Welsh Open Snooker Tips: One player to back from each quarter

John Higgins can progress from the easiest section of the draw
John Higgins can progress from the easiest section of the draw

The latest ranking tournament begins on Monday with all the world's best in action at the Welsh Open. Paul Krishnamurty provides his regular four-strong trading plan...

"John Higgins urgently needs a good tournament to maintain his top-16 ranking."

Back Ronnie O'Sullivan 10u @ 4.57/2

The money printing machine has malfunctioned in the last two events but, with his odds drifting accordingly, Ronnie O'Sullivan is decent value to retain his Welsh Open title. While Ronnie would be the first to admit that his current form is below the extraordinary standard produced 12 months ago, even at 70% he's too good for any potential opponent prior to the quarter-finals.

In any case, before over-reacting to a couple of failures at the Dafabet and German Masters, it must be remembered he was only beaten by a couple of elite performances. Neil Robertson, arguably his closest rival, produced his best snooker in London while Shaun Murphy's brilliant comeback to win 5-4 in Germany merely emphasised the latter's career-best form.

They are scheduled to meet again in the quarter-finals, although Murphy may have to negotiate Judd Trump first. Their presence makes this a very hot section, with Marco Fu the only other realistic candidate.

Back Mark Allen 2.5u @ 24.023/1

The formbook points towards a Robertson v Mark Allen quarter-final, with the latter preferred at three times the odds. Given the lumpy bet on Ronnie, it makes no sense to overstake on one half of the draw and in any case Allen is enjoying a decent season, reaching four finals and only beaten by Murphy in the last two big events.

Others worth a mention at big odds include Ali Carter, who looked fully recovered and back to his best in London. Joe Perry looked in fair form before being blown away by Ronnie in Germany. Somewhere down the line, 260.0259/1 chance Ben Woollaston will impact a ranking tournament, while Robertson's first-round opponent James Cahill is a future superstar.

Back John Higgins 1u @ 60.059/1

This is easily the weakest section, headed by an out of form Ding Junhui and 2013 champion Stephen Maguire. The latter played well again in Germany to reach the semis and warrants the utmost respect.

Instead though I'm taking a chance on a fading legend, as John Higgins urgently needs a good tournament to maintain his top-16 ranking. It's been a dire season, although there were slight signs of a resurgence in a high-class performance in defeat to Allen at Alexandra Palace. His early matches look pretty straightforward, offering a chance to build some fluency.

Back Mark Selby 6u @ 9.08/1

Fresh off winning in Germany, the bottom half of the draw is set up for Selby. With the greatest of respect to his biggest dangers, Stuart Bingham and Ricky Walden are one class below the world champion, and he wouldn't have to worry about either until the quarters. Neither are certain to get the far anyway, with dangerous outsiders Michael White and Kyren Wilson lurking in their mini-section.

In contrast, the only names Selby need worry about in the first four rounds are Robert Milkins and Peter Ebdon. There is always a concern with slow starter Selby in shorter matches but if he avoids an early upset, it's easy to imagine this weak side of the draw opening up to his favour. 

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