Judd’s the answer in China: China Open Snooker Preview6 min read
The China Open starts during the early hours of Monday. This is the penultimate ranking tournament of the season, before its finale – the World Championships. With a total prize-pool of £1 million, including £225,000 to the winner, the 64 player China Open is major event in itself.
Mark Selby is the defending champion and he also landed this competition in 2017 and 2015. Considering he never took part in 2016, his record is quite amazing and his lofty position in the market (currently 7/1 second favourite) is fully justified. That’s despite a relatively mundane 2018/19 season which has seen him make just one final (winning the China Championship in September) and one semi-final appearance.
We say his price is ‘justified’ safe in the knowledge that Ronnie O’Sullivan is not among the 64 strong field. But for me Selby, Trump and Robertson would all have to miss their flight to Beijing to vindicate the 12/1 price tag alongside Ding Junhui’s name.
Including ranking and non-ranking tournaments the Chinese player has made just one final table since September 2017. That was a 10-3 defeat in the Welsh Open over a year ago.
Trump holds the aces at the China Open
If Selby and Junhui are out of form, Judd Trump is positively swimming in it. He’s landed the Masters, two ranking tournaments and made an additional three semi-finals and quarter final appearances in other ranking events. Furthermore he’s gone toe-to-toe with O’Sullivan all season and when’s he’s beaten it’s not normally by far.
In the outright betting Trump, who resides in the bottom half of the draw, is my main play. I’d of liked to have added Barry Hawkins to the portfolio as he traditionally peaks this time of year and was a beaten finalist in the 2018 China Open. But he’s simply playing too badly with opening round eliminations the norm and not the exception.
Robbo on top
So, whilst it may be unimaginative, Neil Robertson from the top half of draw is the second play. The Australian is arguably having his best ever season – yes he was 2010 World Champion but he’s made the final of five ranking tournaments this season, winning two.
His performance in last week’s Tour Championship was exceptional – he accounted for Mark Selby and Mark Allen before losing out 13-11 in the final to ‘King Ronnie’. So, like Judd Trump, he’s at the top of his game.
Lookout for Ning against the Hawk
Of the first round games, which are ‘best of 11 frame’ encounters, there’s plenty of attractive propositions. The best of these involves that aforementioned Barry Hawkins. He plays the home grown Lu Ning (at 2.30am on Tuesday) who may not be a household name but has been quietly climbing the rankings and performing well.
In late 2018 the 25-year-old reached the fourth round of the Northern Ireland Open and UK Championship. More recently he made the quarter-final of February’s Indian Open and less than a fortnight ago he was a semi-finalist in the Gibraltar Open.
This is clearly the profile of a player growing in confidence and he can currently match that self-assurance with ability. With a 2.5 fame start on the handicap a 6-4 loss would be good enough to get paid on Ning and there’s plenty of reason to believe he can win at last four frames here against a player that has failed in the opening round of seven of 14 2018/19 season opening round matches.
Wilson returns to his favourite venue
Neither Gary Wilson or Liang Wenbo are likely to have a say-so on the outcome of the competition’s winner’s prize. But it’s noteworthy Gary Wilson did enjoy his finest moment when finishing runner-up in this event four years ago.
With a fourth round appearance in the recent Gibraltar Open and those happy memories of Beijing, the Brit will surely give the Chinese player, who has a long string of first and second round eliminations alongside his name, plenty to think about.
I think Wilson can win but the handicap market, where he receives a frame-and-a-half, is the safer option.
Outright: Judd Trump
Outright: Neil Robertson
First round: Lu Ning (+2.5 frames) to beat Hawkins on the handicap
First round: Gary Wilson (+1.5 frames) to beat Wenbo