The last Home Nations event of the season begins on Monday when the qualified players and the stars of the game head to Llandudno for the Welsh Open, the longest running of the four tournaments and one which offers up one last chance for players to qualify for the Players Championship next week.
Robert Milkins did exactly that when he took the title down in a thrilling final with Shaun Murphy last year and he will head to Llandudno looking to make a successful defence of the crown. Plenty of form horses will be out to stop him though.
2023 – Robert Milkins
2022 – Joe Perry
2021 – Jordan Brown
2020 – Shaun Murphy
2019 – Neil Robertson
2018 – John Higgins
2017 – Stuart Bingham
2016 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2015 – John Higgins
2014 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
These Home Nations events have been around for a while now and while the format of them hasn’t changed, the way the arenas have been put together have. There are four tables in action throughout the event, which allows us to follow the action a lot easier, and there has been a qualifying round to avoid taking the whole 128 players in the field to the main venue. Some of those qualifiers have been held over and will be played on Monday though with the main draw beginning on Tuesday. The tournament is the best of seven frames up to the quarter finals which are played over the best of nine frames on Friday with the two semi-finals the best of 11 frames on the Saturday and the title will be won on the Sunday of the event over the best of 17 frames.
As ever in a snooker tournament the defending champion is the top seed in the draw which means that Robert Milkins is placed at the top of the bracket and he is in the top quarter as a result. The top 16 players all have their qualifying match held over to the venue so the other three members of the elite club in this quarter are Neil Robertson, who could clash with Milkins in the quarter final should both get that far, Mark Williams who will be looking for another decent run in his home tournament, and Jack Lisowski who is still looking for a first tournament win.
There is never a shortage of household names in the quarters from outside the top 16 in these events and in the top one this week we have the Scottish Open champion Gary Wilson who will be looking to win successive Home Nations events. Ricky Walden has been going well in certain events this season and Anthony McGill is another with the class to go deep. Dave Gilbert and Oliver Lines are qualify players and then home players like Matthew Stevens and Jackson Page will want a good run on home soil.
Judd Trump was scheduled to be the main man in the second quarter but he has withdrawn from the tournament after his German Masters triumph last week, presumably to ensure he is fresh for the Players Championship next week. That leaves Mark Allen has the leading ranked player in the second quarter with the other two top 16 players in this section being the UK Championship finalist Ding Junhui and the former champion John Higgins.
As ever there are some recognisable names in this quarter outside the top 16 and the biggest of them is probably the home favourite Ryan Day. The German Masters finalist Si Jiahui showed his best form since he made the semi-final of the World Championship and he’ll be looking to back that up in this quarter this week. Matthew Selt is another competent player in this section while Jamie Clarke is a home player hoping to impress. Cao Yupeng made the last four of the World Grand Prix and will be looking to make hay here too.
OPEN AN ACCOUNT WITH 888SPORT AND BET £10 TO GET £30 IN FREE BETS PLUS A £10 CASINO BONUS! PERFECT OFFER TO USE ON THIS TOURNAMENT! CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO JOIN. USE CODE 30F. NEW ACCOUNTS ONLY. 18+ T&Cs apply (See image for significant terms). Gamble Aware.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was scheduled to be the top player in the third quarter of the draw but he has also withdrawn from the event. That leaves Mark Selby as the leading light in this section. There are two other members of the last 16 in this part of the draw with both of them having gone deep in big events this season. Zhang Anda won the International Championship earlier in the campaign while Ali Carter reached the title showdown at The Masters.
Hossein Vafaei leads the way in terms of the players outside the top 16 in this quarter although Noppon Saengkham made the final of the Scottish Open and will want to go one better here. Fan Zhengyi has shown some good form in recent times while Yuan Sijun is one of many outside the top 16 for this season who can still reach the Players Championship. Jordan Brown had the best day of his career in this event when he won it in 2021 while Dominic Dale and Jak Jones will hope to use home advantage in their favour.
As always the world champion Luca Brecel is the top seed in the bottom quarter of the draw. He has a full compliment of top 16 players in his section of the bracket and Shaun Murphy is the man he is seeded to take on in the quarter final. Two other players looking to stop that from happening is a back to form Kyren Wilson and the man who won the opening event of the season in the form of Barry Hawkins, who has gone a bit quiet recently.
Tom Ford is having a brilliant season and he will be looking to continue that from the bottom quarter of the draw. Chris Wakelin has threatened a big run at a few events but has only delivered on it when he made the final in Northern Ireland while Marco Fu has looked in decent order recently. Joe O’Connor is a former finalist in a Home Nations event while Xiao Guodong, Anthony Hamilton, Graeme Dott and Martin O’Donnell will hope for big weeks.
I’ll go with a couple of players in the draw this week. The first of those is the Scottish Open champion Gary Wilson who looked in decent form in the World Grand Prix until he ran into Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter final. He didn’t look too bad in that match but had an insane run of the ball and that gave him no chance in the end but he has looked in good touch for a while and I see no reason why that can’t continue this week. Wilson is in the quarter of the draw where Robert Milkins is the leading seed but he is bang out of form. The other top 16 player in his mini-section is Jack Lisowski and the same can be said of him. Neil Robertson could be a stumbling block but at 33/1 I’ll pay and see how well Wilson goes.
In the bottom half of the draw I did like Marco Fu but the fact he had to withdraw mid-match in Germany with a recurrence of his eye issue puts me right off of him so in a weakened half without Ronnie O’Sullivan in it I will chance my arm with a man who has made two semi-finals this season in Hossein Vafaei. Vafaei has run into Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan in those last four clashes and while Mark Selby is in his quarter, he has a good record against him. Vafaei was forced to miss Germany recently so he’ll be eager to make up for that. He has twice been to the semi-final of this event and the draw might have already opened up enough for him to go a step or two further this time around.
Back G.Wilson to win Welsh Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Boylesports (1/2 1-2)
Back him here:
Back H.Vafaei to win Welsh Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back him here: