SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) takes an early look at the 2018 UK Snooker Championship picking out a an ante-post price.
UK Snooker Championship | 27th November – Sunday 9th December 2018
It could be said I'm going against my morals slightly here after trying hard to get him beat in Shanghai (into the semi final and odds on for the title) and saying he still needs to convince me he's on the straight and narrow but I've caved in – I've admitted defeat somewhat and I'm going to advise a Rocket launch in York before Christmas at the UK Championship.
I might be jumping the gun after he's only had two wins so far this season, but the performance Ronnie O'Sullivan displayed against Stuart Bingham in Shanghai today was pretty damning – he's back and he means ultimate business. He cracked in two tons (111 and 140) and threw in for good measure breaks of 93, 72 & 50.
He saw Mark Williams lift the World Title in May and his renaissance came after taking up SightRight, a unique coaching system formatted by Stephen Feeney, that improves aiming and accuracy. He's done wonders for the likes of Williams, Stuart Bingham, Marco Fu to name just three. Williams won three titles last season and looked back to the player he was when he ruled the roost in the early 2000s.
Ronnie clearly fancied a piece of that pie after his shock defeat to Ali Carter at the World Championships. He had won five ranking tournaments himself last term but was its clear he wasn't totally happy with his game somewhere.
As we know, there's tiny fractions to winning and losing in snooker and Ronnie is such a perfectionist he felt there was improvements he needed to make to get even better (some would say for him, it's impossible!).
Obviously, the biggest thing for him is the Triple crown events – a total of 18 won in his sparkling career. He's seen by many as the greatest player to ever pick up a cue, but being two behind Stephen Hendry in World titles, there's a nagging doubt in O'Sullivan's head and he's clearly motivated to the hilt to add to his tally. Under Stephen Feeney's stewardship in SightRight, it's a possibility he can at least win one more (I would say unlikely to match Hendry's seven).
He's currently the same price for the World Championship, as he is for the UK Championship. I dismissed Mark Williams before this years thinking that he was too old (at 43) but age was just a number as he won for a third time (his opponent John Higgins is only 2 months younger!). I'm not saying Ronnie can't win at the Crucible next May but I would much rather have him onside for the UK instead.
The World Championship is a gruelling, savage, mental two week marathon where O'Sullivan, for me, isn't quite suited to now (hasn't won the event since 2013). The UK Championship demands a lot less. No two or three session matches. Best of 11s up to and including the semi final then a best of 19 final is much more to his liking where he can blow players away quickly, rest up and get into the tournament steadily.
Going back to how he's returned this season, he's still as fluent and ruthless as ever but looks even more relaxed – like he has a point to prove. When Ronnie is on the money, there's no one that can touch him. His tactical game is as good as anyone's – it's how he creates the chances he invariably takes. He can make frame winning breaks out of nothing better than anyone. His personal life looks in fine fettle – he's an author, enjoys broadcasting, loves Instagram and Twitter. There's been no talk of retirement or wanting a stint in the jungle (yet!).
Ronnie isn't in the sport for the money, he's in it for big titles. He's a six time UK Champion. One more win, would overtake Steve Davis as most all time UK titles. And a 19th triple crown win would surpass Stephen Hendry in the all time list of most wins in the big three. He's getting close to 1000 career centuries. All huge motivations for The Rocket.
I tipped him early for this last year at 9/2, and he won it without breaking much sweat (conceded only 22 frames in seven matches). He's not quite that price this time, but at a touch lower at 4/1, he represents really good value for me and I'll be very surprised if he doesn't go off at 5/2 before a ball is struck in December. Certainly won't be 4/1.
2018 UK Championship – Ronnie O'Sullivan to win outright (4/1 Bet365)