Barry Hawkins capable of Home Nations success
Cream tends to rise to the top
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A stuttering start to the season cost Barry Hawkins a shot at defending his Ladbrokes World Grand Prix title but the world number eight can gain some compensation by landing the final Home Nations series event in Cardiff.
The Hawk has not made a quarter-final in 11 ranking-event appearances this season but the 38-year-old has shown signs of a revival since the turn of the year and a favourable draw could see a change in his fortunes.
Hawkins has bumped into some in-form rivals. The eighth seed lost 6-4 to eventual finalist Kyren Wilson in the opening round of the Masters despite making two centuries, and met runner-up Graeme Dott when going out in the last 32 of the German Masters.
However, the Hawk shaped well when last seen in the Coral Shoot Out, reaching the fourth round, and a curtain-raiser against inexperienced Chinese challenger Niu Zhuang followed by a potential clash with Tom Ford should help him ease into contention.
Fellow seeds in his quarter include defending champion Stuart Bingham and Mark Williams but Bingham still looks a little short on match practice since returning from a six-month suspension, while the Welsh Wonder has a tough draw and his odds are skinny.
The early best-of-seven format can deliver some strange results but Hawkins fared well in last season’s Home Nations series and short matches seem to suit him.
The Hawk made the quarter-finals in Cardiff last season, as well as reaching the last four of the English Open and making the final in Northern Ireland.
Hawkins produced irresistible snooker to claim the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix title in Preston last year and, arriving in the Welsh capital with a point to prove, this could be the time to catch him.
Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson have won this season’s three Home Nation events and the cream tends to rise to the top when silverware is being handed out.
The Rocket and Ding Junhui may not be at their best after their runs to the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix final, while top seed Mark Selby made the last four in Preston without playing particularly well and is vulnerable in this format.
However, Bingham and Judd Trump made the final at the Motorpoint Arena 12 months ago having gone out early in Preston and backing players who have had a chance to tune up their games without using too much fuel could be a smart approach. Ali Carter and Anthony McGill are two to catch the eye.
McGill made the last eight at the Guild Hall, while Carter lost to John Higgins in a first-round decider but both looked sharp and will be desperate for success.
The Glaswegian has a generous draw and should be full of confidence having defeated Cao Yupeng and Bingham in Preston, while Carter tends to strike at this time of year - he made the final of the German Masters last season - and quotes of 70-1 are tempting.
1pt each-way 40-1 Betfred
0.5pt each-way 80-1 Betfred
0.5pt each-way 100-1 Betfred
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