Walden Walzting To Glory In China

The World Snooker tour hits Asia this week as the main players gear up for the China Open.

It’s been a hectic couple of months for snooker professionals with as many as seven tournaments being completed since the beginning of February ahead of this one.

The China Open is, however, the final event before the World Championships in Sheffield next month. And therefore represents one final opportunity for the top players to get some match practice and boost confidence. Not that winning the tournament is exactly seen as ideal preparation: not since its introduction as a regular ranking event in 2005 has the winner in Beijing gone on to lift the Crucible crown.

Ding Junui arrives as the defending champion but amid an awful run of form that includes first round defeats in the PTC Grand Final, the World Grand Prix and the Welsh Open as well as early round losses at the German Masters, Indian Open and UK Championship.

The Chinese’s odds have drifted suitably to 16/1 this week, but even at that price I couldn’t be tempted into backing him.

Of the market leaders, Judd Trump arrives in the most potent form having recently won the World Grand Prix title and can be backed at odds of 13/2. The man he beat in that final, Ronnie O’Sullivan, is the clear favourite at odds of 3/1, and we all know what sort of a threat The Rocket can be if he is on top of his game.

Mark Williams has also been lighting up the circuit lately and he looks to represent good value this week at odds of 25/1. Although given the amount of snooker that he has played over the past eight weeks there has to be some concern of burnout.

Best Bets
But my money will be going on a couple of outsiders that have good records in Asia.

All three of Ricky Walden’s ranking event titles have come in Asia – 2008 Shanghai Masters, 2012 Wuxi Classic, 2014 International Championship – while his only other ranking final appearance came in the recent 2015 India Open.

So he’s in good form and also enjoys playing in China, making odds of 25/1 well worth an each-way punt.

Peter Ebdon is another who seems to enjoy playing on these shores and has in fact won the China Open twice previously and reached two additional quarter-finals. He’s also started picking up some respectable results of late and might just be primed for a good run here. Take some of the 80/1 on the old-timer getting back into the winner’s circle this week in Beijing.