Another day has passed at the World Open and this time most of the attention has been focused away from the table as Mark Allen’s comments are dissected, pieced together, dissected again and pieced together again by all and sundry.
On the table we again witnessed just what a funny old game this is and now just 8 of the 16 top players in the world remain in the event. I can’t remember a tournament for a long time with such a high quota of the big guns no longer with us at this early stage. It has been helped of course by a few factors, Ronnie and Ali are on the sick register, Mark Williams decided to wear a glove to play and Stephen Maguire conspired to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
What we are left with is a smattering of big names and a few lower down the list that will fancy their chances of going deep in a ranker. This morning saw MJW losing to Mark King, King coping much better with the conditions which if we believe what we are being told are smelly, humid, uneven and full of ignorant people who have personal hygiene issues oh, and dead cats of course. But all that won’t bother our Kingy who now lines up against Tom Ford.
Mark Selby, whose fragrant manfume will surely drown out any undesirable smells such as rotting cat remains and stale B.O. struggled over the line against wildcard Lu Ning and remains on target to stay World Number 1 for at least the next 20 years. Joe Perry managed to win the final frame decider against Matthew Stevens, who I have to admit I thought had a chance in this. On the table, Mark Allen seemed to score well to send his fellow pinkster Jimmy Robertson home, he sets up another match against Judd Trump.
For all Mark’s patter I would not for one minute think this will affect the way he plays or his determination to win. Having witnessed a similar reaction to comments made by him in York, I get the feeling that the Northern Irishman thrives off it. As for the comments themselves, I think they should be taken with a pinch of salt. I mean, who has he really upset? Over-sensitive sponsors or tournament officials? The entire Chinese nation? Possibly the first yes, but not the second. Anyone who thought his comment related to every single Chinese person on the planet really needs to put things into perspective. Let’s move on, it was a bit of a laugh and Mark has probably learned yet another lesson.
In the afternoon/evening session Mill Hopkins came back from 3-1 down to defeat Mags, Mill obviously inspired by a meeting with myself and Mrs SB the other day and the cake he stole from the cake stand (I saw you Mill, I see EVERYTHING). He is rewarded with a game against the only remaining Chinese player in the event Jin Long, the wildcard that sounds like a drink a lady of a certain age has when she is watching Emmerdale. In the final match of the day, another rarity came along and I actually struck a winning bet by backing Jamie Cope to beat Martin Gould, scant consolation for a first round that is one to forget from a punting perspective.
The quarter final line up is decided on day four and here is the order of play.
2.30pm (6.30am UK)
29 Mark King 5-4 Tom Ford
32 Michael Holt 3-5 Mark Selby
30 Mark Allen 5-4 Judd Trump
31 Shaun Murphy 5-3 Joe Perry
7.30pm (11.30am UK)
26 Jin Long 2-5 Robert Milkins
25 John Higgins 5-0 Jamie Cope
27 Graeme Dott 5-3 Marcus Campbell
28 Stephen Lee 5-2 Neil Robertson
To me what is becoming clear in this event is that it is favouring hard-hitters. Mark King looked totally at ease as he very rarely gives balls the chance to roll off, same with Judd and probably, although his match wasn’t streamed, the same with Mark Allen. That might be why are seeing so many surprise results. Jamie Cope is another that tends to strike the ball solidly as is John Higgins. Stephen Lee is the exception that proves the rule perhaps but I would argue that as well as being a floater sometimes he can also play an alternative game where he takes advantage of his effortless cue power. Shaun Murphy is another that can mix it up but on the whole is a player with enough cue power in reserve to play his natural game hitting the balls that bit harder.
The head to heads in all these matches don’t really tell us a great deal. I was surprised by the fact that in three meetings Graeme Dott has never beaten Marcus Campbell but I have decided to let this pass. Mark King (I know what regulars are about to say) for me is the best bet of the day, he has more experience of the venues than Tom Ford and looked to be cueing very well earlier, I think the 10/11 available on him is a very good bet.
I would not be surprised to see Michael Holt cause an upset against Selby but would expect Murphy to win against Joe Perry. The match between Judd and Mark Allen may well decide the winner of the tournament. Recent results suggest that Judd will win but it’s not one I will touch personally.
In the evening session I hope Milkins ends the presence of the wildcard but it could go either way that one. I would not be surprised if Jamie Cope bagged a result against Higgins if he can keep his nerve and fraught temperament in check. Neil Robertson’s dogged determination may carry him through to keep the main outright pick alive against Stephen Lee and I will take Dotty to gain his first win over Marcus, who has been out there from the start and not played yet, maybe it’s him that’s been murdering all the local cats, well, you’ve got to keep busy somehow.
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Enhanced Treble of King, Murphy and Dott at 3/1 with Apollobet.