Snooker UK Championship 2014
Ronnie O'Sullivan is the 5/2 favourite for the Coral UK Championship, which begins at the York Barbican Centre on Tuesday afternoon. The four-time champion is looking to win this event for the first time since 2007, but he arrives in great form having beaten Judd Trump in the final of the Champion of Champions tournament in Coventry a fortnight ago.
The event runs from November 25 to December 7 with 128 players battling for the coveted trophy and a top prize of £150,000. Televised by the BBC and international broadcasters in over 77 countries, an estimated 100 million viewers around the world will watch the action.
O'Sullivan also beat world number three Ding Junhui in the semi-finals at the Ricoh Arena, where he claimed his first title of the current season. In five visits since he last won this title, O'Sullivan has reached one semi-final and one quarter-final, suffered two second- round exits and one defeat in the first round. He's unstoppable on his day and his record of winning four of his last 10 tournaments suggests there may be a little value in his price.
The defending champion this week is Neil Robertson - an 8/1 chance with BetVictor - but it's worth noting that no man has successfully defended this title since Stephen Hendry won for the third year running way back in 1996.
Other recent winners are Mark Selby, Trump, John Higgins and Ding with Selby, the 2012 champion, beaten in last year's final by Robertson - only Selby and Higgins have reached two successive finals of this highly competitive tournament in the past decade.
It's the nature of snooker that even though there are very few genuine shocks, the most prestigious tournaments are wide open. That assertion is backed up by the list of this season's winners on tour, with only Stuart Bingham winning more than one title. The four ranking events so far have been won by Bingham, Ricky Walden, Trump and Robertson.
The in-form Bingham may attract some interest as a 40/1 outsider with the sponsors Coral, but at the age of 38 he has only ever won two ranking titles and his best performance in 18 attempts at the UK Championship was his semi-final appearance last year, although he did reach the last eight in two of the three previous editions.
One of the men to look out for in York is Mark Allen, who has boosted his world ranking by reaching the final of the last two ranking events in Sichuan and Shanghai. He beat Trump in the final of the European Tour event in Furth in August and has reached the final at the Barbican before, losing narrowly to Trump in 2011.
Allen's form is such that he has to be considered a serious contender, even though he is not among the previous champions. He's a 16/1 chance pretty much across the board.
The other, at a shorter price, is Ding, who looks to be on the verge of recapturing the glorious form that took him to five tournament victories last season. The 27-year-old is a two-time UK Championship winner - in 2005 and 2009 - and was a semi-finalist at both the Shanghai Masters and the Champion of Champions event earlier this month. BetVictor and William Hill are both paying 9/1 on the Chinese star (8/1 elsewhere).
The tournament has a history dating back to 1977 and was previously sponsored by Coral between 1978 and 1985.
Simon Clare, Coral PR Director, commented: "Snooker has evolved and modernised over the last few years whilst retaining all of its fine tradition and history. In the same way Coral has also modernised and innovated to offer the very best betting service, whilst staying true to its proud heritage as one of Britain's biggest and best known betting brands. Together, the UK Snooker Championship and Coral make a very good fit indeed.
"It says everything about the longevity of both the UK Championship and Coral that this sponsorship is actually a reunion after an absence spanning three decades. A lot has changed in the world of snooker and the betting industry over the last thirty years, but the UK Championship and Coral are still as pre-eminent as they were in 1978," added Clare.
Will there be a 147 Break?
4/6 Yes, 6/5 No
Will there be a First Time Winner?
3/1 Yes, 1/4 No
Click here to visit the Coral website, place a first bet of £5 and get a £20 free bet.
|Mark Allen (ew)
|Ding Junhui (ew)
||Tournament Winner||9/1||William Hill & BetVictor|
|£20 free bet||£25 free bet||£25 free bet|