European Masters – Warrior has all the-round game to challenge

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SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the upcoming European Masters, picking out his best outright bets.

European Masters | 1st-7th October 2018 | Eurosport

It’s often an incredibly quick turnaround in the snooker calendar. The China Championship only ends on Sunday, yet the European Masters starts the following day.

Judd Trump has won the last two European Masters events; in Romania in 2016 then here in Lommel, Belgium last year. It’s very rare a player wins a ranking event three years in succession – Stephen Hendry was the last do so, when he won the World Championship from 1994 to 1996 (also in 1992 and 1993).

If Trump’s early performances last week in Guangzhou are anything to go by, he looked in very good nick. However, his tactical game went to pot against John Higgins in the quarter-final.

It crucially lost him the match. And it’s that part of his game that makes me concerned about his prospects. It’s a big weakness of Trump that needs eradicating.

Warrior has all the-round game to challenge

Someone with an excellent all-round game, who will be coming to Lommel relatively fresh, is Kyren Wilson (10/1 Betfair). He withdrew from Guangzhou, after his son was taken to hospital.

Prior to that, he won at the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany, the 6 Reds World Championship in Thailand, then ran out of gas and lost 10-6 to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Shanghai Masters semi-final.

The Northamptonshire-based ‘Warrior’ is having the best season of his career. His worst result was a Last 16 loss in Yushan, 5-4 to Jack Lisowski. He’s made at least the quarter-final in the four events he has played in this campaign.

I’ve talked about adaptability a lot recently – players who can win under all conditions, any length of match, however scrappy or open the frames go, and Kyren can do all those brilliantly. Not only is he adaptable, he’s incredibly consistent.

I said in a recent after-event piece, that you won’t see Kyren at bigger odds than 20/1 again in the outrights. He’s 10/1 for this, which I think, is fair. It’s not a bad draw on paper either – containing plenty of players who are too used to losing.

The bookies are taking no risks, but so they shouldn’t. Wilson knows exactly how to win events now. That’s huge mentally in this game especially in this day of age. He won’t be far away in Belgium.

Hawkins can go close

Singing from the same hymn sheet as Wilson, is Barry Hawkins. I tipped him in Guangzhou and even though he lost in the quarter-final 5-4 to Zhao Xintong, I see no reason at all to discard him this week. He’s the slightly shorter than last week at 12/1 (Betfred) but I think it’s still a touch too big.

He didn’t do a lot wrong in the defeat to Zhao Xintong – the brilliantly talented Chinese player hit two big breaks without reply to win the last two frames. Hawkins will be disappointed to lose but will take plenty of positives. Sometimes in this game, you just have to hold your hands up and applaud your opponent.

He’s actually in the same section of the draw as Zhao and they could meet again in the Last 16. Maybe losing there and having a few days off to get ready for this, in a funny way, is a positive – a blessing in disguise.

I’m one of Hawkins’ biggest fans. I’ve said before, I’ve followed his progress in snooker for more than 20 years. He goes about his business quietly. He takes a low profile, he’s a tremendous professional who’s very dedicated. I’ll be staggered if he doesn’t win a ranking event this season.

The last six events Hawkins have been involved in read: final, semi-final, first round, semi-final, final, quarter-final. I said before a ball was struck in Guangzhou that Barry was playing as well as anybody in the world leading up to it.

The conditions in Guangzhou were very heavy and humid yet Hawkins, as always, battled his way to the last-eight. With a bit more rub, he could have won it. In these best-of-seven matches, you need a quality player onside who doesn’t panic. If you’re losing 2-1 or 3-2, it’s important to blank that out and take each frame as it comes. Hawkins does this as well as anyone.

I cannot leave ‘The Hawk’ out of the equation.

Zhou Yuelong under the radar

One of the Chinese players who has gone under the radar a bit, especially after Lyu Haotian and Zhao Xintong made the semi-finals in Guangzhou, is Zhou Yuelong.

In the first few events, he was roughly round 80/1 in the outrights and Xintong was 150/1. Those roles are reversed now with Zhou an unconsidered 150/1 (Betfred) shot in Lommel.

With a favourable draw, this looks a good opportunity for the 20-year-old to show the form he was in here last season when he made the semi-final, losing to Stuart Bingham. He had a nice draw there, also.

Bar losing in the Championship League final to John Higgins, Zhou’s form tailed off at the end of last season. He started this season pretty poorly as well, winning three qualifiers (losing in one) but being beaten in the first round at the venue in each of the events he qualified for.

In Shanghai, he defeated Luca Brecel, then lost to Mark Selby in a decider from 5-3 up. Watching the match as I did, it looked like the old Zhou had returned – a very accomplished performance from someone so young.

I thought a year ago, he had the world at his feet – quite possibly the best ‘new’ Chinese player around. He might not be quite that now, but Zhou definitely has a big run in an event in him – last year proved that. I won’t be surprised if he outruns that 150/1 price.

Mark Selby tops the outright market but after his gruelling exploits in Guangzhou, you have to question whether fatigue will set in. These best-of-sevens need your complete concentration from the outset – quickly you can find yourself 2-0 down and it’s trouble at mill.

I’ll be surprised if Selby wins in Belgium, while John Higgins withdrew from the event. So to summarise, it’s Kyren Wilson, Barry Hawkins and Zhou Yuelong that are my three-pronged attackers in Lommel.

Best Bets

European Masters – Kyren Wilson to win outright (10/1 Betfair)

European Masters – Barry Hawkins to win outright (12/1 Betfred)

European Masters – Zhou Yuelong to win outright (150/1 Betfred)

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