnificent clearance at the Grand Prix and won't mind playing him again.
It will be interesting to see what sort of mood Ronnie O'Sullivan is in having just spent three days with his father, Ronnie senior, who was on day release from his life sentence for murder. The world champion will most likely brush aside Steve Davis in the first round but is in a tough little section which includes Marco Fu, who he doesn't enjoy playing, Aussie Neil Robertson, who beat him at Newport on the way to winning the title two years ago, and the always dangerous Higgins. The Rocket's odds would have to be bigger than [3.5] to tempt me.
I'd be more interested in supporting Shaun Murphy at [15.0]. Murphy has endured a bit of upheaval off the table this season after separating with his wife but has now moved to Manchester and feeling more settled. He returned to the game's winners' circle at the UK Championship just before Christmas and appears to have a relatively good draw.
As for outsiders, the chances of a surprise winner seem, to me, to be low. Young guns such as Ricky Walden, Judd Trump and Jamie Cope all failed to qualify and a fair number of those who did are experienced campaigners unlikely to trouble the elite.
Where might the first round upsets come? Sadly for his many fans, I don't think Jimmy White will upset Ali Carter, even though the Whirlwind has done superbly to come through four qualifying rounds.
But I could certainly see the tough Dubliner Fergal O'Brien causing problems for Fu and Hamilton taking advantage of Ebdon, who appears to have gone into decline. It may seem odd to tip a player under investigation for match fixing but Jamie Burnett - whose 9-3 defeat to Stephen Maguire at the UK Championship is the subject of a Gambling Commission inquiry - played some great stuff to qualify, firing in three successive centuries during his 5-0 defeat of Mark Joyce before getting the better of Stephen Lee. On this form, and perhaps feeling he has a point to prove, the Scot must be a threat to former champ Robertson.
There are three qualifying matches featuring Welsh players held over to Newport. I'd expect Mark Williams to see off Dave Gilbert and Matthew Stevens to beat Andy Hicks but Dominic Dale, whose form has been erratic since moving to Vienna last year, looks decidedly vulnerable against Chinese hot-shot Liang Wenbo.
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