SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the 2020 Gibraltar Open.
Gibraltar Open | 11th-15th March 2020 | Eurosport
The Gibraltar Open is usually a low key ranking event where amateurs get their chance to win through rounds to play against the professionals on the main tour. It’s lodged in before the last two biggies of the snooker season; the China Open and the World Championship (plus qualifying for each).
With the coronavirus wiping out the China Open, this event in Gibraltar, which was also under slight threat, becomes of big importance to many, whether its for general practise as the last event before the Worlds (top eight on one year list rankings have the Tour Championship too), getting into the top 16 for automatic qualification to the Crucible or even staying on tour itself.
The BetVictor Series rankings concludes here also where either Judd Trump or Neil Robertson will fly away with a £150k bonus for topping the rankings. Trump is 4/1 with SkyBet – he hasn’t been that big in any tournament all season.
Usually the real big guns would be staying at home putting in the hours preparing for Beijing, but only Ronnie O’Sullivan and former winner here Shaun Murphy aren’t heading for the Rock. Gibraltarians were left fuming after O’Sullivan ridiculed the competition last year.
In an online post the five-time world champion said: “I’d rather sleep in a pig sty than have to go and play in the Gibraltar Open.” They will be happy he’s not ‘rocking’ up this year or probably not in the near distant future either.
Looking at the top end of the outright prices, there’s a whole host of rancid value lingering about.
Neil Robertson is odds-on in a place to win his Quarter (needs to win five matches!) He looked tired at the Players Championship and wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this £150k bonus up for grabs.
Bet365 gave in my opinion, the hands down worst outright price of the season of 12/1 on still title-less David Gilbert. 25/1 plus like he’s been in every event this season, I’d possibly be plumping for him, not at silly prices. Out of form Kyren Wilson at the same price wasn’t a fat lot better!
So there has to be value elsewhere.
Luca Brecel (80/1 Betfred)
A player who is over 6x the price of Gilbert and has a ranking title to his name, is the Belgium Bullet, Luca Brecel.
Luca, who turned 25 on Sunday, became the first player from mainland Europe to win a ranking event in the 2017 China Championship. He is having an average season, so much so he’s yet to make a Quarter-final. Going back to Gilbert, Brecel isn’t quite as good or as consistent as Dave but talent wise, he is.
His inconsistency is built into his 80/1 outright price but when Brecel gets on a roll, he’s very hard to contain. Always feel best-of-seven formats are right up his alley too. His scoring hasn’t been all there this season but being the streaky player he is, he has it in his locker, armed and ready. He’s a top safety game away from being a regular top 16 player, fighting for big titles.
A fabulous player to watch and seemingly a player that’s been around for literally ever, Brecel has a draw that gives him a real sniff of glory in Gibraltar. Once upon a time he was regularly 40/1 for events. He’s not become a bad player overnight and looks good value at 80/1.
Scott Donaldson (80/1 William Hlll)
Two now on the other end of the consistency spectrum in Scott Donaldson and Zhou Yuelong, who might meet in a last 16 showdown here.
Donaldson is a big favourite of mine. I called him a future ranking winner in five years roughly a year ago which a few laughed at. Well, just last week, it wasn’t a ranking event, but Scott won his first professional title – the Championship League. In the semi-final, he defeated World No1 Judd Trump, then one of the seasons form horses, Graeme Dott in the final. He also beat ‘the second best player in the world’ Neil Robertson on the way to victory.
Donaldson earned himself £10k and a place at the Champion of Champions in November, an extra £12k guaranteed there.
He said after his victory: “Now I know I can win tournaments, it is a mindset thing more than anything else..I know how well I can play, I just need to tighten up with my cue ball control.”
He’s one of the most underrated players on tour with all-round game to boot. In the last season and this, he’s won 30 best-of sevens from 43 matches (win rate of 70%) which shows how good he is in this format. He made the quarter-final in the Scottish Open before Christmas and is a former semi-finalist here in 2018 (lost that in a decider).
With his gander firmly up, it looks a good time to have Donaldson on board at a tasty 80/1, again with a draw that isn’t over taxing.
Zhou Yuelong (125/1 Ladbrokes)
Zhou Yuelong has made two ranking finals this season and looks particularly overpriced at 125/1 (Ladbrokes). One came at the ‘lottery’ Shoot-Out but the other, came in Austria at the European Masters in late January. He was given a stern lesson and was whitewashed 9-0 by Neil Robertson in the final but he showed great maturity there and at the Shoot-Out.
Zhou is going to be a top 16 player for a long time one day, that is for certain. Outside of Yan Bingtao, he is the next best of the China contingent.
He is a very calm customer, and that’s relayed by his record in deciders this season; nine wins from 10. The slight worry, is his record of only 33% win rate this season in best-of-sevens which is very surprising when he won over 65% last season.
He is probably the price he is due to likely facing Mark Williams in round two. He beat Williams 5-4 in Austria this season and at last season’s English Open, also in a decider, 4-3. If he can beat Williams for a third time, the route to the business end really does open up for Zhou.
Zhou is very hungry for success, and I’m in no doubt he will win a ranking event in the next 12 to 18 months. The form he’s been in all season, he definitely shouldn’t be a three digit price and has to be on the Outright shortlist. Using the Ladbrokes boost, it goes from 125/1 to 160/1 – bordering on an insulting price on Zhou.
