UK Championship Preview: Who Can Win? (2)
Tomorrow is Saturday 1st December. Tomorrow means two things, 1) people are allowed to get excited about Christmas and 2) the williamhill.com UK Championship starts in York. After a brief insight into the favourites to take home the title earlier in the week, I am now looking ahead to the best of the rest and giving you my tips for the prize this year.
The first player under the spotlight today is the “The Jester from Leicester” Mark Selby. For the majority of the 2012 season Selby has been world number one until he was recently budged off top spot by Judd Trump. However, Selby will be eager to regain his place on top of the perch and what a better way to do it than by winning his maiden UK Championship title.
Having previously posted a personal best of a semi final place back in 2007, Selby has yet to better this feat and he will be itching to set the record straight in a tournament where he has tended not to have a good show. Even though saying that, William Hill currently have Mark Selby at 11/1 to win the overall tournament which, especially in Leicester will see plenty of money being splashed around on their home town man.
Former World Champion and 2008 UK Championship winner Shaun Murphy will be hungry to add another title to his collection. The world number 4 is one of the most consistent players I have ever seen. Every major tournament that occurs Murphy is always there in the latter stages year in, year out. The 30 year old Murphy, is priced up at 14/1 which on the surface looks silly. Maybe bookies don’t fancy him because he hasn’t had the best of years. He has been consistent not only in the sense that he gets to at least the quarters but has been consistent this year that he hasn’t won a lot. Like Selby, Murphy finished the Premier League season slightly disappointed with his performance and will hope to rectify this with his natural snooker ability and desire to succeed.
Between the world number 5 Mark Williams and the world number 7 Stephen Maguire they boast a collection of 3 UK Championships (Williams in 99 and 02, Maguire in 04), and are two of the most experience players in the game today. Williams for instance is a two time world champion and holds 18 major ranking titles to his name. The Welsh Warrior has looked like a new player in the last 4 or 5 years, his renaissance has reminded us that every player needs confidence in order to play well. Snooker is a sport of solitude and isolation for the players and it tests even the toughest of characters. Williams himself, will be quick to tell you that he had to go back to the practice table and fall back in love with the game. I, like everybody else am thankful he has.
Maguire on the other hand, is only 31 and holds 4 major ranking titles to his name. Maguire is the Livewire, if he turns it on the he is a deadly opponent on the table and at 18/1 is not a bad shout for going home with some silverware.
Three players complete the preview and they are three players that snooker almost lost at three separate points in time. The Captain, Ali Carter publicly stated that he was on the verge of walking away from the sport but after giving himself time to breathe and think and reassess what he wanted, he returned and is going into the tournament at 25/1. Carter has yet to win the UK Championships and he is an outside bet at adding a third major ranking title to his name. Next is 35 year old Graeme Dott, a man who again publicly announced his plan to quit snooker. Dott has been faced with many a demon throughout his career but has come back again and again. Even though Dott sits at 50/1 and has a notorious history of getting knocked out of the UK Championship early, maybe, just maybe he will prove a lot of people wrong once again.
Lastly we have 26 year old Northern Irish player Mark Allen. Allen who hasn’t fallen out of love with snooker as much as snooker has fallen out of love with him. Allen oozes natural ability but also oozes controversy. After his outburst against the Chinese players he was given a suspension and fine as a means of the proverbial “cane across the knuckles.” But after coming out a matter of days ago comparing modern day dictatorship, he will certainly be under scrutiny on and off the table.
Overall, my two tips that I have bet on myself are Mark Selby and Ali Carter. As two players who I admire and have only mustered a semi final spot in the tournament they can easily go all the way, especially Selby, after he reached the heights of world number 1 and stayed there for most of 2012.
However, for me other than the two I have bet on I fancy John Higgins to win it. He is a traditional style snooker player who has the temperament to go all the way. Realistically whoever beats Judd Trump, Neil Robertson or John Higgins has a great chance of winning the tournament.
The Williamhill.com UK Championship starts tomorrow and you can watch it live on BBC (TV/Online) from 11am
First Round Fixtures:
Saturday 1st December
John Higgins v Michael Holt
Barry Hawkins v Liang Wenbo
Ding Junhui v Ryan Day
Stephen Maguire v Fergal O’Brien
Graeme Dott v Martin Gould
Mark Selby v Michael White
Sunday 2nd December
Mark Davis v Cao Yupeng
Shaun Murphy v Robert Milkins
Ali Carter v Steve Davis
Judd Trump v Mark Joyce
Mark Allen v Marco Fu
Stuart Bingham v Jack Lisowski