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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Ding Junhui looks best value for World Open glory

Mark Allen should also go well

Ding Junhui is picture of happiness at the Crucible this year
1 of 1

Only Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins are missing from snooker's top 16 as a classy field take to the baize in Yushan for the second ranking event of the season and the first of four to be held in China this year.

Defending World Open champion and national hero Ding Junhui begins his campaign in one of eight qualifiers held over to the venue, meaning this is his seasonal bow, but he should enjoy a smooth passage early on, as he did 12 months ago.

Ding's rustiness has been factored into his price, but he can tune up his game in a soft opening match with veteran James Wattana - against whom he has an unblemished record - and then see off world number 81 Yuan Sijun.

He retains a significant psychological edge over his rivals in China such is the attention his matches draw, and it is no coincidence that he is chasing a seventh title there.

The 13-times ranking-event winner and world number six Ding will be licking his lips at the increased prize money up for grabs which always tends to provide more predictable results.

There is £735,000 up for grabs with a whopping top prize of £150,000, resulting in this tournament holding significant weight due to the prize-money based rankings.

Ding has definitely landed in the softest of the four quarters, with recent Riga Masters victor Neil Robertson the only other player from the top ten joining him. The Aussie needs to come through potential clashes with classy duo Ricky Walden and Ali Carter before setting up a quarter-final showdown with Ding.

In the bottom half of the draw, world champion Mark Williams could go well, but preference is for Northern Irishman Mark Allen, who has performed well enough this season to suggest he can to go close.

The Masters champion notched runs of 56, 87, 93 and 102 when seeing off Peter Lines 5-2 in his qualifier last month and was far from disgraced when reaching the last 16 in Riga last week.

Twice a winner of this event and a beaten semi-finalist when it was staged in Haikou, he clearly is able to travel and perform in China at this stage of the season as he showed with his run to the semi-final last year.

Riga runner-up Jack Lisowski and Allen's conqueror 12 months ago, Kyren Wilson, will both provide a stern tests in the early stages, but he looks slightly overpriced.

D Junhui
1pt each-way 10-1 general
M Allen
1pt each-way 20-1 general

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Ding has definitely landed in the softest of the four quarters
E.W. Terms
Sky bet