Snooker: Usual suspects expected to shine in York

22 November 2021 01:41:26 GMTPlus11
Neil Robertson defends his UK title

The first Triple Crown event in this season’s snooker calendar sees the players head to York's Barbican Centre on Tuesday for the UK Championship, where Aussie ace Neil Robertson is the reigning champion.

Robertson prevailed in an epic final-frame decider against world number two Judd Trump to clinch a third UK Crown last year and kickstarts his title defence in a best-of-11 contest with amateur John Astley.

Since 2007, only seven players have lifted this illustrious prize, with Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui, John Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Selby and Trump those fortunate enough to replicate Robertson's heroics.

In fact, each of the last 14 titles have been won by a player currently housed in the world’s top 10, so with shocks few and far between it could pay to stick with snooker's elite.

Trump favoured to go one better

Trump suffered an agonising 10-9 defeat to Robertson in the UK Championship final last year and the world number two is 333333/1 to go one better this time around.

The world number two is in a class of his own when fully wound-up and a run to the final of Champion of Champions most recently should ensure confidence is sky high.

However, the world number two has not landed this event since winning it in 2011 and there are some tough tests in his half of the draw, with Selby, Higgins, Ding, Murphy and Mark Allen all housed in his section.

That said, there should be few concerns for Trump in the opening exchanges, with a potential last-16 clash with Barry Hawkins his toughest early test.

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Robertson well drawn in title defence

Defending champion Robertson has hit the ground running this season thanks to his English Open triumph and hopes will be high as he heads to York.

The Aussie was beaten in the quarter-finals of the Champion of Champions most recently, but he still looked in good nick and there should be few worries for him in the early rounds at the Barbican Centre.

Robertson could face Anthony McGill or Zhou Yuelong in the last-16, before a potential quarter-final clash with Mark Williams or Stephen Maguire.

But on current form, that crop of players should cause little concern for Robertson, who is chasing a fourth UK Championship crown in the space of just nine years.

At 33333/1, Robertson looks a strong candidate to get his hands on the silverware for a second successive season.

The Rocket has plenty to prove

O'Sullivan has not won a snooker title since landing a sixth world championship title in 2020 and there could be value to be had in backing him this time around.

The Rocket is without a tournament win in 15 months and a semi-final run at the English Open is his best effort to date this season.

Ronnie was beaten by John Higgins on that occasion and the Wizard of Wishaw had his measure again in the quarter-final of the Champion of Champions.

O'Sullivan is a seven-time winner of this event, but his last triumph came in 2018 and on current evidence it is difficult to see him overcoming Robertson were they to meet in the last four.

The 45-year-old is a 33333/1 shot for victory and opens his tournament against Welsh amateur Michael White.

Don't discount brilliant Bingtao

The title claims of Robertson appear crystal clear, but if there is to be a shock at York's Barbican Centre then Yan Bingtao could be the man to deliver it.

The Chinese sensation was a semi-finalist in this event two years ago and he franked that promise when winning the Masters last season.

The 21-year-old is already a star and he has started the campaign in strong form, making the last four in Northern Ireland before reaching the quarter-finals of the English equivalent.

Bingtao was beaten 6-5 by Higgins in the semi-finals of the Champion of Champions last week, but he had earlier got the better of both Murphy and Selby.

At 33333/1, the impressive youngster may be underestimated and could be one to outrun his odds.

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