World Open Snooker Tips: One player to back in each quarter

In another sign of the sport's ambitious new regime, snooker makes a welcome, long overdue return to ITV this week with the Haikou World Open. As usual Paul Krishnamurty is employing the trading plan that yielded three winners from the last four televised events.

"I'm amazed to see such big odds available about Ding, who is another under the market radar. Nobody played better in Wales and Ding must still be wondering how he failed to reach the final"

Back Mark Allen 5u @ 13.012/1

There are times when a punter simply has to persist with a strategy, despite it's failure to yield dividends. Having tipped Mark Allen for the last two ranking events, on the grounds that double-figure odds understate the marked improvement in his game this season, I could hardly abandon 'The Pistol' in this defence of his sole previous ranking title. It was a familiar story in Wales, where Allen looked in superb touch only to run into a world-class opponent in equally or even better form. (That man in question was Ding Junhui, to whom I'll return shortly.)

At least as number one seed, the World Open draw has been kinder than usual. The big danger in this top section is Welsh Open champion Stephen Maguire, although he is not a player famed for maintaining top form in consecutive events. I wouldn't completely write off UK semi-finalist Mark Davis or last year's China Open champ Peter Ebdon on this return to the Far-East. Nevertheless, if either of those limited players encounter Allen in anything like his recent mood, there is only one winner. 

Back Ding Junhui 4u @ 15.014/1

Considering he's playing in China, I'm amazed to see such big odds available about Ding, who is another currently under the market radar. Nobody played better in Wales and Ding must still be wondering how he failed to reach the final, although one equally shouldn't detract from his semi-final conqueror Stuart Bingham. Their paths are set to cross again in the quarters, unless Mark Williams or more realistically John Higgins recaptures something like their old form. 

The latter is a classic case in point regarding current snooker odds - no way on earth does his recent form warrant a quote six points shorter than the best ever Chinese player. Far more interesting in this section is Betfair German Masters runner-up Marco Fu, who seems typically underestimated around the 50.049/1 mark and is strongly fancied to turn over the declining Williams in the opening round, especially since the Welshman has the considerable distraction of being a new dad. 

Back David Gilbert 0.5u @ 200.0199/1

There is always a temptation to back outsiders in these 'second division' ranking events, based on the assumption that the top players are less motivated than in more prestigious affairs. That theory probably counts less nowadays, given the race for the pre-Crucible rankings reset, but this section does look ripe for an upset. Despite the fact Judd Trump reached the semis in Wales, an amateurish performance strengthened my view that he is a man to oppose right now. Now his remarkable long potting has declined to mortal levels, Judd's lack of a wider strategic game is showing. To some extent he's been given an easier ride by Ali Carter's withdrawal due to illness, making it hard to imagine the world number one not reaching the quarter-finals. During the later rounds, however, he's very beatable.

The obvious beneficiary of a below-par Trump is Shaun Murphy, but the Magician has the toughest possible last-32 draw against Shootout champion Martin Gould. Instead, I'm going for a rank outsider who is a better player than indicated by 50th place in the world rankings. David Gilbert played really well at the Crucible last year, losing by a creditable 13-9 scoreline to Neil Robertson in the last-16, and will not be lacking motivation for this return to the televised stages. Assuming he wins his wildcard match, Gilbert would have a decent chance against another out of form star, Matthew Stevens, after which a run to the semis becomes increasingly plausible.

Back Graeme Dott 1.5u @ 40.039/1

Speaking of the looming rankings reset, the provisional world number 16 cannot afford any complacency during the weeks ahead. To be fair, that is not an attribute I would ever associate with the three-times world finalist and after reaching the Betfair Masters semis and ET6 final, Graeme should be in good spirits. Moreover, Dott could well benefit if the big guns in this section are off the boil. Given Mark Selby's atrocious performance in Wales and Neil Robertson's dodgy record around this time of year, it may well be that these leading Crucible contenders are more interested in preparing for the World Championship than this lesser event. 

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