Wuxi Classic Snooker Tips: One player to back from each quarter

Neil Robertson has a peachy draw for this title defence
Neil Robertson has a peachy draw for this title defence

The snooker season gets underway in earnest on Monday, with a ranking title up for grabs at the Wuxi Classic. Betfair Live Video will be covering and, as usual, Paul Krishnamurty is employing the trading strategy that yielded big profits last season... 

"Robertson may seem like a short price at 5.04/1, but my belief is that he'll be trading much shorter very quickly. He has a bye to the last-32, meaning a few of the limited number of potential winners may be eliminated before he even plays."

Back Neil Robertson @ 5.04/1

After much talk of the new rankings system ushering in a change in the snooker order, it was something of a surprise to see every important tournament go to an established star last season. One would have thought that, with so many tournaments and seeds having to enter the last-128 round, conditions were ripe for a talented youngster to storm through somewhere. 

Plenty of prospects caught the eye, but when it came to the latter stages, experience and class repeatedly shone through. Only six players shared the ranking events and major invitationals between them while a further five landed a European PTC. Every one of them was an established top-16 player, or in the unique case of Ronnie O'Sullivan, somebody to whom the rankings system is meaningless.

Nevertheless, somewhere along the line an outsider is going to win and this week's opening ranking event of the season is as likely as anywhere. Very few players hit top gear at this stage of the season, and the summer is always a golden opportunity for those who have kept their eye in. Last year the formbook stood up in the Wuxi Classic, but circumstances were slightly different as we'd already had a European PTC involving most of the top players.

Back Neil Robertson 10u @ 5.04/1

The big guns in this top quarter are Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy, who have rather different records at this stage of the season. Whereas Robbo started last year in style with a win here, Murphy barely hit top gear until January. The latter, who rarely appeals except when it tip-top form, is easily overlooked.

Robertson may seem like a short price at 5.04/1, but my belief is that he'll be trading much shorter very quickly. He has a bye to the last-32, meaning a few of the limited number of potential winners may be eliminated before he even plays. His likely first opponent, Marcus Campbell, has lost all six of their meetings of more than one frame. If Murphy fails to reach the quarters, the Aussie will be no bigger than 1.331/3 for any match until the semis and perhaps beyond. Plus as defending champion, he's likely to be relatively well-motivated and prepared.

Back Marco Fu 2u @ 29.028/1

Now that John Higgins has admitted he's no more than a 'journeyman' these days, this second quarter lacks an elite player. However it does include several top-16 players with early season pedigree. Stuart Bingham, Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu have all started recent seasons impressively with titles, as for that matter has Higgins, who was runner-up in this last year.

Preference is for Fu, who interrupted Robertson's dominance this time last year by winning the Australian Open. Both he and Bingham were in action last week in Asia and, while both were beaten, Fu's form reads better having beaten Stephen Maguire and lost to a decent player in Robert Milkins.

Back Ryan Day 1u @ 65.064/1

Judd Trump fans will be eyeing up this very winnable section with relish, as there's nobody in the same league apart from Stephen Maguire, who lost last week and has no early season pedigree. Those of us who believe Trump is never value or reliable will prefer to eye up the big prices about alternatives. For my money, Trump's application remains extremely questionable and he is one to avoid, especially at this time of year. Notably, he lost 5-2 to Li Hang here last year.

Another talented yet disappointing player, Ryan Day, gets the nod. The Welshman finished last season pretty well and won five matches last week in Asia before losing in the semis to Ding. Other outsiders well worthy of consideration include Ben Woollaston, David Gilbert and Martin Gould. The first of that trio is very much on my players to follow list this season.

Back Robert Milkins 1u @ 80.079/1

Finally, the most trappy section, in which new world champion Mark Selby sets a high, yet beatable, standard. The Jester saved his finest hour for the Crucible final but over the course of the season his form was patchy. He remains vulnerable in short matches against lesser opposition and there are plenty of pitfalls along the way here. Liang Wenbo is about as tough a potential last-32 opponent as there is, let alone Joe Perry or my selection in the next round.

Milkins is picked on price grounds, plus the fact he reached the semis in last week's Asian PTC. That run conjured memories of his start to last season, which saw him reach the semis both here and Australia, and the Gloucester man clearly understands the importance of these rare summer opportunities for a fringe player. Numerous others are worth a mention here, including Ricky Walden, Graeme Dott, Xiao Guodong or even rank outsiders Cao Yupeng and Scott Donaldson. Again, Donaldson is one to watch this year.

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