With COVID-19 having such an impact on the worldwide sporting landscape, there are just two tournaments left in the snooker season, the first of which begins on Friday when plenty of stars of the game head to the rock for the Gibraltar Open.
This isn’t one of the biggest events on the calendar although it would have had a much higher profile were it not for the majority of Europe going into lockdown over the last week or so due to the fact it is the final leg of the new BetVictor Euro Series. Stuart Bingham picked up the title last year and he is here looking to defend it.
2019 – Stuart Bingham
2018 – Ryan Day
2017 – Shaun Murphy
2015 – Marco Fu
We are back to the old PTC format this weekend with one half of the draw playing down to the last 16 on Friday and the other half on Saturday before the tournament concludes from the last 16 onwards on Sunday until we get our champion on Sunday evening. The entre tournament from the first round right the way through to the final is the best of seven frames with the champion receiving £50,000.
As the defending champion it is Stuart Bingham who heads up the top quarter this weekend. He will be looking for a World Championship boost with Sheffield a month or so away now but he might have his work cut out even with so many high profile withdrawals. With Dave Gilbert pulling out it is Kyren Wilson who rates as the biggest danger to the champion. They are the only two members of the top 16 left in the quarter.
There are some handy names outside the top 16 here though. World Championship semi-finalist Gary Wilson and World Open runner-up Thepchaiya Un-Nooh are both here, but as luck would have it they meet in a juicy first round clash. Anthony Hamilton, Anthony McGill, Luca Brecel and Ken Doherty are just some of the other leading names in this section.
Two experienced men lead the way in the second quarter of the draw. They are Mark Selby and Mark Williams and both men are in the event still at the time of writing. Yan Bingtao made his way into the top 16 with his run in the Players Championship and he’ll be eyeing up a second title of the season. Stephen Maguire was meant to complete the quartet of top 16 players but he has withdrawn from the event.
Some middle ranked players need big weeks here and they include Martin Gould who requires a strong end to the season in order to keep his tour card. Zhou Yuelong, Mark Davis, Scott Donaldson and Tian Pengfei should all go well while Mark King, Liam Highfield and Lu Haotian should all go pretty well too. Youngster Chang Bingyu has a chance of showcasing his talents as well.
Neil Robertson and John Higgins were due to battle it out in a tasty looking third quarter but both men have decided to give this event a swerve which leaves this part of the draw wide open and potentially vulnerable to Jack Lisowski and Joe Perry, the only two other members of the top 16 who are in this quarter, and who have every chance of going deep and doing their ranking the world of good ahead of the Sheffield cut off.
Rory McLeod is the man who has benefitted from the withdrawal of Robertson while Lu Ning will hope to take advantage of the Higgins withdrawal. Other names wanting big weekend’s here are Ryan Day, Luo Honghao, Yuan Sijun, Xiao Guodong, Kurt Maflin, Hossein Vafaei, Tom Ford, Jimmy Robertson, Michael White and Andrew Higginson. This is an open but competitive little section of the draw.
The world champion Judd Trump is the main act in the bottom quarter of the draw and he has received a major boost by the withdrawal of Mark Allen, who was seeded to be his biggest danger. Ali Carter is another player who was in the top 16 when the draw was made who has pulled out of the event. That leaves Barry Hawkins as the only elite alternative to Trump in what has become a wide open quarter should anything happen to the world number one.
Indian Open champion Matt Selt is in this quarter and he is joined by the likes of Martin O’Donnell, Li Hang, Mark Joyce, Zhao Xintong, Liang Wenbo, Sam Craigie, Shootout champion Michael Holt and Jackson Page. Much like the second quarter this one is open but it has the potential to be competitive should Trump suffer early doors.
I’ll play a man from each quarter as always in these short format events and in the top quarter I’ll have a dabble on the talented Luca Brecel. He doesn’t have the worst draw of all time and could do with a decent little run in order to gain some confidence for the World Championship qualifiers. Brecel has shown some form in the last couple of months. He looked good in Germany but ran into Judd Trump in decent touch and then in the Welsh Open made the last 16 before he was edged out by John Higgins. There is nothing like those two in his quarter here so he should be able to go deep this weekend.
Yan Bingtao is the man of the moment having gone SF-SF-F in his last three tournaments and having won an event of this kind and this format in the Riga Masters earlier in the season it would be a huge surprise if he doesn’t have a strong tilt at this title as well. We know he is playing well by the way he demolished Shaun Murphy in the Players Championship semi-final and as long as he has maintained his form since then he should go well. A man who has made the last four or better in his last three events has to be overpriced at 28/1 so he’s my second quarter pick.
Jack Lisowski has been threatening to win a tournament for a while now and with the amount of big name withdrawals this week you’ve got to think this is as good a chance as he is going to get, especially with Neil Robertson and John Higgins already coming out of his quarter. Lisowski was a runner-up at the Riga Masters and China Open last season and in the Scottish Open this term and it is just a matter of time before he goes in. He hasn’t been in superb form recently but this format is perfect for his style and with the way the draw has opened up he is impossible to ignore at 40/1.
In the bottom quarter I’ll take my chances with Li Hang. The Chinese had a very good event here last season with a bunch of them making the last eight and if anything should happen to Trump early doors the right-hander can take advantage. He had a good UK Championship and since then he has gone out in three deciding frames and lost first round to Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski so the draw hasn’t been very kind to him. It isn’t too bad early doors this week and at 66/1 he’s worth chancing to see how well he goes.
Back L.Brecel to win Gibraltar Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 61.00 with Betfair (1/2 1-2)
Back L.Hang to win Gibraltar Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfair (1/2 1-2)
Back them here:
Back Y.Bingtao to win Gibraltar Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Coral (1/2 1-2)
Back J.Lisowski to win Gibraltar Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)