SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the outright market ahead of the 2019 Indian Open, picking out his favourite fancies.
Indian Open | 27th February – 3rd March 2019
Back to normality after the quick fire Shoot-Out – this week, we head back to where snooker all began, via a British army officer in 1884, in India. Established in 2013, the Indian Open was due to take place between 18th and 22th September last year in Kochi, but was postponed due to the Kerala floods.
If last week was a total lottery, this week’s test to pick the winner, is still a very tough task, due to many of the top 16 either pulling out due to the long flight or not qualifying. It’s best of sevens up to and including the semi-final, then best of nine in the decider.
It’s a great opportunity for another new ranking event winner, like Thepchaiya Un-Nooh on Sunday at the Shoot-Out.
John Higgins is back to defend his crown from 2017. Higgins might have turned a corner at the Welsh Open making the quarter-final, and being a former winner here shows he copes with the conditions, which I think is important. Even though his record in best of sevens this season is very good (75% win rate) he does look extremely tight in the betting at 9/2.
Next in is Stuart Bingham at 6/1. As much as he’s in terrific form, and playing as well as I’ve ever seen him, I’d still want double figures (not going to happen!) on him to be interested. In the best of seven format, it’s dog eat dog and I can’t be advising anyone at single digits.
David Gilbert (20/1 SkyBet)
Lurking in Higgins’ quarter and Bingham’s half of the draw is one of the most improved players of the season, Tamworth’s David Gilbert.
Gilbert is inside the world top 16 for the first time in his career. Currently, I would put him as one of the best players not to have won a ranking tournament. But that statistic will change; he’s too good not to win one. He’s made two ranking finals this season in China and Germany. He was unlucky to lose both.
Gilbert has a great knack of performing in Asia. To be honest, anywhere outside the UK he’s worth considering. Gilbert has made two finals in China, one in Germany and a further four quarter-final appearances in other Asian-based events, including this one in 2017. For someone nicknamed the ‘Angry Farmer’, he has a really calm temperament that breeds into his play. He has the silkiest of cue actions too, to compliment his temperament.
If anyone deserves a tournament win this season, it’s Gilbert. I don’t envisage the pressure getting to him either now he’s trying to cement his place in the top 16. He’s as laid back as they come. Gilbert is 20/1 in Kochi with SkyBet (opened a huge 28/1 before the preview was live). For me, that is way too big. A likely contender – very much so. He should never be over five times the price of John Higgins.
Best of the rest
In all other sections of the draw, the majority of players will fancy their chances of going deep this week. I could pick 10 or more selections to win in India, and still not have the winner.
Jack Lisowski is one of the favourites at 10/1. He’s a huge threat but seems to flatter to deceive. He had this type of opportunity at the European Masters and Paul Hunter Classic where the draw looked soft but lost in the quarter-finals in both.
Shaun Murphy is painfully short at roughly the same price. I watched him in Cannock for China Open qualifying last week and he was utterly dreadful in defeat. His confidence looks completely shot.
Zhou (21 years-old) and Yuan (18 years-old) are very similar, very streetwise players for their age. Yuan can throw in the odd bit of naivety, which is understandable for someone so young, but is learning with each match – a precocious talent. This fearless player has made two quarter-finals this season.
Zhou has the mature nous to hold himself up against all comers, whether they are young with no experience or older with bags of experience. The latter is backed up with his record against over 40 year-olds this season – eight wins, three losses. He’s also beaten 37 year-old Stephen Maguire and 39 year-old Barry Hawkins. Zhou is yet to make a last-eight this season, but made two last season.
Zhou and Yuan are both homed in Quarter 3 – Zhou has the better looking draw. He has a few handy fellow countryman in his way if he defeats Indian amateur, Laxman Rawat first up. Yuan could encounter Shoot-Out champion Un-Nooh before potentially facing Zhou in the quarter-final itself.
I’m happy enough to take two in the quarter as I believe at least one will get that far. I rate both players immensely.
Zhao Xintong (40/1 Betfred)
The other Chinese I want to throw into the mixer, like the other pair, almost a certainty to be a top 16 player in the future is 40/1 shot Zhao Xintong. I tried hard to take one of the three out of my staking plans but I gave in.
I want all onside in Kochi.
Zhao is the complete opposite of Yuan and Zhou. Zhao is naturally more talented and goes for his shots. A real one-off, he can pot them from the chandeliers!
Terribly erratic at times, but when he’s on song, there’s not many better players to watch than the magic left-handed Zhao. He’s shown glimpses of his great potential in two events this season at the Welsh Open making the quarter-final, and the China Championship semi-final.
In this short format of best of sevens, it’s right up his street. He’s got a better win percentage in this format this season (66%) than my other two outrights. He’s in a section with Shaun Murphy, who like I eluded to earlier, must be taken on.
He’s very much like Lisowski. If he gains some confidence, he could fly through the event. One of the most dangerous players on tour, let alone this event.
His maturity (unlike Zhao and Yuan) might let him down – he can get excited – but at 40/1, he’s worth the risk. Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan have been raving about this kid all season. He will come good for a whole week eventually – this one will do!