The Snooker UK Championship has been in full flow at York’s Barbican venue, and there has already been plenty of drama throughout. The 128-strong field is now down to the last 16, and several big names – most notably pre-tournament favourite Judd Trump – have fallen by the wayside.
The final is set to be played on the 6th of December and with £150,000 on offer to the winner, everyone left in the competition will have their sights set on the big prize. We’re concentrating on Thursday’s matches in the third quarter of the draw, which see Neil Robertson take on Scotland’s Stephen Maguire, and John Higgins take on fellow Scot Jamie Burnett. Both Robertson and Higgins look good prospects to win their respective matches and set up a quarter final tussle, and the Australian could be worth following in more ways than one in a tournament that is there for the taking.
We’ve already backed Robertson to win the entire competition at +600 and he has sailed through the first three rounds despite not playing at his very best. He beat Welsh amateur Alex Taubman 6-3 in the first round, and followed that up with a 6-2 defeat of Indian player Aditya Mehta. He then faced Thai ace Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who was incredibly unfortunate to miss the black for a 147 break and a prize of £44,000. Robertson ran out the 6-2 winner of the match, but offered Un-Nooh his commiserations, and pointed out that the prize money would have made a huge difference in paying expenses over the coming seasons for the rising young player.
The Story so Far
With Judd Trump falling to what he called an ’embarrasing’ collapse in the 6-4 defeat to China’s Liang Wenbo, and Ding Junhui knocked out by amateur Adam Duffy, some big names have already exited the competition. Trump was 4-1 ahead against Wenbo and seemingly in charge, when a series of unforced errors let his opponent back into the game, and Wenbo swiftly won the next five frames in a row. Junhui was humiliated in the very first round by Duffy, in what has been described as one of the biggest shocks in UK Championship history, going down 6-2 to the young English star.
The top players still involved include Mark Selby, who at the time of writing leads Dechawat Poomdjaeng 4-0 in the last 16 and looks to have booked his place in the quarters; along with Shaun Murphy, who has had a comfortable ride to the last 16 but faces a tough match against Marco Fu for his quarter final place. Another notable name is that of 45 year-old Peter Ebdon, who has found a bit of the old sparkle in beating World Champion Bingham, but at the time of writing is 2-1 down to fellow Englishman David Grace, and has a fight on his hands to reach the last 8. Beyond those players the field looks a little lightweight, and the opportunity is there for anyone prepared to grab it.
Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire
Robertson gave a frank appraisal of his own performances after the victory over Un-Nooh, saying “I haven’t set the world alight in my three matches so far, but hopefully I’m building as the tournament goes on”.
The Aussie won the recent Champion of Champions tournament though, and looked close to his best, so his prediction that he’ll get better at York should come to fruition. He’s a short price of -200 with Paddy Power and BoyleSports but makes plenty of appeal to get the better of Maguire on Thursday afternoon.
Maguire beat snooker legend Jimmy White in the first round, coming out on top in an eventful match to win 6-5; but he made no mistakes in the second round, whitewashing Jamie Cope 6-0 with ease. He faced a tricky tie in the last 32 against England’s Mark Davis, but came out a 6-4 winner to set up this tie with Robertson.
If our tip can bring his best form to the table he should, with all due respect, make short work of Maguire who hasn’t made a ranking tournament final for the best part of three years.
Jamie Burnett v John Higgins
John Higgins is also worth following in his match against Jamie Burnett, and although it’s one-sided, Coral are sticking their neck out by offering -333 when most firms go as short as -450
After a quiet few years, Higgins is back to near his best with victories this season in the Australian Open and the International Championship, and he has said he feels like he is coming into tournaments with a chance of winning them. For someone who has had such well-publicized problems with confidence and consistency, that is a very positive sign.
Jamie Burnett has been on the snooker circuit for some time, but his best ranking tournament performances remain his runner-up spots in the 2010 Shanghai Masters, and the 2012 Gydnia Open. So far in the competition he’s beaten Sanderson Lam, Alan McManus, and Li Hang; but Higgins will provide him with by far his stiffest test on Thursday night.
We’re pretty sweet on Robertson’s chances in this competition, and he’s also worth a shout to win the third quarter at +130 with BoyleSports
Most bookmakers are much closer to the even odds mark, and presuming that both Robertson and Higgins win their matches, this will effectively be a bet on Robertson to overcome the experienced Scot in Friday’s quarter final.
Neil Robertson to beat Stephen Maguire
Thursday 3rd December 13:00 GMT
John Higgins to beat Jamie Burnett
Thursday 3rd December 19:00 GMT
Neil Robertson to win the third quarter
Thursday 3rd December – Friday 4th December
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