Snooker: English Open outright preview and best bets

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SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the English Open, picking out his favourite fancies.

English Open | 14th-20th October 2019 | Eurosport

Much to Ronnie O’Sullivan’s probable disgust, we are back to the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley for the first of four Home Nations events on the snooker calendar, the English Open.

O’Sullivan charmingly called the place a ‘hellhole’ and said that it ‘stunk of urine’ last year yet returns to try and win the trophy for a second time. He comes here attempting to keep his undefeated record this season intact after a third straight Shanghai Masters title last month.

Nobody in snooker has a better best-of-seven record than the ‘Rocket' in the past two seasons; it reads a remarkable played 30, won 27. To be honest, he’s only turning up as he’s an ambassador for Eurosport who televise the coverage. He’s been over in Romania recently doing exhibitions with 12-time women’s world champion Reanne Evans.

Any event where we can watch one of the greatest geniuses ever to grace a sporting venue has to be cherished. He hit a magical 147 here last season, and the year before, he won the final against Kyren Wilson, missing only six balls in the whole match while hitting four centuries. He called the performance “very good”! An understatement if ever there was one but that’s Ronnie!

Bit of a side note, I wonder if Neil Robertson requires his sat-nav to get to Crawley. He failed to turn up to his World Open qualifier in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, as he inadvertently went to Barnsley in Gloucestershire! The English Open was held there in 2017, with Robertson making the quarter-final. It’s not like it was a new venue for him!

He retired with flu at 3-1 down in Guangzhou playing Matt Selt. A very unusual few outings for the Aussie and not a player I want onside at the moment, albeit he performed well in this week’s Championship League.

Stuart Bingham (16/1 SkyBet)

A player who certainly knows his way to Crawley is ‘Ball-run’ Stuart Bingham. This event has been very kind to Basildon’s finest. He comes here as defending champion after winning the title last season and made the semi-final in its inaugural year in 2017.

In fact, since the Home Nations series came into play in the 2016/17 season, Bingham has lifted two of these titles. I mentioned O’Sullivan’s record in best-of-sevens earlier, and in recent years, Bingham has a fabulous record in this format too. In events that are best-of-sevens up to and including the quarter-final, he’s made six ranking finals since March 2016, winning three.

Since 2016, in all competitions, Bingham has won 62 of his last 84 best-of-sevens, a win rate of 73% – quite incredible.

For the third season in succession, Bingham has started his campaign fairly adequately but he’s never one to panic and absolutely loves these events. Stuart gets better with age. He’s 43 now and since becoming world champion in 2015 has never got to so many latter stages of ranking events, let alone finals.

Before his triumph in 2015, he had made 14 career ranking last eight or better appearances. Since the biggest win of his career, he’s made 23 quarter-finals or better. Eight of those were last season alone. Let’s not forget he was banned for six months in the 2017/18 season for betting breaches.

He said on his own podcast recently: “I haven’t got a great record at tournaments when I start as defending champion so hopefully I can change that here.”

He’s not wrong. He’s never defended a ranking title in his career. I hope he can change that stat this week. It will take some doing winning this event back-to-back but rest assured you have a tremendous exponent of this format in your favour. He’s a 16/1 shot to defend in Crawley.

Mark Allen (16/1 Betfred)

A star of the future dazzled at last weekend's Challenge Tour in the name of 15-year-old Northern Irelander Robbie McGuigan who made the final. His stepdad is none other than Mark Allen, and the ‘Pistol’ ought to have a good run himself in Crawley this coming week.

Allen broke his Home Nations duck last season at the Scottish Open. He won a very healthy 73% of his best-of-sevens last term and his form this season says to me he’s primed to strike. Thus far, only Noppon Saengkham (in a decider) and Shaun Murphy have beaten Allen this season (the latter in two semi-finals).

Disregarding those defeats, Allen has been scoring very heavily all season. When he’s got his scoring boots on, he’s an immensely tough player to beat, never mind the fact he’s mentally so tough and has a very good tactical brain too.

Allen does have a decent looking draw here. I don’t see too many troubles for him until the last 16/quarter-final. He has world champion Judd Trump in his quarter but, as I’ve alluded to before, Allen has a great recent head-to-head over the Bristolian, winning seven of their past eight meetings. The top players ignore who their opponents are as they know if they play to their level, they will win. Allen is in that category.

He said at last season’s English Open that he wants to win at least one tournament a season. He won two last term. That’s the type of mentality you want in an outright, someone who believes they will win not just coming here to make up the numbers.

