Welsh Open Snooker: One player to back from each quarter

Barry Hawkins is tipped to land back-to-back titles
Barry Hawkins is tipped to land back-to-back titles

Ahead of today's last-32 stage, Paul Krishnamurty provides his usual betting plan for the Welsh Open, backing one player from each section of the draw...

"Hawkins was superb in winning last week's World Grand Prix...nobody is playing better snooker right now."

In a season that has already seen two 150/1 winners, the snooker shocks just keep on coming. Entering the last-32 stage of the Welsh Open, just six of the so-called elite top-16 are still in the draw. Of the next batch from 17-32, only four have made it this far. Literally, anyone can win.

Back Scott Donaldson 0.5 units each-way @ 250/1

The carnage is particularly noticeable in this top section, which originally included O'Sullivan, Robertson, Fu, Williams, Gould and Walden. Now the men to beat are Graeme Dott and Mark Davis, ranked 30th and 31st respectively.

Davis, who beat Ronnie last night and whose good form has not come out of nowhere, is the one to beat. But can a case really be made for taking 20/1 about a 44-year-old who has never won a ranking title?

I wouldn't want to take short odds about Davis even getting past fellow journeyman Fergal O'Brien today. The Irishman leads their head-to-head 4-3 and, at 150/1, makes infinitely more appeal. There's little in Fergal's recent resume to recommend, although a remarkable five straight centuries to overhaul Barry Hawkins at the UK Championship shows he can still play. Though he doesn't get the headline tip, I am backing O'Brien each-way.

With the exception of teenage Chinese star Zhou Yuelong, the rest are mostly an exposed bunch. Jimmy Robertson has had some good runs in the past but has done very little this term. Likewise former world champ Dott is respected on reputation but is way past his best.

Yuelong is worth considering on the grounds that he'll break through somewhere, even if there has been little suggestion it was imminent. Instead rank outsider Donaldson, who will be trying to maintain a 100% record over Robertson today, gets the nod. He's only 22 and has been noted playing some good stuff in PTCs before.

Back Barry Hawkins 7u @ 7.06/1

By contrast, this section has plenty of in-form, elite players. Hawkins was superb in winning last week's World Grand Prix and gets the nod over Judd Trump and Ali Carter. All three have shown good stuff of late and warrant the title of frontline contenders.

Another one to watch is German Masters champion Anthony Hamilton. His presence, along with the dangerous Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, could mean the big-guns don't have it their way. However nobody is playing better snooker than Hawkins right now, so he must be the pick.

Back Michael White 2u @ 29.028/1

Again, anyone could emerge from this section. World number two Stuart Bingham is leagues ahead in terms of reputation and ranking, but hasn't been anywhere near his best lately. He's set to meet my selection in the last-16 and whoever emerges would become a very strong favourite to progress to the semis.

Though not consistent, White is classy and capable of winning events. In the last two seasons, he's won a ranking title and been runner-up in another. He beat John Higgins last week in Preston showing good form, and wasn't terrible when losing to Ryan Day in the next round.

Again, a miracle cannot be ruled out. One of Dominic Dale, Igor Figueirido, Stuart Carrington or Robin Hull must reach the quarter-finals. Carrington - who has much more potential to improve than the rest - makes some appeal at 100/1.

Back Mark Allen 3u @ 16.5

Finally a section with two frontline contenders - including the standout tournament favourite - and a couple of dangerous young prospects.

Mark Selby is head and shoulders above the rest but today faces arguably the best youngster in the game - Yan Bingtao. I suspect Selby could dominate this event but, in the current climate, 3.7511/4 makes no appeal with five rounds to go.

Considering how the rest of this draw is opening up, Mark Allen is good value at 16.5. He'll be a very strong favourite to reach the quarters and (potentially) face Selby, whom he's beaten in their last three matches. The other youngster to watch here is Josh Boileau, who knocked out Shaun Murphy yesterday.

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