SNOOKER expert Ed Acteson (@EdActeson) makes his WeLoveBetting debut with a preview of this week’s Champion of Champions tournament from Coventry.
Champion of Champions | 10th-15th November 2015 | ITV4
The Champion of Champions returns for its third outing at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday, offering the field a final chance to get their hands on some silverware before the UK Championships begin later in November.
With double champion Ronnie O’Sullivan currently taking a break from the game, a new name will be carved on the trophy on Sunday night and it could belong to another all-time great in John Higgins.
Though it is a straightforward knockout tournament, the organisers have opted to confuse everybody by labelling the quarters as groups, and I strongly fancy Higgins to emerge triumphant from his ‘group’ and quite possibly the entire tournament.
The Wizard of Wishaw has enjoyed mixed form so far this season; of eight tournaments entered, he has won two but failed to progress beyond the Last 16 elsewhere.
However, four of those losses were in PTC events, often treated as little more than an inconvenience by the top players. This might suggest that he isn’t keen on the shorter format of the tour events or, more likely, that at this stage of his career his focus is on the more prestigious prizes.
At seventh in the world, Higgins is in fact the highest ranked player to win any tournament so far this season and the only one to win two. He was outstanding throughout his march to the International Championship a week ago, beating Mark Selby and whitewashing Shaun Murphy en route to the crown, which he won with an impressive tournament frame aggregate of 49-18.
The victory, coupled with his triumph at the Australian Open in May, was the 28th of an illustrious career that puts him joint second with Steve Davis on the list of all-time tournament wins, with Stephen Hendry leading the way on 36. Higgins will have his sights set on closing that gap and can be backed at 10/1 with Coral to start in Coventry.
His first round opponent, Ali Carter, is also on the 2015/16 winners list having taken the German tour event in August. However, the win stands as the sole highlight in a season of struggle that hasn’t taken him past the Last 16 in any other event. And as I previously mentioned, PTCs aren’t a great barometer of form.
I expect Higgins to cruise past Carter into a probable quarter-final encounter with Joe Perry, another of Higgins’ victims in the International Championship where he ran out 6-3 winner. The Wizard has won 16/23 career meetings against Carter and 8/11 against Perry.
With odds, form and history on his side he should make light work of the 13/8 available with Paddy Power to gain the two required victories to emerge as Group 1 winner.
Business should then pick up. If the odds prove accurate, the top four in the betting will await with a potential semi-final against Neil Robertson or Shaun Murphy preceding a final against Judd Trump or Mark Selby, all formidable tests.
Or so it would seem. None have set the world alight this season and from a combined 26 tournaments entered, have amassed zero victories, one runner-up and two losing semi-finals; a disappointing return for four of the five highest ranked players in the world.
With so many of the favourites opposable, Higgins has the form and pedigree to capitalise and will be very difficult to beat if he finds form quickly which is enough for me to invest.
John Higgins to win Group 1 (13/8 Paddy Power)
John Higgins to win outright (10/1 each-way Coral)
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