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Monday, 21 January, 2019

O’Sullivan heroics primed to gather pace in first major

Wilson could prosper at big prices in top half of draw

Ronnie O’Sullivan can continue to make hay in York
1 of 1

Starts 2.30pm Tuesday, York

Humphries' top tip
Ronnie O'Sullivan 4-1

The immaculate Mark Selby has shown how far he is ahead of the rest as a player by putting clear air between himself and his closest pursuer in the rankings, Judd Trump.

But while the world number one and Betway UK Championship title-holder merits huge respect in his bid to keep hold of his York crown, it's difficult to ignore the fact that Ronnie O'Sullivan, who is breaking snooker records on a regular basis, is riding the crest of a wave which shows little sign of breaking.

Had English Open and Shanghai Masters champion O'Sullivan won the Northern Ireland Open last week, he would have been less fanciable in the UK market.

But the fact that his hopes of collecting a £1m bonus from winning all four Home Nations Series events are now history means the Rocket could be ready to go in the more meaningful tournaments, the first of which starts on Tuesday.

Mark Williams ensured O’Sullivan's record of being the youngest title winner in snooker history remains intact by defeating Chinese 17-year-old Yan Bingtao in Sunday's Belfast final, and the Rocket could well now be eyeing a sixth UK triumph.

As we have come to expect with O'Sullivan, there will always be peaks and troughs, but this current good phase is lasting longer than many of those which preceded it.

Of course, whether the world number four will still be on the front foot come the Masters or the Betfred World Championship is another question (we should actually be asking whether he will still be on a high in York), but O'Sullivan seems to have found a good place and he may be worth persevering with.

Of O’Sullivan's chief rivals, European Masters hero Trump, UK champion in 2011, lacks consistency and is too short because of that, while Indian Open winner John Higgins is playing well enough but often saves his best for Sheffield.

Ding Junhui could be inspired by compatriot Yan's heroics, but he has been suffering from eye problems.

Next best
Kyren Wilson 50-1

Valuewise, it's close between Kyren Wilson and Luca Brecel in the second quarter of the draw, but slight preference is for the Northamptonshire cueman.

Wilson is playing better this season than last and there was no shame in losing high-quality duels to Ding, O'Sullivan, Martin Gould and Sam Craigie.

The Kettering ace is also in an easier eighth than Brecel, who could have to get past Higgins or Yan in the last 16, and while a possible date with Shaun Murphy could never be taken lightly Wilson may now be good enough to dismiss the 2008 UK champion.

Other selection
M Selby v Ronnie O’Sullivan final 9-1

Selby could make light work of the opposition in the first quarter of the draw and an interest can be had on him and O'Sullivan setting up a repeat of last year's final.

It's 9-1 that the market leaders are still involved on the tournament’s last day and that price is difficult to quibble with.

Others to note
Mark Allen The Northern Irishman, UK runner-up to Trump six years ago, is playing well and could shine in the third quarter.
Luca Brecel The Belgian, China Championship winner in August, has stepped it up this season and could figure.
Zhou Yuelong It's a race between him and Yan to see who wins a big title first. Can’t be ruled out at 200-1.

R O’Sullivan
2pts 4-1 Betfair
K Wilson
1pt each-way 50-1 Betfred
M Selby v R O’Sullivan final
1pt 9-1 Sky Bet 

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O'Sullivan seems to have found a good place and he may be worth persevering with
E.W. Terms
Sky bet