SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) shares his outright thoughts on the upcoming English Open.
English Open | 15th-21st October 2018 | Eurosport
After a global tour of China, Germany, Latvia, Belgium and Thailand, the first ranking event on home soil this season takes place in Crawley, West Sussex – the English Open.
Ronnie O'Sullivan returns to defend his crown and puts his undefeated record this season on the line. A quick one on O'Sullivan's hopes…
If he turns up this week in the mood, he's got every chance of retaining. His record last season in best-of-sevens was incredible – 16 wins from 17 matches. He has what looks a kind draw this week – however he doesn't appeal.
Ronnie is only up for the big events where the money and prestige attract, so the Masters, UK, and World Championship. This event will be way down the food chain and therefore there’s better value elsewhere.
It's very rare I go more than four outrights but I'm making this event an exception by going for six – due to the early rounds being best-of-sevens, (up to and including the Last 16) and so this could be anyone’s. Additionally, four of my picks are triple-figure prices.
The two shorter selections aren't shabby either at 66/1 – Ryan Day and Stephen Maguire.
Ryan Day (66/1 BetVictor)
Let's look at Day firstly. He won three events last season (two rankers). I feel he's slowly getting back to the form he was at 12 months ago.
He used to be a nearly man, a player who would be defeated by nerves and would crack under intense pressure. Not now. Ryan has got the inner belief that he can win tournaments.
Including last season and this, he's won 22 of 31 best-of-sevens – very impressive statistics in a tough format. A player with that record must be respected.
Beating Mark Selby and John Higgins already this season rubber-stamps the guy's quality. A price of 66/1 for a man who knows his way to glory is too big.
Stephen Maguire (66/1 Bet365)
If Maguire can get some momentum and belief this week, he also can outrun his 66/1 tag. He's usually better in best-of-nines or longer formats rather than a best-of-seven specialist.
However, of his six defeats this season, only one has been in a best-of-seven, to Paul Davison. Maguire made the Riga Masters semi-final in the first event.
For someone so exceptionally talented, it's incredible he hasn't won more. His last win was the 2013 Welsh Open. With a Selby mindset, he would be a world champion by now.
Enough of the might-have-beens, Maguire enjoys the Home Nations events. He's won the opens in Northern Ireland and Wales. Not forgetting a UK Championship too.
He's due a victory, that's for sure. He should never be a 66/1 shot for any event.
David Gilbert (175/1 Betfred)
Onto the big prices… First up is the World Open finalist Dave Gilbert. I'm surprised to see him at 175/1.
Talking about belief again, Gilbert is full of it now after coming agonisingly close to glory in Yushan. He led Mark Williams 9-5 but lost 10-9 and the former farmer would have gained so much confidence from that trip.
One worry with Gilbert is his record in these shores. All bar one of his career quarter-final appearances have come in Asia. He has the scoring power to defeat anyone, though, in any format. I like his draw in Crawley too. He's a silky cueist.
Chris Wakelin (200/1 BetVictor)
Chris Wakelin is one of the most improved players in world snooker and the Nuneaton man is another threat in these events. He's made three career quarter-finals, and one came at this event two years ago. He also made the quarters in Riga in July.
Wakelin has a certain Ronnie O'Sullivan in his section, but he beat ‘The Rocket’ in this event in 2016, 4-3. He proved at the Crucible in April, when he lost 10-9 to Judd Trump, what a class act he is. It won't be long until he makes a last four, at least.
Hossein Vafaei (250/1 SkyBet)
Two even larger shouts now in Iranian professional Hossein Vafaei and Newcastle's Sam Craigie.
Vafaei has only one defeat so far this season and that came at the hands of Selby, 5-3, at the China Championship in round three. The 24-year-old has a brilliant amateur pedigree. He's a former World Amateur and Under-21 Champion. He made the quarter-final here last season, before losing to Kyren Wilson.
He's previously made the quarters in Northern Ireland and his best run in a ranking event came in the 2017 China Open – when he reached the semi-finals.
His record in opening matches since the 2016/17 season reads 25 wins from 37 matches. Mightily impressive.
Vafaei has got a cue action to die for. He's completely effortless. He's got a mean streak in him that I really like too.
He's worth a go at modest stakes at 250/1. Vafaei has 100% got a ranking final in him.
Sam Craigie (400/1 BetVictor)
My last player is Craigie at 400/1. In around three years, you will have to knock a zero off his outright price.
Talent-wise, he's something else. I rate him incredibly highly. One day, he will break through and go extremely deep in an event. Why not this week?
Like Vafaei, the 24-year-old Geordie is a former World Under-21 Champion. He was ready to quit the sport after dropping off the tour in May. Thankfully, he got back on via Q-School.
Craigie's strength is his scoring. He had 12 centuries last season, and four already this season. He hit four in one match last season.
His best effort in a ranking event came in Northern Ireland 2017 where he lost in the Last 16.
A player similar to Craigie is Alexander Ursenbacher who made the semis here last season. He got on one of those winning rolls where everything he struck turned to gold. Craigie is capable of those exploits.
It's a tough ask but it's been a funny old season so far. Jimmy Robertson has won a ranking event. Dave Gilbert made a final and should have won. Peter Ebdon, at 48, made a final. Noppon Saengkham should have made one.
I hope Craigie can be added to that list and show his great potential in Crawley.
English Open – Stephen Maguire to win outright (66/1 each-way Bet365)
English Open – Ryan Day to win outright (66/1 each-way BetVictor)
English Open – David Gilbert to win outright (175/1 each-way Betfred)
English Open – Chris Wakelin to win outright (200/1 each-way BetVictor)
English Open – Hossein Vafaei to win outright (250/1 each-way SkyBet)
English Open – Sam Craigie to win outright (400/1 each-way BetVictor)