World Grand Prix Snooker: One player to back from each quarter

Marco Fu stands out in by far the easiest section of the draw
Marco Fu stands out in by far the easiest section of the draw

Following yesterday's shock 150-1 winner at the German Masters, the snooker scene moves onto the World Grand Prix in Preston, covered live on ITV. Check out Paul Krishnamurty's quartet of outright picks...

"I'm going for the Juddernaut. Though his attitude and tactics remain frustrating, he's bound to waltz through some events when that incredible potting comes off. The last time we saw him, Trump was excellent in a narrow defeat to Fu at the Masters."

Back Judd Trump 5u @ 10.09/1

Hours after one of the biggest shocks in snooker betting history, this feels like a good time to celebrate the game's transformation under Barry Hearn's leadership. Anthony Hamilton's 150-1 win at the German Masters - suggested as a 'tempting' option in the preview - was no fluke. Indeed, it come soon after Mark King's victory in the Northern Ireland Open, and these are not isolated incidents.

The success of these older players is the result of frequent matchplay and the extra motivation that regular tournaments and good prize money inevitably produces. Rather than just six events as in the pre-Hearn era, no sooner does one ranking event finish than another one begins.

Tonight sees the third renewal of the World Grand Prix - a tournament with good potential. Invitationals ensure the best possible standard of line-up and, based on one year's ranking rather than the usual two, this is arguably the strongest, most in-form field we'll see all year.

The new rankings system is also having a significant impact. Now determined by prize money, things change very fast and the seedings barely reflect the betting order. The four shortest priced players are all pitched in the top half, with three in the same quarter, ensuring a very lop-sided draw.

Back Martin Gould 0.5u ew @ 66/1

Consequently, I'm loathe to take short odds in this top half. Anyone can beat anyone at this level nowadays, especially in early stages over best of seven frames. Mark Selby may be the clear world number one, but he is far from certain to even get past the first round.

His opponent there is Gould, who played arguably as well as anyone in Germany en route to the semis. Were he to pull off an upset against Selby - a player whom he's fared relatively well against in their six previous encounters - the Pinner Potter would probably be favourite to reach the semis.

There are plenty of other capable types in this section, but none from the game's elite. Mark Allen is capable of the highest standard but has tested this column's patience once too often. He faces Hamilton first up in an intriguing, if hard to call, match.

Following his Masters heroics, Joe Perry must warrant serious consideration. The fact that his London form came from absolutely nowhere puts me off.

Back Judd Trump 5u @ 10.09/1

This 'quarter of death' includes Ronnie O'Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Barry Hawkins. All are frontline contenders and the other four aren't bad either, including two of the game's best prospects in Kyren Wilson and Yan Bingtao. Trying to predict who emerges is anything but straightforward.

Such a tough draw certainly deters a bet on Ronnie, who was very poor in conceding a 4-1 lead to Mark King in Germany. Apart from his Masters semi-final performance against Marco Fu, his A-game is notably absent. Perhaps the urgency of the situation sparked another gear against Fu, and tough matches from the outset may inspire again but odds around 5.04/1 make no appeal whatsoever.

Without being especially excited about the odds, (does a third of Hawkins' odds sound correct?), I'm going for the Juddernaut. Though his attitude and tactics remain frustrating, he's bound to waltz through some events when that incredible potting comes off. The last time we saw him, Trump was excellent in a narrow defeat to Fu at the Masters. The fact he must first face an outsider who recently beat him, Tom Ford, may ensure proper focus from the get-go.

Back Marco Fu 1.5u ew @ 25.024/1

Next, easily the weakest section. The only players below 50.049/1 are Fu and German runner-up Ali Carter. With the latter not famous for contending in back-to-back events, I'll plump for the former. Winner of the Scottish Open and arguably the standout performer at Alexandra Palace, there's plenty to like about Fu's form.

Last week's failure was due to defeat at the hands of David Gilbert, and the pair could meet again in the last-16. Gilbert was excellent in that victory and for most of the following defeat to Stuart Bingham. I wouldn't deter anyone from taking the 80/1 available here, along with the bet on Fu.

Back John Higgins 5u @ 11.521/2

The bottom quarter feels like the hardest to predict. With every chance of a relatively weak semi-final opponent, a case for backing at least five of the eight players could be constructed. I wouldn't totally rule out Ryan Day or Michael White, either. Both are well capable of at least causing upsets.

If Day could ever shed his lifelong habit of throwing in one awful match per tournament, he would have been recommended each-way at 80/1 and he is certainly an interesting first-round outsider against Bingham. Instead, preference is for the man with the strongest credentials, both historically and this term.

Higgins doesn't often make my betting plans nowadays, because I don't trust his consistency anymore. However there is little argument with this season's numbers and, with first-round opponent White struggling right now, he may have time to build up some form as the tournament progresses.

Of the others, Shaun Murphy is bound to challenge again soon and has drifted to tasty odds. He'll need to beat the dangerous Michael Holt and probably Ding Junhui just to reach the quarters, though.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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