Mark Selby may be made to work hard in his China Open defence
Barry Hawkins should play his part in a thriller
Eurosport 1 7am & 12.30pm Sunday
Mark Selby has turned the heat up with the Betfred World Championships just around the corner, but the Jester from Leicester should expect a stern examination in his China Open defence against Barry Hawkins.
Selby landed the Beijing showpiece on his way to clinching a third world title 12 months ago and his performances this week have suggested he’s in prime shape to defend his crown.
That hadn’t looked the case a few months ago, however, as Selby was struggling to find any form and was falling early in too many tournaments.
But once again like a true champion, Selby has proved his doubters wrong and his 6-2 quarter-final win over Mark Williams was more than enough evidence to suggest he’s dealt with whatever was hampering his results.
Selby saw off the challenge of a courageous Kyren Wilson 10-8 in his semi-final showdown and is a master at the long format, so the first-to-11 contest will please him.
However, Hawkins is another player suited to the extra distance and this silverware decider has a marathon feel to it.
Hawkins turned on the style when beating rejuvenated Aussie Neil Robertson 10-6 in the last four and his record in World Championships - he has made the semi-final at the Crucible in four of the last five seasons - shows what an excellent match player he is.
Hawkins won’t be intimidated by the occasion or by Selby and backing the match to go over 18.5 frames at odds-against with Hills looks sensible.
Racing Post Sport’s Dave Clark pointed punters in the right direction by advising Selby at 8-1 pre-tournament and he should be difficult to beat over this format but Hawkins is not the easiest of opponents.
The Hawk was toppled 9-7 by John Higgins in the Welsh Open final last month and he may come out second best again, but don't expect him to roll over.
Over 18.5 frames
2pts 6-5 Hills
3pts 8-1 31 March
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