Welsh Open Snooker Preview: Two players to back from each quarter

Former UK and Masters champion Ding Junhui
Ding Junhui is showing his best form in years

The Welsh Open kicks off in Llandudno on Monday morning, with live coverage throughout as always on Betfair Live Video. Here's Paul Krishnamurty's preview...

  • Robertson seeking third title

  • Resurgent Ding a must-bet

  • Saengkham to prosper from nice draw

I rather doubt the sponsors will see it this way, but the withdrawal of both Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump from the Welsh Open may come as something of a relief to bettors.

Wide-open event minus the big-two

Finding a snooker winner has been hard lately, unless sticking loyally to the favourites. Trump and O'Sullivan won seven of the last ten events that one of them participated in, including the last three. In their absence, we have the most open event of the season to date with the favourite trading at 9.28/1

Furthermore, those market leaders have serious questions to answer. John Higgins remains solid at the start of tournaments but his bottle, and B-game, appear to have gone. Mark Selby is clinging to his status as one of the game's elite after a few up and down years. Neil Robertson's game has been in crisis.

Back Jamie Jones 0.5u e/w @ 126.0125/1

Bet now

According to the odds, Robertson is the one to beat in the top quarter, just ahead of Mark Williams. Following his return to Australia before Christmas, I said Robertson wouldn't be backed until demonstrating a return to 75% of his best form.

Robertson to bounce back

I'm not sure he's there yet but there was notable improvement in Germany, where only a high-class performance from Kyren Wilson had his measure. Given a decent draw plus the fact he's talking a determined game, I'll take the chance on a third Welsh Open title.

Back Neil Robertson 4u @ 10.09/1

Bet now

The other mini-section here is competitive, including the ever disappointing Jack Lisowski, Gary Wilson, David Gilbert and defending champion Robert Milkins. Among those, only Wilson has shown his best this term and he is priced accordingly.

Try instead a small each-way punt on Jamie Jones. He starts with a tough one against Milkins but the Welshman is more than capable of coming through this path and will have the crowd onside if reaching the latter stages.

Another strong run from Ding

Back Ding Junhui 3u @ 16.015/1

Bet now

Next up another hopefully resurgent superstar. Ding Junhui looked past his best until recently but his form either side of Christmas is very encouraging. His run to another UK final appears to have provided the required confidence boost and he could have done nothing to stop O'Sullivan in full flow for defeats at the Masters and German Masters.

If he can land the odds first up against the tricky Robbie Williams, this draw could open right up. Mark Allen is a huge threat as ever, but must negotiate Cao Yupeng and perhaps Si Jiahui before meeting Ding.

Take on Higgins

Higgins is the favourite in this section and, such is his reliability against inferior opposition, he will likely be around at the latter stages. I really don't fancy him finishing the job, though, and am looking elsewhere.

Back Matthew Selt 0.75u e/w @ 50/151.00

Bet now

The two obvious threats to him reaching the quarter-finals would be Ryan Day and Matthew Selt. 66/1 and 50/1 about both appeals. Selt gets the marginal nod as he'd play Higgins one round later. A very solid match-player, Selt could neutralise the Wizard of Wishaw's usual tactical advantage if the game gets scrappy.

Ronnie's withdrawal from the third quarter may present an opening for Selby, but he too has a very awkward path. In the last-128, he is no cert at odds of 1.412/5 to beat Yuan Sijun.

Back Jordan Brown 0.5u e/w @ 125/1126.00

Bet now

Single figure odds about Selby make zero appeal. Nor for that matter does 14/1 about Ali Carter, who also is no cert to progress against Elliot Slessor.

Back Noppon Saengkham 1u e/w @ 33/134.00

Bet now

Decent draw for Saengkham

A good case could be made at this level for Hossain Vafaei, Zhang Anda or Noppon Saengkham - all on the up. The first two might run into one another early and have other tricky players in their paths.

Therefore Saengkham gets another chance. His odds are shortening about this improver but 33/1 is still generous enough from a relatively weak section and without having Trump or O'Sullivan to worry about in the latter stages.

Two more outsiders are definitely worth a mention. First Jordan Brown has the best draw, has decent form to his name this season and, as a former champion, has shown he has what it takes to defy big odds at this level. Likewise, Fan Zhengyi, who also proved his mettle by beating O'Sullivan in a ranking final. At 80/1, he's my alternative.

Wilson obvious but unbackable

Usually, I make one selection from each eighth of the draw, theoretically setting up all the quarter-finalists. An exception is made for the bottom section because I think the value all lies in one section.

In the one to avoid, the likeliest outcome is Kyren Wilson easing into the semis, as he did in Germany. At which point you'd want to be against as this once formidable match-player has become strangely fragile and error-strewn under pressure. Shaun Murphy is a strong alternative, but 12/1 isn't an exciting bet.

Back Tom Ford 1u e/w @ 33/134.00

Bet now

Whereas in the other, Luca Brecel is there to be targeted. The world champion is naturally streaky, erratic and very much one to oppose when on a downer.

Try Tom Ford at 33/1 from a promising path. He's having an excellent season, quietly creeping forward. A ranking event minus the big-two could be within his range.

Back Joe O'Connor 0.5u e/w @ 80/181.00

Bet now

Finally, if Brecel gets through his opener, I like Joe O'Connor to take him out and after that, he could swiftly rise up the betting order as upsets occur in other parts of the draw. Joe is a very solid match player and has demonstrated he can go a long way in tournaments.

*Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

Recommended bets


2023/24: -43 units

2022/23: +41 units
2021/22: +48 units
2020/21: -22 units
2019/20: +6 units
2018/19: +155 units
2017/18: +106 units


New customers only. Bet £10 on the Betfair Sportsbook at odds of min EVS (2.0) and receive £40 in FREE Bet Builders, Accumulators or Multiples to use on any sport. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.