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The next Snooker ranking event starts on Monday morning and will be broadcast live on Betfair. Here’s Paul Krishnamurty’s preview …

“Taking 5.24 / 1 over Trump every time for the past two and a half years would have made a substantial profit.”

In the Players Championship preview the last one Week I discovered what a golden era in snooker feels like, in which all the best players in the world are in top or near top form. We just saw more evidence.

At the time of writing, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins are preparing for their first meeting in a ranking final since 2005. Higgins has won a staggering 17 out of 18 frames so far, while the run of the former includes a fourth near-perfect performance in less than a fortnight.

Previously, Judd Trump had been getting shorter every week in betting. Number one in the world was believed to be a class above. Two losses later, he’s bigger than we’ve seen in over a year. Taking 5.24 / 1 over Trump every time for the past two and a half years would have made a significant profit.

There is absolutely nothing to worry about. He eventually had to lose a best-of-seven and frankly did not appreciate the conditions at the Celtic Manor. In the Players he lost a decision maker against a very strong performance by Stuart Bingham. No shame.

I’m sure he’s hungry to get back to winning ways and there’s a lot at stake here with the conclusion of the BetVictor streak he leads.

So also for his main competitor before the last eight. It takes Zhou Yuelong a very good week to qualify for the Tour Championship and / or a Top 16 place and an automatic Crucible place. This is a lot of pressure for the youngster, who has just lost a decision maker to an important rival in these races.

None of the other big names is appealing. Mark Allen has a nice early walk but hasn’t been particularly convincing lately. Ding Junhui looks undervalued in terms of reputation these days.

Try Scott Donaldson instead. The 26-year-old has previously reached five semi-finals and won a Championship League.

With Trump in the same half, I’m happy to face outsiders against the two big guns in this area. Mark Selby has a tricky start against Sam Craigie and possibly Matthew Stevens after that. Kyren Wilson is short enough at 1:11 as he could face Barry Hawkins in the last 32.

Joe O’Connor is a good prospect who has proven to be adept in the opening rounds, which makes him out of this one The draw could go far. He has already reached a semi-finals and led Selby to a decision in Wales. Jamie Jones has a pedigree from a few years ago and is making good progress on his return to the tour.

The most intriguing and timely subplot concerns Stephen Hendry’s return to tour against Matt Selt on Tuesday. It will be great to see him again and hopefully stay on stage, but I have very low expectations for companies that play competitive snooker practically every week. 4/11 about Selt can be banker material.

The third quarter looks the most competitive. If Higgins – and it takes a lot – maintains his incredible form, it will be next to impossible to stop him. Yan Bingtao really stood out in Wales and has the confidence of a Masters champion. A delicious round of 16 is slated for when the results come in.

Neil Robertson has only the last eight to worry about, and his most dangerous opponent along the way is David Gilbert. The Aussie returned in his first match at the Players with a quartet of centuries in good shape, which I will take as a hopeful sign of his well-being after a long hiatus. He will be by far the freshest of the top players here.

Jordan Brown’s win made sense of standing with capable underdogs with great odds, whose profile suggests they’ll pick up somewhere in the long run. There is no need to introduce Noppon Saengkham to regular readers. Keep the Faith.

Similarly, if these types of opportunities persist, Pang Junxu will be an integral part of the operational plans. Take a look at the latest record for this 21-year-old first professional.

He achieved two Last 32s and two Last 16s in seven events. In between, he won five of seven games in the WST Pro-Series. He beat Allen, Hawkins, Junhui and Maguire. Against the latter he was 2-0, last time a quarter-final was at stake.

The most obvious and immense obstacle between this appearance in the first quarter-finals is Ronnie O’Sullivan, although the rocket has to negotiate some tricky opponents beforehand, including Ali Carter and maybe Brown.

Ronnie could win the title and much of his form has been of unbeatable standard lately. He’s never been a fan of playing day in and day out, however, and he has gone through a number of games over the past twoteen days, some of which have been very stressful mentally.

If he hits a wall anywhere, he would open the neighborhood to Shaun Murphy. ‘The Magician’ was mentioned in a somewhat resurgent form at the Wales Open as he struggled to have a bad season. Shaun was very open about his struggles with Lockdown, but now appears to be in a much better mood.

Back Judd Trump 6u @ 5.24 / 1Back Scott Donaldson 0.25ue / w @ 126.0125 / 1Back Joe O’Connor 0.25ue / w @ 226.0225 / 1Back Jamie Jones 0.25ue / w @ 276.0275 / 1Back Neil Robertson 4u @ 9.28 / 1Back Noppon Saengkham 0.25 ue / w @ 176.0175 / 1Back Shaun Murphy 2u e / w @ 17.016 / 1Back Pang Junxu 0.25ue / w @ 326.0

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