Paul Krishnamurty previews the 32-man World Grand Prix, which kicks off tomorrow night and covered throughout on Betfair Live Video...
"Barry Hawkins has been playing eyecatchingly well in the early rounds...he's on my 'to follow list'"
It seems as if every Sunday nowadays involves a final between two elite players and there must be a very strong likelihood that the last event of 2020 will produce another.
Seedings based on very recent form
The World Grand Prix is restricted to the top-32 on the one year ranking list and those numbers feel particularly relevant, as all points were earned from six events over the past 11 weeks, at the same Milton Keynes venue.
The form signals could barely be stronger, demonstrating a clear gulf between the top five seeds here and the rest. Actually given that Mark Allen won the non-counting Champion of Champions during this period, make it six.
Trump drawn in the easier half
Judd Trump won two of those seven aforementioned events and reached two finals. He's bidding for a third World Grand Prix title and, as ever, the world number one will take the world of beating.
He looked well on course last week until a surprise 5-4 quarter-final defeat to Li Hang, showing no after-effects from a gut-wrenching early hours, final frame defeat in the UK final. Ignore those losses. Hang is a tricky opponent who played well and anyway, nobody is immune from the odd upset.
Expect Trump to resume winning ways imminently and this draw, avoiding Robertson and Selby until the final is favourable. He could play Hang again in the last-16 but, in terms of elite opposition, only Allen lies in his path to the semis.
Ronnie easy to oppose
Despite improving on recent efforts to reach the Scottish Open final, Ronnie remains the weak link among that elite group by my reckoning. He was thrashed by Selby earlier and wasn't in peak form en route to the final.
If this section runs to form, O'Sullivan will play Kyren Wilson in the quarters and doubtless start a strong favourite. If that match materialises, I'm backing the outsider. The younger man is in better form and much hungrier for titles.
Wilson struggling in big matches
Maybe too hungry? The one lingering problem with Wilson is a lack of titles. I wonder whether losing to Jamie Jones last week was influenced by Trump's defeat a few minutes earlier, thus presenting a golden opportunity.
Kyren also blew a big lead against Selby at the Champion of Champions, crawled into the world final after the nerviest frame in history and flopped in the final. With those frustrations in mind, plus the fact this section looks the most competitive, Wilson is reluctantly dropped from the plan.
Instead, try an each-way punt on a former winner of this event. Barry Hawkins has been playing eye-catchingly well in the early rounds before falling short at the business end - losing to Selby at the UK and a decider to Wilson last week. In urgent need of ranking points, he's on my 'to follow list'.
Keep fast improving Zhou onside
Quotes of 13/2 about Mark Selby are massive, following his dominant display at the Scottish Open. The Jester arguably has the easiest draw among the big-guns and is only excluded on grounds of affordability with Trump and Robertson also in the plan.
Zhou Yuelong is definitely worth another crack. His sixth seeding accurately reflects his superb form and further progress is bound to come. If including Championship League matches, he already leads Selby 3-2 head-to-head.
Refreshed Robertson looks formidable
Robertson took the week off after winning the UK, which may work out well. He thoroughly deserved that major having produced the best snooker over the fortnight and there's no reason to think he won't maintain it, refreshed and fully focused.
I'm slightly nervous about what looks on paper an easy opener against Rob Milkins, because the Milkman has been playing well, but this path isn't daunting. Neither obvious threat - Shaun Murphy or John Higgins - are showing anything like Robbo's form of late.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
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