The tournament favourite, world number one and 2019 champion enters the fray today. Judd Trump is the shortest odds of any first round favourite, trading at just 1.061/18 to beat Liam Highfield.
Now, before assuming this is a certainty, we should remember that Trump has endured plenty of first round troubles at the Crucible. In 2017 he lost to Rory McLeod in an enormous upset. A year later he came within a frame of a similar shock to Chris Wakelin. Tom Ford gave him a fright last year.
Trump miles ahead of Highfield
That really is about the only argument one could make for Highfield though – the gulf in class is vast. Whereas Trump has dominated three straight seasons, this plucky qualifier hasn’t gone beyond the last-32 stage of any event during that period.
For an interest, take 10/3 on Trump to win the first four frames 4-0.
Allen’s Crucible record is shocking
A much more plausible upset is Lyu Haotian to beat Mark Allen. Considering how disappointing Allen has been in 2021, and it must be said this championship, 1.282/7 for the match strikes me as an atrocious value bet.
In the last nine renewals, Allen reached only one quarter-final and lost four times at this first round stage. His conquerors – Jamie Clarke, Mark King, Zhou Yuelong and Cao Yupeng – came in with similar, sometimes inferior, credentials.
Haotian performed well here in 2018
To be clear, this doesn’t reflect any great expectations from Haotian. His route to the Crucible was easier than most, boosted by Noppon Saengkham’s withdrawal. It hasn’t been an inspiring season.
One positive is how well he played to reach the last-16 here in 2018, showing he won’t be overawed by the occasion. Here the plan is a back to lay on Haotian at 4.57/2. Set an order to lay him at 1.84/5 in-running. That trade effectively pays 6/4.
Hawkins and Selt set for marathon
Finally, Barry Hawkins versus Matt Selt looks perfect for an Over 17.5 Frames bet. Their last three matches all went to deciding frames and they are separated by just two frames throughout their careers.
Selt won most recently at the Gibraltar Open, when producing excellent form to reach the semi-finals. He’s a better player, at least in high profile matches, than when losing 10-9 to Hawkins here in 2015.
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