OUR snooker expert Ed Acteson (@EdActeson) returns with a wonderful preview of the forthcoming China Championship.
China Championship | Tuesday–Saturday
When Michael Holt’s astonishing comeback took his International Championship quarter-final against Start Bingham to a final frame decider, I thought I was destined to have all three of my ante-post picks in the semi-finals. As it was, he was pipped on the line.
Two days later, Ding Junhui, was annihilated 10-1 by Mark Selby in the final leaving me with just a 9/2 place that ultimately felt unsatisfactory.
However, it’s the time of year when snooker tournaments come thick and fast and, sure enough, an immediate opportunity for redemption presents itself in the first ever China Championship.
With an elite field of 16 competitors, featuring 14 of the top 16 in the world rankings, it could prove to be an excellent addition to the snooker calendar.
So, who wins it? My eyes are immediately drawn to the lower half of the draw, which I believe is wide open. Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui are the marquee names but frankly, I’m keen to oppose them both.
Robertson has been woefully under par recently and, although with a player of his quality there is always the risk that he snaps back into form and bites you, I don’t think he has done enough to justify odds of 13/2 (Bet365).
Ding was my main pick in the International Championship but looked fatigued in the final, his seventh match in eight days. With only a single day of rest and a six-hour flight between tournaments, I do not see him having enough time to fully recuperate.
Instead I’ll go for Shaun Murphy (14/1 Paddy Power).
Murphy looked in total control as he sped to a 5-3 lead against Judd Trump in the quarter-final last week, before eventually ceding the final three frames and losing on the final ball of the match. Ouch.
However, he played well enough until that point to make me think that he might be on the verge of an upturn in form. Also in his favour is the fact that he has a winning career head to head against every player in his half bar Neil Robertson, who I have already explained my opposition to, as well as Liang Wenbo.
I think 14/1 is sensational value. Just to clarify, he is as short at 8/1 elsewhere, yet backing him each-way at 14s would give us 7/1 just for the place! When the tournament is four matches long, that means you are getting virtually the same price for winning a quarter less games.
I’m often reminded that “you can’t eat value”, but we’ll see about that when I’m eating smoked salmon sandwiches in my new Ferrari next weekend.
My other fancy is a longer shot, Ricky Walden (33/1 Marathon).
Walden is priced as a 5/4 (Coral) outsider to beat Mark Allen in his opening match, yet I’m genuinely struggling to see why.
Allen hasn’t played in a month, has lost his last two matches against the world numbers 70 and 81 and hasn’t been beyond the last 16 of any tournament this season in six attempts.
Ok, Walden hasn’t exactly been setting the world alight himself but has played 10 competitive matches since Allen was last on the baize, winning seven of them, so should find his touch far quicker.
He would probably face Mark Selby in the second round, an ominous assignment. Yet Selby is in the same situation as Ding, having played seven times in eight days and facing a long flight on his day off.
If he can overcome these hurdles, and I fully expect him to get past Allen at least, then the chance to back him at anything like 33/1 will be no more than a fond and distant memory.
China Championship – Shaun Murphy to win outright (14/1 each-way Paddy Power)
China Championship – Ricky Walden to win outright (33/1 each-way Marathon)
China Championship – Ricky Walden to beat Mark Allen (5/4 Coral)
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