Holt can go deep
Fresh from his first ranking title at the Shoot-Out, Nottingham’s Michael Holt, can go well in Gibraltar too. To be fair, he looks well overpriced at 250/1 in the outrights but I prefer Holty’s chances of making another quarter-final over a second ranking title of the season. A semi-final berth isn’t beyond him either.
Michael opens with world number six, Mark Allen. Allen (who hit a 150 break in a practise match at the weekend) has had a very consistent season making six semi-finals (lost in all six) but they all came before Christmas. Since then, he’s been very quiet, winning just three matches from eight in 2020.
So it looks an ideal time for Holt to be playing the Pistol, even if Allen has been very strong in best-of-sevens and in first matches this season (82% and 81% win rates).
I’ve been really impressed with Holt this season, even if a few in the media haven’t, even before his success at the Shoot-Out. Every time I’ve watched him, he’s looked a different player to previous occasions. He’s looked so focussed, something in the past that’s never fully been the case.
The win in Watford, catapulted him into the top 16 on the one year list and the Players Championship, where he played well in defeat to eventual champion, Judd Trump. It included a terrific break of 128.
Now with a ranking title, which is a weight off his shoulders, the young looking 41-year-old can start relaxing in matches. He’s now a feared man in events, and Allen won’t like the prospect of facing him – he could of had it a lot easier.
If Holt can overcome Allen, he’s in such a winnable section to make the Quarter-final – which would be a third for the season in ranking events. 18/1 to do so – a cracking price to me. I wouldn’t put punters off the 50/1 on him to win Quarter 4 either.
Perry to win Quarter 3 (9/1 Betway)
My last two selections are out-and-out Quarter fancies.
He might not be a perennial winner, but Joe Perry is a regular in the back end of tournaments and ought to go well in Gibraltar.
The Players Championship Quarter-Final was the 45-year-olds sixth last eight appearance of the season. He lost that 5-4 on the final black to eventual runner-up, Yan Bingtao (a 14th decider he’s lost this season). In all fairness, he really should of won it. Looking at his career stats in Quarter-finals, it’s no wonder he lost – that was his 43rd defeat in 66 career Quarter-finals.
Actually getting to them, is never a problem. He is tremendously consistent and in my opinion has many years at the top of the game still to go.
He beat best friend on tour, Neil Robertson in Southport, withstanding a ferocious comeback from the Aussie, eventually winning 6-4. They could meet in the last 16 here.
Perry made the quarter-final here two years ago (again, losing) so it’s good he’s got previous. Perry has won a brilliant 75% (67% in his whole career) of his best-of-sevens this season which is no surprise really given he is such a reliable and versatile class act.
I’ll be staggered if he doesn’t come through his opener, to a Gibraltar amateur wildcard then possibly faces tour rookie Lei Peifan in the last 64 (hasn’t lost a last 64 tie this season), so three wins required after that to win the Quarter.
If he makes the quarter-final, at least it will be best-of-seven – four of his last five quarter finals he’s lost in, weren’t in his favoured format. He’s 9/1 with Betway to win Quarter 3.
Maguire to win Quarter 2 (7/1 Ladbrokes)
My last Quarter fancy and third player advised in one way or another in the second section, is Stephen Maguire. On all form this season, he’s had as good a season as pretty much anyone in Quarter 2 without winning a ranking title.
Victory at the World Cup with John Higgins, 6 Reds World Championship Title, UK Championship runner-up, Quarter-final at the Masters and agonising Semi-final defeat at the Players Championship. Boy has he won some dollar in the process – not miles off half a million.
The slight worry with Maguire is his record in best-of-seven this term, winning just 50% of his matches. In the best-of-seven format events (that format before the Quarter-final) he’s lost in two first rounds, a second round and a last 16.
It’s surprising when his career statistics in them is at 71% win rate – a top quality total. Compare that with an all time great, John Higgins, he’s at 75%.
Maguire is cueing as well as I’ve ever seen him. In previous seasons, he’s had a tendency to snatch at balls and miss regular routine pots. There’s been very little of that this time around. He’s certainly never been this consistent either. He keeps off social media, and has been in a great frame of mind since his World Cup win, way back in late June.
He’s played 44 times this season, a hefty amount of games but he looks to be maintaining his form solidly and if he’s over his loss to Trump in Southport, I expect Mags to go well again in Gibraltar.
He has either lost early in events this season or had a good run deep and I’m hoping it’s the latter in Gibraltar. Maguire has a good record round Europe. He’s made finals in Latvia, Malta, and Germany before.
He’s without a ranking title since February 2013 at the Welsh Open so I think he might fall short of winning but he’s won his Quarter twice this season in rankers and I think he can make it three here at 7/1 with Ladbrokes.
Gibraltar Open – Luca Brecel to win outright (80/1 each-way Betfred)
Gibraltar Open – Scott Donaldson to win outright (80/1 each-way William Hill)
Gibraltar Open – Zhou Yuelong to win outright (125/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
Gibraltar Open – Michael Holt to reach the quarter-finals (18/1 Ladbrokes)
Gibraltar Open – Michael Holt to win Quarter 4 (50/1 Ladbrokes)
Gibraltar Open – Joe Perry to win Quarter 3 (9/1 Betway)
Gibraltar Open – Maguire to win Quarter 2 (7/1 Ladbrokes)