The twelfth ranking tournament of a 2019/2020 snooker season starts on Monday in Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. The Welsh Open was first staged in 1992 and remarkably since then, Mark Williams has been the only winner representing the home nation.

The ‘Welsh Potting Machine’ landed the title in 1996 and 1999 but Ronnie O’Sullivan has taken the title four times and John Higgins a remarkable five times – 2018 being the most recent occasion.

This may be a 128-runner competition with a ‘short format’ (the first four rounds are best-of-seven frame encounters) but the history books show the Welsh Open always goes to an in-form highly ranked player. The closest we have come to an upset in recent times is 2015 when Ben Woollaston made the final (beaten 9-3 by John Higgins) and 2007 when Andrew Higginson was defeated 9-8 by Neil Robertson.

 

Robbo by numbers

As is the case by default, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump head the betting. The Rocket looks to have an easy task in his opening game, facing 21-year-old Chinese player Zhang Jiankang with a career-best break of 102.

Trump, who aced the first half of the season, is housed at the very bottom of the draw. He plays James Cahill in his first match, the player that will forever be associated with eliminating O’Sullivan from the 2019 World Championship.

But if O’Sullivan is enduring and Trump owned much of 2019 and opening months of the current season, it is Neil Robertson that has been the player to beat in recent weeks.

The Australian, who won this competition last year, took the Champion of Champions in November before going on an amazing sequence which started with victory in the Betvictor sponsored European Masters, saw him reach the final of the German Masters, and then land Sunday’s World Grand Prix.

By my reckoning, Robertson’s won 18 of his last 19 matches and in half of those, his opponent has been whitewashed or won just a single frame.

Although snapshots are a quick way to the poor house, I cannot stop looking at O’Sullivan’s last four matches where he scraped past Dave Gilbert and Liang Wenbo 4-3, but lost to Graeme Dott and Mark Selby. Underlining this competition always falls to an in-form player, this looks to be at the mercy of Trump or Robertson and, at the prices, I’m taking the Australian to retain his title and continue his remarkable run.

Of the first-round matches, Gary Wilson should never be 3/10 to beat the 17-year-old Bingyu Chang. Yes, it’s short but not prohibitive like the 1/25 about O’Sullivan winning his first match (or 1/50 about Alfie Burden). Anyway, I’m sticking that ‘pin’ in a double with Jimmy White to beat fellow veteran, James Wattana.

Wattana vs White would have been a headline act in the early 90’s but now these two, who have a combined 107 years, are both on invitational tour cards. Forgetting the history books, this pair are operating at 40

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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