The Welsh Open begins on Monday morning, covered live on Betfair throughout. Check out Paul Krishnamurty's preview and eight selections...
"Fresh off his second semi-final appearance of the season, and realistically chasing a top-16 spot for the first time, Tom Ford is definitely overpriced."
Robbo chasing fourth final on the spin
Irrespective of how Neil Robertson fares carrying this column's cash in today's World Grand Prix final, the Aussie will start the defence of his Welsh Open title on a remarkable run. He has now reached three finals on consecutive weekends. The only man to beat him is Judd Trump.
One might very well ask why, therefore, he is only rated third favourite to defend. Nobody (including Trump) is in better form. On paper, from this draw, odds of 9/2 are generous.
Identifying who might beat Robertson before the semis is not an obvious process. Joe Perry, Kyren Wilson, Ali Carter and Ding Junhui are of course capable. None especially appeal. However I am looking elsewhere. Fatigue has to become a factor at some point.
Outsiders tend to thrive in this event
Indeed this tournament's position on the schedule lends itself towards backing outsiders, who may be fresher and more focused than the market leaders. The last three renewals all produced two big outsiders in the semis - Joe O'Connor and Hossein Vafaei in 2019; Gary Wilson and Noppon Saengkham in 2018; Rob Milkins and Scott Donaldson in 2017.
In this top quarter, try two picks at finding Robbo's would-be last-16 opponent. Fresh off his second semi-final appearance of the season, and realistically chasing a top-16 spot for the first time, Tom Ford is definitely overpriced at 150/1.
Elite prospect Yuan Sijun is also worth another chance, with a couple of very winnable rounds to start. Either he or Ford would have perfectly realistic claims over best-of-seven against any of the aforementioned seeds in this section. One home player under consideration is Daniel Wells - a ranking semi and quarter-finalist last term.
Gilbert rated a frontline contender
The big-guns in this section are opposable too. Ronnie O'Sullivan is unbackable right now. He's lacked focus all season and was evidently beatable last week before Graeme Dott managed to complete the job.
Mark Selby is a better proposition at 12/1 but I'm always happy to take him over best-of-seven. There are enough tricky early hurdles - Kurt Maflin, Matthew Selt, before what will probably be a tough gig in the last-32.
If negotiating a tricky opener against Matthew Stevens, David Gilbert will be well-placed to take that spot. As we've seen in great performances at the majors, he has little to fear anymore at the highest level. Dott is also respected on current form but starts with a tough match against Zhao Xintong.
The second pick in this section was effectively a toss-up between Jack Lisowski and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Similar types - brilliant, erratic, infuriating in the tactical department. The latter gets a marginal nod on the basis of an easier start.
Resurgent Holt capable of a run
Next, by far the weakest section. The big-guns are Mark Williams, John Higgins and Stuart Bingham. All very beatable, particularly Williams at the moment. The latter's Masters triumph is the best form in the book but he's otherwise been in and out.
I fancy the winner of Yan Bingtao/Michael Holt in the first round going on a run. Holt is in much better form this season and played well to take Robertson to a decider last week.
A case could be made for Luca Brecel or Scott Donaldson, although they're scheduled to meet in the last-64. I'll take Xiao Guodong instead, who beat Selby last week and is probably overdue a long run in an event of roughly this stature.
Trump fancied to resume winning ways
Back Judd Trump 7u @ [4.8]
Back Zhou Yuelong 0.25u e/w @ 175/1
Having saved staking money with all these outsiders, there's plenty left in the bank for the favourite. Judd Trump's defeat last week is irrelevant - it is never easy to win back-to-back events. He'd previously confirmed top-dog status with an impressive victory over Robertson in the German final, and may well resume winning ways in swift order.
That said, this draw isn't easy. Giant-killing specialist James Cahill starts and he might face in-form Gary Wilson and either Mark Allen or Shaun Murphy just to reach the semis.
One outsider who might eclipse the latter pair is Zhou Yuelong. His whitewash defeat to Robbo in the Austrian final was a learning process. Getting that far proves his ability, at least against players who aren't quite elite standard.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
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