Previewing today's final from the Crucible, Paul Krishnamurty is backing John Higgins to extend an impressive head-to-head record against Judd Trump...
"In the absence of peak Trump form and in the wake of Higgins' best session of the tournament - he said he couldn't play better - I must back the outsider."
The 2019 World Snooker Final will be a re-run of 2011, with Judd Trump a [1.57] favourite to avenge that defeat by John Higgins. It will be Trump's first appearance in the final since, while Higgins makes his third in succession and eighth overall as the Scotsman bids for a fifth title.
The betting is almost exactly the reverse of 2011, reflecting their current standing in the game. Trump won the most recent major, The Masters, in scintillating fashion. Higgins had, until now, endured a very poor season by his standards. On what we've seen over the past fortnight, though, the picture is far less clear.
Neither man has been at their best
If the total number of century breaks are the measure, this has been the highest quality championship of all-time. Then again, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.
This tournament has demonstrated that the depth in snooker is greater than ever, but no way has the general standard been anything like unprecedented. A high number of frames and sessions have been very scrappy - perhaps due to the table conditions.
Neither Trump or Higgins have been dominant or even consistent. Trump played well to finish against Ding and to start against Maguire. Otherwise he's been patchy. Arguably a bit lucky to get through in the first round and certainly to avoid in-form elite opponents so far.
Higgins' latest session was his best
Higgins did hit peak form yesterday to get here in what was his best session of the tournament. His performance in the first three sessions, however, was poor. That was in keeping with wider struggles this season.
Nevertheless, as when pulling off a superb and unlikely quarter-final comeback over Neil Robertson, Higgins has once again proved himself to be a rock in tense, final sessions at the Crucible. David Gilbert did very little wrong in surrendering his lead yesterday.
It is those peerless fighting qualities and ability to summon an extra gear that lead me to abandon my pre-tournament pick and back Higgins for the first time in ages. Opposing him throughout the season regularly paid off but it has been an expensive strategy here.
Higgins well clear on head-to-head
At this venue, under this pressure, against this opponent, I regard [2.8] about Higgins to be way too big. He leads the younger man 7-3 over their careers, including both Crucible meetings and three of their four finals.
I suspect a large reason for that is ringcraft - Higgins is probably the smartest tactician in the game while Trump still had novice tendencies even a year ago.
Perhaps Trump has saved his best for last and will produce a performance for the ages on the biggest stage. Perhaps Higgins will hit the wall over the weekend, as in the 2017 final.
However, in the absence of peak Trump form and in the wake of Higgins' best session of the tournament - he said he couldn't play better - I must back the outsider.
I suspect too many frames will get scrappy, as they have all tournament. In those tactical scenarios, and in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a final Crucible session, nobody is better equipped than the Wizard of Wishaw.
Back to lay a maximum break
For a further interest, one special bet appeals. A Maximum Break in the tournament is now out to [22.0]. On face value those odds probably aren't value as 147s materialise less often. But they often trade a lot shorter in-running.
My plan is to back at [22.0] and take a partial cashout if these maximum odds shorten to [4.0] at any stage of the final. Given the players involved, this would probably need eight to ten reds and blacks.
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2019 World Championship Stats:
Back John Higgins 4u @ [2.8]
Back a Maximum Break 2u @ [22.0]
Place order to lay 15u @ [4.0]