In the last two seasons, Allen has made 14 quarter-finals and only lost in three. He’s undoubtedly a big player when in the deeper stages of a tournament and I see him going well at 16/1 for a second Home Nations title.

Ali Carter (125/1 Ladbrokes)

In addition to Bingham, another Essex player I want onside in Crawley is ‘The Captain’ Ali Carter, available at a very generous 125/1. Carter has been through the mill the last six years off the table; he’s beaten testicular and lung cancer as well as battling Crohn’s disease.

On the table he’s a born fighter too. He made his first ranking final for two years in last season’s World Grand Prix, going down 10-6 to Trump, then performed creditably at the Worlds in April, losing in the quarter-final to Gary Wilson.

He’s had a few poor results so far this season, none more so than losing to Chinese amateur Zhang Yi in Shanghai. He will be encouraged by his performance in qualifying for the World Open, where he scored very well in beating David Lilley. Carter only lost in three ‘venue’ first rounds last season and made the last eight here, losing to Bingham. They are due to meet in the last 16.

A win here would get him into next month's Champion of Champions, a huge incentive. It would also boost his chances of making the Masters line-up in January, a tournament he's failed to qualify for in only three of the last 13 renewals.

When Carter is at his best, he’s a certain top-16 player. He’s got an ‘over my dead body’ type attitude. I know a lot of people that don’t have time for Ali, they find him arrogant and a poor loser. I’m in the other camp and have a lot of time for him. For what he’s been through, he’s a great credit to the sport and made of real grit. Now in the ‘40 club’, Ali’s last win in a ranker came in 2016 so he’s long overdue.

I don’t think someone of Carter’s ability should be a three-figure price personally. There are players shorter prices than him who have never won ranking events. He’s won four and made two World Championship finals.

I will also advise Carter at 20/1 to win Quarter 1 which I think is overpriced in a winnable section. He should be nearer 12/1.

Joe O'Connor (1000/1 Betfred)

If there’s one last price (even if it’s a real stab in the dark) that is way overpriced and worth a tiny go in the outrights, it’s the 1000/1 with Betfred on Joe O’Connor. I’m a massive admirer of the Leicester young gun – he was one of my five players to follow for the season.

Joe only has two wins to his name this season from five matches but of his three defeats (two were against top-32 players), one came in a decider, and the other two he lost by a two-frame margin. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

Prior to his amazing run to the semi-final of the Welsh Open in February, he lost in two first-round matches, so these defeats recently won’t trouble him. The performance in Cardiff has been etched in my memory ever since. To beat three top-10 players (Kyren Wilson, Ding Junhui and John Higgins) en route to any semi-final is pretty special.

For a Tour debutant, it was simply outstanding, and it won him the Rookie of the Year award.

O'Connor, 23, who won “pretty much everything he could” playing pool as a junior, said four years ago: ‘If you sacrifice enough and work hard then hopefully you can get where you want.” He certainly does that, is incredibly dedicated and has ambitions of making the top 16 one day. I think he has a real shot of making it there in five or so years, he’s that good.

There’s a saying ‘he’s that price for a reason’, as it will undoubtedly take a monumental performance for Joe to win this at 1000/1. But he shouldn’t be that price at all. It’s plain wrong. For me, he should be more like 350/1 (250/1 with William Hill). He was 3000/1 for the Welsh Open in February!

The belief that week will give him will be like gold dust ultimately. He knows he’s got it in him which is half the battle. A player who ‘sings out the same hymn sheet’ as O’Connor is Kyren Wilson. He won his first ranking title in Shanghai 2015 at the same age as O’Connor at 500/1 so these big prices can cop once in a while.

I know he’s from Leicester, but this will be no Premier League title type miracle if Joe wins the English Open. He will require seven victories to win it outright but only five to win his quarter, like in February. He had a lot harder draw at the Welsh than the one he has on paper in Crawley. Joe is 66/1 to win Quarter 2 and it’s by no means beyond him, again.

Best Bets

English Open – Stuart Bingham to win outright (16/1 each-way SkyBet)

English Open – Mark Allen to win outright (16/1 each-way Betfred)

English Open – Ali Carter to win outright (125/1 each-way Ladbrokes)

English Open – Joe O’Connor to win outright (1000/1 each-way Betfred)

English Open – Ali Carter to win Quarter 1 (20/1 Ladbrokes)

English Open – Joe O’Connor to win Quarter 2 (66/1 Bet365)

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