O'Sullivan to ease through
Yize can trouble Robertson
Bingham to dominate Gilbert again
Five matches either start or play to a finish on the opening day, starting with Ronnie O'Sullivan v Pang Junxu, plus Stuart Bingham v David Gilbert at 10am.
First, let's deal with the tournament favourite. Pang is extremely capable. A top prospect and a ranking finalist only last month. Whether he can produce his best on his Crucible debut against O'Sullivan is another matter. Ronnie knows the youngster's ability full well and I expect will turn up focused, and impressive.
It is my long-held view that, in these longer matches, correct score betting is the ideal way forward. If you fancy one player strongly, pick two or three scores to inflate the odds. There are fewer outlier scorelines than one might think. Here, for example, I'm confident that dutching 10-5 and 10-6 will at least represent a value position as this match draws to a close.
Bingham can rise to Crucible occasion again
Bingham holds one of the most remarkable head-to-head records in snooker against Gilbert, leading 11-0. That can't be a coincidence and Gilbert is not the strongest mental player. That gives hope that Bingham can, not for the first time, turn a poor season around at the Crucible. His form has been generally dire but 'Ballrun' did produce some fabulous stuff at the last major in January.
Take odds of 8/11 for the first leg of a treble. Each day, I'll put up some sort of multiple - at least a double. Then add Wu Yize to win the 4.5 Frame Handicap against Neil Robertson, and Over 16.5 Frames in Ali Carter v Jak Jones.
Daily treble (pays £12.47 to a £2 stake)
Stuart Bingham to beat David Gilbert
Wu Yize to win -4.5 Frame Handicap
Over 16.5 Frames in Carter v Jones
In both the latter cases, it could pay to get with a qualifier in good form. Yize produced a superb burst of scoring in the closing stages to get here at Chris Wakelin's expense, having thrashed Tian Pengfei 10-2 previously.
Wize is in-form and highly capable
The 19 year-old is another fine prospect and, even if Robertson proves too good, I doubt he'll thrash Wize. Plus the Aussie is under plenty of pressure, given his poor season and tournament form.
Carter and Jones could serve up the match of the round. Jones is consistently improving as a matchplayer and threatening the latter stages of events. Barry Hawkins was a huge scalp in the final qualifying round and he shouldn't fear Carter, whom he beat in both previous encounters.
That said, Ali is always hugely respected at the Crucible and hasn't been in bad form of late. I think this one goes to the wire, or close to it. Take those 11/10 odds about Over 16.5 Frames in a single.
Finally a few words about Luca Brecel v Ricky Walden. The Belgian has never won a match at the Crucible, and has lost here previously to Walden. That may deter odds-on backers but I reckon the odds about right, given that Luca has definitely stepped up a level over the past 18 months or so. No bet here for me.
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