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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Impressive Yan Bingtao looks value to nail elusive first trophy

Chinese supremo Ding Junhui could also keep up the good work

Ding Junhui could be a major player in Guangzhou this week
1 of 1

Starts 2.30am Monday
(live on Eurosport 1 from 7.30am)

There was a whopping 200-1 return for anyone who backed Luca Brecel to notch his maiden main-tour title in the China Championship last year and with the newly-modified Shanghai Masters invitation-only tournament out of the way, there's a chance for the less-lauded cue stars to shine in Guangzhou, where the action starts early on Monday morning.

Pretty much everyone on the snooker tour was cheering on Brecel last year with the chief surprise being that he was allowed to start at such inflated odds to lift the title.

The Belgian, one of a number of players whose first-round match has been held over in south-east China this year, has a chance to go deep again but he suffered a lull in form in the second half of last season so makes little punting appeal to stage a repeat.

Before his withdrawal. Kyren Wilson, in the same quarter as Brecel and Shaun Murphy, last season's losing finalist, looked the one to beat in the section considering the Magician has relocated to Dublin and recently became a father again.

Liang Wenbo, Xiao Guodong, Lyu Haotian and Zhang Anda are the homeland players in that section but while they have opportunities in the most open quarter of the draw, Yan Bingtao looks a more interesting title contender in the second quarter.

Yan has it tough from the start against Chris Wakelin and could then have to battle past Stuart Bingham, Judd Trump and 2016 China Championship winner John Higgins just to reach the semis.

But while Yan has started the season a little slowly, he remains a huge talent and his chance can be taken seriously.

World number one Mark Selby, world champion Mark Williams and Chinese number one Ding Junhui contest the bottom half – Shanghai hero Ronnie O'Sullivan is an absentee this week.

The lower half of the draw could take more winning with Shanghai runner-up Barry Hawkins, former world number one Neil Robertson and two-time World Open champion Mark Allen in the mix.

But Ding, who can consider himself unlucky to have lost to Hawkins in the Yangtze delta port city, is playing well enough to go close again.

Yan Bingtao
1pt each-way 80-1 Coral, Ladbrokes
Ding Junhui
1pt 12-1 general

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Yan has started the season a little slowly, but he remains a huge talent and his chance can be taken seriously
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