The world’s 32 top ranked players, based on a one-year ranking system which ran from the 2015 Australian Goldfields Open in July through to last week’s Gdynia Open in Poland, line up for the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix which starts in Llandudo on Tuesday.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, who only booked his place in the field with victory in the Welsh Open last month, is 2/1 favourite with sponsors Ladbrokes. Neil Robertson, who lost to O’Sullivan in the Welsh final, is the joint second favourite sharing that mantle with World No. 1 Mark Selby.
Judd Trump, who has only claimed one ranking tournament victory since November 2012, is the fourth and final player trading at single digits in the betting. He is 9/1 best with Paddy Power.
Robertson and O’Sullivan are in the same half of the draw, keeping them apart from Trump and Selby who are in the top half. Both duos could conceivably clash in the semi-final stages. But this just a four runner race? And can O’Sullivan continue his triumphant return to action which has seen him claim the Masters, against a similarly elite 31 rivals, and the Welsh Open during 2016?
It is possible the tide has turned for O’Sullivan as he was beaten in Championship League games against both Judd Trump and Mark Williams last week. But he can never be written off and against Trump in the League final he knocked-in two century breaks despite being beaten 3-2.
It’s never wise to write off Ronnie, who was unbeaten in 26 games until last week’s blip, but his price does not make him an attractive investment. At the prices you can almost back all of his three market rivals and get the same return on your money.
But until Ronnie’s return from an eight month sabbatical snooker had been very unpredictable with a string of unexpected results. That trend could well continue although suggesting the likes of Martin Gould, Ding Junhui or John Higgins would represent an unexpected winner of this event seems a foolish statement to make. Nevertheless, at their current prices, that is what victory for them would represent.
Martin Gould was beaten in the final of last week’s Gdynia Open by Mark Selby. It was his second notable final table within a month following his victory in the German Masters. The 34-year-old Londoner may have spent five seasons in the wilderness but his 2015/16 form has been sensational. It started with a final table at the Australian Goldfields Open and continued with quarter-final appearances in the Shanghai Masters and UK Championships. Such consistency means he must be backed at Paddy Power’s 66/1.
John Higgins needs no introduction but the four-time World Champion remains the forgotten man despite him collecting two ranking tournaments this season (the Goldfields Open and the International Championship) despite contesting just five events. With a straight-forward opening round assignment against Stephen Maguire and then the winner of a Selt/Day match, Higgins will only truly be tested at the quarter-final stage where he could meet Judd Trump. By that stage Bet365’s 20/1 is likely to be long gone and his supporters should be in a good position to trade out their stakes on the Betfair Exchange.
Ding Junhui has been a shadow of his brilliant best in recent times but there was real encouragement to be taken from his 4-1 dismembering of Mark Williams in the opening round of the Gdynia Open. Rumours are abound in regards to a new practice regime for the Chinaman and mentoring from Terry Griffiths. If the 1979 World Champion turned coach has brought some confidence back in Junhui then hindsight will unquestionably show Betfred’s 33/1 price about him for this event was way out of line.
These are our three long-shots against the field which is laced with headline acts but may be victim of another turn-up akin to Kyren Wilson’s victory in this season’s Shanghai Masters or Robin Hull’s triumph in the 2016 Snooker Shootout.