Snooker: China Championship first round preview and best bets

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SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the 2019 China Championship first round, picking out his favourite fancies.

Joe O’Connor v Ryan Day | Monday 23rd September 2019, 07:30

If there’s a player low down in the rankings that has the potential to do a ‘Kyren Wilson’ and break into the top 16 in the next five years, it’s Leicester’s 23-year-old, Joe O’Connor.

In some ways, he mirrors Kyren in his composure, temperament and toughness on the table. He’s got real star quality about him. I’ve heard on the grapevine from a fellow pro, that O’Connor is one of the most dedicated snooker players he’s ever come across. His results last season as a first time pro were extremely encouraging.

I can’t remember many players in their debut season making a ranking semi-final but he did so at the Welsh Open in February. Stuart Bingham required four centuries to beat O’Connor, 6-2. In the previous rounds Joe defeated John Higgins, Ding Junhui and the aforementioned Wilson.

His season was kick started (after a slow start ‘acclimatising’) at the Barbican Centre in York last November at the UK Championship with a 6-2 win over Ryan Day. He was 11/2 that day.

They face each other here in Guangzhou and I fancy Joe to get the better again at a far reduced price of 7/4 (William Hill).

Since getting to the final in Gibraltar, Day has had a major slump in form. He was thumped 6-1 in Beijing at the China Open by Sam Craigie then 10-3 by Tian Pengfei in the World Championship qualifiers. He lost to rookie pro Louis Heathcote in pre-qualifying for Riga. Then after very nearly losing to Jamie Clarke in International Championship qualifying (won 6-5) he was beaten by Kurt Maflin in Daqing (led 4-3, lost 6-4).

So its worrying signs for the former top 16 and two-time ranking event winner. There’s not many easy games on tour anymore but I bet Joe O’Connor wouldn’t of been on Day’s calling card list to give him a confidence boost.

O’Connor played his first match as a professional in China in April this year and beat for the second time last season, John Higgins, 6-2. So no fear that he can’t perform here, and looks well worth a go to add to Day’s recent troubles.

Jordan Brown v Sunny Akani | Monday 23rd September 2019, 07:30

In the close season, I reckon Jordan Brown had a ‘bust up’ with World Snooker.

Why? Because in the first three events of the season he was randomly drawn against three world champions, Mark Williams, Judd Trump and Stuart Bingham – very unlucky. He lost to Williams 4-1, then took three frames off the current world champion Trump. In qualifying for this event, he defeated Bingham 5-3 – some scalp.

Bingham said in his podcast about the defeat: “My head wasn’t in the right place, but take nothing away from Jordan, he didn’t miss a ball in the last three frames.”

Jordan recently chatted to World Snooker and spoke about his start to the season: “It doesn’t get much harder start than that. I felt like I was knocking on the door, even though I lost the first couple of matches, I felt like I played well. Against Stuart it just all clicked. I was kind of expecting it to. Every time I got a chance I was confident I would take it.”

Brown comes here with his gander firmly up. He practises daily with Mark Allen in Antrim which can only improve his game. There can be little fear of anyone when he’s used to playing that sort of calibre every day.

He opens his campaign for a first China based victory against the unorthodox Sunni Akani from Thailand. Akani played very well in qualifying for this but all of last season, in the nine events he qualified for the venue, he got through two matches only three-times and had four first match defeats.

Akani is very talented but fairly erratic and a hard player to predict, much like his fellow Thais Noppon Saengkham and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. You do know exactly what you will get from Brown. He’s an honest pro who will give you everything. If this turns into a battle, I would rather have Brown on my side over Sunni.

Brown is 2/1 (Bet365) for the win here and I think it’s a tad overpriced. I certainly see this going to the deep end of the best of nine as well. Five of Brown’s last six wins on tour have been by a one or two frame winning margin.

Ding Junhui v Brandon Sargeant | Monday 23rd September 2019, 12:30

Brandon Sargeant is a new name to many. Last season, the Stokie finished on the Challenge Tour ranked number one so got automatic promotion to the main tour. He won his first match, lost his second then performed very well in defeat to top 16 player, Kyren Wilson losing 6-4. He’s showed enough to suggest he will be no whipping boy.

It’s a baptism of fire for his debut in China against the country’s greatest ever player, and 13-time ranking event winner, Ding Junhui. Likely to be on the main TV table, it will be interesting to see how Sargeant copes.

I think Brandon is very capable of standing on his own two feet here and can cover the +3.5 handicap at a super price of 10/11 (Betway) in this best of nine.

The encouragement comes from his opponent. In 56 matches last season, 39 victories yielded only three whitewashes for Ding. He played 32 best of 11 and nine matches and in 27 of them conceded two frames or more. This season, his tally reads 12 matches (nine wins) and in 11 he conceded 2+ frames. One of those was to Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg (arguably the weakest pro on tour), where he lost five frames in a 6-5 win and Zhao Jianbo, who is only an amateur and still conceded two frames.

Sargeant compiled a century against Wilson so proved he’s not out of place in this company. Given Ding’s recent incapabilities of being ruthless and winning with certain aplomb, I think Sargeant is well worth a crack of taking a couple of frames off the Chinese master in his own backyard.

Jak Jones v Mark Joyce | Monday 23rd September 2019, 12:30

The last bet I like is a breaks bet on my friend on tour, Walsall’s Mark Joyce. He’s 2/1 with Bet365 for Over 0.5 Centuries in his match with Jak Jones.

Joyce has compiled six centuries this season and should be nearer to the 13/8 mark to add another to his tally. After going ‘tonless’ in his opening three matches of the season, he’s hit six centuries in his last seven matches.

Full of confidence after making his maiden ranking event final in Riga, I expect Joyce to win the match so has five frames to find the magic three figure break and I see no reason why he can’t. He was thumped 5-1 by Bingham in Daqing yet hit a century in his only frame won.

Best Bets

Joe O’Connor v Ryan Day – Joe O’Connor to win (7/4 William Hill)

Jordan Brown v Sunny Akani – Jordan Brown to win (2/1 Bet365)

Ding Junhui v Brandon Sargeant – Brandon Sargeant +3.5 (10/11 Betway)

Jak Jones v Mark Joyce – Mark Joyce to score Over 0.5 Centuries (2/1 Bet365)

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