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One of snookers biggest competitions is on the horizon, with less than a week to go until the start of the 2015 UK Championship. Ronnie O’Sullivan took the title last year, but he has recently said that he is playing snooker ‘for fun’ now, and is enjoying living without the pressure of being the sport’s top man. He has suggested that he wants to hand that mantle down to the next generation of players, and there are plenty who will have an eye on being the next man to dominate the sport.
The Rocket’s decision has also left this tournament wide open, and there are a number of players who have chances of success. Neil Robertson is one such man, and he came back to form recently by winning the Champion of Champions tournament, claiming his first title in 12 months after what has been a relatively slow year. Now that he’s back ‘in the zone’, he’s worth backing to follow up in the UK Championship, but with such a large field it will also pay to have a second runner, which gives us the option to look at the bigger priced, each-way fancies.
The tournament begins on Tuesday 24th November and continues until the final on the 6th of December. It will be staged at the Barbican in York, and in total 128 players will do battle for the famous trophy and the £150,000 winner’s cheque. Sponsored this year by Betway, the tournament is classed as the second biggest ranking event behind the World Championship, and along with the Masters, the three competitions make up snooker’s triple crown.
The field is split into a draw of eight sections, which after four rounds will result in the eight quarter-finalists. All rounds, including the quarter-finals and semi-finals are to be played over the best of 11 frames, with the final over an extended 19 frames.
Ronnie O’Sullivan became the youngest player ever to win a ranking title when he won the UK Championship in 1993, and it’s fitting that he took it again for a fifth time last year, as he now plans for retirement from the game. Neil Robertson took the crown in 2013, beating the previous year’s champion Mark Selby 10-7; Judd Trump won here in 2012 beating fellow Englishman Mark Allen, and he is joint-favourite alongside Robertson this time around.
Champion of Champions Form Guide
We know that Robertson has sprung back to form after beating Mark Allen 10-5 in the final to take the Champion of Champions tournament last week. He has already earmarked success at the UK Championship now that he’s back to his best, and pointed to a summer break back in his home country of Australia as the reason for the turnaround. Robertson told the press that he spent five weeks back home – for the first time in 12 years – to unwind and relax. Having not played snooker during that time, he said that he knew his form might suffer but believes he has come back stronger for the break.
It was another good performance from Mark Allen, who had previously reached the semi-final of the Shanghai Masters, and played superbly to reach the final in Coventry. He admitted that he never settled the nerves against Robertson, and vowed to hit the practice table even harder. Kyren Wilson added to his growing reputation, having won his first title with the Shanghai Masters, he succumbed 6-3 to Allen in the semi-final of the Champion of Champions tournament, and he is another worth keeping an eye on. Wilson beat Judd Trump in the final in Shanghai, and knocked him out at the group stage in Coventry, so he is certainly playing to a high level.
The Top Contenders
Without going through all 128 players, here’s a selection of the best odds for those at the head of the market:
Judd Trump – 6/1 7.00 +600 6.00 6.00 -0.17 with BetVictor
Trump remains one of snooker’s most talented players, and he will win many more title throughout his career, but he’s not quite at his best at the moment. His final defeat to Wilson in Shanghai was his best result so far this season, and the odds are short enough considering the amount of matches that must be played to reach the business end.
Robertson makes most appeal simply because he is the player in form, and the game of snooker is one where confidence and belief play such a huge role. The Australian admitted himself that he knew it would take time to get back to form after his different summer, but he looked very close to his best in winning the Champion of Champions tournament for the first time ever.
Mark Selby – 8/1 9.00 +800 8.00 8.00 -0.13 with Bwin
Mark Selby is another who could easily take up the mantle of snooker’s top man from O’Sullivan, but the talented Englishman is also having a quiet time, with the International Championship semi-final appearance his best of the season so far.
Shaun Murphy has been on the circuit for many years, and is always a formidable opponent. He won the Masters this year, as well as reaching the final of the German Masters and the World Championships, but it’s been a long four years since he won a ranking event.
At a colossal price we’d rather take a punt on Kyren Wilson, who has shot up to 22nd in the world rankings after his victory in Shanghai. He’s on the opposite side of the draw to Robertson, so gives us a runner in the top half, and after reaching the semi-final of the Champion of Champions, he showed that his Shanghai success wasn’t a flash in the pan. At such a big price, he could give us a real run for our money in what is an incredibly tough tournament.
Neil Robertson to win the UK Championship
24th November – 6th December 2015
Odds: 6/1 7.00 +600 6.00 6.00 -0.17
Kyren Wilson to win the UK Championship – Each Way
24th November – 6th December 2015
Odds: 80/1 81.00 +8000 80.00 80.00 -0.01