The Welsh Open starts Monday with Betfair, as always, providing live coverage throughout. Check out Paul Krishnamurty's preview and eight-man staking plan...
"Selby has been in pretty ominous form and already won two events with this format this term. He has a relatively easy early path."
It is now customary to begin snooker previews with an update to Judd Trump's stats. Following the German Masters, the world number one has won four out of nine tournaments this season. Dating back to the start of his incredible run at the 2018 Northern Ireland Open, his tally is now 14 titles from 37 events.
Trump odds bely his success rate
In betting terms, that rate of success implies odds of 2.77/4 - more than a full point shorter than the 3.9 available on the exchange for the Welsh Open. There is also the format - best-of-seven until the quarter-finals - to consider.
Here's a stat for you...? George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) February 12, 2021
It's been over a year since Judd Trump lost a best-of-7.
6th February 2020, a 4-3 loss to Kyren Wilson at the World Grand Prix was his last defeat.
Won 26 in a row since!
The stats are crystal clear and Trump also won a very strong Championship League group last week. I cannot make an argument on form against him and yet, with great reluctance, I'm swerving him this week for a few reasons.
First, nobody wins every event and certainly not every best of seven. He's 'due' a loss. Second, his main rivals are in stellar form and we can only afford to back so many. Third, there's always a good chance that bigger odds will be available at some stage in-running, when behind in a match. He drifted to around 8.07/1 during the German Masters semi.
Top quarter is wide-open
Without doubt, the top section is the weakest. The three market leaders are Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins and Ding Junhui. Of those only Hawkins has been anywhere near his best of late. Whilst shortlisted, 20/1 is plenty short enough for a rare winner who has fallen outside the top-16.
There may be an effect from the change in venues. After spending most of the last seven months in Milton Keynes, the players head to the beautiful Celtic Manor. Home advantage isn't relevant in the current, spectator-free context, but I do really like one home player.
One of the streakiest players around, the key to betting on Ryan Day has always involved catching him hot. He's a top-ten player on song yet is languishing down in 32nd even after winning The Shootout. He won three times during the 2017/18 season so there could be more resurgence to come, and there's no reason to fear the others in this quarter.
I must reiterate the case for Pang Janxu laid out before he withdrew from the Shootout. This 20 year-old is a special talent. He's already beaten Allen, Maguire and Hawkins, plus some other notables, en-route to two last-16s and a last-32 - from five full-field events. Not a 500/1 chance in my view.
Selby looks formidable right now
Two of the big-four are scheduled to meet in the quarter-finals. Mark Selby versus Neil Robertson would be a virtually even betting heat and probably another classic. There are plenty of obstacles to that match-up occurring though.
Selby may have to get past Masters champion Yan Bingtao, while Robertson will face tricky opponents all the way. Without dismissing Yan by any stretch, preference is for the former.
The Jester has been in pretty ominous form and already won two events with this format this term. He has a relatively easy early path, which should help his style of building form as events progress.
I wouldn't rule out 15 of the 16 players in Robertson's mini-section. Saengkham gets the nod. I'm determined to persist with this regularly over-priced character.
Trump reluctantly swapped for young rivals
This is Trump's section. It is very hard to see him failing to reach the quarter-finals - in keeping with every event this season - but it would get more difficult from there, if against either of these opponents.
Wilson and Lisowski are scheduled to meet in the last-16 in what would be a very hard match to call. I'm confident one of them will come through this mini-section and, if so, have a fair chance against Trump over best-of-nine. And were he to lose earlier, the odds on both of these would look massive.
Get with resurgent Ronnie
Here's the fourth and final reason for reluctantly dropping Trump. Ronnie might just be back. He turned up at the Masters saying he was practising harder than ever, produced one scintillating performance, before playing well in defeat to John Higgins playing an unbeatable standard. He was also in superb form at last week's Championship League.
Some of Ronnie's finest performances have come in Welsh Opens - an event he's won four times. Before Christmas it seemed as if Trump and Selby had his number, including psychologically. He is, nevertheless the GOAT and this unexpected return to peak form may become a sustained response.
Yuelong still under-estimated
In truth, this is the strongest section so I'm going against a principle in picking the favourite. Higgins or Mark Allen would be formidable quarter-final opponents and, before that, he's likely to run into the hottest young player in the game.
Despite the draw, 70/1 about Zhou Yuelong appeals. He's a winner-in-waiting and top-eight player. Following Yan's success at the Masters, a breakthrough is imminent. I rate him higher.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
2020/21: +18.7 units
2019/20: +6 units
2018/19: +154.5 units
2017/18: +106 units